Elementary culture

There are two things you just don’t want to be right now in Greece: a patient or a monument, because in both cases you are at serious risk of collapse for lack of the essentials in care. Comparing these two unrelated areas may seem silly at first, but they are both equally affected by the state’s social policies, while upheavals in the public health sector and in culture are rocking the government’s boat – at least they should be. But, is it so? Do skirmishes between ministers or a deluge of public statements and appearances on television express the authorities’ concern for the country’s hospitals or its monuments? Hospitals are without basic supplies, just as one Culture Ministry service in Epirus has been forced to close down because it cannot afford its heating and monuments and ephorates are gradually wasting away in the shadows. The reason is that the only injury that is thought to require immediate attention is that to a politician’s image. This coming Monday, when the culture minister will be on stage at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall handing out the State Quality Awards for Cinema – an institution that has suffered less from long-term abandonment – other areas of the country’s cultural scene, such as archaeological sites and modern monuments, will be looking for their share of attention. Protests by staff at these sites and monuments may lead to some kind of (haphazard) solutions, but what is certain is that after a while the minister will see that real improvements will require personal involvement and maybe even carry political cost. The next time the health minister visits a public hospital, maybe he will go a step further than admitting that the suppliers are right to protest because they haven’t been paid. Pain that cannot be assuaged and a memory that cannot be preserved show the same fundamental deficiency, the lack of elementary culture.