Wanted: The bold and the beautiful

By Harry Van Versendaal

It was a splendid ride in cynical, and often surreal, territory. Speaking to ruling PASOK’s parliamentary group on Thursday, an embattled Prime Minister George Papandreou proudly said that no other government ever brought so much money to the country, ridiculously glossing over the fact that the cash in question is in fact foreign loans at mammoth interest rates.

Truth, Nietzsche quipped, is a mobile army of metaphors –- a statement that’s perfectly suited to Greek politicians. Animated by slogans, dazzled by fantasies, our politicians keep stumbling through the shambles, oblivious to facts. Painfully exposing his divorce from reality, Papandreou later went on to suggest that he was willing to step aside and allow an emergency government to be formed, provided that his socialist deputies publicly show their support for him first in a vote of confidence. Prove that you trust me, and then you are free to get on without me.

It was yet another absurdity in a loaded day that started with Papandreou backpedalling from his earlier explosive plan to put a European rescue deal to a popular vote. He first contradicted himself by saying that the government never intended to hold a referendum on euro membership; then he said a plebiscite was no longer needed anyway after it had forced New Democracy to come off the fence on the debt deal.

This unprecedented mix of arrogance and incompetence that undid the nation, pushing it to the brink of disorderly default and eurozone exit, has most probably rendered PASOK unelectable for the next decade. More important, it has left the entire political system seriously damaged.

In what was perhaps the most telling development of the day, conservative opposition leader Antonis Samaras called for an interim government made up of non-political figures –- an unintended admission that Greece’s politicians are part of the problem, and not the solution.

He is not alone in that. A plethora of commentators have over the past few days called for an interim administration of high-profile technocrats who will take responsibility of the debt-choked country’s fiscal and national security issues. It’s a reasonable demand, and every sober-minded person would naturally want such a task force to succeed. But what would success mean for Greece’s political system?

Speaking to a dumbfounded Jon Snow on Britain’s Channel 4 earlier the other night, a delirious Communist Party MP Liana Kanelli pledged a good fight against the brutal austerity measures imposed on the Greek people, saying “we are bold and beautiful” — a cheesy reference to the 1990s international and domestic soap opera hit.

The fact is that, much like the American sitcoms of the time, a great deal is happening but nothing has really happened. Regardless of what happens on Friday, it seems fair to say that unlike the tormented souls in ”The Bold and the Beautiful,” our political stars have proved themselves to be neither one nor the other.

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