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Columns


Monday 11 March 2013

«PROTO THEMA»

 

The New York Stock Exchange is skyrocketing and Dow Jones breaking a new record each day. Google is the new Apple and Facebook seems to have definitely missed the train to becoming more than a marketing tool and social network, while its CFO appears increasingly consumed in what looks to be a  push for a new career in politics, achieved through using Facebook’s impact sprinkled with “self-help”, if not slightly complacent and chilly, feminism, to her own benefit. 

Everything here moves so fast that if and when you manage to take a breath and reflect on the things that happened and changes rendered in the past few months, you are taken aback. It sometimes becomes emotionally and mentally difficult to process all this rapid, ongoing change. 

For all of us, apparently. Reports of new developments, new tech stuff, rapid daily developments are peppered by news showcasing this: the girl who swallowed a tapeworm in order to be able to eat without getting fat apparently inspired a whole trend of young girls, desperate to do anything in order to be considered attractive. Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, marked her return to work from maternity leave with the announcement that the working from home option (it has been advertised as the perfect solution for working mothers for the last twenty years) is no longer on the table for Yahoo employees. The reason being blithely simple: the people working from home...just didn’t! Which in turn irritated all their fellow-workers since they had to work more in order to cover for the slackers--although they never complained to the company about the situation in order to avoid being seen as “ratting on” their colleagues. A tangled, consuming web causing friction and exasperation--not the best work climate. Because human nature, in its main weaknesses and strengths, appears to remain the only constant in an assiduously accelerating world. And in a way, this is a relief.

But life gallops away at an unrelenting pace, requiring we too move forward, change, evolve personally and collectively.

The new trend here is shareholder activism: acts of minority shareholders – who actually have a say here, in contrast to what occurs in Greece – forcing, sometimes unfairly and thoughtlessly, sometimes less so, the management or the ownership of companies (mammoths like Dell and Apple) to bear in mind their own views and interests.

It is impossible not to compare this situation to the unfairness visited upon the small shareholders of banks in Greece, who not only collectively ARE their biggest investors and shareholders, but got absolutely no say in their debt haircut-recapitalization. Thanks to a government decree all these ‘little people’ got left out in the cold, robbed blind of their savings, all in the name of a lousy pseudo-communist pretext. All the media (apart from “Proto Thema” and a few others, principally papers) propagated this theory--for reasons of their mogul owners--thereby paving the way for the most fraudulent and opportunist elements of greek politics and society, while also creating one more destructive myth in people’s minds. 

Here, on the other hand, before the stock exchange ascent and the subsequent general euphoria started monopolizing the news, one of the hottest stories was the public outcry against drones. The story with its various different aspects was brought out by newspapers and then taken over by Internet and television, becoming a headline story. But headline stories last only for so long before disappearing. That is when the nation’s storytellers take over to ensure that people do not forget what is important. To my surprise, not more than two weeks later after the drone story had run its course, I stumbled upon two different popular series that had turned it into a story-line on TV, in an effort to engage the attention and concern of the viewers, cultivating emotion. For in democratic countries, despite their problems, it is always the people who demand – and eventually motivate – a political change.

What TV is doing today in the US with many of its shows and series is  shape the world we inhabit in much the same way as politics, but more subtly--and effectively. This role the media is expected to live up to probably goes a long way in explaining why all the traditional news media around the world are experiencing crisis: people have lost confidence in them because they no longer relate to them.  

In Greece, for a few years now, people have experienced every last political development more vividly and profoundly than events in their own lives – this  feeling of inconsequentiality regular citizens experience is brought on by TV, blogs, most websites and newspapers. These media are wholeheartedly  devoted to which minor or major politico bickered  with whom, the ongoing soap-drama of Pasok’s internal affairs, the ambitions of aspiring politicians, the existential Facebook musings of Syriza members on whether anarchy can coexist with a comfortable seat in Parliament or at least the public sector, and whether a member of the minor party in the government coalition is undermining the party’s elect for public TV’s management--still a lucrative business in otherwise bankrupt Greece. The daily lives of people and the events that impact them are deliberately ignored, remembered only in a demagogic way when the need arises to refer to the ‘underclass’ in favor of one politician, and against another.

In the US, the media limelight people’s lives: through this prism--and in the.............. 




Sunday 3 March 2013

«PROTO THEMA»

The air is cold but the city gives off the aura of a night that took its turn from a sunlit, crystal day.
You cross the busy streets, full of passers-by that grow scarcer and scarcer as the day ends and the cold intensifies. Uptown, high-class neighbourhoods without shiny skyscrapers, so many “neighborhoods”. Downtown, the new neighborhoods of the successful youth and the avant-garde. Midtown, you can’t see the sky because of the enormous buildings that create the illusion of day. The other parts of the city are dark – it’s where the people who haven’t made it – yet – live. Still, they fight as long as they remain alive, resilient fighters to their last breath. You can’t see the people who didn’t make it and gave up or broke down: either they are gone or you have to look really carefully in the dark to see them sleeping in front of churches, wrapped in newspapers, rags, scarves, old clothes. They don’t beg – it is forbidden; so is loitering. They ask for nothing more than to make it through one more night.
Inside the house some time later, you listen to the most important news of the week – the partial ban/control on guns, the new revolutionary robotic Google-glasses of Google you already covet, and their rejunevating impact on Google’s stock price. The rest of the world seems too far.
The only reality in the news is the reality of this city and this country. Europe is reduced to a derisive mention of the horsemeat scandal and a tongue-in-cheek mention of the British royal family and the pregnant Kate Middleton. Late one day, in late fringe actually, when there are fewer ads, a financial reporter is allowed the time, while celebrating the stock market rise, to wish for “lack of news from Greece and Italy”. Still, she doesn’t have the time to end her phrase – a senior reporter interrupts her and says haughtily: “In any case, Europe is not that important to us anymore. Let’s talk about Latin America and China…”
This is the reality in this country: life inside a bubble, as we Europeans – and all the people who live outside the bubble – would say. It can be clearly seen in the way the New Yorkers treat the British: they allow them access to the establishment under strict conditions – the British must be a bit weird, a bit attractive and heartbreakingly eager to become Americans, their accent being......  




Sunday 10 February 2013

«PROTO THEMA»

Before a couple of days American friends drew my attention to an article published in the New York Times entitled “Resolve the Greece crisis”. Reading this piece written by a US think-tank fellow and a Greek fellow of a Greek think tank I was taken aback by the fact that the writers summarily ignored, essentially dismissing as ineffective, each and every political party, schema or coalition that has been in government during these years of crisis.

My initial surprise that the authors of this article presumably deem as insignificant all the effort that has gone into averting fiscal bankruptcy, Euro-exit, and the chaos this would have entailed, was countered by my amazement in realizing that the article championed the leader of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, as the country’s only possible “savior”--even if under certain conditions.

The oped continues in didactic tone, accusing Greeks of “perpetual cynicism and lack of meritocracy”, and naming the Greek public as “not innocent victims but willing, if small-scale, participants in a corrupt system” that led the country to its current predicament. Ok. Not untrue--even this generalization does not apply for about half of the Greek public. However what is not OK is the supercilious condemnation of Greeks as a people whose “anger is focused outside the country, at Germany in particular, or disgracefully, on the most vulnerable people — poor immigrants — who have benefited least from the country’s corrupt system. Either way, the misdirected anger only distracts Greece from much-needed introspection. And even when there has been reflection, such as the momentary pause in the spring and summer of 2010, Greece has been plagued by the paralysis of collective responsibility: “So maybe I didn’t pay my taxes, but who did?”

 

In my opinion what is disgraceful is the tragically complicated immigration issue Athens is currently dealing with reduced to mere xenophobia and racism, while there is no mention of the fact that most crimes in Greece are committed by immigrant gangs, and the rest by anarchist-terrorist organizations, and that the few Greeks targeting non-Greeks are members of Golden Dawn--a neo-fascist party, passionately rejected by mainstream society. As to Greek anger towards Germany--not exactly an “innocent” either in this imbroglio--have the article’s writers leafed at all through the German media during the past three to four years where Greece-bashing was the staple obsession?

 

To sum it up: for the writers of this oped Greece’s real problem is neither criminality, the hordes of illegal immigrants entering the country daily, and the deepening depression and poverty of the overwhelming majority of Greeks today, nor the endogenous problems of the EU and the financial and political consequences of a long reluctance for political, banking and fiscal union. Oh no. The problem is that Greeks are stubbornly refusing to dwell on their sins, taking responsibility for them, and atoning for them (a punitively Catholic approach to finance!) in order to then build the country anew on a creative, uncorrupt basis, with fresh perspective. How the cash for this development will be found is evidently a superfluous matter for the authors of this acerbic article. 

Whatever. When all this occurs--the article’s writers conclude--“with support from civil society and the Orthodox Church, momentum toward national renewal could reach a tipping point, where the rewards of complying with rules will outweigh flouting them. In short, Greeks do not have to “become Germans.”” Leaving aside the tragically dated reference to the role of the Orthodox Church in Greek society (none-- the very idea is surrealist!), it would be tempting to appraise the writers of how a couple of days ago the German Education Minister stayed in power despite being found guilty of plagiarizing her doctoral dissertation. Take that for perpetual cynicism, and lack of meritocracy!   

Whatever the case, here in the States there is no hypocrisy or conscious oversight of reality, and personal involvement when it comes to the collective or individual pursuit of evolution, progress, security, prosperity, happiness. Yet there is another kind of neurosis (in Freud’s terminology, the product of a flight from an unsatisfactory reality was given the--ironically--Greek name "neurosis") rampant here: the status ‘laws’ of who actually gets to participate in this pursuit as top-dog. American society is indeed very friendly and open-hearted. If however, as a foreign national, you try to enter the professional and social................ 




Sunday 20 January 2013

«PROTO THEMA»

 Alexis Tsipras’, the SYRIZA leader, visiting Berlin to meet with German finance-czar, the minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was undoubtedly--at least to his party’s mind--the big event experienced by mankind worldwide last week.

This event overshadowed the tragic fate of the European and American hostages (employees of an oil company) captured by Islamists in Algeria, as well as the in so many ways shocking confession of legendary cyclist Lance Armstrong to Oprah Winfrey that he has used performance enhancing drugs to win most of the races he has competed in and triumphed during the last twenty years. The Berlin meeting even overshadowed the duel played out in the Greek Parliament between Syriza deputy “D.A.” Zoi Konstantopoulou, and Pasok deputy and ex-minister Evi-Christophilopoulou during the House vote that approved an inquest into the questionable role of ex-Finance Minister (during the George Papandreou premiership) Giorgos Papakonstantinou in the scandalous melodrama of the suppression of the Lagarde disc (containing the names of 1,000 Greek citizens for whom there exist indications of major tax-evasion). 

Everything dims in comparison to Tsipras’ meeting with Schaeuble--at least in the eyes of Tsipras himself, a man who wanted to become Prime Minister so much that he and his party SYRIZA became convinced after elections last May that this was only a matter of a few weeks. From their grandiose announcements and pr after the Berlin visit, one would assume that Syriza and Tsipras took Berlin by storm, eradicating Greece's debt burden by forcing the Germans to happily keep on paying for the consequences of three decades of pilfering of public coffers, fraud, and profligacy the Greek political system and a large part of the Greek people indulged in.

In reality of course Schaeuble and the Germans made minced meat of Tsipras, and then proceeded to throw him out into the cold-hence the awkward, fearful, always vacuous statements Alexi made in a snow-storm, outside the Branderburg Gate while shivering in a jacket appropriate only for Cuba.

So Tsipras made a touristy visit to Germany on public funds--and that will presumably be the way he will visit the States next week--maybe to have the opportunity to join millions of Japanese tourists in cheering Obama’s second Presidential inauguration outside the Capitol, and then travel to Manhattan to shop spring season turtlenecks and new hair styling products.

In Greece time’s passing is anticipated and marked by events on the political agenda. In contrast in America, the next big thing is always around the corner, and is either a federal holiday or a major.................. 




Sunday 13 January 2013

«PROTO THEMA»

Μπλουμ ο Σύριζα στις δημοσκοπήσεις: τα στοιχεία που κυκλοφόρησαν Πέμπτη βράδυ αποκάλυψαν την αλήθεια που ένιωθε ως αίσθηση τον τελευταίο καιρό μία ολοένα αυξανόμενη πλειοψηφία Ελλήνων. Η ΝΔ είναι σταθερά πρώτο κόμμα στις προτιμήσεις των ψηφοφόρων, και προκειμένου να παραμείνει στην εξουσία η παρούσα κυβέρνηση (με "σταρ" τους Σαμαρά- Στουρνάρα) ο μέσος Έλληνας καρδιοχτυπά λαχταρώντας την πολιτική μακροημέρευση του Βενιζέλου και του Κουβέλη.
Η πτώση αυτή του Σύριζα και ταυτόσημη άνοδος της ΝΔ οφείλονται σε δύο αλληλεπηρεαζόμενους παράγοντες. Πρώτον, την αναξιοπιστία και τέλεια αμηχανία και αμετροέπεια του Σύριζα απέναντι σε κοινωνικά και οικονομικά προβλήματα ασφυκτικά και σύνθετα¨ και δεύτερον, την σοβαρότητα και αποτελεσματικότητα που επιδεικνύει τους τελευταίους μήνες η κυβέρνηση Σαμαρά: μαζεύονται κάπως τα οικονομικά μας, ο Δένδιας έχει πετύχει έναν συνδυασμό σοβαρής αστυνόμευσης και μετριοπάθειας, εγκράτειας και ανθρωπιάς εκ μέρους των αστυνομικών οργάνων (απόδειξη η συνεισφορά τους σε φιλανθρωπικές πρωτοβουλίες του Δήμου Αθηναίων όπως το συσσίτιο της Πρωτοχρονιάς), ξεκινούν οι διαρθρωτικές αλλαγές και ιδιωτικοποιήσεις, πήραμε το δάνειο από την ΕΕ, και πλέον έκλεισε οριστικά η επικίνδυνη συζήτηση περί εξόδου της Ελλάδας από την ευρωζώνη. Και που το πας ότι έχουν εξαφανιστεί οι υπουργοί από προσώπου γης και καναλιών--τεράστια επιτυχία!
Βλέποντας λοιπόν ότι στα εσωτερικά δεν τα καταφέρνουν, και με τις δηλώσεις τους απλώς πυροδοτούν καταστάσεις έκνομες και απαράδεκτες (καταλήψεις δημοσίων κτιρίων, δολοφονικές επιθέσεις εναντίον δημοσιογράφων και λοιπών δημοσίως διαφωνούντων) και συναντούν την χλεύη του κόσμου, πονηρώς σκεπτόμενοι οι "εγκέφαλοι" του Σύριζα τα μαζεύουν και ξεκινούν περιοδείες.
O Tσίπρας λοιπόν αρχίζει νέο κύκλο επισκέψεων και διεθνών ταξιδιών. Αύριο συναντιέται με τον Γερμανό υπουργό οικονομικών Βόλγκανγκ............... 




Sunday 6 January 2013

«PROTO THEMA»

Το νέο έτος για την Ελλάδα μπήκε δυναμικά σαν θρίλερ οικονομικό-πολιτικό και αστυνομικό μαζί: Λίστα Λαγκάρντ, πίσω έχει η αχλάδα την ουρά. Και γύριζε η μπίλια, γύριζε επί μήνες στη ρουλέτα της ενοχής, ακούστηκαν ονόματα πολλά και κάποτε θεωρούμενα κραταιά και "βαριά", κι έκατσε τελικά σε ένα από αυτά--του πιο πρόσφατα διατελέσαντος υπουργού οικονομικών, Γιώργου Παπακωνσταντίνου, πρώην γενικού γραμματέα ΠΑΣΟΚ, πρώην δεξιού χεριού του ΓΑΠ, πρώην "τσάρου" της ελληνικής οικονομίας, ες αεί καλού οικογενειάρχη--σπίτια της μαμάς του, και ελληνο-καταγγελτικές δηλώσεις της Ολλανδής συζύγου του απασχόλησαν την επικαιρότητα καθ' όλη τη διάρκεια της θητείας του, ενώ τώρα απ' ότι φαίνεται, θυσιάζεται ως άλλη Ιφιγένεια, για την εξαδέλφη του...
Και πώς ήρθαν τα πράγματα και έχουν--επιτέλους--πάρει αμπάριζα οι δικαστές, και βρίσκεται η χώρα σε κατάσταση να πρέπει να κατασκευάσει νέα ειδική πτέρυγα στον Κορυδαλλό προκειμένου να στεγάσει τους αυξανόμενους αριθμούς των πολιτικών και μεγαλοσχημόνων! Γιατί και το άλλο--το πραγματικά ιλαροτραγικό: που όλοι οι Έλληνες που δεν ψηφίζουμε Σύριζα, ΚΚΕ, Χρυσή Αυγή, προσευχόμασταν να μην αποδειχθεί ενοχή του Βενιζέλου πουθενά, γιατί θα σήμαινε αποπομπή του και πτώση της κυβερνητικής συμμαχίας...εκλογές... και χάος, βέβαια... Προσέξτε: όλοι τον έχουμε ικανό για οτιδήποτε τον Μπένι, όλοι τον θεωρούμε...τουλάχιστον αχαρακτήριστο, κι εντούτοις όλοι τρέμαμε να μην συμβεί καμία στραβή και αποδειχθεί οτιδήποτε, και...το χάσουμε το κορμί! Είναι τελικά άτιμο πράγμα η ζωή--κι όλο ειρωνικό χιούμορ! Ποτέ μην πεις....................




Saturday 29 December 2012

«PROTO THEMA»

 
It felt more like black Christmas for millions of people in the USA due to an outage of Netflix, the video streaming site which is based on the cloud computing services of the Amazon colossus. These people – as well as the community of users of social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. – didn’t have an alternative because there was a simultaneous outage of Prime, the live streaming service of Amazon.
It wasn’t the first time that the “Cloud” has caused problems. There were occasional outages in the past, causing problems to the networks of Reddit, Foursquare, Heroku, Pinterest, Instagram and the millions of their users who have learned to lead their lives around and inside these social networks.
There are so many people living alone and turning these networks, media and services into their basic source of life and socialization. People of all ages – most in their "productive age" – they often experience this symbiotic and quasi-totalitarian relationship with the… nebulous world of the Cloud while being part of families, marriages and professional, religious or social communities.  
However, their real life is inside the Cloud. Books they want to read, movies, television series and documentaries they choose from a wide variety, music they listen to in order to relax, to work, to fall in love, videos and photos they post, check-ins at places they visit, everything… Clothes and products they buy, ideas, thoughts and desires they search, express, materialize. Their communication with the “outside” world also takes place inside the Cloud – e-mails, chats, live video conferences, groups of friends (such as Google’s Hangouts). That’s why all the “colossi” are readjusting to the Cloud: Google, Apple, Amazon, even Microsoft.
Maybe that’s why the Cloud couldn’t handle such a large part of the experience of being a human and the possibilities it offers (the technical explanation for the long outage of the Cloud was its overload due to an unexpectedly large number of people asking for power and storage space for services that have become structural elements of life).
One could  romanticize another, more transcendent explanation for the Cloud’s blackout. Potently powered with and consisting of human feeling, pain, joy, agony, secrets, longings, desires, contacts, thoughts, lives, dreams, the Cloud may have become more human; it may have acquired, anthropomorphically speaking, human qualities – just like people who suffer from a blackout when their “inside” is full or when they are shaken mentally or physically. These blackouts never last long and people recover rather fast. They last long enough to remind us that we are humans and that the thing called “life” we experience is not a trivial or easily controllable matter.
At the same time, another Cloud, malignant and black, coal-black, grips Athens in its claws and turns it into a gas chamber. It’s the smog from fireplaces and wood stoves that makes breathing hard the minute you get out. It can be clearly seen in a photo posted on more and more Facebook profiles, followed by a note by a user named Yiannis Larios, who obviously first posted the photo: “The disgrace of Athens. Today’s photo, taken just a few minutes ago. The unplanned and mandarin-inspired stupid increase in heating oil yields only ¼ of expected tax revenues and turns Athens into a gas chamber.”
This is happening in a country which tries bravely and fiercely – even the Germans acknowledge it – to recover from default; a country that was paying fines worth millions of euros to the EU until very recently because its industries had not complied with the strict rules of “environmental responsibility” set by Brussels.
The irony – and hypocrisy – of the European Union cannot pass unnoticed. Of course, these two things are irrelevant in the minds of Eurocrats – if the............................




Saturday 22 December 2012

«PROTO THEMA»

Hope
 
The country is suffering from a gaping wound.  Trying to recover from it appears to be succeeding, but you know that the tragedy in Connecticut will be imprinted in people’s consciences for many generations to come – just like Watergate, Kennedy’s assassination, the war in Iraq. Yet, all these crimes belong to the past. Right now, the present is what really counts.
That’s why, in Connecticut, the children how survived the tragedy have been relocated to a new school furnished just like the old one “to induce them to feel comfortable and safe again”. Organizations lend therapy dogs to the families who lost their kids, whereas the police, lacking any other evidence, are examining the culprit’s DNA fruitlessly seeking some reason to understand why he did what he actually did. You do not have the heart to tell them that usually the more inconceivably atrocious the crime, the more it has no sense or underlying reason--physical, genetic, psychological. That is the true nature of horror, of the darkness.
In the meantime, the news is full of new incidents: new crimes, new suspects under investigation, a mother who took her baby in her arms, shut herself in the bedroom and turned on the gas… A fatal road accident – a tank truck causing a pile-up and enveloping the highway in a ball of flames.  
The country is moving forward toward the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season with determination and its necessary share of frivolity, towards an almost hysterical form of family happiness and general revelry.
TV is putting on its best clothes for the upcoming celebration: The progressive NBC is hosting the Miss Universe pageant, whereas journalist Katie Couric, who, after a career in anchoring, is (inexplicably!) paid 40 million dollars per year to host a “female” daily afternoon show, is presenting the “national obsessions” of 2012. Among them, a reality show featuring the life of a grotesque and vulgar rural family, focusing on a fat 6-year-old exhibitionist girl named Honey Boo Boo (even President Obama claimed – jokingly– that he had Honey’s support during the presidential election campaign!) A silly song by a Korean with more than a billion hits on the Internet, the grimace – similar to Julia Alexandratou’s – of a member of the gymnastics national team when she heard that she came second, the “earworms” (songs that stick to mind) of the year.
Hurricane Sandy is over. The scandal of the Director of thenCIA David Petraeus’ resignation is over – all the unfaithful male and female protagonists were exposed and publicly humiliated before returning to the relentlessly forgiving arms of spouses and families. And life goes on. The elections are over – thankfully! – with the right outcome. If you mention Romney today, most people barely remember him. Life goes on at a fast pace.
From all corners of the world – from “nearby” Puerto Rico to Taiwan, North Korea, England and from Italy to Israel and Morocco – people who have come here have a dream: “to make it”. To make what? To survive, to prosper, to make a family and provide for their family what they couldn’t have. Even the grief ravaged parents of the children killed in Connecticut croon at the thought that now their children "will never grow into their potential: marry and create lovely families, giving back to the community."
The principles underlying this social imperative--obviously evolved to an all-consuming existential status here in the US--are a sibilant whisper underlying the heart of the cold wind sweeping the city. The pace is intoxicating. Intoxicating and comforting at the same time: you can close your eyes and blindingly follow the “guidelines”, hoping that you will be rewarded for your prudence and that a manic murderer or deadly storm will not cut you down in your path.
Everything can be overcome super-fast here, but nothing is ever forgotten – they become part of the collective conscience and memory. All people join forces and do whatever they can, in every possible level, in order to heal the gaping wounds and eliminate their causes.
The people who were hit by hurricane Sandy still remain under the care and protection of the country, the state and the city (which is what counts here) and enjoy the voluntary help of their fellow citizens.
President Obama and the entire political establishment are unwaveringly and consentingly moving towards a partial ban on gun possession (a ban on automatic and semi-automatic weapons that can threaten dozens of lives with a single pull of the trigger, unlike pistols). The gun advocates (the arms industry and all involved or benefiting from it, and a handful of gun-toting Tea Party supporters with an intellect low enough to warrant concern that they might do harm to themselves and others) disagree vehemently, alleging that "a man with a gun can only be stopped by another man with a gun". By demanding for armed security men to guard schools they are effectively trying to make more money out of this tragedy, by creating more business for the arms industry! But the general consensus is that they will, thankfully, lose this battle. The American people want a partial ban, this is the feeling in the air. At the same time, the private sector has already manufactured bulletproof school bags and iPhone apps that connect kids to the local police department and provide the kind of care an electronic guardian can provide.
This city, New York, is blessed when it comes to its governors and mayors – people here always try to choose the right one, but they don’t have to choose between Scylla and Charybdis, unlike what the citizens of Athens have been doing for a lifetime. In the 80’s, Rudy Giuliani made New York a safer place (much safer than Athens), governor of New Jersey Chris Christie became a hero in many people's eyes during hurricane Sandy, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the richest Americans, is employing everything he has (on a public pressure, as well as personal financial level) in order to fight the gun manufacturers and change the law regarding gun possession.  
After a rather hard day, I try to think in the positive “American way"..........




Tuesday 18 December 2012

«PROTO THEMA»

The benefit concert for hurricane Sandy victims featuring the “great old” rock stars moves everyone. It takes place simultaneously with a series of concerts these same “legends” are giving all over America. Which legends? The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, etc.
The Rolling Stones tour especially is sold out. Their star shines as bright as ever – although they are in their 70s. Their tour is called “50 and counting”. People go mad. With nostalgia. The generation that made them what they are brings its children and grandchildren to the concerts.
The journalists also go mad – with the success of the stars. They keep asking them during interviews: “For how long?” The band doesn’t answer. “It must be your last tour, right?” the journalists keep asking, trying with bloodcurdling hunger to elicit an answer from the Rolling Stones.
They keep provoking Keith Richards by saying that he is still able to go on tour because he leads a cleaner life now. “Maybe. I don’t know. Although it’s only been two years since I cut the sh*t” he answers disarmingly, “but not for the sake of a clean bill of health or longevity. I’m just tired of addictions. I’m tired of the wild way of life. I realized I’ve done everything. I’ve gone to extremes. When you’ve done everything and still remain alive, what else is there in order to lead an interesting life? Change. For me it meant quitting everything. The only thing I’ve never done before!”
“No, I’m not nostalgic and I don’t like to think about our success. I’m tired of people talking to me with nostalgia and asking me for how long. Give me a break! I’m just waiting patiently till the end of the tour in order to get back to Europe, relax and start taking one day at a time. Without a schedule. With the freedom that marked my entire life.”
Freedom, however, is a thing that can only be achieved with great difficulty here too. The obstacles are not institutional and political like in Europe, but reside mainly in private and social life. Freedom is a transient invisible often imperceptible aura surrounding only living legends like Mick Jagger. When encountered in less vaunted individuals it is met with great skepticism and wariness.
You learn here that “reality is what it is.” I know it only too well: the acknowledgement of reality is always the first step towards facing it. But it seems to me that there are a number of things here that are considered divine law – they are never questioned and they can never change, theoretically speaking. Very theoretically. Until… they change. Every man or woman has uttered Heraclitus’ quote at some point in their lives: change is the only constant in life. Change that often comes predictably for everyone else but always unpredictably for the people it concerns.  
In this country that has been motivated by change since its birth, change change has always been faced with fear and aversion. In any case, the country just erases the idea from its mind and keeps going as always…
There are always people – regardless of place and time – who can see the storm coming. Jon Stewart, the famous political satirist, keeps mentioning that the debt is a problem that needs to be solved before it explodes with dire consequences. Even the carefully bland enough to command universal approval, David Letterman, rings the alarm from time to time.
The other day he made fun of Apple’s sudden announcement (trying to appease the markets following the plunge of its stock?) that, starting from next year, some of its.....




Sunday 9 December 2012

«PROTO THEMA»

On one avenue, everything is decorated with menorahs (the Jewish candles lit every Friday night and on holidays) since Hanukkah is already here: 8-16 December this year. Next to the menorahs, Christmas decorations, lights and balls. And a Christmas tree complete with manger ready to appear as soon as Hannukah is over and the second holiday is about to come.
Another avenue, more “globalized” and commercialized than the others is chock-full of flashy holiday decorations of the dominant religion – capitalism: the gold panther of Cartier, the giant star of Tiffany’s, the angel of Christian Dior, etc. Everything is big and shiny. That’s the motto of this city and this country: “Think big”, “Dream big”, “Want more”, “Shopping more at a discount”, “The bigger, the better”. Every day, we are passively fed a continuous barrage of such messages through ads, television, education, even self-improvement and self-help dvds and books. This is the message the “wow factor” seeks to deliver. You breathe this message in like an imperative merely by walking on the street. However, there’s a secret: this factor (“bigger, longer, faster, more”) must be the driving force of your life, but covertly and/or self-deprecatingly. That’s why everyone here abhors and sneers at Donald Trump – the ultimate representative of this mentality – who lives and swears by this principle.
Everything seems bigger, higher, stronger, shinier than you are. Enthralled by the lights of the streets, the skyscrapers, the city, you soon feel dizzy then sick. Walking through a city of ten million people and another ten million tourists just before the Christmas holidays, you feel you’re nothing.
Along with the sense of loss, there also comes a kind of freedom and escape as you struggle to walk amidst the relentless masses of determinedly jubilant people. The tidal wave of so many “wowed” millions is a bit scary in its power.
You try to take a breath of fresh air crossing over into the avenue behind this one. That’s where all the banks are. There are no Christmas decorations here. The huge neon emblems of the houses of money suffice. No beautiful illusions and shimmering colors of improbable promises here. Only steel and glass structures housing ATMs, and underground cellars from which hordes of overworked Korean immigrants pour. You have to be careful not to fall into one of them. You have to look down and ahead, not up or around. Outside these banks there are no stars.
You return to the well-lit avenue of hollow dreams. Where did all these Japanese come from? They take endless pictures of the big apple in front of the Apple store. That’s when you remember New York used to be called “The Big Apple”. Right now, the only apple everyone here – and all around the............



 

My beloved terrorist
Published by: LIVANIS
First printing: 2001
Pages: 403
Hellenists: Greece does not wound them
Published by: LIVANIS
First printing: 1999
Pages: 314
 
 

 

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