Unfulfilled promise

Yiannis Paleokrassas, former head of the state-controlled electricity firm PPC, wrapped up yesterday’s accusatory press briefing with a reference to the ancient Athenian orator Isocrates: A useful politician, he said, is he who leaves politics poorer than when he entered public life. The truth is that we frequently turn to ancient thinkers: not so much to use them as role models as to take refuge behind their prestige and, essentially, to admit that life, reality or whatever we choose to call this chain of difficulties, is one thing, while philosophy’s moral principles involve quite another, no doubt more abstract affair. It’s also true that the coupling of morality and politics, of selflessness and power, has been elusive down through the ages. Even Pericles was accused of squandering public wealth. The term «political and business entanglement» may be a neologism, but its essence has gone hand in hand with the art of politics since its very birth. Countless politicians and parties run for power as the uncorrupt reformists, only to be subjected to the very same accusations soon after. The ruling New Democracy party rode to power vowing to clean up the sleaze-ridden system, its rhetoric being a mix of politics and shallow moralism. Of course, it had many a reason to project such an image. PASOK’s long stay in power fueled an establishment mentality while a large section of the public got used to being pampered by the party. New Democracy’s comfortable victory proved that the demand for reform, vague as it was, quickly found sympathetic ears. A lack of prudence and self-destructive in-party bickering eventually eroded that pledge. Economic power, with or without the media’s help, again proves stronger than political power. After all, that’s the big wound of modern democracies.