The left-wing French newspaper, Libération, recently called the Greek Minister of Finances, Yanis Veroufakis, the pop-star of the left. For me that is hardly a term of approbation, rather the reverse, but the newspaper no doubt thought otherwise. It printed a picture of him, just off his powerful motor cycle, dressed in a leather jacket, T-short and jeans, carrying his helmet.
Mr Veroufakis is in fact 50 years old. He is, through no fault of his own, going quite bald and so has more or less shaved his head. His facial expression – though he might have been caught at an isolated moment by the photographer – is that of considerable self-satisfaction. He no doubt thinks of himself as deeply unconventional, but in a world of 6 billion people it is hard to escape convention and in any case it is not a worthy object. In fact, Mr Veroufakis is that most conventional of figures, the adolescent who cannot bear to be fully adult, who wants to be 18 to 20 forever. In a few years’ time, indeed, we shall see the first eighty-year old adolescents. I don’t envy the geriatricians of the future.
This is not the only trend that he follows. He is also a follower of an ideology which, after Islamism, is the most powerful in the world today. It is not Marxism, but Marie-Antoinettism. This consists of being a princess but acting the shepherdess, at least for a time and, in this modern world of publicity, in public.
Now of course Marie Antoinette did not copy shepherdesses exactly, down to the dirtiness and roughness of their clothes and their lack of choice about being anything other than shepherdesses. As soon as she grew tired of it, she could stop and go back to being queen. And while Mr Veroufakis’ clothes have proletarian connotations, their denotation is anything but. You can see that his black leather jacket must have been very expensive indeed, and the motorbike from which he strides away is not the kind of machine that students ride, but a top-of-the-range swank model.
It comes as no great surprise, then, that he married into money and a very high standard of living, definitely that of the upper 0.1 per cent of the population. There is nothing wrong with that – good luck to him – but my guess is (though I might be wrong) that he has no great vocation for giving up his privileges for the benefit of the people. He also probably knows in his heart that it would do them no good were he to do so.