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17° Nicosia,
24 March, 2019
 
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Arrogance in Greek politics

Absolute power corrupts absolutely

Athanasios Ellis

Athanasios Ellis

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Those who cite the well-known remark by Lord Acton do so by focusing on economic corruption, but a political leader and his entourage are also judged by their general behavior, including the way they treat others.

There are some politicians who talk and act as if they were above everyone else. They emit an arrogant self-confidence that is troubling and at times provocative. This is both true for some who are already in power and enjoy what Henry Kissinger famously described as the “strongest aphrodisiac,” and for others who feel they will soon have it.

A leader and his associates ought to respect citizens. Not just their followers and supporters – which essentially means their voters – but everyone, including those who might prefer a certain politician or party, but remain skeptical, possibly undecided. They have to respect their opponents as well, because they are also a part of society. And by the way, they happen to be simply opponents, be it politicians or mere citizens, not enemies.

Life is usually much more complicated than what the spin doctors of each political side want us to believe. Reality is not black and white and no politician or party is infallible. Every side has its advantages. What matters is how a leader uses those advantages to benefit society, the economy and eventually the country.

People do not owe politicians anything. It’s the other way around. Those who run or want to run the country have an obligation to them. And when citizens honor a politician with their vote and trust, he or she must serve them, with humility, not conceit.

As for those of us who criticize politicians, particularly when that criticism is well-intentioned and without ideological or party blinkers – which means it could also prove constructive – it is in politicians' interest to hear it and take it into account. It might help them correct certain mistakes. They should not rush to reject it. Acknowledging mistakes and being willing to fix them is a virtue, not a weakness.

Arrogance is a very bad adviser. We have seen this with members of previous governments, we see it with current ones, and we see it with some who aspire to govern. Here, a quote by Abraham Lincoln applies: “If you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Of course there are always bright exceptions, even among politicians.

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