Words weary with overuse

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis appeared weary during his New Year’s address, which was written and read, almost throughout, in the first person, as though the party and governmental «we» seems to hold little appeal for him these days. Listless and with eyes heavy with fatigue, it looked as though he was speaking at the end of an exhaustive pre-election campaign and not in the middle of the holiday season. His fatigue, however, was not physical in nature. His words lacked energy and luster, reflecting his thoughts on politics as well as his feelings, though they ought to have been inspiring, ought to have carried a sense of gravity, of practical values. Words also become eroded and weakened by overuse, especially when they are used out of political context, when they are divorced from ensuing action. Then they are mere sentences, strings of syllables, repeated all the more mechanically. They are trite, oft-repeated «assurances» and «commitments.» «Nothing and nobody can cast a shadow over the mandate we have co-signed,» the prime minister said, or rather reiterated. «I find myself in a perennial conflict with the phenomenon of corruption,» he repeated, as if an incantation to chase away the spirits of evil. He knows very well that this phenomenon of corruption is neither nameless nor faceless, and that it cannot be blamed on «the others.» He also knows – he must know – that the protagonists of this same corruption are not some third-rate cadres of the party mechanism, but select executives who have wielded their power (often beyond the bounds of their offices) in the name of morality on the one hand and in the name of the prime minister on the other. Finally, Karamanlis also knows that his defensive strategy – «at least we prosecute them» – is becoming tiresome, that it is not as convincing as those who are supposed to be applying it would like to think, and, furthermore, it is being thoroughly undermined by the manner in which the head of the prime minister’s press office, Yiannis Andrianos, has handled the case of the edited Christos Zachopoulos video. So, what doesn’t the prime minister seem to know? That society’s trust in him, which he has said is the source of his strength, is bruised and beginning to fade. Every poll in recent weeks tells us so. Are these being edited as well? Are their more worrisome findings being toned down?