OPINION

Deplorable half-truths

«There is only one answer to all those who ask us how we spent the money: For years we hired you in the public sector, we spent the money together, maintaining a wretched practice of buying votes and wasting public money.» This is not self-criticism. Theodoros Pangalos, the deputy prime minister, uses the plural «we» as a way of spreading guilt through the whole of society. In this he is in line with the government’s policy but he is cleverer than most of its mouthpieces. Society is not innocent but the fish rots from the head down. The political system has cultivated a bond of unspoken exchanges with the citizens and gradually formed a climate of mutually complicit tolerance. It has bought society’s tolerance for the perks and immunity from prosecution it enjoys, and, in turn, tolerated various forms of public disobedience such as corruption in the ranks of the civil service, tax evasion, illegal home construction and so on. Without doubt, a significant chunk of the public deficit was poured into civil service appointments and myriad counterproductive perks. And so the political system secured the ideological support of the people for a course that was bound to lead to utter disaster. This, however, is only one side of the coin. The other is that with the blessing of the political system, the lion’s share of the state’s money has been appropriated by the big fish in the pond of cronyism and intertwined interests. Pangalos, however, had not a word to say about them. Now that the time has come to settle the bill, it is the middle and working classes that will pay dearly for what little role they played in the party, or at least for their tolerance of this kleptocratic model of development, which is now crumbling. Unlike the big fish, the little fish have no way out. In one sense, the political process as a whole is getting back at us because we stopped being real citizens. We shunned our responsibility toward the greater community. We degenerated into voter-clients for political parties or smugly locked ourselves into our own microcosms. And this is how we allowed our fates to be determined by usually pathetic and occasionally sleazy politicos, some of whom have the nerve to wag their finger at society today. Pangalos’s half-truth is worse than a lie.