OPINION

Necessary evils

For the sake of argument, let’s buy the government’s reasoning that the tax collection drive (offering taxpayers the chance to settle outstanding debts going back over the last 10 years) is a «necessary evil.» What this means is that insulting punctual taxpayers is unavoidable, while those who built their wealth and connections thanks to ongoing evasion and fraud will be let off. Our government is also trying to pass off the fact that it is willingly ceding prime real estate at the former airport at Elliniko to capital investors as another necessary evil, even though just a year-and-a-half ago Prime Minister George Papandreou had ranted against the act of selling off the city’s last free spaces. Another «necessary evil» is the memorandum Greece signed with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, which the government has made feverish efforts to impose, as have some in the New Democracy party who purported to be against it. The «necessary evil» formula helps legitimize a slew of wrongs, including illegal construction and the privatization of public utility companies, while it will also likely be used as an alibi to shut down public hospitals. And we mustn’t forget the biggest wound of all, the 2004 Olympic Games, for which both PASOK and ND deemed costly infrastructure projects a necessary evil because there was no time to go about erecting them the proper way via competitions and tenders. In all these cases, the necessity of it all is nothing more than a fabrication. One wise Greek once said that even the gods cannot fight need, and there is nothing godly about our politicians however much they like to be worshipped and adored. No one expects godly things of them, though. All we want is for them to act in a timely manner, to detect wounds when they open and to heal them before they grow too deep. We want them to respect their own words and commitments. Let’s take tax evasion, for example. Of course they saw it; everyone saw it, administration after administration saw it: billions of drachmas and euros slipping past state coffers. But, they chose not to bother the evaders, because they were their «boys,» pillars of the system in general. So, there is no case to be made about necessary evils, not in the case of tax collection nor anywhere else. The issue is about the political system nourishing evil.