Who’s in the driver’s seat?

We like to blame the state, external powers or other dark forces for any ills that beset the country. But we always shirk responsibility. Driving down Syngrou Avenue yesterday, I saw the driver of a blue bus packed with passengers. He was holding a cigarette in one hand while using his other to hold his cell phone into which he was talking. I am sure that his smoking and call are both prohibited. I pondered what would happen if the bus driver were to lose control and kill a few passers-by and passengers. The next day, television windows would come alive with pundits lashing out at the irresponsible state and Transport Ministry. Commentators would slam the poor standard of education, unionists would defend the driver while some experts would no doubt blame the dilapidated bus. But all that is just bull. The crux of the problem is the typical Greek civil servant mentality. A person with such an attitude shows complete disregard for every principle, yet feels certain that he will never be severely punished. He will just puff on his cigarette and if you have the audacity to complain he will just respond: «Oh, come on, don’t be such a pain… I always do it and no one has ever been hurt.» But when something does happen, he will just shrug, saying, «It was just a bad moment; I don’t know what happened.» Deep down, he knows that his union will defend him so as to safeguard their interests as a professional group. The problem is that we have become accustomed to all this. We don’t get too upset at seeing others acting dangerously or unprofessionally, for we know that the person in the driver’s seat could be us. Discipline and hierarchy have been completely eroded in the state sector. The bus driver personifies the average Greek who grew up believing that he can violate any code of behavior and get away with it.

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