Motes and beams

According to reports, Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias entertained the journalists who accompanied Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on his campaign visit to the construction site of the new Egnatia Highway with jokes. However, he saved his best joke for the general public as he cut the ribbon for the last section of the road: «It is unfair,» he said, wielding the scissors, «to involve public works in party wrangling and the election battle.» Is this a joke? Well, it must be. What else can it be when a politician casts aspersions on other parties for doing precisely what he, the MC of inaugurations, has been guilty of in the extreme? Here is one useful lesson from the Bible that we seem to have forgotten: «And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye…» The minister’s joke failed to provoke even a twitch of a smile among his audience, though his fellow party members enjoyed a good sarcasm-laden laugh. They obviously remembered all the accusations they had hurled at PASOK when it was in power and was holding grand celebrations for every kilometer of the Egnatia Highway that was built. They probably also considered – putting their electoral anxiety aside – that there is a limit to how much credit a single government can take for a major public work that was either begun or completed during its tenure. It’s not as if any government ever uses its own party funds to build roads and hospitals. And perhaps, before they start patting themselves on the back, they need to check that the works will not need costly repairs at some point in the near future, carried out by the same businessmen who performed the projects in the first place, those same businessmen who Souflias lauded with such dignity and humility.