“The flag should be held by a student who has achieved and not randomly”

It was reported in August that a lottery is going to be used in Greece to distribute the distinction of carrying the flag. This decision is now being taken to court:

A group of parents wants the state’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, to overturn a decision by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA for flagbearers in school parades to be chosen by lottery and not to the best student as had been the custom.

SYRIZA doesn’t believe in excellence in education nor standards for university admissions but the parents who protested said the flag should be held by a student who has achieved and not randomly.

Education Minister Costas Gavroglou issued the lottery scheme but the parents said it is unconstitutional and was driven by ideology and not merit, nor by popular demand or social necessity. He said the lottery makes the process fairer even if it excludes top students for their work.

The random selection of “an Afghan boy” as flag bearer made him the victim of violence:

The issue drew attention at the Oct. 28 Oxi Day parade when an Athens school rejected the name drawn for flag-bearer, that of an Afghan boy who had been at the school for just a few months.

He was instead allowed to carry a sign with the school’s name on it while another child carried the flag. His family home was later attacked by unknown assailants who ran away and hid instead of stating why they went after a little boy.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met the boy and awarded him a flag. Tsipras said objections to the lottery system smack of populism.

“Everyone should have the right to hold the flag,” he said earlier, trying to rebut claims by the major opposition party New Democracy Conservatives that the Leftists want to end excellence as a criterion.

15 Responses

  1. Makes me think of this video from Tim Minchin about university diploma and the so called merit. See life lesson 3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoEezZD71sc

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  2. Romain, it seems that Minchin, as well as yourself, do not believe, just like SYRIZA does not believe, in excellence in education and that you are driven by ideology rather than by merit. Shame on you and your fellow radical populists, destroyers of civilization and all the is good and holy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really like the photo, with the big smiles that say fuck you biggots of all kind.

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  4. Yoram:> Shame on you and your fellow radical populists, destroyers of civilization and all the is good and holy.

    Yes that’s right (absent the irony). It should be remembered that the Blind Break theory advocates sortition only to decide between two equally qualified candidates (unlike Barbara Goodwin’s dystopian fantasy of the Total Social Lottery).

    >Tsipras said objections to the lottery system smack of populism.

    The ironies are continuing to accumulate (given that Syriza is generally described as a populist political party). New Left activists on this forum advocate sortition in order to counteract elitism but counter-revolutionaries who continue to advocate the pursuit of excellence are accused of populism. Unfortunately the people are so gripped by false consciousness as to reject calls for social solidarity in favour of the American Dream (originally articulated by Thucydides in his rendering of Pericles’ Funeral Oration). I’m proud to count myself a populist (in the eyes of Tsipras and his apologists on this forum). Of course the real distinction is between right-wing and new-left populism and the evidence would suggest that the latter is distinctly unpopular as the masses would much rather go shopping than indulge leftist dreams of solidarity against excellence/elitism or whatever you want to disparage the natural human instinct to better oneself and one’s offspring.

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  5. You should really listen to Tim Minchin. even if I suspect he is a left populist, but he is fun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBUc_kATGgg, his song seems appropriate “If You Open Your Mind Too Much Your Brain Will Fall Out (Take My Wife)”. Guess this is why I am not so open-minded. I am sad to see that no movement from the right employ sortition (but maybe thi.

    The thing about France Insoumise. I call that a foot in the door. And the funniest thing, I think Melenchon is not a fan this idea (if not he should be afraid of it like all our actual politicians).

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  6. And a fun video to start the week-end. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jG7dSXcfVqE
    More to the point: I am doing a Meetup this afternoon in Paris about sortition (https://www.meetup.com/fr-FR/sortition/events/244632200/)

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  7. Romain,

    I disapprove of the Casey Neistat clip. It is an elitist message masquerading as a democratic message. The overwhelming majorities who “do what they can’t” will find that very few people are going to notice them. Very, very few people will have millions of views on youtube or HBO shows or get elected to office. That does not mean that those who don’t manage to become prominent should be appreciated any less than the few who do. This is not because they “followed the rules” or “waited in line” or “compromised”. It is because of the laws of arithmetic.

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  8. Yoram I agree that Casey Neistat is among a group of privileged people (having an internet connection, a smartphone and a brain filled with good ideas). This being say I don’t think that the message of the video is that people deserved their shitty job because they “followed the rules” or “waited in lines”. I think that the message is much more positive than that (and that is why the video kind of boost): we shouldn’t be stopped by people with good advices and intentions to stop you (for your own good). I particularly likes this sentence: “The haters and the doubters are all drinking champaign on the top floor of the titanic and we are the fucking iceberg”

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  9. *** Some achievements in a society are directly rewarded. In our societies economic efficiency is rewarded by money (I am optimist maybe), athletic prowess by a victory in Athletic Games, etc.… Mrs. Rowling, who created Harry Potter, won fame and money, it is OK. But it may be necessary to honor some other achievements, along other dimensions which have less strong direct rewards. Thus the civic community states strongly that they acknowledge value to these dimensions, too. This is true in any political system, and there is nothing antidemocratic in the idea. A big part of the decrees in the Second Athenian Democracy were honorific decrees.
    *** If a person is chosen to be the symbol of a collectivity, it is quite different. Distinction would be antinomic to the role of symbol of a collectivity, by putting the individual apart. When France, after the Great War, wished to honor the soldiers fallen in the war, a corpse was chosen among the unidentified corpses through which was a kind of lottery: a young soldier was to choose “randomly”.
    *** For a role as symbol of a collectivity, lottery is the best way. The idea may arouse anti-egalitarian feelings in a non-democratic society, and thus be discarded, but in a democratic society there is no reason to discard a way which is intrinsically the best way.
    *** But if a symbolic role is to be assigned to an individual, or a small group, as the law of great numbers does not work, there must be some previous exam, “dokimasia” they said in Athens, to avoid the choice of a morally aberrating individual.
    *** It seems that the “bearer of the flag” is the symbol of a collectivity; therefore lottery is the good way. If we think that school achievements do not get enough rewards, therefore we can bestow honorific gold medals, along a distinctive logic.

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  10. Andre, that’s all true, but:

    SYRIZA doesn’t believe in excellence in education nor standards for university admissions

    This would suggest that Syriza is seeking to overturn an existing tradition (flag-bearing in Greek schools based on academic achievement) for purely ideological reasons. Many parents (including myself) have been alarmed at the anti-competitive ethos in the educational system, especially in the light of the challenge that our children will face from China, Singapore, Korea etc. It also conflates the strong egalitarian principle with the view that sortition should be used as a tie-breaker between equally qualified candidates in the university admission system.

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  11. Romain,

    > having an internet connection, a smartphone and a brain filled with good ideas

    Those are not Neistat’s privilege. Very many people have an internet connection, a smartphone and good ideas but do not get millions of views on YouTube or a globally distributed TV show.

    > “The haters and the doubters are all drinking champaign on the top floor of the titanic and we are the fucking iceberg”

    Who is this “we” and how are “we” going to sink their ship? By being creators? By using the infrastructure of the champagne sippers (YouTube, HBO) to broadcast our creations to the masses and in the process legitimizing them and enriching them?

    Neistat’s message has a superficial liberating, positive appeal but is in fact quite regressive, elitist and conservative.

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  12. André,

    > In our societies economic efficiency is rewarded by money (I am optimist maybe), athletic prowess by a victory in Athletic Games, etc.… Mrs. Rowling, who created Harry Potter, won fame and money

    All of these are examples of products of an elitist society that glorifies power and celebrity. Unlike other goods, these are elitist goods because they are inherently competitive – by definition there can only be a small minority that will achieve those goods and so the success of the few in achieving them comes at the expense of the many who will not.

    And such elitism is indeed antidemocratic because, just like elections, they lead to inequality in political power.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. > Those are not Neistat’s privilege. Very many people have an internet connection, a smartphone and good ideas but do not get millions of views on YouTube or a globally distributed TV show.

    Who need a million of view, few thousand is already amazingly good. I am less optimistic than you I think having these three things is already a privilege.

    > Who is this “we” and how are “we” going to sink their ship? By being creators? By using the infrastructure of the champagne sippers (YouTube, HBO) to broadcast our creations to the masses and in the process legitimizing them and enriching them?

    I think the “we” is quite global and as inclusive as possible. It might even including former champagne sipper. And Internet was created by the US army. I try not to judge an invention by its creators (and vice versa).

    On the how this is another good question, and I do not want something as violent as sinking a ship. Come on the Discord to have a more interactive discussion (you won’t be perturb by the crowd :). You can raise my attention with using @.

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  14. Yoram>: economic efficiency is rewarded by money .… [Miss] Rowling, who created Harry Potter, won fame and money.

    True, but why is that problematic? JK Rowling was an impoverished single mother and her original book was turned down by 20 or so publishers. It was taken up by the (then unknown) Bloomsbury who printed a modest edition and did little to publicise it. The book’s popularity was largely through word of mouth contagion (for example the headmaster of our village primary school took a liking to it and this spread to all the kids). It’s hard to think of a better example of the sort of meritocratic liberty and equality of opportunity lauded by Thucydides in his rendering of Pericles’ funeral ovation.

    Most westerners (not just Americans) are comfortable with this kind of meritocracy, and I’m very worried that the nascent sortition movement will be damned by association with hard-left appeals to non-competitive anti-elitism. It’s very important that should not be politicised by connection with any ideology, especially extreme leftism (I don’t think there is much evidence of extreme rightism).

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  15. […] fairly intense attention in Greece in the context of a debate over the mechanism of selection of flag bearers in […]

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