A Forum for and the Background of the Mediation of Dialogue in Ancient and Modern Academies

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Indebted to Greekness as a Virtue for us All

Far from being knowledgeable about the field of political thought and action, and also because it has never been my objective to react to current events, I will leave it to historians and economists to evaluate the European Summit of the past weekend. To say that almost all countries that are in debt are conquered countries will not add anything new to anyone's knowledge. And Greece is not a special case (in the list of indebted countries), rightly the IMF. So all is well; and whenever not, as we all, the French, the Spanish and the entire world got it, eventual necessary "mental water boarding" (not my wording: I had to look it up) will take place at the weekend. In this way, hiccups will be avoided in the global stock markets. We do not even need elections to be taking place in Greece. Right? And why should things go differently in the European territory? So no surprise. After all, we all Greeks, each and every one of us has led to this situation in the last decades and is to be held responsible. This is absolutely right, no question mark. Who and how can prescribe a treatment against the disease of deeply-rooted so-called byzantine relations? (for someone wishing to be informed by someone in the know, Prof. Stiglitz has published the following article in NYT, July 26: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/26/opinion/greece-the-sacrificial-lamb.html
also enlightening: http://international.sueddeutsche.de/post/125522613465/death-by-debt-my-response-to-the-german-finance)

There are different kinds of pain that a Greek may experience. One pain - mixed with pleasure - that I have been experiencing has been caused by the following question: What does it mean to be Greek? This has been one of my questions while I was guest in Germany and Great Britain, in order to work on our Greek classical texts. My conclusion: "Greekness" is not something given or merely inherited by being born in Greece. It is a virtue to live up to for any one of us: German, British, Ethiopian, Chinese, Turkish and Australian. What is it then and how come?

To be Greek is to open up to otherness on the basis of genuine dialogue, a dialogue which does not aim at caricaturing the interlocutor's views nor violently translating them into one's language. Not smart chit-chats, but real encounters with other views will qualify one for being Greek. How often are we Greeks and for how long can we be Greeks, then?

As for my dear modern Greeks and the current government of this country: may you show unity and may you not fall: discuss, agree and disagree, as in any truly democratic process, a process impossible to be predicted since no lines have been set up to be slavishly pursued: a matter of attitude and, this time, a lot of homework (even too much of it), plus the awful present predicament. I am very much supportive of the people who have come to power after decades of political corruption without thereby expressing a narrow-minded political wish. After all, I am confused with politics, pardon me: "radical left", as the Greek governing party is characterised, is another grey part of the German history of the late 60s and early 70s, but not of the Greek past or, in any case, the present. As for concrete reforms, which the Greeks are supposed to have been delaying in the last months, some may have been informed that there were attempts, for instance, to introduce a law for the respective reduction of wages amounting to ca. 200.000 Euros per year (at El.Stat, yes, you read well) and impediments were raised by the external advisors who should be supporting and not hindering the reforms. The law was finally legislated, by the ex- finance minister Dr. Varoufakis, which was followed by the resignation of the president of El.Stat. I am now taken by surprise to read in the new conditions that the legislated laws must be annulled and anything related to El.Stat will not be directed by the Greek government any longer. Bitter and sad. This is definitely not the help that the Greeks are in need of and have been asking for. All forces should cooperate in order to find resolutions instead.

PS: Before checking the results of the vote in the Greek parliament, on July 15, I read the new conditions that the Greek government had to sign at the weekend meeting, Monday morning. If I were a politician, I would prompt everyone to read them before getting informed by "das Bild", "die Zeit", "die Welt" or FAZ, to restrict myself to the German press. But I am not a politician. We know from history, ever since Thucydides took record of it, that hubris results in paying a great toll, when time comes. To underestimate the critical capacity of a whole nation, the Germans, the Germans I know and I highly appreciate, many of them liberals, is an hubris in itself, and will backfire, even if not in the shortest run: because serious people need time to delve into things, to read and to think. And my Germans, who are not a minority, are serious people. It comes to a time, in which the people start getting informed.

PPS: Let me return to the familiar tone and nature of this blog, and end the all too long post with the following relevant wish: may the time come in Greece in which we will be talking about the only possible reform, and that is education. And then we will be drawing upon our Socrates, for the sake of educational enhancement and whenever the high level of education is threatened. Lend your ears, if you wish, to this wonderful lecture, given by Professor MM McCabe at King's College London, her valedictory lecture, "Talking Together, Talking to Ourselves: Socrates and the Crisis of the Universities":


Socrates while doing his business

Friday, 3 July 2015


The following lines stem from an eight pages long poem, entitled Amorgos and written by Nikos Gatsos (1943), which years ago made me encounter, in its own particular way, some of the essence of "the modern Greek", general and normative as the latter is:

***The very first verses***

Με την πατρίδα τους δεμένη στα πανιά και τα κουπιά στον άνεμο κρεμασμένα
Οι ναυαγοί κοιμήθηκαν ήμεροι, σαν αγρίμια νεκρά μέσα στων σφουγγαριών
     τα σεντόνια
Αλλά τα μάτια των φυκιών είναι στραμένα στη θαλασσα
Μήπως τους ξαναφέρει ο νοτιάς με τα φρεσκοβαμένα λατίνια
...Ξύπνησε γάργαρο νερό από τη ρίζα του πεύκου να βρεις τα μάτια των σπουργιτιών και να τα ζωντανέψεις ποτίζοντας το χώμα με μυρωδιά βασιλικού και με σφυρίγματα σαύρας. Το ξέρω είσαι μια φλέβα γυμνή κάτω από το φοβερό βλέμμα του ανέμου είσαι μια σπίθα βουβή μέσα στο λαμπερό πλήθος των άστρων. Δε σε προσέχει κανείς κανείς δε σταματά ν᾽ακούσει την ανάσα σου μα συ με το βαρύ σου περπάτημα μες στην αγέρωχη φύση θα φτάσεις μια μέρα στα φύλλα της βερυκοκιάς θ᾽ανέβεις στα λυγερά κορμιά των μικρών σπάρτων και θα κυλήσεις από τα μάτια της αγαπητικιάς σαν έφηβο φεγγάρι. Υπάρχει μια πέτρα αθάνατη που κάποτε περαστικός ἐνας ανθρώπινος άγγελος έγραψε τ᾽όνομά του επάνω της κι ένα τραγούδι που δεν το ξέρει ακόμα κανείς ούτε τα πιο τρελά παιδιά ούτε τα πιο σοφά αηδόνια... 
***and the end of the poem***
Χρόνια και χρόνια πάλεψα με το μελάνι και το σφυρί βασανισμένη καρδιά μου Με το χρυσάφι και τη φωτιά για να σου κάμω ένα κέντημα
Ένα ζουμπούλι πορτοκαλιάς
Μιαν ανθισμένη κυδωνιά να σε παρηγορήσω
Εγώ που κάποτε σε άγγιξα με τα μάτια της πούλιας
Και με τη χαίτη του φεγγαριού σ᾽αγκάλιασα και χορέψαμε μες στους        
καλοκαιριάτικους κάμπους
Πάνω στη θερισμένη καλαμιά και φάγαμε μαζί το κομμένο τρυφύλλι
Μαύρη μεγάλη μοναξιά με τόσα τριγύρω στο λαιμό τόσα χρωματιστά πετράδια στα μαλλιά σου.

 (translation might be added when at hand)