• Plus ça change…

    by  • 9 December, 2008 • General • 4 Comments

    By now everybody has heard about the riots in Greece. I’m not going into the senseless violence and spree of destruction that has swept over the country. Many news outlets, bloggers, tweeps have done that.

    I’d like to pick up instead on the clamors for change that are heard all over the political spectrum. Change of the police, change of the justice system, change of the government. The incompetence, corruption, political clientelism in those areas are all getting blamed for the current state of affairs. While I think change is long overdue and would be more than welcome, I have the highest reservations about where this change must be applied.

    What an amazingly large proportion of the Greek population doesn’t seem to grasp is that the police, the lawyers, the bankers, the government, the public servants are not some foreign evil body imported from a far-away and hostile planet. It’s them. They are the government, the public servants, the police, the judges, etc. It’s their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, nieces, friends. They are all Greek, with all the good — and the bad — traits that are ingrained in the Greek character. Swapping them for a cohort of other people raised in the same way is not going to bring any change. You’ll just get different names and faces. That’s it. That’s what the Greek people have been getting mostly lately. The same old wine in new bags.

    The change — if there is going to be change — must come from within each individual person.

    Here is what I have observed in the six years that I have been living in what I still consider one of the nicest places on earth: children, especially boys, are spoilt rotten from birth. They are led to believe that they are the center of the universe, they are rarely corrected when they misbehave, they never learn to reflect on the effect they have on others, occasional reprimands are distributed in such an inconsistent way that the child learns nothing at best, at worst it will learn that it will get away with anything. That it doesn’t have to care if others suffer by its actions. That whenever anything goes wrong, it’s not his fault, not her responsibility. Who can blame such a child when it grows up to be a totally egocentric individual? One who may one day head the government, become a judge, or a policeman of a civil servant?

    The change, my dear, dear Greek friends, will have to come from the parents of today. They have the power to shape the change that Greece so badly wants now. If the parents of today want responsible government, a competent and incorruptible justice system, emotionally well-balanced police officers, civil servants that look out for the public interest instead of their own, all they have to do is day-after-day consistently grow, nurture and shape these qualities in their children.

    It’s so simple — not easy, not easy at all — but so simple.

    Then one day the Greeks will wake up, and apart from being noble, brave, sincere, warmhearted, intelligent, broadminded and generous, all that which they are today already, they will also no longer be mean, cunning, selfish, garrulous, conceited, slothful, envious and greedy (*), qualities that the Greek people seem to attribute uniquely to their representatives in public offices.

    * Characterization courtesy of Alexandra Fiada in “Xenophobe’s Guide to the Greeks”, p.12.

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