‘Go ahead, my friend’

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

I feel very un­com­fort­able, I must con­fess, when­ever some­one I know con­fides in me that they would like to get in­volved in pol­i­tics or pub­lic life in gen­eral. On one hand, the coun­try ur­gently needs new blood in pub­lic life, es­pe­cially peo­ple who have worked for a liv­ing, who have lived with the fear of be­ing fired, to push aside the prod­ucts of po­lit­i­cal party lab­o­ra­to­ries who have taken up all the posts… On the other, my first re­sponse is “Why do you want to get in­volved in that?” With all that we have ex­pe­ri­enced in this coun­try, it’s not a strange re­ac­tion. There are many ex­am­ples of wor­thy peo­ple who en­tered pub­lic life and ei­ther found them­selves on the front pages of news­pa­pers or fac­ing pros­e­cu­tors. It takes a lot of guts and very thick skin for some­one to sur­vive in the fur­nace of Greek pub­lic life. Es­pe­cially these days, when so­cial media and the anti-sys­temic tsunami have turned up the tem­per­a­ture sig­nif­i­cantly, around the world. Even the most ex­pe­ri­enced have a hard time sur­viv­ing, when things can be blown out of pro­por­tion in a mo­ment and be­come known ev­ery­where at once. The ad­vice “don’t get in­volved” may be easy to say but may not be the most re­spon­si­ble coun­sel if a fool­hardy soul wants to try his or her luck. Of course, the sys­tem is gamed to make dif­fi­cult the life of any “boy scouts” who re­ally do want to of- fer their ser­vices. Even salaries are ridicu­lously low – another re­sult of left-right pop­ulism. But those who do know the tricks of the game sur­vive and en­joy a kind of im­mu­nity. Sel­dom do we see shad­owy op­er­a­tors from dif­fer­ent parts of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum fight­ing. On the con­trary, they very eas­ily team up against some­one who just wants to get the job done. I once asked a friend who has lived abroad for years but fol­lows pub­lic life in Greece very closely what had made the great­est im­pres­sion on him. “The fear that good peo­ple have of get­ting in­volved in pub­lic af­fairs,” he replied. I come to the con­clu­sion that a fu­ture gov­ern­ment will have to change the rules so as to at­tract ca­pa­ble peo­ple. We all have a duty to pro­tect such peo­ple, from whichever part of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum they come. So, the next time that some­one asks me whether they should get in­volved in pub­lic life I think I will spell out the risks but tell him, “My friend, go ahead, be­cause if all se­ri­ous and ca­pa­ble peo­ple are fright­ened into stay­ing at home, then we will be in worse trou­ble.” That, af­ter all, is what the trick­sters and wise guys from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum would want: that they set up so many ob­sta­cles that they scare off any­one who wants to share the spoils of power with them.

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