When I succeeded in passing my University exams, my name was put on a list, along with the names of everybody else who’d made it to the Promised Land. And of course, without the names of those that hadn’t.
This list was published in a newspaper. It was broadcast on a day-long loop on National TV for God’s sake! On one of the only two channels in existence at the time.
I was excited to see my name on TV. But at the same time, I felt a little uneasy, even though it was something to be proud of. The thought of all those well-meaning and not –so- well meaning eyes scouring the list, trying to spot all the names they knew in it.
All the judgments that passed upon the detection or, more crucially, upon the non-detection of a name.
I don’t like lists. Good ones included. Even Schindler’s list is heavy with the absence of so many people from it.
Yesterday, a list was published. A list of depositors in a Swiss bank. Any number of them could be tax evaders. Or not. In a Democracy, that is for a court of law to decide. Following a fair trial.
The journalist was arrested for breaking a privacy law valid in every democratic state on the planet.
All hell broke loose.
People on Twitter immediately branded him as something akin to a war hero, with #freevaxevanis and “freedom of the press” pleas flying left and right. Persons of respected social standing issued revolutionary statements and calls to arms. The journalist’s arrest was played out dramatically, with him tweeting all through the events unfolding after the warrant was issued.
Really such theatrical displays, such passion, such thoughtless condoning of an immoral, illegal and downright dangerous act of banana journalism.
“He was right to publish the list, since the tax and political authorities did not investigate the names in it”, say the voices. Because in the public’s eye, two wrongs make a right, apparently.
This is a time in Greek history when emotions swell. Publish a list like that and see how quickly the voices become a mob.
There are other ways to go about it. Publish the list with the names blurred and say: ‘at the disposal of any Authority’. Investigate a name in it and collect proof that they are evading. But publishing it like that…Practices such as this are a surefire road to fascist hell. Practices such as this can only spiral into civil war. Each time there is a practice such as this, the reactions to it force the public towards taking sides. Steadily and surely, little by little, each person edges closer and closer to one of the two opposite ends.
It doesn’t matter that the journalist put a disclaimer: ‘these are depositors names’ (still supposedly private, by the way). People on that so called Lagarde list are already being publicly and extensively branded as tax evaders and –perhaps more to the point- as ‘rich’. In such troubled times, when people are being impoverished, when emotions about who’s to blame run high, publishing a list of Swiss Bank depositors is like throwing the people in it to the lions.
My father witnessed a People’s Tribunal in a street, after the War. He came upon it by chance. He remembers a bunch of women screaming hysterically: “kill him, he’s a collaborator!” and immediately after the accused being shot dead on the spot.
Finger pointing. Can lead to no good at all.
Publishing a list like that constitutes finger pointing.
There are many lists that could be in this wretched land. The list of lists is endless, in this wretched land. Perhaps we could publish a list of suspected idle civil servants. Or plain civil servants, since most of them are perceived as idle anyway. What about a list of doctors that do not issue receipts of payment. Or what about a list of all the doctors, they all do it. What about a list of everyone who’s ever opened a shop, everybody knows they’ve bribed the urban planners to do so. Pass me a list of all urban planners while you’re at it.
I could go on for days.
But I’d much rather be list less.