Bad lessons

Life teaches Greeks an important lesson very early: What counts is who you know, who you can bribe, and what party connections you have. Fresh conscripts can be seen lining up at the public telephone begging their parents to arrange a favorable transfer to a different camp. The conversation starts something like this: «Dad, can you call Uncle Vangelis who knows that minister to arrange the transfer?» In the Greek system, children quickly find out, one must act shrewdly to make the best of the situation. The army gives the impression that what is supposedly the most rationalized and disciplined aspect of the state has been completely corroded by political cronyism and bribes. Things are not much different at university. First-year students face a hopeless situation in overly bureaucratic or absentee university administration offices. So they are quickly thrown into the arms of parties. Unionists from all factions await new students behind their desk. It’s like clients waiting to be exploited. The unionists take them by the hand and soon let them know how things are run there. In Greek universities, academic life is a matter of party give and take. And then there is the driver’s license exam. We’ve all heard tragicomic stories of candidates who are failed on the justification that «there are other ways to pass the test.» Next time, they know better. Candidates would rather bribe than pay a new fee with no guarantee that they’ll get the license. All this is hardly new. Political cost is king. «After all, it’s not these people’s fault. They have to make some money somehow,» people say. That’s what the Greek state looks like to our young people. Unless it is changed radically, it will continue to convey that sense of cynicism and cunning which holds its people hostage.

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