OPINION

The languages of politics

In politics, there are two different languages: the official and the unofficial, the public and the private, the tacit (which also has a code of its own) and the apocryphal, used in the hallways and in intrigue. The official language, which is used in speeches, hollowed out by too much pomp and made defunct by the usual embellishments, is aimed at the populace – voters first and then TV viewers. The words of this language have lost their power and essence through repetition and they no longer convince either the listener or the speaker. For example, how many more «changes» can the ruling PASOK party promise without risking ridicule from the audience, even from its own supporters? And what kind of political meaning can be drawn to defend the statement that «citizens come first,» when against the backdrop of PASOK’s recent National Council meeting we could make out the shadowy forms of Akis Tsochatzopoulos, Tasos Mantelis and so many other questionable figures? The meaning in what is probably incurably twisted politics, the entire meaning, is found in the other language, the one used behind the scenes; the only one that is literal. It is in this raw and unvarnished language, one that emits authority and parcels out power, that secret meetings are carried out, that comrades, safe from the lights of the cameras, can finally say what they believe deep down inside about people, things and ideologies. It is in this language that sharp threats are made and blackmail is carried out, by phone or face to face. It is what was said in this language during the party’s National Council meeting that we care about, more than what Papandreou and party secretary Sokratis Xynidis said on the dais. Officially, let’s say, Papandreou offered assurances that his party is the only one that is inspired by the vision for Kallikratis, the reform to streamline local government. Unofficially, he would have to admit that the vision is so weak and contrived that it can’t even convince the ministers and party officials who are running for local elections. Officially we heard a lot of wonderful things about dialogue, transparency and open governance. Unofficially, behind the scenes, it was all about convincing party members who are being difficult to hold back their arguments and vetoes against the reform.