We need leaders, not messiahs

It was around 1 p.m. at Germany’s southernmost point, the medieval island town of Lindau on Lake Constance, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel was readying for her campaign speech. The lakeside promenade was rather crowded and, at the local cafes, people made good use of the sunny day. At the very end stood a small podium – so small it was hardly visible from over 20 meters away. A big screen projected developments on the stage. Merkel, standing on the side, watched as party cadres took the podium to address key regional issues: public safety, child abuse, the problems dogging the milk producers. She clapped after every speech. When her turn came to take the podium, she was jeered for a few seconds by a small group of opposition supporters. A person was distributing Socialist fliers. Balloons with the letters CSU, Bavaria’s right-wing Christian Social Union, hung next to them. Not a reaction was to be seen. In front of the stage, a man held an opposition banner. «I would be interested to see how this man would go about tackling the problems if he were in my place,» Merkel said. Merkel behaves like the leader of the biggest EU state, who can claim a successful four-year coalition with the Socialists. At the same time, she behaves like a citizen, listening to her cadres talking about local issues, addressing supporters as well as rivals. Merkel does not claim messiah status. She is a democratic leader. There is no need to compare what this writer saw in Lindau last week with what happens at home. But when we see the leader of a large mainstream party being treated as a messiah, as the only one who can solve the country’s problems, it’s only natural that he too will start to behave that way, using apocalyptic language, disregarding what party officials or the laypersons have to say. Despite some improvement, Greece still lags decades away from certain Western EU states in terms of what is usually referred to as «political civilization.»