Wednesday, February 22

Why Do This?

I don't know why it is such a sore subject to complain about the Greeks or Greece. What makes it so special and such a taboo subject? The blog is just a place where you vent or express your point of view. It is not a historical document that has to be treated with all the aplomb of such. It is a personal perspective of the blogger's own reality. It is often said that our opinions do not really blossom into fruition until we have expressed them to someone else. That is why we are such social creatures, that we seek each other even through this medium.
Just because this blog is about living in Greece, do I need to censure what is said? Reality is such, for most of us living here, that we are afraid to complain because we get such reactions from people that aren't even Greek. We seem to be in a hypersensitive milieu where any negative comment on the subject of "Greek Dom" is a personal attack. This is a dangerous thing. If we can't express our opinions, then what is freedom? We can complain about the British, the Americans, the French, etc. and the Greeks are the first in doing so, but when it comes to Greece, the line seems to be drawn and deep. This is prejudice and madness.How can we know what is wrong to be wrong, or not just our imagination, if we can't discuss it with others, and exchange points of view? Not discussing the issues that make life difficult doesn't make them go away, but in fact, cements them in. You can't bury your head in the sand and wait for someone else to change something that you believe needs changing, or acknowledge something you believe to be wrong. Especially if they don't know how you feel, because you've never said anything. Reality is merely an illusion. We know reality is shared, not absolute. It's how we come to terms with that surrounding us that gives it meaning. What is right and wrong may seem absolute, but it really isn't. It's what a particular group has determined it to be. So if you are not satisfied with it, you MUST say something. Otherwise, who will speak for you? Who will point it out, as such?I don't blame the Greeks so much for their view of themselves or how they live with their daily woes. We define ourselves through others. If all you’ve known is one thing, then how could you be expected to see any other options? Or how could you appreciate other possibilities if you don’t know them as possible. Most Greeks have never questioned themselves or their realities. They don’t see any other. And our silence shows we agree. If something has always been accepted as a truth, how could you be expected to think otherwise on your own? Complacency is natural. The first step towards amendment is the recognition of error. No one innately swims against the current if there is no perceived need to do so in the first place. It is our fault that the status quo is maintained. You don’t have to be a citizen, a true member from birth to be part of a society, and claim all the rights deserved. That is too high a price on liberty and justice, to exclude those members on such grounds. It is the silence of those who don’t think they should speak, which should be addressed. No one has a right to tell someone they can’t have an opinion or voice it. It takes courage to stand up and say I have been wronged, or this could be better. The cowardly will just slink away. Don’t make cowardice and complacency a goal. It only takes the silence of the good to make the evil possible. Did we not learn this through human history yet? I’m not saying that living in Greece could be compared to the horrors of previous times. But that the principles learnt apply in all our lives forever. It is difficult to make a step, to say what you feel, when you know it will not be praised. But never the less, someone must say it. Many times I have been guilty of this myself...just didn't want to bother to burst their bubble. The reality is that for any change to be possible, there has to first be the acknowledgement of the need for change. So do not censure the ones that have courage enough to point and say, "this is crazy!" or ‘this is frustrating to me’. It's like the fable of the emperor has no clothes. Just because nobody dared say it, didn't mean he had on any.I'm not saying the Greeks need to be more westernised, or more British, or whatever. It should be OK for them to hear that not all they do is perfect in our view. It's OK in any other western culture to criticize the majority, or those in power, why not here? Especially since it is very difficult to live among people you love and hold back from offering them advice. I think, as foreigners here, we make it more difficult for them to realize that we don’t think them so perfect. We short change them in the process. They are stronger than we give them credit, and although passionate about their nationalism, they were the first to give a voice to the philosophers. They are capable of thought, logic, and appreciation of it. Let us not forget that. They may seem irrational in many ways, but the seeds are there. They will be upset at first but, wasn’t it Socrates who said: ‘Think not those faithful who praise all thy words and actions; but those who kindly reprove thy faults.’Digressions, objections, delight in mockery, carefree mistrust are signs of health; everything unconditional belongs in pathology. -Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

This post is dedicated to someone called Sue, who wrote this comment to me in support of some critical comments I recieved about the content of my blog. I can't have said it better.

Friday, February 17

Birthday Boy

Well, OK, birthday Man but I like to be coy about my age, and who doesn't as they reach my years. Strange things, birthdays. Like Time, they weight heavily on those who have least of it or least left of them. It's today (Thursday) but as I approached midnight on Wednesday, another year in The Village just ending as the struggle continues, I was out. Not on the town you'll understand (there isn't one here) so lets describe it as on the 'long road that starts at the olive press and ends at the periptero' (doesn't quite roll off the tongue, I know) with some friends, drinking wine. Actually, drinking litres of the stuff. With my wallet on me. Only it's not just a wallet, its a portifoli holding the contents of my life within it; Passport, UK driving license, insurance papers, citizenship, bank cards and bank book, and - unusually for me - some €2,000 in cash. And as I got home to bed I realised I had lost it. Somewhere. So spent the next 3 hours retracing my steps from the streets I walked to the cafenio's we visited to the periptero, the toilets, the cemetry (yes, what's wrong with visiting a cemetry?) and scouring the interior of the car.
Without any success, I resigned myself to the inevitable loss and consequences, and so to bed, but not before calling the UK to cancel my passport and emailing for a new driving license. Welcome to the 1st day of a new birthday year.
This morning, bright and early (the day) and dreary, red eyed and early (me) I stood in queues in the big Bank awaiting my turn at the cashier counter to lock my accounts from anyone who may be trying to part me from my cash. New cards, pass book and access again to my money would take a few more days as I borrowed some euro from a friend to fill some petrol in the car for the journey home. To find a policeman at my door. (Oh Oh). Who greeted me with my full name (Double Oh Oh) and who started to question me about who, what, and why I am, doing, and for what, in Greece. As I searched my conscience for some wrong deed (was it, I thought, the 11 very old roof tiles I found roadside last week - worth €1.50 in total - that I purloined for my very old roofed - house?) I began to envision the inside of a Greek jail. Worse, the embarrassment of a Greek jail for €1.50 of discarded roof tiles.
And then he produced my portifoli. Intact of all papers. Intact of all bank cards and passbooks. Short about €500 in cash. Someone had found it, in the middle of the night, dropped by the roadside; Had opened it, found some papers that gave the name of The Village; Had called his cousin from The Village to ask if he knew of me; Had tracked me down, then handed everything to the police, who were now at my door.
So, today, €500 lighter in pocket, I feel far better off, and truly fortunate, and genuinely thankful for the honesty of man, than I did yesterday whilst walking around with €2,000 in cash in wallet getting somewhat drunk with friends. There's a message in there somewhere. There's a morale in there, too. Tonight, I've just returned from returning 11 roof tiles to the roadside where I 'found' them last week. And the puzzle? What sort of person would find my wallet, open it and see all the money, and take just €500 before replacing it where I had dropped it?

Tuesday, February 14

Follow Angelina's advice, please

I know I'm a little neurotic, but 3 interesting facts are beginning to worry me more than most.
On January 8th, the Earth stopped wobbling; I discovered that the pressure at the tip of the heel of a woman's high heeled shoe is more, per square centimetre, than that of a fully grown elephant; and the Vodaphone phone tapping scandal is still running.

Scientists don't understand the consequences of the wobble-stop. It's a first, and although forecast for many years, now it's arrived, nobody's quite sure what'll happen next. They reckon it'll take several months before any consequences begin to show. It could be something, it could be nothing, it could be a disaster about to unleash itself on mankind, it could be The End.
The high heeled shoe worrries me more though. I've never really considered the fact, and although heels have been a small fetish of mine for some time, now the thought of 10 tons bearing down on me in a frenzy of sexual tension makes my legs lock together in fear and the thought of bumping into Angelina Jolie at a party dressed in meshed nylons and heels a lot less attractive than it seemed yesterday. 'Course, it wouldn't stop the intimate conversation we'd have sharing stories from LA and Greece, Hollywood and The Village, the Oscars and the Vodaphone scandal, Iraq and...the Vodaphone scandal, the stopped-wobbling Earth and...the Vodaphone scandal, Iran's plans for nuclear fission and...the Vodapahone scandal, Avian flu and...the Vodaphone scandal, 3rd world poverty and...the Vodaphone scandal, the prospects of a worldwide economic slump and...the Vodaphone scandal.
However well, though, we got on, I doubt I'd get close to first base, however hard I try not to be put off by the thought of those high heels bearing down on me. She'll no doubt call me a mindless twit, with nothing better to do than gaze at my national navel, someone who tries to make large capital from minor events and suggest I take my mobile and insert it in a place where I wouldn't want to answer it anyway if it rang again because there are much bigger things to think and talk about than that.

I think we should all follow her advice.

Thursday, February 9

Time for Depon

I left The Village to travel to the Big City yesterday. I need to visit a government office, talk with an english-speaking employee, about How To and What To and When To do certain things with my new (and I sense looooooong) application for a license from the GNTO for my rental business.

I don't really want to do this and remain unconvinced about the value to me in taking this piece of paper, but the local GNTO to me know of me, and are pressuring - no, insisting to me - I do.

My preliminary investigations have confirmed my worst fears, as I grapple with translating and comprehending the 'FEK' applicable to my situation. Despite the fact my property has 3 modern and fully equipped bathrooms adjoining the bedrooms I must have a small cupboard per bedroom housing toilet paper rolls. And 2 small stools per bathroom (OK, I'll remove the bidets, the vanity units and maybe the baths to accomodate them then). My dining table, seating 10 poeple, doesn't meet the rules as it's too small. (Never mind its a wonderful piece of antique furniture that, with its matching chairs, looks beautiful in the room. But I don't need matching chairs if and when I throw this out). The original 400BC walling surrounding part of the pool area needs to be......painted!! And, I suspect they will insist on controlling my prices. At a level considerably below what I currently charge, and that I currently recieve from guests who invariably on departing, insist the stay and facilities are great value. Of course, they can't confirm any of this until after I make the application which will, after I have paid for the new triplicate plans, elevations, inventories, new photographs, urban plans and topography drawings, cost around e2,000 - e3,000. Never mind that I'm the only local tourist trade in the area, employing 2 local greeks, bringing some 200/250 people annually into the area spending their dollars and pounds. Apparently, I don't know what I'm doing.

So in the hope that it's the local office that don't know exactly what they are doing tomorrow I visit the central offices. And last evening I stayed in the Big City and realised just how much I have missed the energy, buzz, chaos, and variety of this place. I visited the Banaki Museum for a launch of some paintings of Samos that will feature in the calendar of one of Greece's cement companies. The paintings (in my modest view) were average but the general company was energising, especially later as some of us danced (or tried to, anyway) the night away in a nearby Tapas Bar heaving with Latin music.
Today, I'm envigorated, up and energised, albeit my head hurts. A lot.
Sitting in an internet cafe', head in hands, reading press reports from England about the London street protests surrounding the publication of those Danish cartoons. And seething at our pc-correct hypocracy. Some weeks ago a mother who lost her son in Iraq stood 350meters from Parliament in a modest, almost silent protest against Blair. She had one placard with her sons name on it. She shouted her sons name when Blair's car appeared in the far distance. And she was promptly arrested on public order laws. But those protesting against the cartoons were allowed to parade with some of the most viscious, inciteful and vitriolic banners and placards I have ever seen, to burn the Union Jack, to display obscene images from 9/11, to call for the decapitation of the West, its leaders, its people, its democracy, its religions, its values and its beliefs. And to date, no-one, not one, person has been arrested. Freedom of Speech is a difficult line to draw, I know, and I'm not sure I support the publication of the cartoons. More freedom, less prohibition of speech is my instinct; But to live in a country, draw benefits from a country, and preach its downfall from within is an absurd travesty; And to take no action against this on the concern of upsetting these people is an obscene hypocracy.
Time for Depon.

Saturday, February 4

Why this?

I got some heavy criticism from a blog reader yesterday saying that I’m too cynical, that anyone can write such negative stuff, and suggesting that I “go home”. That critic was answered by another saying how, in my writing, she sees just how much I love Greece. And for anyone else out there who can’t get my style or read between thre lines, let me repeat that. I love Greece.
But it just happens I’m a believer in not sitting still and saying nothing.
In using the power of words to engage the brain.
In love not being blind.

And, coincidentally, when I saw on another blog about googlefight, I linked to it, and I started to fight England vs. Greece. (As a half and half Brit-Greek, I’m not sure which answers I favoured, though).
In googlefighting the phrase “English beauracracy vs. Greek beauracracy” Greece got 1.990 hits vs England’s 17.200. What does that tell us?
Is England more beauracratic? I don’t believe so. Do they talk about it more? Yes, they do, because it’s not accepted. There is much wrong with Britian today, and too many Brits are too passive about it, but institutionalised beauracracy and blatant corruption isn’t part of it. And I guess that’s part of the nub of the Greek problem – beauracracy is institutionalised and corruption is largely accepted. It’s not being bitched about enough. Passive acceptance of a status quo is a dangerous thing – think about the many obvious historical examples. Change, improvement, doing things differently, comes from within. Within an individual or within a family or within a group or within a populace or within a race. One can influence any change by talking, discussing, writing, voting or marching on the streets about it. I can’t vote, I doubt if marching down through my The Village will get much positive attention, and so I choose to write about it.
With some humour. I hope.

That brings me to another point. As Greece ‘modernises’ (an over abused word) and morphs into a more Northern European type country - more credit, higher living standards, improved working conditions, more freedom of labour and capital, more service than manufacturing economy, with it will come the very conditions that has lost their northern european counterparts their soul and spirit and values and, in the case of Britian (I can’t speak for the other countries as I don’t know them well enough) has now tilted them too far over into a pc-correct, litigious, credit-laden, often violent, society. That will be a terrible thing for Greece, and Greeks. For all its current faults, where it’s at now is a far better place than where it may get to. How the changes can take place without taking on the downside baggage, I don’t know. It seems to me that, sadly but inevitably, you don’t get one without the other.

Finally, discussing passiveness, take my dear Mother as an example. As a Greek she’s lived in England for some 50 plus years. Passive, she’s not. Hardly a week goes by without her firing off a letter of opinion, complaint or critique to Blair, his cronies, the press, the broadcasters, the Queen, and others. OK, it doesn’t make a difference and I doubt if Blair quakes at the mention of her name. But not only does she feel better about it, she is fulfilling not only her right but her responsibility to be involved.
Maybe I get it from her, but when I see blatant curruption or ridiculous beauracracy – in the same way as when I experience poor service or rudeness - I have to do, or say, something about it.
That’s everyone’s responsibility.