The state’s failure to protect its citizens

There is an unwritten contract in our everyday life that dictates a certain sense of responsibility opposite our fellow citizens: that, for example, a motorist will apply the brakes when a pedestrian is crossing the road, or that a resident of a third-floor apartment will not throw a heavy electrical appliance from his balcony as people are passing underneath. Generally our individual instincts and desires are set aside to serve the common good. And this is logical; a world of motorists who do not slow down for pedestrians is not a safe place to be. But these self-evident rules of conduct, which existed long before written laws came into being, appear not to apply in Greece. In a country where virtually all laws are bypassed, there is little hope for unwritten agreements being respected. As a result, a 48-year-old motorcyclist lost his life on a road in Kropia, east of Athens, after falling into a ditch which a municipal construction team had left uncovered and unsignposted. Similarly, a month ago, a 40-year-old woman was killed because none of those officials who have denied responsibility for the incident had deemed it appropriate to do something about a precariously dangling street sign outside Halkida. These two incidents were not just the bad luck of two people. They are attributable to the fact that the concern for our fellow beings that we display in our personal life (in other words, when we tell someone in danger to look out) is shunned by those who are paid to look out for our welfare. Without a doubt, the mayor of Kropia, the regional governor, the prefect of Halkida and all competent officials in the Public Works Ministry would react if they saw someone in danger. But this responsibility they feel as individuals is something they avoid feeling when performing their public sector role.