Against a scorched backdrop

If we were inclined to be optimistic, we could assume that the prime minister’s decision to appear with the blackened site of Ancient Olympia in the background was meant to convey that, just a year after the fires that consumed human lives, forests, memories and a chunk of the future, the state is here, is better organized and acknowledges its share of the blame. However, this would be a naive assumption because the premier did not choose to visit the prefecture of Ileia a year after the fires to see what is happening, to talk to the people; rather, he chose to speak from the cushy platform of the New Democracy Youth (ONNED) Festival, an event held at Ancient Olympia precisely because it was for the youth wing of the governing party. Costas Karamanlis traveled down to Olympia with his own people and for his own reasons. He went to talk, not to listen. He went to be seen and not to see for himself that there are still many victims of the fires (joined recently by victims of the earthquake) living on promises there. He went to reap the applause of his fans, not to take the risk of rubbing shoulders with the simple folk, to take a risk to which he is duty-bound, at least if we assume that governance is not to be conducted from afar. The people of Ileia were expecting a prime minister and instead got a party leader. This is at the site where a year earlier some ministers insisted that just a few pine trees had been scorched and where the general secretary of the Ministry of Culture stood 50 feet away from the museum of Ancient Olympia and said he had no information as to whether the museum was under threat from the flames. The choice of Ancient Olympia was a display not of power, but of arrogance. Humbly and respectfully, as he likes to say, the prime minister delivered his speech in the first person. This tells us one thing – that he has little faith in his party, its ministers and its officials and offers only himself as a solution. But, if he doesn’t trust in it himself, then how does he expect the voters to do so?