OPINION

‘Nobody’ not one but thousands

Giving gifts is an age-old and universal practice, not always with an ulterior motive or to make immoral alliances, but there is no doubt that they can serve to corrupt. Herodotus tells us that when the Persian fleet reached Magnesia, the terrified Euboeans sent a messenger to Themistocles and bribed him with 30 talents to keep the Greek fleet in Euboea to fight. The Athenian gave five of the talents to the Spartan Eurybiades, telling him that it was from his own coffers, another three to the Corinthian Adeimantus and the rest he kept for himself. So the Euboeans’ purposes were served and Themistocles was a bit richer (something that Plutarch fails to mention in Themistocles’ biography, even though he refers to Herodotus). That is more or less what happens these days, when party cadres who receive bribes make personal gain while serving the greater interests of the party (or the country, as they are in the habit of saying, given that their speech is as unbridled as their greedy hands). A verse from the ancient epic «Nostoi» advises that gifts seduce men’s thoughts and actions, leading them astray. By an unknown author, «Nostoi» was a bridge between «The Iliad» and «The Odyssey,» attributed by some to Homer and by others to Agias of Troezen, a 7th-century BC poet. If we accept the authorship of Homer, then we must accept the blame for not taking his warning seriously, for we have let ourselves be corrupted by the corrosive force of gifts (in money or in kind), and have done away with all morals in leadership politics. As a result, we now live in a place where «Nobody» is not one person, as in the Odyssey, but thousands. In polls asking which of the two leaders, Costas Karamanlis or George Papandreou, is more suitable for the job of fighting corruption, dealing with the high cost of living or protecting the environment, the answer that keeps coming back is «Neither.»