OPINION

Odysseus and the shirkers

As children, we were all taught that Odysseus was one of our national heroes, the resourceful traveler who even declined immortality for the sake of his homeland. We know that Odysseus was the first scrimshanker in mythology, the first to try and get out of military service. He pretended to be crazy, yoked an ox and a horse to his plow and began sowing salt. If Palamedes had not discovered his ruse by putting little Telemachus before the plow, Odysseus would not have gone to the war in Troy. Those who would use similar methods today would have even more cause to invoke the hero’s example. It is well known that what happens during wartime happens even more often in times of peace. The claim by succeeding defense ministers that «all are equal before the law» does not mean that our democracy has more substance than a phantom. At a hypothetical military court, which will never convene, many thousands of our excellent compatriots who served their country from afar or at some border army headquarters could claim that they they got «lost in translation» and misinterpreted «duty to their country» as «the country’s duty to them.» As to who these shirkers (and the patriotic officers who helped them) actually are, we will probably never find out, and not only because that would be forbidden by the Personal Data Protection Authority. The most likely outcome is that the declared «catharsis» of the military conscription system will be no better than that the similar «catharsis» of the judiciary and the Church. Let us sincerely hope that the government’s much-vaunted «zero tolerance» policy will not be limited to a postdated prosecution of Odysseus.