OPINION

Eurocrats and chameleons

Greece may be operating under the watchful eye of outsiders but some ministers are going to extremes. They behave like petty middle managers toward the International Monetary Fund officials and Eurocrats whom Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos has derided. This behavior should come as no surprise to the deputy prime minister as he is familiar with the chameleon-like nature of the system. Politicians who once fostered kleptocracy, entangled interests, waste, parasitism and impunity have suddenly become the defenders and flag-bearers of the joint IMF-EU deal. New conditions call for new duties, as the Communists used to say. The most brazen of those who are responsible for Greece’s decline shamelessly wag their fingers at society. Not that the public is innocent – but a fish begins to smell from the head. For decades, a system of trade-offs worked between the political system and society. Traditional clientelism morphed into a guilty mutual tolerance that has corroded values and stalled development in Greece. The political system paid for society’s tolerance of its incompetence by tolerating corrupt public functionaries, avoidance of social responsibility, tax evasion and populist illegality in various forms. Of course, there are some members of the public who did not take part in the trade-off, a few of them on principle but most because they were not in any position to do so. However, those who did participate in some way do not bear the same responsibility as those who held the reins of power. While it is wrong to exonerate every citizen, it is an even greater mistake to lay blame on the general population. In the final analysis, now that the time has come to pay the price, middle and lower income earners will pay dearly for their participation in the feast. The qualitative difference is that the big players who pocketed the lion’s share have access to some alternatives; the small ones do not. Cursing after the event not only does not help but also impedes a necessary rethink. History shows that whenever the middle classes ape the caricatured ways of the rich they see on television, they pay a heavy price.