I dedicate this part of the article to my friend Phedros(see previous article entitled “The psychological state of the young today”) and to my former female and male students who tend to focus so much on social “conventions” and “details”(see facebook and narcissism) because they are afraid to live freely, truthfully and really erotically(the instinct with deep inspiration), that is why they are a very unhappy people. Life does not forgive “pretensions”. Once, the Irish writer Oscar Wilde said that “…details are the vulgar aspect of life…”. I believe that he was right!!!
The most appropriate person to describe “objectively” and “substantially” the political culture of the modern Greek citizens who live today on Greek territory, should not be Greek, because we Greeks have the tendency to justify the unjustifiable and to “smooth out the rough edges”, especially when the real facts blemish our social image. This person should have chosen freely and independently to reside in Greece for a long time, to have experienced other cultures and civilizations(comparative analysis), to be a free thinker without any dogmatic ideological preconceptions, and finally, it should be a person with deep “human sensibilities” which allows it to respect the “human diversity”, but always within a universal critical perspective. This person is Adriana Flores, who is the correspondent of the Hispanic News Agency in Athens, has been living in Greece for the last 25 years, comes from Chile and is around 45 years old.
I saw Adriana Flores by chance on a television news program called “Protagonists”(trans. from greek) which is hosted by the experienced Greek reporter Stavros Theodorakis and is broadcasted once a week, by the popular greek private television station “Mega”. It is one of the best journalistic programs which greek television offers, and its main focus is on all aspects of Modern Everyday Greek Reality, approaching each subject with great objectivity and human sensibility, going to the substance without a “well-fitted” political ideology. The various themes are presented in a “simple form” but very “poetically”, truthfully and not superficially.
In this particular episode which was aired on February 28, 2010, the title of the theme was, “The life and work of foreign correspondents in Athens”. The aim of Stavros Theodorakis was to extract views about the Present Everyday Greek Reality from various foreign news correspondents who have lived for many years in Greece and who are working as correspondents for foreign newspapers and foreign news agencies. As I have mentioned previously, Adriana Flores is a news correspondent for the Hispanic News Agency here in Athens, and has chosen to spend the last 25 years in Greece, raising a daughter who is now a young woman. In order to have more accurate information, I visited the Internet and I watched this particular broadcast carefully, especially the interview of Stavros Theodorakis of Adriana Flores.
The period when the “democratically elected” socialist government of President Allende in Chile was overthrown(beginning of the 70s) by the bloody military coup of General Pinochet, naturally with the indirect help of the United States of America, Adriana’s mother was put in jail because Chile’s “military junta” classified her as a leftist political activist who was a threat to the “right wing” military government of General Pinochet. When Adriana’s mother was released from jail, she took her daughter and went to live in Great Britain. As a young woman then, Adriana Flores fell in love with a Greek university student who was studying in a British university and decided to immigrate to Greece with her young Greek lover. She was then 18 years old. Soon, this love relationship ended but Adriana Flores decided to make Greece her “second homeland” and so she has lived and worked in this country for the last 25 years.
I would therefore like to mention and analyse some of the comments which Adriana made concerning modern Greeks, the everyday Greek reality and naturally the Modern Greek Political Culture. Before I begin this task, I would like to mention that during the interview, Adriana Flores expressed herself in fluent Greek, more fluently than many of my “educated” Greek friends and acquaintances!!! I personally translated into English all of Adriana’s comments.
One of the first commentaries which Adriana made was that “…you(us Greeks) will have to abandon a Greece that squanders…”. What this means is not only that Greeks squander a lot of their money but also that a very “sacred” part of their lives, involves their disposition, their drive and their mental fixation in acquiring “the means and ways” which will allow them to spend “left and right” so that they could feel that their life is “worth living”. I can purchase material goods and I control material assets, therefore I exist!!! A very “narrow” and “one-dimensional” attitude to life which has little to do with the everyday philosophy of Ancient Greeks!!!
A second point Adriana Flores put forward was that “…I can’t explain to foreigners(as a journalist) why there are so many outrageous happenings occurring in Greece, like the fires(forest fires) these last few years, again and again…The things we communicate are not exaggerations, there are viable grounds…”. By this journalistic observation, Adriana wants in a “polite way” to emphasize that there are “extremes” in the way Greeks behave within their own society, but also that this extreme behaviour has a “self-destructive” orientation which ignores the “common good” and the sanctity and the universal value of nature’s “checks and balances” and resources. But as we “clever” and “cunning” modern Greeks perfectly know, most of the forest fires which occur throughout Greek territory every summer, are caused by Greek citizens for personal financial interests. Woodlands are burned down in order to build on this “state protected land” illegal building structures of private homes and tourist lodges or for that land to be sold as tracts where one can “lawfully” build once “honest” state officials take all the necessary steps to declassify this land as being “woodland area”. Naturally, everyone involved in these illegal actions and transactions will receive their “proper bribe”. In this “plunder” of nature, metaphorically almost every Greek citizen is guilty; from the owner of the woodland whether it is the state or a private person, the fire-service officials and the local government administrators who will declassify through “legal” documents the burned forest area as “state-protected land”, and as consequence anyone can build on it. Then, there is the local real-estate agent who will sell the land to some private buyer, then there is the private buyer who will erect some type of edifice, and let us not forget the public utility services which in the end will supply this “legal-illegal” building construction with electricity, water and telephone service –always at a certain price, which means lots and lots of bribes. They all ignore the price of debilitating the natural environment of future generations. I would like here to “make a parenthesis” and say that contrary to what is widely supported within Greek Society(for deceitful reasons), the human protagonists who are responsible for setting forest fires in Greece do not represent large and powerful Greek cartels but are your average Greek citizens who want “to make a fast and easy buck” through “dirty schemes” and “illegal devices”, even if everything burns to the ground!!!
Another personal commentary which Adriana Flores made to Stavros Theodorakis was that “…a Greek person is mainly concerned about herself or himself, they are very individualistic; it is as if there is no one else in the world. A Greek person does not belong to a collective social body…The Greek person drives as if he or she is the only one on the road, which is not good for him or her, and for all the others. A Greek person parks anywhere he or she wants…”. From Adriana’s acute observations, we can conclude that every Greek citizen is exclusively involved with himself or herself, and really lives for himself or herself. This means that a Greek citizen will try avoiding paying taxes or any legal financial charges even if the Greek State goes bankrupt, or a Greek factory owner will dump “randomly”, “illegally” but “economically” his industrial waste in rivers , the sea and in the underground water table(through the ground surface), poisoning his or her children and grandchildren, and all the next generations of Greek citizens. Finally, and on a personal level(note: Greek traditional values and ethics), a Greek citizen will always try to create, maintain and reinforce the everyday life preconditions of “social dependency” and “character castration”(note: the psychological factors of “extortion” and “guilt”), sacrificing the personality and the wellbeing of the people he or she constantly “clamour” that they adore and love!!!
This kind of “catastrophic individualism”(note: the evolutionary fate of the Neanderthals) has finally brought modern Greek society onto an “impasse”, especially where it involves the “young generation” of Greek citizens. There is a “hypocritical” and “unethical” popular Greek saying which states that “…Greece devours its own children…”. The bitter truth is that “…Greeks devour their children and grandchildren…”!!! I think that the next comment made by Adriana Flores in the television interview fully justifies what I have been describing. She said,”…a Greek person is not really interested if things are proper and clean outside his or her door, as long as their house is proper and clean…A Greek person goes to sea beaches and throws trash everywhere, while he or she knows that the next day, they are going to go back to the same beach…”.
Nonetheless, the remark which astounded me the most was when almost at the end of the interview, Adriana Flores confided to Stavros Theodorakis that “…a Greek person is afraid of foreigners or strangers…But this feeling(of fear) doesn’t only involve foreigners and strangers, but also people who are close…A Greek person’s philosophy is ‘get the other one before he or she gets you’…”. This last observation explains perfectly well why Greek politicians rob the state, why the Greek Orthodox Head Clerics are so involved with “money transactions”, “real estate” and “bonds”, why so many Greek doctors receive “money bribes” to provide proper health care to their patients, why Greek teachers have created thousands of private tutorial schools, something which is unheard of in other Western countries, why Greece is at the top of the list worldwide in deaths from car accidents, why young Greek people are so dependent psychologically on their parents, and as a consequence “faceless”, why Greek judges are “bought off” to pardon big drug dealers, corrupt politicians and powerful doctors who have blackmailed or even killed their patients through “malpractice”, etc., etc., etc.,.. In essence, what really “moves” the majority of Greek citizens are the “strategies” which each one has to formulate through time, in order to ensure his or her personal “social security” and “social status” through “property”, “material goods” and “money”. This stance in life is a consequence of a Greek person’s early upbringing, when the person’s social environment “methodically” and “viciously” instilled in his or her mind the “fear” or the “personal insecurity” that everyone around, friends, family, colleagues, teachers, even their lovers, have a “deep wish” to “undermine” them and to “demolish” them, to “step on them” as Adriana explained to Stavros Theodorakis. What a parody We Greeks have to live through. At the same time, We Greeks tend to also play with the “audacious illusion” that We will live eternally, with everything which this “farce” entails in real LIFE!!!
In the next section of our article on the Modern Greek Political Culture, we will examine the principles, the values, the ethics, the expectations and the “life incentives” of the protagonists of the newly founded Greek nation, meaning the personalities of those who fought and struggled to create an independent nation-state in 1830. These were the individuals who set up the “social foundations” and the “social guidelines” of the Modern Greek Society.
Because I truly respect and admire the “creative abilities” of Greeks and their “erotic relationship” with life, even though they rarely externalize these gifts due to a repressive social environment, I will present at the end of each section of this particular article a creative modern Greek Personality who naturally in the course of their life and unique undertakings were persecuted and treated unfairly. Persecuted by a “spineless” and “treacherous” social establishment as well as by a large section of society, who dread “change”, “innovation”, “creativity”, “truth”, but above all the “greatness” in a Human Being and in Real Life itself!!!
I will present a poem written by Constantine Cavafy(1863-1933) who today is considered universally one of the most important poets in Modern World Literature. Yet, during his lifetime, the Cultural, the Political and the Religious Establishment of a “supposedly” moral and harmonious Greek Society “targeted” him viciously not so much because he was not a native Greek(born and lived in Egypt), or ambitious, or attractive, or because he had love relations with young men, but mainly because he was an “innovator” and a “quality writer” who used the Modern Greek Language to describe “poetically” the Hellenistic Historical Tradition but also the complexity of human feelings and thoughts in simple everyday moments.
The poem is entitled “Thermopylae” which is the geographic site on mainland Greece when in 480 B.C., King Leonidas I of Sparta with 300 of his best Spartan soldiers, as well 700 Thespians, 400 Thebans and a few hundred soldiers from nearby towns, tried to obstruct the land invasion of Greece by the Persian Army with its commander, Persian Emperor Xerxes I. It was a natural pass through which the Persians could invade Attica and of course conquer the powerful city-state of Athens. The Persian army far outnumbered the Greeks, but the Greek soldiers put up a very tough fight which delayed the advance of the Persian army by a week. Almost all the Greek soldiers were killed, but their personal sacrifice provided the time for the Athenian navy to sail to the island of Salamina, close to Athens, and defeat the Persian navy. The Persians left Greece never to return again. One final note to the story is the historical fact that as the Spartans and the other Greek soldiers were fighting the Persians at Thermopylae, “…a local resident named Ephialtes betrayed the Greeks by revealing a small path that led behind the Greek lines…”.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Thermopylae). From then on, the name Ephialtes in the Greek vocabulary has come to mean “nightmare”.
Honour to those who in the life they lead
define and guard a Thermopylae.
Never betraying what is right,
consistent and just in all they do,
but showing pity also, and compassion;
generous when they’re rich, and when they’re poor,
still generous in small ways,
still helping as much as they can;
always speaking the truth,
yet without hating those who lie.
And even more honour is due to them
when they foresee(as many do forsee)
that Ephialtis will turn up in the end,
that the Medes will break through after all.