Verbal excesses cloud substance

The verbal excesses traded between Greece’s mainstream parties last week were a surprise to many people. The barbs and accusations coming from both camps were a disgrace, marring the new political ethos the country is trying to build. Over-the-top rhetoric must be kept out of public debate – and that’s the responsibility of all politicians. Nevertheless, one must look beyond the political savoir vivre. The various epithets, striking as they may be, should not overshadow the disturbing facts that provoke such outbursts. Most commentators slammed the remarks of Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis and PASOK deputy Theodoros Pangalos but few seemed to grasp the substance of what they said. Despite the government’s efforts, the problems of corruption and entangled interests referenced by Kefaloyiannis persist. One may dislike the manner in which the New Democracy minister expressed his disappointment but it’s hard to dismiss what he said. Excessive rhetoric can either underscore or overshadow a problem, which is what happened in the case of Kefaloyiannis. Everyone took issue with his likening of administration officials to Karaghiozis – a character in the traditional children’s shadow puppet theater – while few noticed the words «corruption» or «entanglement.» Everyone criticized the simile to avoid the substance. Problems are not affected by the terms we use to describe them. We must focus on the problems, not the way in which they are described.