Monday, October 12, 2009


“It’s exciting; I don’t know whether I’m going to win or not. I think I am. I do know I’m ready for the job. And, if not, that’s just the way it goes.” George W Bush.

This Diatribe was supposed to be about why I should be the leader of my own Greek political fringe party. After all, it works for Alexis Tsipras, president of Synaspismos, who vaulted into prominence as a representative of the pupil movement when he was featured as a guest at the Anna Panagiotarea talk show. Aleko is young, much too young in the gerontocracy that is Greece, to be a serious political leader and up until the recebnt elections, he was not even a member of the Greek parliament. Instead, he was a member of the Athenian municipal council. That in itself does not totally disqualify him from legitimate aspirations to power. Rather, it is his name.
A Tsipras does not appear in the annals of Greek politics anywhere. As is well known, Greek politics is a family business and only the true dynasties who have a pedigree of at least three generations can rule. Constantine Mitsotakis gained his legitimacy from his uncle, the great Eleftherios Venizelos, which in turn justifies the existence of his son, Kyriakos in Parliament, along with his prominent daughter Dora, whose alleged Prime Ministerial aspirations are widely speculated upon. Kostas Karamanlis on the other hand, is merely a second generation politician, following in the footsteps of his uncle, unless you take into account any reputed link to the Karamanli dynesty of Tripoli, headed by Ahmed Karamanli, in which case, Kostas should try his luck contesting the Libyan elections, in the hope of becoming a successor to Qaddafi. At any rate, it his his lack of pedigree which seems to have cost him the recent election. Diatribe prophetically cautions the gentle reader to watch for the fallen PM’s son Alexandros. Should he enter politics upon attaining his age of majority, then we can be assured of the permanency of this upstart political family. Hopefully, he will not inherit the quixotic nature of his father, who called the poll midway through his term in office, hoping it would boost his legitimacy. By voting out the incumbent New Democrats so determinedly, analysts said, Greeks had shown how "fed up" they were with the abuse of power. Conceding defeat Karamanlis said: "I take full responsibility … and will start the process for the election of a new leader." That in itself is offensive. Everyone knows that the new leader must be a scion (here read scioness, for anti-scionism in New Democracy seems soon to be outlawed), of the greatest New Democracy family ever to grace its party halls.
Karamanlis congratulated his rival, saying in a brief speech in central Athens: "From the depths of my heart, I wish to thank the voters who backed us in these elections. I wish to congratulate George Papandreou for his victory. We hope he succeeds in the great challenge of facing the economic situation." What about castigation, hyperbole and rhetoric followed by drinks at the club? Bad form, I would say.
Yiorgakis Papadreou on the other hand, PASOK leader and prime minister elect has an impeccable pedigree. His grandfather George, an aide of Venizelos, was Prime Minister of Greece on three occassions, assisting the British soldiers in his first term, against the ELAS guerillas. His father, Andreas Papandreou, who made being a socialist a borgeois pastime, was prime minister twice, which means that Yiorgaki may just only make one term (may he reign forever.) Yiorgaki has a son, Andreas, who deserves to be made prime minister just after young Alexandros Karamanlis has had a go, for the sake of symmetry. Papandreou had wooed voters by promising to "revolutionise" cultural and political life – and offering the possibility that Greece's near bankrupt economy could be "fixed" without further austerity. "We need a new start," he told the media. "We need to clean up our act … people, clearly, are looking for an alternative that is both realistic and visionary." He added: "We bear a great responsibility to change the course of the country ... We know that we can make it." Where have we heard all that before? That’s right, daddy Papandreous slogan of «Αλλαγή.» Good to see that slogans also remain in the family, along with the right to rule.
Having one family succeed the other is a brilliant political innovation for two reasons. Firstly, when asked who the current Prime Minister of Greece is, one has a fifty percent chance of getting it right and thus avoiding the appelation of politically uninformed, which, as I’m told, is death on the dating scene. Secondly, if the Greek state was to do away with elections and simply alternate between members of the two families, for pre-determined terms, the savings would certainly heal any trauma caused by the entrepreneurial property-developing prelates of Vatopaidi monastery, the spurious scandal-mongering Siemens executives, or any other peccadillo or slight mishap that will be dredged up by the Papandreou government in order to justify itself when it inevitably hits a brick wall.
After all, implementing Pasok's agenda of reform will not be easy, and Papandreou is unlikely to be given a honeymoon period. He must deal with a faltering economy that is expected to contract in 2009 after years of growth, while the budget deficit will probably exceed 6% of economic output. Despite his plans for a stimulus package, the new government will probably have to borrow heavily to service the ballooning debt, which is set to exceed 100% of GDP this year, and pay public-sector wages and pensions.
"People are very scared out there. They are very worried about the economy because in this country so much depends on the state," said analyst Pavlos Tsimas. "I have been following Greek elections for over 30 years and I have never seen anything like it, there is absolutely no joy, no hope."
If there is hope, it lies in the smaller parties who continue to amuse us with their existence. Apart from KKE, which despite the downfall of almost every communist regime in the world, save those that have reintepreted Das Kapital as a call for rampant capitalism, still believes in the proletarian revolution (and this in one of the most borgeois societies in the world), the Greek parliament is graced by the presence of LAOS, not to be confused with KAOS, which is short for Popular Orthodox Alarm, as opposed to any other sort of generic brands that can be purchased at your local electrical shop, headed by the beefy and obscure New Democracy defector, Karatzaferis, one of whose claims to fame, according to Ios Press is broadcasting his opinion on television that: "1/3 of Greek congressmen are passive homosexuals with Albanian Stallions." This party has won 15 seats in Parliament. Then there is Tsipras’ party, the Coalition of the Left and Ecology, which began life as a splinter of the Communist Party and like its rival, is able to comment adversely and profusely on all aspects of government with luxurious abandon, given that it will never have a chance to assume the reigns of power.
Amidst the Trotskyites, parties whose name is an acronym for chicken (KOTA) and other worthy partakes of the Greek democratic system, there is no reason why I should not be compelled to lead the Neos Kosmos party, short for Coalition of the Bereft and Phrenology. Our platform is manifold and is comprised of, well recycled manifolds from American classic cars. Our policies include the ritual smearing of Eleni Menegaki with coconut oil every 17th of November and including “The Spit” as compulsory reading in all high school syllabi. Further, the inclusion of the glyph comprising the name of the artist formerly known as Prince in the Greek alphabet and the exile by ostracism to Folegandros of all those who do not acknowledge Tzimis Panoussis as their personal saviour. Given that none of my family has ever entered politics or is likely to do so, I feel that I am well equipped to take my place at Alekos Tsipras’ side. All I have to do, is to be opinionated and spew forth my unsubstantiated and highly twisted social critique in a public forum in an attempt to beguile people into thinking that I have a social conscience. But then again, is that not what the Diatribe is for? From a grand adept at democratic elections, Imelda Marcos, these words of wisdom to tide us over intil the next poll: “Win or lose, we go shopping after the election.”


First published in NKEE on 12 October 2009