A little less cynicism

One of Greece’s biggest problems is that competent people do not want to get involved in politics. This aversion is abetted by the tight-knit circles of professional politicians as well as the media. Each worthy person who is neither a part of some party mechanism or a television darling is looked upon with cynicism, even condescension. One veteran PASOK cadre last Saturday, for example, pooh-poohed the idea that independent candidate Giorgos Kaminis could ever win the election for Athens mayor, dismissing him, like so many others on television did, as a nobody who makes boring public appearances. This is how these people have learned to think and this is why public discourse has become simplistic and populist. Obviously these people would rather vote for Nikitas Kaklamanis than Kaminis and choose TV persona Ilias Psinakis over the respected architect Alexandros Tombazis without a second thought. Yet even those who disagree with this value system and want to see idiocy replaced by soberness eventually become discouraged. I remember friends who know and respect Kaminis wondering what he was getting himself into when he announced his candidacy. The truth is that if the more enlightened among us have also started discouraging from politics people who have earned respect in their fields, who are cosmopolitan and have a sense of duty and beneficence, we are on a very twisted path indeed. Apart from the parties and the politics, the victories of Kaminis in Athens and Yiannis Boutaris in Thessaloniki illustrate that there is a large sector of society that is not blinded when the political system allows a window to be opened to the sunlight and fresh air. In fact, these voters feel optimistic and have embraced the change. The big issue right now, however, is whether these two men will last in the system of endemic corruption, cronyism and incompetence that has been the rule in Greece’s local authorities. Their success does not just depend on their vision, ethos and plan, but on their ability to withstand all the petty interests that threaten to drag them into the mire. The cynical Cassandras of print and television have already started questioning their ability to survive. Let us hope that their prophecies of doom do not come true, because Greece is in desperate need of a little less of the prevailing cynicism that makes us believe that nothing can change.

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