Jesters and straight talkers

Greek statesman Eleftherios Venizelos once said that the people hear but do not see, when asked why he wasn’t re-elected despite the many things he had done for the country. Today, we could ask why people should vote for someone who’s done nothing or who has made a complete botch of it. The usual answer is that the people settle for the big talk of old and the theatrical performances that we have seen since the advent of private television. The truth is that nothing else can explain why a PASOK deputy who has left nothing but ruins in his wake could continue to enjoy such popularity, or why a sitting minster who has managed to use every single cent of funds at his disposal and still produce nothing can come out with opinions about how the government ought to function. What is wrong with us? Have we all been blinded by the glare of television and forgotten that rhetoric is one thing and managing state problems quite another? We are to blame to a great extent for keeping people we knew were loafers in decision-making positions. In this election, what we are seeing is an entire generation of politicians being pushed out of the race. What we can’t see is to what extent they will be replaced by people who will bring about change rather than by those who know how to play the political telemarketing game. Who will step in is an important decision and one that we must reflect well on before going to the polls. One way to do it is to ignore reality and the potential and performance of every candidate. The other is to weigh all the factors carefully before reaching a decision. On an institutional level, that goes beyond individual action, however. What we need to see is an electoral system similar to that in Germany, where we will send the jesters to the TV stations and the serious leaders to Parliament.