Listening to the voice of experience

I hear some people speaking with disdain about veteran politicians who state opinions that may be unpopular. But every country needs the wisdom of those with experience, of people who are at an age when they no longer fear losing a vote because of their position on a certain issue. The British and Americans call them senior statesmen and it is usually they who play the bad guys or the heralds of realism. This does not mean they cannot be mistaken or that they are never swayed by personal preferences or politics. No one, however, can deny them the right to state their opinions and to expect those opinions to be heeded more than those of the ministers and MPs we all too frequently see offering their own opinions on television. It is important to realize that these veterans, at least those who are still alive – because we are quickly running out of them in Greece – have lived through things that we, the younger generation, have only read about in books. Whatever experience a politician of today amasses over the next 30 to 40 years cannot be compared to nights spent facing a death sentence, dealing with incredibly sensitive situations during times of turmoil and riding through major crises. To put it simply, politicians today just aren’t cut from the same cloth as those of the past. Of course, these veterans, like Constantine Mitsotakis and Leonidas Kyrkos, can be wrong and they should not be exalted simply on account of their seniority. They too have made tragic mistakes that changed the course of the country’s history and they too had weaknesses they were never able to overcome. What I do know is that you have nothing to lose – indeed, you have much to gain – from listening to and learning from the experience of people whose lives have placed them at significant historical junctures. As a people, Greeks like to construct myths as easily as they like to demolish them and it is about time that we began listening to our elder sages, whether we agree with them or not, whether we like what they’re saying or not.

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