Cultural blowout

2 mins read

As the government was scrambling to clean the dirt of its muddied reputation for sanction busting, the deputy minister for culture was blowing out candles of a different kind.

Deputy Minister for Culture Michalis Hatzigiannis wanted the world to know he celebrated the birthday of DIKO politician Nicholas Papadopoulos.

He was there to sing along with the wellwishers and show that pop singers have a heart of gold.

If you were wondering why the ministry thought attending a birthday of a politician who most probably got Michalis his job was a good idea – there is no need to think about it any more.

It was a mistake; there was a mishap – it should have been for the singer’s personal account only and not material for the government’s official business.

But it only appeared to be a slip of a social media button when there was a backlash to the post on Twitter.

Critics are using this latest PR blunder to hit the government over the head as it struggles to keep its head above water.

Why a pop singer is more interested in birthday tweets as a ‘culture’ minister seems odd.

Nevertheless, we shouldn’t expect anything else in a country that hardly encourages youth culture or diversity.

Apart from rubbing shoulders with the political elite and getting his social media platforms confused, what is the deputy ministry doing to promote young artists?

We’ve yet to see any big ideas come from the ministry or a vision of how our cultural heritage should look in the future.

Getting young people interested in the arts would be a start, but I doubt if the birthday singer is a crusader of avant-garde cinema, standup comedy or post-industrial art.

Unwittingly, the deputy minister has demonstrated that modern culture is confined to social media posts and impressing people with our online presence.

Is Hatzigiannis now going to attend every birthday bash of every political leader to show that he doesn’t take sides or pander for political favours?

Generally, the government seems unsure of itself, with its ministers trying to seem relevant but lacking skills in social engagement with the public.

Because the election was won, it doesn’t mean the argument is over; society is struggling with the cost of living, high-interest rates, mortgages, rents, crime, bureaucracy, and low salaries.

There is no two-way conversation with the government – rare public discourse while nobody in public service picks up the phone.

Because we demand so little from our politicians, cringe-curdling birthday party tweets seem like a good idea at the time to be heralded as a cultural happening.

Sticky fingers

Apathy and indifference are the default mode of Cypriot politics; nobody cares until they get caught with sticky fingers or the international community throws a wobbly.

Not everything can be fixed, but there needs to be a change of attitude and mentality that raises the bar in public office.

The sanctions fallout is exactly because we have created a safe space for cutting corners and disregarding rules and standards.

Cypriots have been targeted by the UK and US, trying to make life difficult for wealthy Kremlin sympathisers in its bludgeoning of Ukraine.

London and Washington are key allies and trading partners that Nicosia cannot afford to upset.

Cyprus wants to limit the damage by cooperating with the US and UK to analyse the evidence against the ‘enablers’.

Understood, after the passports for cash debacle, Cyprus has a target on its back from those suspicious of its murky past.

It may no longer be a huge laundromat for dirty Russian cash, but the stigma is hard to scrub off after a history of shady deals.

This government has learnt that ignoring the issue will only make matters worse; grasping the nettle and facing the consequence is what grown-up countries do.

When the passport scheme began to cause concern in Europe – the previous administration ignored the noise and blamed ‘jealous competitors’.

Nicosia was too slow in closing loopholes and restoring trust in a system that sold EU passports to undesirables.

Ultimately, it took undercover journalists to pull our pants down for everyone to see our hidden corruption tattoo.

People will not forget that in a hurry, so we live with the sins of the past or get a minister to come and sing for us.