Saturday, 13 December 2008

A wet day in the Midlands

Cycling to Dudley the other day to run a workshop for the council, I folded my bike and caught a 74 bus which stopped for a moment over the motorway, and I thought how the cartoonist Carl Giles had this gift for evoking a wet day in an English town. I like this chilly grey damp; the bright shop fronts above reflective streets, the tear of motorway traffic pushing up spray, the damp dog smell of Harris Tweed inside the bus and the memory of dank railway station platforms. * * * Patras 12 December 08: A video of the broadcast from the occupied station SuperB Patra, a major TV station of Western Greece. The station was occupied by demonstrators and students. After the broadcast the station was left to continue normally. * * * * Email from Iason Athanasiadis:
Dear Simon. It's been some time we hadn't been in touch and I wanted to write and see how you are. Needless to say, I've continued reading your writings, even as my year at Harvard finished and I moved to Istanbul (which felt like the best thing to do). Now I'm working on a project for the Pulitzer Center on contemporary Turkish society and preparing a show of my work in LA about Iran . Also writing about the recent riots. One of the most interesting aspects of this whole business - aside from the youth Intifadah side of it - is how Greeks are calling it an imposed Velvet Revolution from the side of the West. Have you heard anything about this? How are you and how is the teaching going? Warm regards from Istanbul. Iason
Dear Iason. What a pleasure to hear from you – as good as a landmail message from a friend hitting our doormat on this rainy day in Birmingham. I’ve not “heard anything about this” but my deep curiosity is redirected. Listening to Malcolm Brabant from Athens on BBC R4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ second story – 7 minutes into the programme) talking about Karamanlis and whether the international press are over or underplaying the crisis, shortly after your mail arrived – the ‘velvet riots’ phrase was used, but without reference to ‘imposition’. (conspiracy theories are proliferating tho’) Brabant argues for the significance of the unrest – “a cluster bomb of grievances against deep flaws in the Greek state”...”a highly educated generation living in an economy that is practically feudal.” He also mentions Karamanlis’ reference to the ‘pimps’ - the toxic hidden influence of the quiet powerful – he’s failed to counteract. “Statesmanship is not an abundant quality among Greece’s political establishment.... The stone throwers are just discovering their own strength – who knows what they might achieve...” I am also interested in the views and facts of Nikos Raptis (e.g. his thoughts on parecon) on Friday...I’m an engaged spectator hungry for understanding about what is unfolding in Greece. Thank you for your story in the Washington Times. We wait on the moment So far as teaching and research are concerned – you may notice, on my blog, attempts to embed videos of political-management conversations I’ve been collecting over 30 years, with explanatory texts. This is a specialised endeavour for the benefit of people who'll be working in UK local government – but I’ve always had difficulty making this material accessible outside the lecture room. This is a shame because I am intrigued by the minutiae of conversations that make government. The issue is less technical (though I’d like to improve the quality) than legal. University lawyers get worried about having research material on YouTube – even though the most august figures are now using it as simply an extended part of the public domain. Now I must mend a puncture in my bicycle and venture into the festive streets of my own city. How many of students in Athens will be going home for Christmas?. Kindest regards. Simon
* * * An e-note at the Foreign Policy Research Institute website article by Cornelia Tsakiridou, a philosopher at La Salle University in Philadelphia about current Greek myths...
'that those in positions of authority cannot be trusted; that the rebellious and poor have a monopoly on justice; and that problems facing the nation are caused by obscure international enemies and their domestic operatives... Despite attempts in the national and international press (among them Le Monde and The Guardian) to give a deeper dimension to the Greek riots and to offer a mix of elaborate psychological and sociological explanations, the truth may actually be rather plain. The riots happened because the legal mechanisms designed to protect the public interest remained idle. The reasons are not difficult to surmise. First, in Greece the public domain is the designated arena of political and personal advancement. Thus, except in rhetoric, there is effectively no concept of public interest to uphold and defend. There have been no counter-demonstrations demanding that the violence, looting, and destruction stop because they are against the public good. Second, many in the public apparently sympathize with the rioters’ stance that state corruption justifies state disruption. Third, an increasing number of Greeks across the political spectrum believe that the riots are the result of sinister foreign designs too powerful for any Greek government to deter... As the majority of New Democracy supporters have conceded in recent polls, blame falls squarely on the Karamanlis government for failure to restore law and order and maneuver conniving opposition parties, PASOK and especially the radical left SYRIZA (whose hand in the riots is all but certain) into a show of unity. But even if against all odds Karamanlis proves resilient and survives this crisis, the mindset that made it possible and the dangers it poses for the country’s internal security and stability will persist.

1 comment:

  1. An Ipswich man, Giles. His fat grandmother is, like Betjeman at St Pancras, a frequent meeting spot. I was looking at a book of his cartoons in Waterstones earlier this afternoon, recognising lots of the backdrops, and remembering Christmases past when books of his cartoons were exchanged. You're right. He got England - wet, dreary, steamed up December England.

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