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Columns


Sunday 23 September 2012

«PROTO THEMA»

The worst that can happen to you at your job is for things to become personal. It is something we are all aware of. All of us who work or worked at a job where the – main – criterion for employment and professional development (if any) was meritocracy and our ability to cooperate with others. Of course, here in Greece, few, very few, people have built a career based on the two above-mentioned elements.
From the narrower public sector, the municipalities and the wider public sector, where the majority of employees have been hired based on their political connections, to all the banks and their Boards of Directors which are an image of the occasional governmental alliances, and from the Media (big publishing groups had been ran for years by the publishers’ real or political friends’ offspring , godchildren, etc) to the freelance professions (lawyers, doctors and other scientists who didn’t have any political support, any relatives or any connections have tales of horror to tell) only the people who were party followers or belonged to the right (politically linked) family moved on in Greece. Add also the people (male or female) who had the right… feelings – especially when they were lawfully established by marriage!
Of course, that’s the reason why we have ended up where we are today and the reason why we are hanging by a thread – that “series” has become disgusting, not only for the people abroad who couldn’t care less about our fate, but for us Greeks as well.
That’s the reason why we keep insisting, even at the eleventh hour, on perceiving things as “personal”: Fotis Kouvelis “went ballistic” and scolded the Troika, the “evil” and temperamental Scandinavian (the latter carries a special meaning with reference to the temperatures and mentalities that prevail in his country) Poul Thomsen “blew a fuse” and first attacked Yannis Stournaras and then, out of spite, left Athens for a week (according to the EU),and Christine Lagarde is envious of us and devises various plans to our detriment because she is a horse-faced anorgasmic Catholic, whereas Angela Merkel is “evil” (according to a German female writer who attacks the chancellor in a book which tends to be a household name here in Greece and, I imagine, a soon-to-be best seller).
So, let’s say that things are mostly “on a personal basis”. Even if that is the case, then why are we treating everyone we directly and urgently depend on in such an unreliable, foolish, outrageous and “scaramouch”-like way? How can you keep cutting down pensions and imposing all kinds of taxes on the middle class until we all end up in soup kitchens and not implement just one of the structural reforms that the Troika insistently- and in many cases, justifiably – asks for? And how can you keep misleading the Troika and stalling for time, expecting that their representative here in Greece (who has to tolerate everything) will not try to undermine the entire country? That’s how passions and extremisms are created – ask the Islamists!
The truth is that if a Martian landed on Athens today, he would get the impression that Yannis Stournaras is the country’s prime minister. If only! Apart from working non-stop, negotiating with the Troika, approaching Europeans, Americans and Troikans, and improving the country’s image abroad, he would also have the ability to save us. Alas! All the good work done by Yannis Stournaras (while all social partners, trade unions and citizens curse at him on the streets, while Evangelos Venizelos curses at him in his sleep, while IMF’s Poul Thomsen attacks him – with his fists, some say – and the European Commission “betrays” him) is cancelled by the triumvirate of our wise leaders!
Let’s say that it’s ok for Dimitris Avramopoulos to be shopping and sightseeing in the USA – New York, Washington, Boston and Chicago; he’s leaving a vacation on the West Coast for spring when it’s nicer – but was it really necessary for Antonis Samaras to go to Rome for the weekend to confess to the Pope?
On the other hand, what good does he do when he is here anyway? He consults with the boisterous Evangelos Venizelos and the strict teacher Fotis Kouvelis, while SYRIZA is posing ​questions in non-papers and official statements such as: It’s better to remain in the eurozone – but is it worth such austerity measures? Why do we have to suppress ourselves so much? Why was I born a Greek and a petit bourgeois and not Bill Gates – or at least Warren Buffet…?
If Antonis Samaras were determined to ignore party interests, to actually sacrifice himself politically (not like George Papandreou’s alleged “sacrifice” when he just ditched the country.......... 




Sunday 16 September 2012

«PROTO THEMA»

In my opinion, Nikos Dendias is doing an amazing job as Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection. Thanks to him, we have avoided – for the time being – an open conflict between Golden Dawn members and immigrants, anarchists or other extreme leftists who dream of a Greece where everyone – including all the people from every corner of the world – will live off the private sector employees’ money.
But I think Nikos Dendias’ answer to Golden Dawn, accusing him of being a “mason and counselor of Jews”, was a bit tragic. The man said: “I’m a Greek, a Christian Orthodox, a father of two, grandson and great-grandson of priests… I’m not a freemason”. What if he were a Jew, celibate, bisexual or transgender, a convict’s grandson, of unknown… great-grandfather, a mason of the higher degree or Opus Dei? Would he be judged by what he is and not by the work he is doing? These issues have been resolved in the Western World since the 18th century. Still discussing them nowadays seems like madness. However, what Nikos Dendias did is called appeasement. It is what the European leaders did in the ‘30s and Adolf Hitler conquered half of the world until they woke up. The stakes are even higher today.
At the same time when people in the USA remembered the victims of the monstrosity of the 9/11 attack quietly and rather flatly, diplomats were slaughtered in Libya and their bodies were desecrated, whereas American embassies and American businesses all around the world were burned and universities in Texas were evacuated due to a terrorist threat. Why? Because some guy (it turned out that he was a twice-convicted for tax evasion Egyptian Christian Copt who lives in Los Angeles permanently) made a blasphemous and offensive movie about Islam and uploaded it on the Internet.
Following these events, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton hurriedly stated that the USA has nothing to do with the movie, which she characterized as “disgusting and reprehensible”. Would she do the same thing if crackpots of the various Christian sects started killing and destroying anyone and anything connected to the USA just because Dan Brown not only depicted Jesus Christ as a fertile skirt-chaser, but also raised Mary Magdalene to the same god-like level.
Of course, America has the advantage of being a continent which can withdraw – more and more frequently – into itself. Its natural borders and its distance from the warm zones of the world make it inaccessible to the hordes of the miserable and/or fanatics. It is a country which even the most leftist, godless, ironist, rich or refined citizen loves with a passion Europeans cannot feel for their lovers or families anymore. Yet, this powerful country will be shaken if it doesn’t take a stand against the attack of barbarism and if it continues to apply double standards: it demands of its citizens to obey the laws stemming from the Enlightenment (the lawn), but it leaves them at the mercy of the jungle whenever the jungle… is upset.
It is difficult to come to terms with the realization that you live in a country where the basic principles of religious tolerance and freedom of speech, though and expression are not self-evident. Furthermore, defending them publicly puts you at risk. And the attempt to resist against deleting all self-evident things becomes harder in the broader context of a world where your life is being increasingly defined by your religion, your nationality, your sex and – above all else – your financial ability..................




Sunday 9 September 2012

«PROTO THEMA»

Everyone’s feelings exploded like fireworks of delight, relief and hope in the european sky which, from Mario Draghi’s speech onwards, has become the same for all of us from the one end of the eurozone to the other-greatly afflicted Greece that realized, as of Thursday evening, it’s final: we are and we will continue to be inside the eurozone and we will receive aid and support from the EU, the IMF and, most of all the European Central Bank, as long as we honor our commitments and our end of the agreement.“God saved the day and helped us!” I heard a lot of people saying, surprised and moved. It might be so, but I think that these benign developments were dependent on very specific certain people-their personalities and the choices they made. More specifically, we are included in the ECB's new plans because of a lucky fluke--the power game involved in the relationships between the powerful players of the world--and the titanic and amazing effort of two very special people: Antonis Samaras and Yannis Stournaras.
The cliché that the people who don’t care about making money turn out to be the best politicians and prime ministers seems to be true when it comes to these two people who waived their salaries and any other compensation, while Samaras, in his power as PM sold both government aircraft and closed down the restaurant that had functioned in the government's offices.And speaking of personalities and the politics they produce or rotate towards, what can we-what can any sane person-say about the insane behavior of Venizelos? Well, he hasn’t fallen short of our expectations because that’s exactly what we expected of him! That’s the reason why he was never elected to an office higher than that of the MP – despite the fact that, as the current leader of the third party in the parliament, he wants to become prime minister! He also has the amazingly negative quality of demoralizing all PASOK members and bringing out the worst in them. Yet we run the risk of letting him drag us down to the gutter: if he continues to block the effort of the government, they will throw us – justifiably so – out of a Europe which, after Mario Draghi’s speech, won’t even notice a possible Grexit.
That’s why Antonis Samaras said “We’re doing business, we’re not gossiping”. The question is: who is listening to him apart from Yannis Stournaras? Gossiping is much more “fun” not only for those who have enough not to worry about having an actual job but also for those who don’t have enough money to subsist on but know no other way to get it other than...demand to be given it "just because", for that’s how they have learnt to live. Unfortunately they are realists: no one saw anything good from working hard and honestly in this country whose “history has been written by of buddies" as the song goes, as well as best men/brothers-in-law who corrupted nearly everybody in every sector of"..................




Sunday 2 September 2012

«PROTO THEMA»

The sight of Vouliagmenis Avenue brings tears to your eyes. The abandonment and depletion there is ubiquitous and redolent of a city frozen into a solitary paralysis because of some horrifying event--a war, a volcano eruption, the plague. It makes you feel depressed and frightened. Nine stores out of ten are deserted. Their huge glass windows stare like blind eyes. Luxury apartment blocks, built amidst the “boom”, are now empty, their paint chipping; they are unwanted despite the banners hanging from their facades crying “For sale-rent at SHOCKING memorandum prices!”.
I ask a friend how he spent his weekend. “Waiting” he replied. What for? “Better days”. He is not entirely utopian in his anticipation. They don’t seem that unlikely to come. As Antonis Samaras said, the first battle against the drachma lobby was won. He could have also added – in the spirit of honesty and absolute transparency he intends to impose on our political affairs – that the battle was won thanks to the Americans (Barack Obama) and the duel between Mario Draghi and Jörg Asmussen – and subsequently between Angela Merkel and Mario Monti who wants Italy to receive more ECB aid sans the punitive measures an aid deal would impose, despite its spreads having fallen drastically – which favoured us.
In any case, we are in a much better position now than two months ago. However, the dramatic series “we are leaving the euro, we are not leaving the euro” is not over yet despite everyone assuring us that “there is not even the slightest possibility” of Greece leaving the eurozone. It’s up to us now: whether the government will be able to implement what it has planned or not. It requires stability and (sometimes suicidal!) determination on behalf of Antonis Samaras and seriousness on behalf of the government partners and SYRIZA.
However, the topics of the internal political discourse still remain mired in an anachronistic past that does not concern or affect anyone except the people who thrive on political parties. A characteristic example is the “usurping of September 3” by SYRIZA, according to PASOK complaints, which disquieted the people who still remain invested in a political future pretending to be “leftie-as long as it's other people's money we're talking about, and there is no chance for something 'really bad to happen to the country'”.
The truth, seen now after so many decades, has two sides: because of Andreas Papandreou’s rise to power, we took a downhill road to absolute default – financial, social, political, moral – and we ended up being considered the laziest frauds and beggars on the planet. Thanks to Andreas Papandreou’s rise to power, there was a (violent, fierce, illegal and predatory) redistribution of wealth and power. As a result, a very large percentage of Greeks – probably the largest – the people who up until then had no future – saw their living standards improving rapidly and rather unjustifiably.
Under this light, the “usurping” of September 3 by SYRIZA is entirely legitimate and normal, even sedentary: the commemoration of the political events of September 3 (the date on which in 1843 the Greek people revolted against the Bavarian king imposed by the Germans and other foreign powers-English and French--on Greece was chosen as a symbolism by Andreas Papandreou in 1974 after the Fall of the Colonels' Junta for the founding of his party, Pasok, that happened with a rousing speech that promised a lot of everything) incorporates the notion of the arbitrary and populist power that enjoys great popularity promising a better life subsidized by “others” and radically changing the establishment – which is exactly what SYRIZA claims to be.
Meanwhile, on Facebook a slogan is being posted on more and more walls by the moment. It is directed against a well-known private bank for… its initiative to offer a humdinger of a cheque to all children starting the first grade this September in order to buy their school supplies! “We give you school supplies but we take the houses from your parents”, the words say under the logo of the bank.
Madness! Does the bank randomly decide to rob unsuspecting people of their houses by confiscating them “by force” without any rationale? If so the UN, NATO and European Court of Justice must intervene immediately! In Greece, people have been brainwashed for decades--I’m afraid it has been imprinted on our collective DNA--that something is “yours” so long as you want it and managed to believe you could reach it in the past regardless of whether you can pay the price for it or not. Yet an even worse mentality – also collective and individual –has also been ingrained in us,and it is one that self-righteously justifies hatred and envy towards the people who (still) have money.  
Remember the photos that circulated this August, with well-know socialites throwing lobsters at each other in Mykonos: they created a great deal of commotion. Indeed, these guys were provocative and vulgar. Yet, how quickly we forget and adapt to the new age when the money runs out in our personal bank accounts! Let’s be honest. Mykonos has been the number one destination of the international jet set for years. The crisis for these people is something they read about in the financial newspapers so that they can make the right moves and benefit from it, buying cheaply and selling expensively a few years later. When they are on holidays, these people spend enormously – something their good-for-nothing scions do on a daily basis until they reach an age when their parents present them as the new establishment and the new saviours, political and financial, of the universe. Is it unfair? For sure. Yet, that’s life. It happens everywhere.
What doesn’t happen or hasn’t ever happened anywhere in the world is what had been going on in Greece for 30 years, reaching its climax from 1986 to 2006: an endless, billions of euros worth of party which the great majority of Greeks participated in, from important businessmen and politicians to the last political reporter in an “important” ministry (National Defence, Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works) and from the farmers and dockworkers to the various “seedlings” of the stock exchange turned super-businessmen or government-owned corporation managers with political (state) or “black” money.
The bouzoukia nightclubs were open every night – one for every singer – and vast amounts of money were spent there. "Zimies" we call them in Greek slang, meaning "accidents", so enormous were the sums thrown away there and burnt (literally that...) The Cristals and the Veuve Cliquots were very popular with the “well-off” (who were numerous!), whereas the “small and medium” consumed dried nuts and whiskey. Everyone at their own personal level according to their position in the class spectrum, but with two common denominators: the endless and arrogant money spending; and the fact that their income was by no means................




Sunday 26 August 2012

«PROTO THEMA»

Your eyes try to adjust to the new reality of Athens that jumps in front of them. You are downtown, on the corner of Karageorgi Servias and Voulis Streets. It’s been a while since you last went there. Dirty streets that stink and give off heat and despair. The old high-class confectioneries you considered timeless no longer exist. Three coffee houses are dead. The various little stores selling luxury lingerie at wholesale prices have closed down. The Ministry of Finance has also moved. The kiosk is locked as well – the proprietor still enjoys his holidays on August 23 amidst the new heat wave. Why wouldn’t he?
All the stores and neoclassical building you knew have either closed down or turned into shiny, super-trendy drugstores. The irony: a wasteland full of apothecaries claiming that they can cure a nation of sick people, whereas social security organizations don’t have the money to cover pharmaceutical costs and no one gives medicine on credit. Only the old and historical snack bar that refuses to sell cheese pie to “Troikans” still stands, a silent witness to the collapse of an era that lived to see its death.
You close your eyes. On the deserted islet just a breath away, the lighthouse goes on and off, on and off.
You open your eyes again and you come upon the cries of the foreign media that Greece “sells off, starting from its islands”. You do know, however, how the media work – we all do the same job more or less all around the world. Especially now that the Press is on the decline…
And the words can be void or quiet, but the body never lies. Angela Merkel’s smiles and warmth towards Antonis Samaras indicate the truth of her words. Indeed. Antonis Samaras – along with Yannis Stournaras – turns out to be surprisingly good. Yet, he needs more time and time has run out – everyone expects actions, here and now.
How can you blame him for not accepting the cost of confronting the vested interests that have been preying on Greece for decades? He has already accepted a personal cost (his… tireless schedule, his abstention from the media, the way he grew so much older and 'broken' in just a couple of months and his immediate and catalytic interventions in matters concerning parliamentary nepotism and the refusal of certain government-owned corporations CEOs to accept salary cuts are indicative). Yet, it is difficult for him to accept the political cost. Not only because he is a politician and “that’s how politicians always act”, but because, should his administration fails, we will certainly end up in the claws of SYRIZA and there will certainly be total chaos. Because gods may sometimes protect from evil, but even they can't deliver protection from ignorants who consider themselves (the only) experts, when they gain power.
It is not only the matter of the vested interests that keeps us as a nation and a society, both professionally and personally, flitting in and out of existence. It is also the immigration issue and the internal security issue, especially when it goes hand in hand with the dynamics of extremist organizations such as the “Golden Dawn” and criminal or terrorist elements that pretend to be anarchist – such as the bank robber-killer of Paros. Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection Nikos Dendias put it lightly during his talk in the Parliament, warning us that peace and security in Greece “hang by a thread” – a very loose one.
On the island the locals ruminate that the autumn is going to be a nightmare and will bring further criminality and internal, even civil, internecine strife in Greece--involving immigrants, Golden Dawn, vigilantes, anarchists and terrorism of the extreme-left. The local kiosk owner ponders over the problem with a specious sagacity while drinking his coffee in the harbor and watching his Pakistani employer running his kiosk. The restaurant owner claims that “we should send them all back” (as if “back” is the same for all the hungry people that have come here from every corner of the world and from chaotic or self-destructively arrogant regimes), but not a single Greek works in his kitchen.
The overwhelming majority of the residents of the rooms to let (a miniature of what went on on the rest of the island) were French. At some point, a few Germans came unceremoniously. That’s when the owner of the rooms started making… arrangements. The Greeks to the right, the Germans to the left and the French as a buffer zone in the middle. The days went by peacefully and the people enjoyed their holidays, unaware of who stayed at the other end of their little village, whereas the French, infected by their rapidly escalating introversion of the last few months, never bothered to take a look at their neighboring nations.
At some point, however, the owner’s attempt at… world peace failed: three angry Germans started the “war” at the reception. They had waited – as they angrily complained – for the local bus under the sun for two hours. Seeing the French passing in front of them and riding taxies, they wreaked their fury on the receptionist. “Why are you smiling?” they attacked her. “Why are you all so happy? You should be mourning. You are bankrupt, yet you keep on laughing and doing the same stuff all over again. It’s unacceptable!”
There is a lot of fanaticism and passion on all sides. The fact that Angela Merkel recognized that the trauma must be “healed” and that Germany has promised to help on the condition that Greece will stop promising and actually do something, seems like a positive development.
You open your eyes. A well-dressed man rummages through the garbage. It is late, just after midnight. Athens is hot and empty. He doesn’t seem to be doing it out of need – yet, you cannot be sure; you can find yourself on the other side of the abyss anytime. Is it a bomb that he places inside the garbage can? Indiscriminate madness and hatred have reached a zenith in today’s Greece.
You close your eyes. You find yourself inside the only drugstore of the island. The locals discuss with the owners – who complain about the newly-declared intention of the government to open the closed professions – how many tens of thousands of euros the municipal authorities took from the funds destined for the firework display of the festive.............




Sunday 5 August 2012

«PROTO THEMA»

The beach is the same as you have always remembered it, as you have always known it. Only the people have changed, they change nowadays more often, more rapidly than before. 
Two Americans-mother and daughter are sunning themselves on the beach, never quite making it to the sea. An air of expectancy surrounds them as they sit sheltered under their hats and two huge umbrellas, white traces of sun slathered on their noses and upper cheeks. The mother is reading a Nicholas Sparks novel, the daughter is deep into a Nora Ephron.
Two Frenchmen who look like male Givenchy models appear with four small children. As the hours pass it becomes evident that they are 'divorced dads' on vacation with their children, but it never becomes quite obvious which children belong to whom as they all treat each other with the same mixture of detached affection, at the same-midlevel-intensity too.
Close to the rocks on the right of the beach, a Greek couple with three small children set camp. You wonder at their calmness and easy happiness-it isn't easy to survive on your own in Greece today, let alone with three small kids. Yet the mystery of their contentment is soon solved: they come from here, they live on the island. And on the island the crisis is yet to rear its horrifying head like a hydra Lernaia. Still, its terrible footsteps can already be heard approaching if you are very vigilant and quiet and listen for them below the lulling crash of the waves.
"This September is going to be awful" the owner of the ubiquitous shop that is strategically placed behind the bus stop, on the ground floor of a building where the IRS, the National Telecommunications company, and the Public Electricity Company are hosted. "With no tourism we won't have money to set aside for winter". And, of course, here on the islands this is what their inhabitants had been doing ever since they were discovered by the rest of the world and recognized as one of the most beautiful places on earth ("the most beautiful" in my personal opinion): they have been working three months a year, pricing the little they offered at exorbitantly high prices, giving discounts only to foreigners. Yet nowadays, only we Greeks have remained together with a handful of French, and the three months have become reduced to two, maybe even three weeks. And these three weeks are not enough to  cover the other eleven months. 
In the outer world, the news from Athens proves that everything changes daily and we are always at the same point nevertheless: somewhere between life and death. Venizelos is turning against Samaras and Stournaras yet again, accusing them for 'sabotaging' his-indifferent if not entirely negative- 'relationship' with the Troika. At the same time he managed to exchange curses and accusations with most of the well-known members of his party, Pasok, therefore continuing his endeavor to end the job of ripping the party apart that his predecessor George Papandreou began.  
In the broader world of our continent and that of the US--the small world the West is once again becoming--Draghi of the ECB is under 'official investigation' for inappropriate behavior re his participation in economic fora where the private sector participates--the Germans do not condone disobedience within their fiefdom that the others still whimsically insist on calling the "European Union". So the Italian head of the ECB finally found himself cornered enough to answer that existential question "Where do you belong? Whose are you?" Ultimately, it turns out he chooses to reinforce the fact he comes from the beleaguered South, and belongs to that part of Europe that still envisions the continent as a whole, united in every way, and not as a Germanic Lebensraum showcasing Scandinavian eugenics, reinforced with Southern blood and sun.
Lagarde and Thomson of the IMF are praising Greece's efforts--this is the result of US pressure that Obama exerted on the IMF, as well as of the 'excellent communication with the Greek government that is already bearing results' as both the IMF and the EU noted after their meetings with Samaras and Stournaras. 
Still, there are those who are still saying a rebooting of the Greek economy, of all of Greece is necessary, better even for Greece than lingering on like this, always in the euro. They may be right in the longterm yet thankfully this does not seem to be the dominant view--today at least.
On the beach, the sea is different every day, and always rests the same. The natural surroundings bear no trace, indication, prediction of what is to come--all mortal agonies, images, shapes, sounds, hopes, efforts become reduced to traces of small feet, little....




Sunday 29 July 2012

«PROTO THEMA»

Exactly seven days ago, despair was the sole resident of our city. The Germans, according to their media and their official statements, had written us off no matter what we did and despite the fact that we are trying to get started. Today, despair is once again the roommate – along with fear – of hope.
“At the last possible moment, Virgin Mary will intervene – Greeks have always trusted the female goddesses more than the male ones – and Greece will be saved” a religious friend of mine reassures me. “The Greeks and the Jews will never die” another friend reassures me. Someone else mentions the phoenix: “We will rise from our ashes”.
All this talk sounds rather metaphysical to me in an age when even the laws of Physics are not stable anymore. You may well be telling me that we will rise from our ashes, but you haven’t grasped what is going on in our city and our real life apart from the horrors you hear of in sensationalist news stories and the delights of our beautiful islands during the summer. We cannot afford any more ashes—even as something to rise from. We are already chock-full of ashes. We can’t stand any more ash. We will turn into a necropolis just like Pompeii. You know, we used to be exactly like you – and we think that we still are. In three year’s time, we ended up being compared to the Balkans during the Sovietocracy.
I don’t want you to misunderstand me. I know that our life – not personally, but certainly collectively – was based on a huge bubble. Yet so is yours. What happened to us was like having an accident and surviving thanks to the help of others, thanks to science or thanks to luck. If we default, it will be a war without a war. It will be death without a prior battle for life.
This summer is like no other that we can recollect. We are transfixed to our computer screens and our television screens in order to find out what our fate will be. In the morning, we rest all our hopes on the four plans concerning Greece, according to Die Welt (default/new haircut/new bailout package/ECB yielding profits from greek bonds directly to Greece or to the other EU member-states and if they so desire, indirectly to Greece).
Of course, deep down we all know that these are only words – the two possible “solutions” being a) not getting the next tranche, leading to default.............................................




Sunday 22 July 2012

«PROTO THEMA»

This past week, a person close to me – it doesn’t get any closer – lost a close and beloved relative who was a “point” of emotional reference her entire life.
At the same time, life continued “as usual” all around the world. A man – Hezbollah, says the Israeli prime minister – blew up a bus full of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, killing and injuring 36 young people who happily had just embarked on their holidays. In Colorado, USA, during the late-night premiere of the sequel of “Batman” (the movie “Dark Knight Rises”), a young man writing his PhD thesis on Neurology opened fire inside the theatre, killing 12 people, mainly children, including a baby. The “Syria” affair is over – the guerillas took control of the borders, the Assad family escaped, probably to Russia, and the stream of refugees to any possible direction, but mainly Cyprus (we don’t tell anyone, but it is on the brink of default) is uncontrollable.
In Greece, Antonis Samaras has shown real sang-froid and spirit of consent, as well as an iron fist in governance and the way he is holding the tripartite alliance together. Yannis Stournaras is doing everything in his power, gaining praise even from the Financial Times, and Fotis Kouvelis (and several members of Democratic Left) is turning out to be a very serious and composed statesman. Evangelos Venizelos has evolved into the worst version of himself – turning into Joker, the “villain” in “Batman” – whereas George A. Papandreou is vacationing and stirring things up. SYRIZA members are tailoring themselves government suits, and trying to ignite difficult and delicate situations in order to usurp power as fast as possible because their craving for power is out of control by now.
It turns out that the most difficult thing in the world is to live with decency and dignity. No one expects of “kindness”, “compassion” or “love” because they are small miracles and few of us are miracle-workers.
Truth is, no matter how much you love a person, no matter what you offer to them, no matter what you do, they will do as they please, depending on their personality. Or depending on their intelligence – intellectual or emotional; what we call “nous” – and their cultivation. Whether they’ll change or not, whether they’ll love you or not, whether… it is their own concern. At the end of it, they will do as much as they are humanly capable of, and want.
Love cannot be claimed nor gained. If you are a strong person with intelligence and cultivation – spiritual and mental, I don’t mean PhDs or the cosmopolitanism granted by a certain affluence and class– you may possibly be able to inspire it in someone who has the ability of loving, and wants to give love to you. In that sense only, it can be a result of the relationship two people have: what kind of people they are and how much they work on their relationship. As long as a relationship is based on mutual respect and both parts do the right thing, it can evolve into a relationship of love – by both parties. Otherwise, it will always remain a non-relationship, one-sided and crippled. The same thing goes for professional relationships as well as the relationship between citizens and their country (I’m not using the word “state” intentionally) or the relationships between countries.
“The most you can expect and demand from others is that they act according to the basic tenets of decency and mutuality. Anything more is a real miracle of religious and mystical proportions”. These are some of the most precious words I’ve cherished, told to me by the son of a family who managed to flee from Nazi Europe during the time of the Holocaust, finding refuge and salvation in Israel. This man – I know it for a fact – acted in this way throughout his life to the people close to him, the people he met in the course of his life and his motherland. Unfortunately, he is one of the few I know of who adhered to these principles, and then turned them into something else by imbuing them with the “more” love consists of.
At the end of the day, everyone lives according to their honor and sense of decency. And it goes for all people; for all of us. The people we are born with – our “kin” – the families we form, the people we meet later in the course of our life. This also goes for the people we work with, be it employers or employees.
Politics too is but a nexus of human relationships, and it has all the attributes of individual relationships. Therefore it is easy to explain even Evangelos Venizelos's........................................... 




Sunday 15 July 2012

«PROTO THEMA»

We are all dead—some of us already in the ground, some soon to join them. I’m not referring to our mortal nature but to what the numbers are saying about Greece. Suicides are precipitating—four or five a day. Athens is the theater where most of these tragedies play themselves out, but one must also take into consideration that more than half of Greece lies crammed in this city. The people who take their own lives—almost all “like us”, middle-class bourgeois—shoot themselves with hunting rifles (the only variety of firearm not prohibited in the country), hang themselves, yet most of them choose to jump to their deaths.
They jump off the balconies or terraces of their homes, or off the top of apartment buildings where strangers live in order to spare their families from being the ones to witness their deaths or find their bodies. Others jump off the Acropolis thus resurrecting the kind of timeless despair that like a thin red line connects us with the Athenians who committed suicide falling from the Holy Rock during the time of the Great Plague of Athens in the 4th century BC; this thin red line connects to us to the Athenians who during the long centuries of Turkish occupation preferred to die at the foot of our Acropolis rather than live in slavery; this same invisible line is the same one that continues throughout history connecting to us to those who made the same choice, preferring this to the Nazi Occupation of our country.
I don’t know why this ‘falling’ as our choice for the end appeals to us so. Maybe it is the momentary sense of freedom our bodies experience as we tear through the skies, always, inevitably to fall. Maybe it is the freedom that allows our souls to soar until we make impact with the ground. You die hoping, you die free, a bit like Icarus.
Our men are committing suicide, not the women. Maybe because hidden deep within our female DNA there is a well of endless forbearance and also an unshakeable understanding and responsibility telling us under no circumstances can we surrender; we must fight and keep on fighting. Because, despite what the ‘empowering’ sound-bites decades of complacent feminism have saddled us with, ultimately we women are never our own person—we belong to our husbands, children, parents, family. When the going gets tough, the luxury of belonging to yourself ceases when you’re a woman.
We are all dead, even those of us still walking and working. One out of two people still has a job and because of that one person at least another is given the means to continue living. That’s what the numbers are saying. At the same time, Germany and the IMF’s Lagarde are announcing that 210 out of 300 financial targets that Greece was supposed to achieve in the past two months haven’t been met therefore the next tranche of aid money won’t be given until we perform better. Live until then, and if you can’t, just die. Yet, when could these targets have been met? During the two months no government was in place? Somehow in this manner, with simple reasoning, you come to terms with the truth that they are merely searching for a pretext, a method to end us once and for all.
We are all dead, even if we are still in line waiting for our number to come up. The woman in posh Filothei that armed robbers killed for no reason at all. The gang of criminals who kill................................
 




Sunday 8 July 2012

«PROTO THEMA»

At the Pasok Convention Venizelos said “PASOK was forced to bear a burden that was not ours”. And whose was it then? The others’? We had 30 years of PASOK governance, minus two right-wing parentheses. Yet, to humor you, let’s agree that 30% of the awful mess we are now in here in Greece is due to Karamanlis and his government. Who wrought the remaining 70% of the damage? We the Greek people, all on our own, at the cost of our poor poor politicians? (this is the extension of the theory that all Greeks are corrupt that our ex PM George Papandreou trumpeted abroad, while assuming the role of Christian martyr…)
Whatever the case, you guys, no need to stretch yourselves bearing so much of a burden. Please: no more self-sacrifice—we can do without. Stand aside and go home, get a life and a job, and become a private citizen. Nobody asked you to become or remain in politics. In the meantime the former PM, Papademos is—as rumor has it—creating a new political party. It’s really impressive how rapidly occurred the dissolution of that “ca suffit” (“it is enough” in French) he had told journalists in April when asked whether he would accept remaining in politics after elections, or become PM again.
Of course, it’s three months later now—really, when did so much time pass? Nowadays it passes so fleetingly I don’t even have the time to register its passing—therefore, everything’s changed since then, naturally. So, in light of new developments and the reality that exists in the here and the now, words, promises, moments, relationships—even those that had existed in the previous heartbeat—can now be annulled at will.
You saw an American friend the other day. He was here in Athens for the much-hyped about “Economist” summit where the protagonists turned out to be Asmussen of the ECB for his aggressive obduracy; and Tsipras, head of Syriza, for the charisma he obviously (one need only scroll down CNN’s web page) exerted on the correspondents there from the US—who have decided to fall in love with the idea of Tsipras as next leader of Greece. (I must admit I am very wary of these sudden affairs of the heart—almost preferring European cynicism to them because, time and time again, the loves, idees fixes, and criminally irresponsible innocence of those American pundits and experts who show too great an interest in Southern European affairs have been paid for, dearly, by us the non- in love.
So with this old friend who is nowadays a resident of airplanes and bewitching destinations—of the East and West—you reminisce, and you start remembering images, situations, interviews, TV shows, common endeavors and debates where you had co-existed and worked together. You remember how you were 15 years ago and, inevitably, you compare this to the present. Leaving the meeting, you find your mind is still firmly lodged there, in the past. Yet in that nether region of your consciousness, you flutter back and forth: one moment far far behind, like the dreams where you are a small child; the other instant, you advance, into the past of 7-8 years ago. That’s where you realize that while you remember what you had been striving for, what and who you had been dying for, each and every moment of your life, only the outcome of all this is what remains in you—you have forgotten all the evolution, all the times, all the journey. The memory is vanished. And there where you wait for the bus, on the crossroads of Charilaou Trikoupi and Solonos, the same way, in the same place as you did so unbelievably many years ago, you dig desperately into your mind to find it—the memory, and the hope of the person you hoped you would become.
Yet, in the blistering heat, 40 degrees Celsius in the inner city, in an Athens that has grown ugly, reeks of soured piss, and is vanquished by dirt, abandonment, sterile and tasteless political-speak graffiti, there is only the here and the now. Space condenses, time stretches out blindly, and within this box of diesel fumes and rancid asphalt that burns the soles of your feet encased in flat sandals, you become a prisoner.
Every time you overcome something, another is lost. Enduring, you become stronger they say. Indeed. Tougher, more resilient. Your life turns into a direct line of survival, drawn in very broad strokes, without any abuses or endangerments. And it is so funny; all this wealth of experience and life, all these possible scenarios of your life and yourself have come to this: a stagnant allocation—sometimes neat, other times less so—on the racks and boxes of a life that became small, not without your (at least, passive) consent.
Somewhere there you start to cry, entirely unpredictably and unreasonably, as you walk in streets that are on fire; the dirt, indifference, obliviousness and despair that does not recognize itself as such enveloping, defining and trapping you. It is yours, you see. And if you perchance belong to those privileged enough to never catch sight of this side of town, unless it’s in one of the documentaries foreign networks are currently presenting in an exaggerated effort to help us by showcasing the toll our financial tragedy is taking on our state of life, then this privileged ignorance of the city you belong to also defines you.
This is why you collect yourself and re-establish equilibrium. It does not do for the tide of emotion to penetrate deeply inside you—you cannot afford such an eventuality—and as for the remembrances and the memories of the hopes you harbored, even the more recent ones, are but time that has passed away, that is dead.
Therefore you redeploy, you open the mail that just buzzed in the inbox of your mobile, with a flatness borne of no hope anymore, certain that it will be further work or spam. And it is so. The mail you long for is not coming; it will never come—now you know it—because the calculations of the life of its sender have not included it. You have not been included. And.........................................
 



 

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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