Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Signs of crisis at start of 2012

Athens at the turn to the New Year of 2012

Who wants to hear about the crisis? There is a strong resistance to face the problems. Thus visible signs of the crisis in the streets of Athens can be seen,  but then they are also quickly removed. For the policy followed is the aesthetics of the visible as having to be the 'norm' in terms of what tourists like to see and what the rest have to hide to give the appearance Greece and its Capital, namely Athens can cope. But far from managing this, the crisis keeps poking its face into the filled cafe shops with many more coming around to ask for a cigarette, some money or even for some food.


The crisis can be seen in many ways. For instance, a former shop for cleaning clothes closed at the start of the new year 2012, and this on Sina Street just opposite the French Institute and thus in Kolonaki, the supposingly well off district of Athens.

To be fair, just further down that same street, at the corner Sina and Skoufa, the restaurant at the corner went into new restoration, and just around the corner and a bit further up on Skoufa another new bar is preparing to open up.

However, the bio-shop which used to come right after that has closed doors as well.

Officially it is expected that 60 000 shops will close according to the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE). Due to the austerity measures, people have to save wherever they can. With the closure of shops, it is estimated that about 160 000 jobs are lost.

This person sleeping in the street could be seen just around the corner from Kolonaki Square. Due to the cold weather in January, the city of Athens is making an extra effort to take care of the many homeless people. Blankets and food are being distributed while an emergency phone number is given in order to ensure no one freezes to death or dies out of starvation. It is estimated that Athens has now about 15,000 homeless but presumably this shall be rising. By the same token, a look at every entrance tells how many apartments even in Kolonaki are no longer rented. The yellow strips with red letters as typical format for announcing a place is up for rent or sale have multiplied. It is soon possible to count not just one or two of these stripes, but they can exceed single digit numbers.

The question is what will become of Greece in case society cannot handle any longer this crisis and all sorts of negative political ramifications will play themselves out? There is even talk about society becoming again polarized and thus it reminds of what led to the civil war (1945-47).

Greece and Europe in crisis

Reflections about current political developments in Greece (2011-2012)

Since Jorgios Papandreou has been replaced as prime minister by the technocrat Papademos in Greece, a creative tension has evaporated. Some say this has to do with the style of the former banker, namely to say just simple things. No exaggeration, no overt promises which cannot be kept! He has way of conveying things in a sober way. He simply puts things as they are. Naturally this does not explain why his popularity within a very short time has plunged. 80% of the Greeks no longer believe he can pull it off i.e. avoid default. If reforms fail to materialize, then because the three political leaders who are right now making up this uneasy coalition with Papademos at the helm are already waiting to launch ahead into elections! After all Papademos is but a transitional figure; by himself he has no democratic legitimization as he never stood for elections. He has been merely appointed or rather hieved into the job as Prime Minister for the sake of keeping face for Greece. Whatever can be said about the current news, they are like the waves swapping over the piers in the harbours during the winter storms. Everything is being tested as to what can still withstand the onslaught of more forces. They are made up of many disbeliefs. However, some say instead of protest uncertainty has gripped the minds of many. Shops close, people lose their jobs and money due to high taxes has evaporated. There is nothing left to spend on something extra. And the despair grows because after all these sacrifices and cut-backs there is still no solution in sight. And to make things worse, those giving credit are losing rapidly in patience i.e. in confidence Greece can still manage meaningful reforms. Already voices in Germany say to let the Greek state default i.e. crash or even worse FDP Rößler proposed to appoint a Commissioner who would oversee the finances of the Greek state. That idea was floated and then quickly rejected by the European Commission and called even by Greek MP Dimanapoula as the product of a 'sick imagination'. Again national sovereignty was cited by Finance Minister Venizelous even though the 'sovereign debt' of Greece does not allow for such claim of independence. Rather the discussions have become trapped in what amounts to ill founded attempts of change in character or 'mentality'. Everyone knows this will not work, and not merely because the austerity measures have driven the Greek economy ever deeper into recession. Rather the sought reforms presuppose a change in values and attitudes towards life. But this cannot be achieved within three years as foreseen by the Memorandum nor even within ten or more years. Closer would come as a measure of time to work through all these changes the time it took Odyssey to find his way home, namely 22 years. Marie Iliou in her film 'The Journey' would depict still another aspect of such a voyage in need to embard upon if something is to change, namely the readiness to pay a 'high prize' by giving up something till now sacred and a part of the Greek way of life. For sure, it is a model, but not an abstract one as revealed in the film by Angelopoulos. The crisis and the recession has put that into doubt even if some return to the land to cultivate it again like their forefathers and before they left the land to live in Athens. Now everything is changing without doing anything. As Sokrates Kabouropoulos puts it, the future has become 'abstract'.

HF 1.2.2012
See also
Diary of a crisis - a daily account of the days leading up to Papandreou call for a referendum and then the turn around which led to him stepping down as Prime Minister of Greece and his replacement by banker Papademos
Interview with Cafe Babel: everyone should enjoy the freedom to live his or her own craziness, provided no one else is harmed



In memory of Angelopoulos


Untimely the Greek film director Angelopoulos died after a tragic road accident. It happened at night. A motorcycle driven by an off duty policeman apparently did not see him in time as he was crossing a dark street and hit him so severely that he never recovered in hospital from the injuries. He was just filming a night scene of his new film to reflect upon the current crisis in Greece. Contrary to his film crew, he did not wear a yellow efforescent vest to be visible at night. It was both a fluke accident and tragic.

Unforgetable is his film 'the theatre troubadours'. The film depicts how a theatre group wanders through the various phases of Greek history. Always the staging of their plays was interrupted by mainly outside interventions e.g. the start of Second World War with Germans entering to occupy the country, then at the end of the war the liberation, but that too was short lived for Left and Right plunged into a civil war that cost many more lives; finally, the Americans enter to mark the beginning of Greek society sliding towards a new form of dictatorship.

Outside interventions have wounded the Greek soul over many centuries. It may explain some of the confusion or the unwillingness to depart from the role of victim when it comes to face the current financial crisis.

The films by Angelopoulos highlight another Greece. He does so in a most poetic and melancholic way. Indeed, all his films touch upon wounds no one wishes to talk about in today's modern Greece. Many more are even infuriated at his slow moving pictures. Yet this sign of impatience is a sign of people caught up a what they believe is a fast moving world, and in which efficiency is demonstrated by merely rushing on.

Angelopoulos shows above all times when not only schisms between Left and Right divided Greek society, but there prevailed during hard winters also deeply honest equally resistent people. Often they had to learn to survive not only with bare hands through a cold winter but also everything from torture or rape to prosecution and imprisonment.

There is one article which pays tribute to this great work by Angelopoulos: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jan/27/greece-theo-angelopoulos?INTCMP=SRCH


The making of the new political conomy


While people search daily the in the  rubbish can, Venizelos demonstrated as Finance Minister after having taken over from Papakonstantinou, that he can manage to combine politics and finances in a way that things get done at least, and Greece does not default, not yet! Interestingly enough a student asked then which artist could visualize the best the difficult term 'political economy'. A spontaneous answer to that question would have to be Beuys.


Treatise about economic theory

Poverty of Experience by Hatto Fischer


Politics - the tasks ahead


 Political challenges ahead 

The technocratic way of ruling Europe is depriving its cultures of a much needed oxgyen only made available by people being engaged in critical dialogues. That used to be the strength of European cultural diversity. Dialogues would start with a poetic metaphor and then go through various levels - social, political, international, universal - to claim a truth in the name of universal values. They were linked to recognizing the other as a human being. That universality has been put into dispute. Unfortunately as time passes, most of those who had the courage to speak out lost that sense of truth. The latter is to be understood as a system in need of constant challenge. Instead of challenging false claims of truth, an acquiescence to pragmatic negotiation styles has left those willing to challenge outside the game. Now the only demand to be made is to have at the very least some consistency. Otherwise the failure of the system is marked by people no longer able to work through contradictions. No wonder when general politics as it is misunderstood systematically does not come up with thought through solutions. Rather the norm is set by the technological definition of what works. That leaves human commitment far behind current developments. There can be heard only the kind of silence Ernst Bloch identified as the silence of the cemetery. 

HF 2.2.2012

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