Holy mists and shadow fights

Very often our public life appears as if some malevolent god has cast a mist over the eyes of the protagonists, so that neither they nor the rest of us can see reality. And so – stubborn and intense – we clash daily without reason, with no benefit. We build castles of opinion on erroneous data. In Homer’s «Iliad,» Apollo casts a mist over Hector three times to save him from Achilles’ deadly spear. But the next time the two heroes meet, not only has Hector been abandoned by the gods, he is also deceived by the goddess Athena, who takes the form of one of Hector’s brothers and stands beside him. When the Trojan prince realizes he has been tricked, he understands only too well that the end has come. And then, in the harsh light of reality, he raises himself to his full heroic and human stature, knowing that he is going to his death. It is a sad fact that today our rhapsodes are the severed heads shouting at each other on television. So we cannot expect some wise narrator of our confused epic to see through the mist and present us with reality and the true dimension of things. We have also learned not to expect from our protagonists – the politicians – anything resembling common sense, let alone miracles of inspired leadership. Both the government and the opposition act as if winning elections is a prize and not an opportunity to serve the nation. Therefore, the one side continually tries to annihilate the other, instead of forging an alliance to more effectively resolve the country’s problems. This strategy of constant and total confrontation is disastrous; not only because the challenges that Greece faces in an ever-changing world demand national consensus and cooperation, but also because total rejection of the other side’s arguments on all issues leads to fragmentation and paralysis within the parties themselves. When the various factions in parties are unable cooperate with each other, how can the parties themselves reach compromises with others that have different agendas? In addition, we often have a peculiar mentality which allows us to see many issues, but does not allow us to distinguish the core issue from the surrounding noise. In the last few weeks we have seen increasing activity by so-called anti-establishment elements in the streets of Athens and Thessaloniki. The public is justifiably outraged at the inability of the police force to protect even its own officers, or prevent the rabble from staging a demonstration outside the home of President Karolos Papoulias in solidarity with a comrade who is in prison on charges of armed robbery. But we do not see the same concern over society’s longstanding tolerance which makes a few hundred masked youths (whether anarchists or soccer hooligans) believe they can do whatever they want without having to pay the price if and when they are arrested. Through the winter, the fundamentally important issue of education reform gripped the nation. But it was seen as a clash of two worlds – that of free and public education versus the onslaught of neo-liberalism and a dark «new order» – rather than as an attempt to inject a modicum of common sense into a crazy situation. Now that things have calmed down a little, we can see how pitiful the gains were in comparison with the fury they provoked, and how much the students and society have lost. It is inconceivable that the protagonists of the clash did not know what was at stake, and, indeed knowing, that they allowed their actions and reactions to be totally disproportionate. Unfortunately, our model of behavior is such that both sides always seek a clash, as if every struggle is one of life and death. Yet, at the same time, the battles are waged for the slightest personal or petty political gain. The examples of meaningless and absurd clashes are numerous and have been continued for a long time. Their common point is that we have become used to fighting battles in a mist of confusion and ignorance, wasting our politics in the service of theatrics – as if the enemy was not standing close, watching, spear at the ready.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.