Con­sumed by a word

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY PANTELIS BOUKALAS

Some words seem to grow in us­age all of a sud­den, like weeds, even in in­tel­lec­tual fields where they have no busi­ness. “Nar­ra­tive” is one such word. Re­gard­less of its mean­ing, what mat­ters in its preva­lence in pub­lic dis­course now is the style and qual­ity that its users be­lieve it lends their procla­ma­tions. Greece has been con­sumed with the word for some time now, but over the past few weeks its use has been record-break­ing. This did not hap­pen be­cause the sum­mer months are con­ducive to more read­ing, even in its more re­laxed form of best sellers and pa­per­back ro­mances, but be­cause even politi- cal rhetoric needs a break – a hol­i­day to re­think its cliches. The re­sult is that “ab­sence of a nar­ra­tive” is the most se­ri­ous ac­cu­sa­tion any­one in the po­lit­i­cal sphere can launch against another. “The gov­ern­ment doesn’t have a nar­ra­tive after its so-called suc­cess story was de­bunked,” the main op­po­si­tion says of the SYRIZA-In­de­pen­dent Greeks coali­tion. “New Democ­racy does not have a nar­ra­tive, as its pre­dic­tion that we would be noth­ing but a brief paren­the­sis col­lapsed,” coun­ters the gov­ern­ment. PASOK un­der Fofi Gen­ni­mata in turn ac­cuses ND of lack­ing a nar­ra­tive, in con­trast to when Evan­ge­los Venize­los headed the So­cial­ists and praised the con­ser­va­tives for their in­tel­lec­tual qual­i­ties. We have also heard PASOK ac­cused of hav­ing “no other nar­ra­tive but its re­turn to power,” cen­trist To Po­tami of hav­ing “no other nar­ra­tive to rec­om­mend but that of its leader,” the Greek Com­mu­nist Party (KKE) of hav­ing “noth­ing but KKE in its nar­ra­tive,” and so on. The word “nar­ra­tive” can cer­tainly be use­ful, as can the phrase “God help us” – and we all know the con­se­quences of their overuse. Only one politi­cian can­not be ac­cused of lack­ing a nar­ra­tive and that’s for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter Ya­nis Varo­ufakis. Time will tell whether his new book proves to be truth or fic­tion. He says he has based his claims on notes and (un­li­censed) record­ings. Ba­si­cally, while he was ex­er­cis­ing power so cat­a­stroph­i­cally he was look­ing ahead not at the fate of Greece but at his own fu­ture. His only con­cern seems to have been col­lect­ing the in­for­ma­tion he would need to jus­tify him­self later. Thus the mod­est sub­ti­tle “My Bat­tle with Europe’s Deep Es­tab­lish­ment.” Let’s not quite rush to the Don Quixote com­par­i­son; Nar­cis­sus is so much closer at hand.

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