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Friday, 5 October 2007

Dawn at Ano Korakiana

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Sitting in our kitchen in Birmingham on an early October morning and thinking of the sun that would have risen some hours ago over Greece, over Corfu warming the houses of Ano Korokiana along Democracy Street. * * * In my mail on return from Greece was an A4 page of notes from Lindsay H from Bookbane who had borrowed my copy of Mark Mazower's, edited, After the war was over (Princeton 2000):
Simon. I pressed on, did my duty to read fourteen Princeton post-graduate essays written by students keen to advance their careers. 'Moral praxis', 'Anomie', 'Habitus', 'topos', and the 'clientelistic ladder' - I did it for you Simon! I read of 'the Stalinist regime' in Northern Epirus (Albania) and yet persisted when I could have been reading a William book. Useful facts (that could easily have fitted on one side of A5) gleaned: - the British took Communist prisoners to concentration camps in East Africa - Indians did most of the fighting - the plebiscite was rigged - the battle of Athens was between 'ELAS and the British' - EAM/ELAS brought justice and 'the benefits of civilisation and culture' to the mountains - 'Communist massacres' in the text turn out 'highly biased' or 'unnrecorded' in the notes - the British army at the end of 1944 was 'sent to crush the ELAS forces' and recruited fascists - compare that with 'parliamentary replies' to Gallagher's question. NOTE: When I was 19 I attended the demonstration outside the Greek Embassy against Queen Frederika. This became the famous NCCL 'half-brick' case when detective-inspector Challenor was found guilty of planting evidence on one arrestee. He was declared insane, confined for three months and released cured. Later C Georgion, General Secretary of the Greek Electrical Workers Union was hanged with Attlee's approval. Lindsey
So while criticising Mazower's and his colleagues' 'liberal' text as I anticipated he extracts 'useful facts'. Googling 'Challenor' I found Martin Short's book on Masonic influence in the police:
'...Det. Sgt Harry Challenor, a West End Central officer who planted knives, hatchets and iron bars on dozens of innocent citizens...His undoing came in 1963 when he framed a cluster of young men who had been demonstrating against a visit of Queen Frederika of Greece. He claimed that pieces of brick had been found in their pockets, presumably to throw at the Queen or at the policemen guarding her hotel. The accused were all cleared, eventually, because no brick dust could be traced in their pockets. Challenor himself was now put on trial for conspiring to pervert the course of justice... Challenor was found unfit to plead and detained in a mental hospital at Her Majesty's pleasure...'
And now I'm watching The Lives of Others - a riveting film about miserable East Germany stewarded by the Stazi, wondering how Lindsay can be so loyal to communism, even though he's often right about the vile behaviours of so-called anti-communists [a comment below reminded me that because every system has its rogues this needn't define communism or capitalism]. I've just read a text by Daniel Chomsky about bias in the New York Times implying that Nicholas Gage, in his understandable loathing for the communists who killed his mother Eleni outside her village of Lia in Epirus, became almost nostalgic for the anti-communism of the military regime of the Colonels, and as a result sought to influence the NYT's views against the PASOK government of the 1980s, as they restored the pensions of ELAS veterans who'd fought the Nazis, bringing them back from exile and restoring their citizenship (pp 587-590 in Daniel Chomsky, The mechanisms of management control at The New York Times, Media, Culture and Society, Vol 21 pp. 579-599, Sage 1999) * * * 7/10/07 Simon Baddeley wrote to Eleni Gage:
Sorry to bother you. Where is your father’s website? Excuse me if he is unwell or for some good personal reason has decided to go off the internet. Yours sincerely, Simon Baddeley
8/10/07 13:25 Eleni Gage replied:
I'm not sure what's happened to his website. I am ccing him so you two can communicate directly. Thanks, Eleni
13/10/07 Simon replied
Dear Eleni Thank you so much for your swift reply. You must have so many e-mails from strangers! I was, like so many others, deeply affected by the story of your grandmother. I came to Nicholas Gage's book after reading your book that celebrates, not reconciliation (there can be none for such evil) but a brave and happy recovery (as for all of Greece) from terrible times for 'the wondrous land' and its people. I wondered if your father had 'gone off air' because of feelings that some well-intended attempts at political reconciliation have led to a muting of the passionate anger that infuses your father's quest - so that he is unjustly accused of 'hate' and 'vengefulness'. The cruelty inflicted on his mother meant the more he learned the more he must have entertained those feelings (engendering them in me as one of his many readers) but he did the bravest of things, which was to resist acting on those feelings, when the opportunity arose. Your father conquered hate without sentimental forgiveness of the unforgivable. Forgiveness and reconciliation (healing tho' these things can be) were not options in this case. Regardless of the ideologies involved, the killing of his mother was a great evil, not to be morally diluted by the fact that so many others suffered similar fates. Because Nicholas Cage had the courage, tho' he does not see it that way, to draw back from personal retribution, part of him, according to his writing, felt continued anger and hatred as well as grief. He reproaches himself for not doing enough, when actually what he did was more than enough. He broke the cycle - surely was the truest 'revenge'. I respect the courage of his choice. I admire the honesty with which he describes his feelings. I feel compassion for his continued pain. Had your father tried to settle this account violently, he would have fulfilled the prediction of George Seferis, that 'blood brings blood and more blood'. and you would have found it very difficult - perhaps impossible - to create your unsentimental, happy, funny and generous book about Lia. 'Eleni' and 'North of Ithaca' are one piece of work. How pleased and proud your grandmother would surely have been. Yours sincerely, Simon
On 15/10/07 13:25, Eleni Gage replied
Thanks for such a thoughtful communication--I will save it. Your words mean a great deal to me and I will forward this to my father, too. I hope all is well with you, Eleni

2 comments:

  1. You ask why people can be so loyal to 'communism', well, it is explicable because 'communism' is not a single thing. Hence, Stalin ordering the murder of Trotsky. Thus, the 'wrong type' of communism is usually blamed for atrocities. One could ask the same question (and receive the same answer) of capitalism - why are people so loyal to a system that has impoverished so many, has resulted in so many wars, was behind slavery and so on. Similarly with Christianity, Islam and so on.

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  2. Dear Lee. My closest friend - Lindsay H - a bookseller, bookbinder, electrician and tireless community activist is a devoted 'old' Communist. For more about my support for him see flickr image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sibadd/331760139/
    You read his comments on Mazower's book 'When the war was over', but I think I know why so many people in the Greek countryside and the working class districts of Athens welcomed ELAS. I also know the role played by the Communists in fighting the invaders of the wondrous land. Many speculate convincingly about just how tenacious resistance became fratricide, but no-one, least of all me, understands.

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