The art of the po­lit­i­cal turn­around

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

Greece is pos­si­bly the one and only coun­try that ad­mires the art of the po­lit­i­cal turn­around. I of­ten hear fans of for­mer prime min­is­ter An­dreas Pa­pan­dreou prais­ing how he railed against the Euro­pean Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity, NATO and Amer­i­can bases, yet man­aged to keep the bases and keep the coun­try in­side NATO and the EEC. “He was a great politi­cian; that was clever,” they say. That tra­di­tion con­tin­ues to this day. Some ad­mire Alexis Tsipras for his po­lit­i­cal 180-de­gree turn since the days of “Go back Mrs Merkel.” It’s a com­mend­able turn­around and thank­fully he made it, oth­er­wise we would have been the only coun­try that would have been down­graded on its own vo­li­tion. We’re count­ing our bless­ings that in 2015, he ei­ther found the nerve to do what was nec­es­sary to keep us in the euro, or didn’t find the nerve to thrust us into an un­pre­dictable ad­ven­ture. But there is a dif­fer­ence be­tween that and ap­plaud­ing our politi­cians for say­ing one thing, mean­ing another and do­ing some­thing en­tirely dif­fer­ent – un­less we’ve reached the an­thro­po­log­i­cal con­clu­sion that we are a po­lit­i­cally re­tarded peo­ple, who like be­ing swayed by big words and tall tales. The Euro­peans have al­ready come to this con­clu­sion and some sup­port Tsipras. “If they want a leader who op­poses pri­va­ti­za­tions or the TAP pipe­line and then goes ahead with them, then hats off to them,” they say. How pro­foundly deroga­tory. Yet, we are all to blame for this, the peo­ple and the elite. The peo­ple be­cause they’re eas­ily fooled and the shapers of pub­lic opin­ion be­cause they don’t do their job fast enough, de­bunk­ing myths. Will we ma­ture to the de­gree that we’ll de­mand that politi­cians stop flip-flop­ping and be more care­ful about what they say and prom­ise dur­ing elec­tion cam­paigns? His­tory has taught us that as a nation we have strong in­stincts of self-preser­va­tion that help us grow and en­ter the more cov­eted clubs of the West. After ev­ery pop­ulist leader, re­al­ists and re­form­ers have emerged to put the coun­try on firmer ground. They weren’t nec­es­sar­ily pop­u­lar, but peo­ple un­der­stood how after a pe­riod of in­tox­i­cat­ing overindul­gence, you need a tough awak­en­ing. As far as those fans of po­lit­i­cal turn­arounds are con­cerned, it would be good for them to un­der­stand that they are not judges in a gym­nas­tics com­pe­ti­tion. I’m not say­ing it isn’t a fine art, but think how much fur­ther ahead we would have been to­day if we’d put more faith in politi­cians who meant what they said and did what they meant.

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