OPINION

The obligations that accompany our rights

Recently in your comments section (Editorial, May 26), a piece on the chaos inflicted by those participating in public demonstrations against their fellow citizens alluded to the important concept of the obligations that accompany rights. I was reminded of this very strongly towards the end of last week when the press and television media covering the tragic loss of the life of an air force pilot suddenly discovered the meager salaries that such pilots are paid. Once again the mass media subjected us to a populist call of righteous indignation over a state of affairs that is unfortunately not limited to just the pilots charged with defending this country but to a host of others, such as the firemen who will battle forest fires this summer in providing vital but undervalued services. The media is in one sense correct in portraying the government as a stingy paymaster. However, to do so is to ignore the role of the public in whose name the government rules. A country’s national budget does not operate at an Olympian remove far from the daily stirrings of mere mortals. Instead it largely results from what the public puts into it by way of tax and what the public takes out in terms of jobs, services and benefits. It is difficult to imagine that anyone can argue against the fact that the state should adequately compensate its employees and especially those carrying out the most dangerous and essential of tasks. No one knows this better than the Greek media, for whom stating the obvious is an art form. By always making the easy argument though, they avoid the truly difficult task of addressing the reasons why the state is unable to pay for this. In a country of limited resources where a disproportionate number of its working-age citizens are employed either directly or indirectly by the state and where a disproportionate amount of its citizens actively participate in tax avoidance, it does not take a genius to uncover why the salary of an air force pilot is so low. It is high time that the media adopted a constructive role and told their audiences the difficult truth; that sacrifices will need to be made by the citizens of Greece in order for decent salaries and pensions to be paid and proper health and education services provided. The constant pandering to the public’s sense of entitlement only reinforces the selfish concept that rights can exist in the absence of any obligations. CONSTANTINE NEZIS, Pangrati, Athens.