KARAGIOZIS. Karagioz in Turkish.
Karagiozis. Has he influenced Greek life?
A comedy character imported from the Turkish culture and incorporated in the Greek“culture”, with his antics performed in the shadow theater, which almost every Greek kid has enjoyed, over the last two hundred, or so, years.
Karagiozis is presented as a devious character with an abnormally long right hand (to grab) and a short left hand (to give). He is very humble in the presence of superiors, brusque, very rude and abusive with his peers whom he constantly demeans, as he demeans every good human quality. He exhibits a character of deceit, falsity, treachery, injustice, inhumanity, cruelty, ingratitude, ill treatment of the poor and the needy. He is also lazy, irresponsible and a compulsive liar. With these character traits he ekes out a living. He is, however very funny in his talk and behavior and so with the help of the comic plots of the plays, he brings laughter to the audiences by using all his bad qualities to create hilarious situations. Children, even adults, love the amusing shadow theater plays of Karagiozis who, it seems, has become a symbol of guileful ways. Greeks seem to applaud guilefulness, which may help to explain why one can meet many Karagiozis-like characters in Greece?
Members of parliament vote in favor of a bill and then question its wisdom, or come out openly against it, to gain favor with their voters.
These people represent the Greeks who vote for them, which, by extension, could be construed to mean that these Greeks are as serious and responsible as Karagiozis.
The Greek model for development turned out to be fragile because it was based on what Karagiozis represents … kleptocracy, waste, no respect for the law, misuse of the gift of democracy and social behavior marked by traits “propagated” by Karagiozis. Success and personal gain by whatever means was applauded. Government waste became the norm. The Greeks were impressed by images not by substance. You could assume that they had been schooled by Karagiozis himself.
Now the Greeks must change their ways and who is there to lead them? Can this Government present, convincingly, a new model for development? Have they gained the respect of the people who see in them some of Karagiozis’ features? They are even incapable of bringing in to the ailing Greek economy the billions of Euros available to Greece from the EC Funds. Responsible discharge of their duties? Karagiozis could comment on that.
The government had undertaken to do what it had committed to do in order to cut the deficit and thus help Greece stand on its own two feet again, with the help of its partners. This was a “politically” painful commitment, for it was tantamount to the negation of its socialist “principles” and, even worse, it was pitting it against its electoral base, so to hell with Greece, party comes first. Borrowing from the antics of Karagiozis it went about honoring its commitment in a buffoonish way, which taxed the patience of its partners, who made it clear that Greece will be left on its own and out of the Eurozone and …
Lo and behold ! The government forgot its party interests, sprung to action and raced to honor the commitments it had undertaken long ago.
This government was, apparently, under the impression that its expertise in fooling people, just like Karagiozis does, would serve it well with its compeers, who, unfortunately for the government, are not as gullible as the Greeks, to whom it chose to appear as resistant to the pressure of the “troika”, when in fact the “troika” was instructed by its principals to leave, because they were fed up with the Greek non compliance to commitments. Lies to its friends, lies to its people. Vintage Karagiozis play.
If Karagiozis had formed a government which would agree with the demands of the country’s saviors but would not subsequently put them to practice; would pass laws without the intention of implementing them; would permit the administration to discourage the materialization of the agreements; would have ministers asking that people be added on the public payroll when the government must reduce the payroll; everybody would have said … well what do you expect from the government of Karagiozis . What can one say for this government?
The compliance to the obligations undertaken long ago, but not enforced until now, because of the “political cost”, comes as a jolt to Greek society because the government, as serious and responsible as Karagiozis is, has not explained to the nation the benefits which the changes will bring to the economy and the changes are now implemented en masse by a government in panic. Those affected- and they are many- are now protesting when they know that the government has no other options.
What do the protesters hope to achieve? The preservation of the status quo is no option, everybody knows this by now, so the organizers of the protests seem to be as serious and responsible as Karagiozis.
The main opposition party comes across as a firm believer that the Karagiozis ways can bring it to power. It knows that Greece has no option but to change its ways and enable every Greek citizen to engage in any lawful economic activity, without the restrictions-constrictions-impediments to free enterprise that have made Greece a country of restrictions of every kind. Free enterprise is after all a Constitutional Right. Nonetheless the opposition is opposed to the liberalization of the ownership of Taxis, to thus attract the votes of those affected. It has great reservations about the privatization of public assets, as if Greece has other options, it is against the reduction of the number of public employees, as if Greece can afford to do otherwise, it is against much of what Greece has no option but do … or else … Everything that can bring votes the opposition endorses, knowing full well that the government can not but implement what it must, as if the opposition party, were it government, could do otherwise. Are these people serious? Can they govern a country in great danger of catastrophy? They so believe, but so would Karagiozis in their place and for the same reason.
In the Universities there is, again, turmoil. This time because the Minister of Education had the strength and the wisdom to put an end to the unjust ways of students and teachers alike. A part of the academic leadership of Greece, however, is showing to the youth of Greece that laws are not to be respected, not to be applied if they disagree with them. They encourage the students to “fight” for the preservation of the status quo, which is the reason for the degradation of higher education in Greece.
Words like falsity, injustice, demeaning of human qualities represent some of the characteristics of Karagiozis as well as the reactionary part of the academic leadership of Greece and of the “education second to politics” student minority which screams for Democracy while trampling on the Democratic rights of the student majority.
In Crete the fans of two “rival” football teams met to explain to each other why the team they support is better than the other. To make their arguments convincing they bring with them knives and other instruments of persuasion, Karagiozis style. One of the participants in this football cultural event was stabbed to death. But then watching the ways of some of the “big wheels” in Greek football one sees how influenced they are by Karagiozis, how the Karagiozis spirit seems to have pervaded Greek football, with only very few notable exceptions.
The Greeks who laugh with what Karagiozis represents, but do not espouse his ways, understand and support the need to change Greece in constructive ways. Those who persist in the preservation of the Karagiozis spirit are doing whatever they can to keep the country in a state of inertia, stop it from moving forward, for their own reasons of personal benefit.
Good news. The Greeks who do not, unconsciously, identify with Karagiozis seem to outnumber those who do.