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Saturday, 17 August 2013

How depressing and incredibly awful...or is it?

The Irish Times, Tue, Aug 13, 2013 by a friend in Corfu - Richard Pine:
Lanziger's Hitler as Teutonic knight 1938
A report in these columns in July that an Italian senator had referred to the black Italian minister for integration as an “orangutan” should not give readers the impression that xenophobia is exclusively Italian. After all, it was the Greeks who, unwittingly perhaps, invented the word, even though up to now foreign guests (xenos) have been honoured and welcomed. But also last month, Nikos Michaloliakos, leader of Golden Dawn (GD), Greece’s neo-fascist party, referred to two Greek citizens, Giannis Antetokounpo and his brother Thanassis (sons of Nigerian immigrants), as 'chimpanzees'. Giannis is a rising star in basketball. Last year a member of the highly successful Greek national basketball team, Sophocles Schortsianitis (Greek father, Cameroon mother), was also denounced by another GD MP for being insufficiently Greek. “Greeks have never been black” the GD leader proclaimed. He should read Martin Bernal’s Black Athena, which argues that ancient Greece, probably including its genetic structure, derived much from Africa and the Middle East...But racism is not GD’s only policy. It also pursues anti-gay, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim policies and activities, encouraging arson attacks on synagogues and mosques in an effort to purify Greece of all non-Greek elements. In doing so it has secured 18 of the 300 seats in parliament – 6% of the total vote, which in Ireland would give a neo-blueshirt party 10 Dáil seats. Golden Dawn is in direct political descent from the military junta of 1967-1974, which it reveres. Its symbol is a version of the swastika, members give the Nazi salute, deny the Holocaust, and at a recent rally they sang the Nazi marching song Horst-Wessel-Lied, which is banned in Germany. Hitleresque harangues against Jews have reached the point where Michaloliakos lays the blame for the world economic crisis at the doors of an alleged international Jewish conspiracy, calling Jews “the absolute evil”. Vigilante groups in the cities pick on immigrants such as Afghans for beatings, to which the police (many of whom are GD supporters) turn a blind eye. At the GD food kitchen for the needy, production of Greek identity papers is required – or a beating is likely to be administered. At a time of austerity, with everyone feeling the economic pinch, it’s not difficult to understand why Greeks should feel some resentment at the huge scale of legal and illegal immigration through Greece’s porous borders. But the idea that you should not be in Greece at all unless you have four Greek grandparents is untenable. Perhaps few in Greece would argue with a “Greece for the Greeks” slogan, but to suggest that all foreigners should be expelled does not sit well with the concepts of democracy or inclusivity, to say nothing of EU laws. If Antetokounpo had been white and of Finnish origin rather than Nigerian he might not have attracted the “chimpanzee” insult but he would, by GD’s standards, be ineligible to represent his country. It’s not all that long ago (1985) that the then bishop of Limerick stated that you could not be Irish unless you were Gaelic, Catholic and nationalist. If a neo-blueshirt party had the power to adopt GD-style policies, it would call for the expulsion of public figures such as Paul McGrath, Simon Zebo, Kevin Sharkey, and Seán Óg Ó hAilpín, while former TD Moosajee Bhamjee and current minister Leo Varadkar would also be on the next boat. Public support Under these rules, Éamon de Valera could not have made the cut for a place in “Irish-Ireland”. In Greece, former prime minister George Papandreou, with an American mother, would be out, despite an impeccable political ancestry. Before the 2012 election, Michaloliakos stated “we are outside the political system”, indicating his disaffection from current democratic processes. GD is no longer “outside the system”. Public support is increasing; the party, according to opinion polls, is on 10 per cent, which would give it 30 seats in parliament. One citizen echoed Michaloliakos when he pointed out that GD is “doing what the politicians should be doing. There’s a hole, and they fill it” – referring to GD’s vigilante presence on the streets. In a small village in Corfu, 44 people voted for GD...
May 2012 and June 2012 General Election poll in Ano Korakiana - the 5.78% for GD in May referred to 44 votes. Across Corfu, as a whole, votes for GD were even higher - 7.27% in May; 6.56% in June (turnout ave. 57%)
...far higher than the national average and an indication of local frustration. Subsequently, an English resident of the village was threatened by a neighbour. The fact that someone whose judgement one respected and whose friendship one cherished could give his support to an out-and-out fascist party is a measure of the disenchantment felt by many Greeks with mainstream politics.
My son was in the centre of Birmingham with his camera on 20 July and took pictures of the English Defence League (EDL) marching.
EDL march in Birmingham ~ 20 July 2013 (photo: Richard Baddeley)
"Most of them seemed to be very angry. Spoiling for a fight." he said
"The same people who get thrills being violent at football matches? England scares them"
"I saw them in their coaches when they were leaving. Fired up. Mouthing through the windows"
"They must see so much to hate. The present is confusing."

This from Democracy StreetSeptember 2012
The news as I already knew is miserable. Samaras interviewed talking in circles about liquidity and Tsipras promising to unite the left against austerity and negotiate a new contract with the EU and the Justice Minister, in a small footnote story, ‘considering’ a tougher line against racism after men in Golden Dawn T-shirts meted out street justice to non-Greek market traders who couldn't or wouldn’t show permits in Rafina and Mesolonghi, posting pictures of themselves smashing stalls on YouTube. We had our own small hint of such futile xenophobia on a walk through Venetia the other evening. A dog snarled and barked at us through a porch gate near the last corner of the village as we strolled by. The owner in a yard opposite and just above hurled curses at us for “threatening my dog with a stick” – mine or Lin’s walking stick. “No” I said “Your dog always barks when people walk by” This produced a stream of invective - ‘ μαλάκα’ or ‘wanker’ being preferred. “So is that the name of your dog?” More cursing “Don’t make me come down” “Come down but how about a bit of filotimo?” “Fuck filotimo. Why don’t you go back where you come from?” “But we’re from here” I said daringly. We strolled on, man and dog snarling. Later in town Richard P observed “Hm. That’s probably identified one of your Chrysi Avgi voters in the village” Bad eggs in villages are everywhere - not just Greece. I used to be bothered by them at other times in other places. Now it's usually water off a duck's back. This is the first example of ill-manners I’ve come across in Ano Korakiana in the five years we’ve been here; less a sign of the times I suspect, than a kind of fixture in any community - like Jud Fry in Oklahoma (or George Crabbe's Peter Grimes in Aldeburgh) the 'lonely misfit in a cast filled with wholesomeness and charm.'

Blokko in Kokkinnia in Athens on 17 August 1944

Walt Disney's WW2 animated propaganda - Education for Death - for the US government on the making of a Nazi...
In the village Lin takes her paintbrush to a swastika and filthy eggvolk icons
Reading about the past is a small antidote to the maxim that those who are ignorant of history are condemned to repeat it. I'm chary about being too extrapolative as to the trajectory of Europe's dark history. I'm not sure that Golden Dawn for all their nostalgic uniforms, ugly songs and salutes and seats in the Hellenic Parliament are more than a despairing and desparate flash in the pan. I've not yet met an intelligent or decent person in Greece who's got time for Χρυσή Αυγή, even as some may casually complain about numbers of immigrants or more particularly, in Corfu, about 'Albanians'. Richard's wrong to write, in his Irish Times piece, that the rude man we encountered one evening in Ano Korakiana is someone whose judgement 'one respected and whose friendship one cherished' The man provokes head touching among our neighbours. We're sorry for his stir-crazy dog - made vicious by circumstance.

No-one knows the history of the present. It's easy to be confused by history written too soon. We're arguing in some quarters about Thucydides' account of the Peloponnesian Wars...whatever malign forces coil us - brain-rotting mass media fuelling global consumerism encouraged by modern merchants of doubt under the panoptic gaze of flaking America, counterpoised to the mafia state of Russia and its satellites and the uncontrollable growths of India, Brazil and China....the story of the Third Reich (I'm reading Michael Burleigh's history again and Jan D urges me to start upon Richard Evans mighty trilogy on the same subject) can teach, but only so much. Anyone who wants to try to understand the present is at conceptual risk. It's a start to embrace the fable of those chained men in Plato's Cave, mindful of the strangulation of Laocoön and sons. Burleigh says his book "deals with the progressive, and almost total, moral collapse of an advanced industrial society at the heart of Europe, many of whose citizens abandoned the burden of thinking for themselves, in favour of what George Orwell described as the tom-tom beat of a latter day tribalism"
The most depressing thing about Golden Dawn, but also a measure of the place where  the effects of austerity has had its highest profile, is that the most conspicuous and democratically successful of European neo-fascist groups has found a home in beloved Greece, as have many others on attempted journeys from wrecked war-torn economies further east. I'm well aware of Greece's reputation for corruption in the highest parts of its government and church. Like many who know and study the country where they spend much of their lives, I'm educated in that criticism. Quiz me on the history of modern Greece - on the Ελληνική Επανάσταση - the War of Independence, on the Big Idea - η Μεγάλη Ιδέα, on Ἡ Ἀνταλλαγή - the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1922, on the Great Division - Εθνικός Διχασμός - between Venizelos and King Constantine, on the terrible Greek Civil War - Ελληνικός Εμφύλιος Πόλεμος, the Stone Years - Πέτρινα χρόνια - and, on its own, the modern history of the Ionian islands, and Corfu in particular, during the British Protectorate.
Little can shock me about this land I love; a place whose countenance is part of my g.g.grandfather said "except the blind forces of nature, nothing moves in this world which is not Greek in its origin" and Auden "had Greek civilisation never existed, we would never have become fully conscious" and Bertrand Russell "the legacy of Greece to Western philosophy is Western philosophy"and Shelley "her citizens rule the present from the past"
Yet oddly enough this enveloping legacy, once examined, can place a different light on my philhellenism; on the depth of my feelings for the wondrous land...
Byron wrote to friend in the year before he died in Greece: '...I did not come here to join a faction but a nation, and to deal with honest men and not with speculators or peculators, (charges bandied about daily by the Greeks of each other) it will require much circumspection to avoid the character of a partizan, and I perceive it to be the more difficult as I have already received invitations from more than one of the contending parties, always under the pretext that they are the ‘real Simon Pure’. After all, one should not despair, though all the foreigners that I have hitherto met with from amongst the Greeks are going or gone back disgusted. Whoever goes into Greece at present should do it as Mrs Fry went into Newgate - not in the expectation of meeting with any especial indication of existing probity, but in the hope that time and better treatment will reclaim the present burglarious and larcenous tendencies which have followed this General Gaol delivery..."
My love for Greece is charged with sentimental memories of my own connections, the adventures of a happy traveller who's been visiting the country since arriving there one spring morning as an impressionable 16 year old, but without the talent of a Henry Miller, a Durrell, a Kevin Andrews or Leigh-Fermor - but equally seduced by Greece and the Greeks I met and the places I saw, the sacred Acropolis, Olympia, high Delphi almost free, in 1957, of fellow visitors, Nauplion, Epidavros, Corinth; the things I did, Saturday Easter procession in Athens, meals that ran into hours where I'd normally have been long in bed, and with my cousins and Greek family in Kifissia for my first lamb roast, and five years later, in 1962, sailing from England to Greece...
On Danica in a calm off the southern Peloponnese
 ...via France and Italy, across the Ionian Sea to land at Killini, cruising slowly through the Gulfs of Patras and Corinth, threading the deep gorged Canal into the Saronic Gulf, arriving in sweltering Athens; visiting islands, sailing below the great capes of the Peloponnese - Malea and Tainaro and Akritas - and years later with the passing of the stone years returning to Athens with my closest family...

Amy with her mum in Athens
Richard at Venizelos on the way to Corfu
Amy with Natasha and Anna, her cousins, at Methoni travel on a day long drive from Athens to Pylos crossing the ranges that divide the Peloponnese - Parnosas, Taygetus, and the lower mountains before the coast above Pylos and Navarino. Which islands? Cythera, Zakinthos, Cephalonia, Paxos in the Ionian Sea; in the Aegean, Aegina, Hydra, Kimolos, Mykonos and more...
With my brother George in the Aegean
Civil War - Nikos Engonopoulos 
My good fortune has been that my feelings for Greece have been shared by Linda, who might have decided the place was alright for one holiday but instead lives with me for months of the year on Democracy Street, but why should I juxtapose this rich almost lifelong experience with the contempt I have for the rise of the eggvolk and the shame I feel at this party's success in the assembly of Republic and on the streets of Athens and in too many other settlements across the country? Such a comparison is ridiculous. A proper one would be with the history of Greece, ancient and modern, with its great democracy that excluded women, with an economy driven by slavery, with its endless politicking, its ostracisms, its feuds, and many wars - civil and national - its massacres, murders, assassinations, executions, its betrayals, traitors, demagogues, tyrants and bullies, and that's just ancient Greece. Imagine too the hideous violence and atrocities of the War of Independence from the Turks, still almost impossible to describe to Greek schoolchildren, and the great population exchange and the bloody failure of the 'big idea' to recover Constantinople, capital of Byzantium, and the heartlands of Asia Minor, Cappadocia, Ionia, the Pontus and the former Russian province of Kars in the Caucasus and Bithynia, Nicomedia and Eastern Thrace - events still hardly mentionable. Then the occupation with its collaborators, informers and traitors and then, some say, even worse the Greek civil war of 1946-1949...and the coup of the Junta and their cruelties yet to come...
Picnic on Execution Island
this age
of civil strife
is no age
for poetry
and such like:
when something is about
be written
as if
it were being written
on the other side
of death announcements
which is why
my poems
are so bitter
(and when - in any case - were they not?)
and are
- above all -
Being sad and fearful about contemporary Greece is understandable, what's foolish is to be blinded into thinking that what is happening here is out of the ordinary - for Greece. What's short-sighted is to assume that those wonders, with which old Greece illuminates our present, were not forged amid enduring proportions of good and evil.

*** *** ***
Me with Jim
I got a letter - a sort of a slightly dedicated form letter - from the Site Secretary of the Victoria Jubilee Allotments warning me to cultivate my plot...I hoped I'd never get one of these, having known others getting them prior to a council 'notice to quit'. It's a long drawn out process especially as allotment take-up has slowed right down as the urban middle classes (that includes me) collide with the reality of what's involved in running an allotment and growing their own vegetables.

Quick reply:
Dear Gill
I fully accept your ‘wake-up and get gardening' caution dated 12th August 2013 just received.
The state of the plot  on the Victoria Jubilee that I share with my wife has indeed been a cause of concern to us and obviously to the association committee..
It’s an explanation - not an excuse - but we have been preoccupied with the estate of my late mother who died recently.
Things are now becoming less busy on that front so there will be more time to get on with the important business of cultivating Plot 14.
We appreciate the warning and you and your colleagues' work on the site committee.
Kindest regards
I'm humiliated but rightly so. These sort of complaints run through my life. I first received them at school - reports, summons to the teacher - later it would be a friendly chat or a letter from somewhere; at university it would be a warning to get something published, expand my research or do more fee-earning work. By and large I've found these prods vexing but ultimately useful. I have a procrastinatory rather than a slothful temperament, too easily led away from the proper priorities. It's why I like Jackdaws.
Jackdaws enjoy playing with shiny objects and other small household items, which gives them a reputation as thieves. My impression is that they are actually always checking out whether this or that trifle might be suitable for a nest. Konrad Lorenz' sketches, in 'King Solomon's Ring', where he has a chapter on the birds, capture what I noted in Jim better than any photos I've seen. The Jackdaw mentality in humans refers to a tendency to collect trivia in the fruitless hope that all may come together to explain the meaning of life...24/5/07
So I'm working harder on the maelstrom plot, entangled in couch grass, covered in meadow grass and flowers, things my friend Robin - also served a notice - argues are benign and useful and libelled by those who demand 'cultivation'. He's right of course but talking rubbish.
Fighting on Plot 14
The other evening I was cycling through the allotments in dusk after three hours digging when I was stopped by Vanley on the edge of the beautifulest plot on the whole site. I'd heard sounds, possibly music, and twice clapping, but continued my labours.
"Come Simon" said Vanley leading me through the maze of paths that neatly divide his many vegetables, some burgeoning, some started, some already cropped.
"How do you get such a long stroll onto one plot, Vanley?"
We came to a pressed earth bower protected by a temporary piece of white tenting slung from uprights and part of the hedge, low benches around and a log fire smouldering and the remains of a meal of unleavened bread and cooked vegetables.
"Sit Simon"
"I regard this as a disgrace" I said "sitting round enjoying yourselves"
"Have some elderflower champagne I've made, picked in the Sandwell Valley" said Jeevan offering me a bottle which I prised open to a satisfying hiss
"Hmmmm. Not sure I want to"
The bottle passed around. A delicate fizzy drink, most pleasing after my digging
"Thank you so much for inviting me"
One of the other gardeners showed me a film on his smart phone of one of Scylla's young boys playing the fiddle magically - a little concert I'd missed, tho' catching the applause.
"He'll go far" said one.
As people tidied up I was asked more about the old campaign to save the allotments. I spoke of the country lanes that used to run through the site, with doors off them to people's gardens.
"I tried, we tried, to get the developer and the council to ensure they stayed but they were cleared"
On a path between two hedges on the old Victoria Jubilee Allotments

"So what's happening about the playing fields that are supposed to be laid out by the developer"
"There's a site meeting on 5 September with people from the council and Persimmon Homes. I'm asked to join that, so I'll learn more"
Discussion turned to difficult topsoil on the VJA
"Yes I know, lots of rubbish, plastic, metal, bricks"I said "but if Vanley and others can make plots like this, I can't make excuses"
"But I'm digging a plot over here" one pointed to the neighbouring piece of ground "and a spade's length down I'm hitting building rubble"
"I think the developer flattened the site and then when they'd finished levelling and completed the houses they bulldozed a pile of earth and rubble and all sorts including their works site, which you can see on Google maps, and called it topsoil."
"Don't get me wrong. Some of its good stuff but it needs a lot of work"
I made a pact with myself about more preparing of the earth on Plot 14.
"Do you think I need more manure?"
"Good idea and more compost"
 I was getting encouragement like Mole from Rattie and Badger and other characters circled around me from The Wind in the Willows. 
I cycled home happy in the dark with a bag of chard pressed on me by Vanley.
*** ***
Yesterday was the closing date for bids on the sale of Brin Croft, under a month since Lin and I cleared the house and tidied its grounds. Phiddy, our estate agent phoned to say that, out of several offers, one for both house and lochan was especially worth accepting.
Brin Croft in winter

*** *** ***
And tho' there may be trouble ahead let's face the music and dance...happy news from Jim and Maria Potts of a three day panygiri in Vitsa...and in Ano Korakiana...

"...μέχρι το Τσιρίγο"
Γράφει ο/η Κβκ   

17august2013b.jpgΑπό «το Καποσίδερο μέχρι το Τσιρίγο» μας ταξίδεψε χθες το βράδυ το Χορευτικό τμήμα της Φιλαρμονικής Κορακιάνας, σε μια όμορφη χορευτική παράσταση στην οποία τα τμήματα του χορευτικού εναλλάσσονταν, ταξιδεύοντάς μας από νησί σε νησί του Ιονίου, υπό την άοκνη καθοδήγηση της «δασκάλας» του τμήματος, Νίκης Κεντάρχου και με σημαντική τη βοήθεια, όπως αναφέρθηκε, της Ντίνας Σπίγγου. Από την Κέρκυρα λοιπόν, στη Λευκάδα και από εκεί έως την Κεφαλονιά, τη Ζάκυνθο και τα Κύθηρα, με χαρακτηριστικούς νησιώτικους χορούς και καντάδες, αλλά και μία αναφορά στην επτανησιακή μυθολογία από το παιδικό τμήμα, με φόντο ένα λιτό και όμορφο σκηνικό, που επιμελήθηκε η Κατερίνα Φακιολά.

Την εκδήλωση προλόγισαν ο Πρόεδρος της Φιλαρμονικής Σπύρος Σαββανής, η Δώρα Μεταλληνού που αναφέρθηκε στην ιστορία του χορευτικού τμήματος και η υπεύθυνη του τμήματος Ηλέκτρα Μαρτζούκου, που στο τέλος της εκδήλωσης απηύθυνε κάλεσμα για τη διάσωση της παλιάς κορακιανίτικης ενδυμασίας…

Σειρά έχει τώρα, την Κυριακή 18 Αυγούστου 2013 το βράδυ η Μπάντα…

17august2013d.jpgΥ.Γ. Όμως, από το σαββατόβραδο, δεν έλειψαν και άλλες «εκδηλώσεις», όπως τα γενέθλια της μικρούλας Κωνσταντίνας Μπόγδου και του Βασίλη Τσιριγώτη στις Μουργάδες, που έσβησαν ως είθισται τα κεράκια των χρόνων τους ή το πάρτυ που οργάνωσε για μια ακόμη φορά το «Καφέ Πιάτσα» στην Αρκούδενα, με ωραία «ζωντανή» μουσική, την οποία απήλαυσαν μικροί και μεγάλοι μέχρι τις πρώτες πρωϊνές ώρες (όπως προκύπτει και από τη φωτογραφία)…

Στα απρόοπτα της χθεσινής ημέρας καταγράφεται το «χάκινγκ» που υπέστη η ιστοσελίδας μας, από ινδονήσιους χάκερς, σε ανάμνηση της ημέρας της ανεξαρτησίας της χώρας τους από τους Ολλανδούς, στις 17/8/1945!!!

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