Ethos of a bygone age

Georgios I. Rallis was a politician in the patrician mold as far as family background, character and political ethos was concerned, a person who did not suffer from insecurity and who without any affectation tried – unsuccessfully – to bring common sense into Greek political life. He was a true son of the conservative faction, perhaps when it was in decline, but his awareness of that fact gave him the ability to be moderate in his politics and yet take courageous risks in areas such as education, in which he established the use of demotic Greek in the face of criticism from some quarters. Yet Rallis never felt the need to give account to anyone. In contrast to Rallis, some centrists who later joined the conservatives adopted a frontal, albeit futile, mode of attack in their rhetoric. Others used intrigue during the period of division in order to strengthen their position in a sector in which they did not really belong. The year and a half that Rallis served as prime minister (1980-81) was a time of intense domestic conflict and there was a systematic attempt to undermine him. He waged a tough but dignified battle, only to be defeated in the 1981 elections, not because he was incompetent but because Andreas Papandreou and PASOK was the political force that simply swept the board. The New Democracy party’s parliamentary group, convened at his initiative, chose a new leader. Soon, Rallis stopped giving public speeches or expressing an opinion on political affairs, with only rare exceptions. He did not feel the need to seek public approval; he left that to history. He knew how to age gracefully. When he retired from politics he had no chauffeurs or bodyguards. Georgios Rallis was our contemporary but he was also a man of another age, another ethos.