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Saturday, 5 May 2012

General Election ~ 'a new and more volatile chapter'

Voting in the Greek General Election is tomorrow. There’s a polling station in the middle of the village. I hear the sound of politicians talking on people’s televisions as I walk down Democracy Street. On 2 May it was Lefteris’ 70th birthday.
Irini, Kostas, Lefteri and Vasiliki
Lin and I bought greetings and chocolates and sang a universal ‘Happy Birthday to you’. In the background the ignored TV showed politicians speaking from podiums in Q & A sessions with studio audiences. Now and then I followed enough of the chat round the table to know politics was also being discussed in the family.
“No-one knows what will happen” Heads nodded politely when I repeated the widely held opinion that there will be no overall majority and asked, rhetorically, whether any new government would be a coalition, all of whose members will be committed to continuing the current austerity policies. The grim intractability of the picture may explain why the run-up to the Hellenic General Election has felt so quiet, with minimal canvassing, few posters or strewn leaflets. I get more news via phone texts and the web about local elections in the UK, but Teacherdude in Thessaloniki reports to the contrary.
...For many 6th May national elections will mark the end of an era begun in the 70's in which PASOK and New Democracy dominated national politics and promises to usher in a newer, more volatile chapter in public life in Greece...
Here in the village it does seem quiet. The law says voting is compulsory in Greece but as Cinta told me, Greece shares with twelve other countries the habit of not enforcing this. Jim Potts dug out a quote from a chapter on Greece in Cultural Patterns and Technical Change, ed. Margaret Mead (UNESCO 1955)
Government is not personal, and the law is external to the organic, structured whole. It is not the voice of Greece. There is therefore no obligation to obey the law; the guide to conduct here is expediency, and the ability to circumvent.
A low turn-out for polls would be in line with what has happened in local elections in the last couple of years. This is not apathy. Politics is there – but its forms have become a cover for much more that remains unspoken. A plethora of inarticulated apprehensions and passions not yet connected with the exciting organisation of ideas capable of refuting the vice-like hold of the neo-liberal fallacy. It as thought we see the disparate vestiges of an emerging paradigm, held with strong and even happy conviction at the proofs contained in its detailed and diverse manifestations in daily life, in friendship, in talking, writing, gardening, housework and digging across the world, yet arrayed against our disorganised rabble -the fluttering banners of common-sense, faith and normal science. Thus it was between Ptolemaic and Copernican understandings of the cosmos, between Darwin and the bizarre fantasy of special creation. It’s so easy to miss out on inexpressed tensions, hidden even from the self, inside families and friendships, as we know from periodic outbreaks of violence we’ve known in our own part of Birmingham – ‘out of a blue sky’ said the authorities.
Not so. I strive uselessly to make sense of a messy confusing incubation of ideas – some, the worst of the new, others the best of the old, like a human leaving childhood, a gestation whose climax can be predicted, and yet abrupt and unexpected as the breaking of an egg. (See Teacherdude on 'what it takes to be part of the new Greek/EU middleclass')
I asked a friend in the north of the island what he expected in the aftermath of the election.
His reply: 'Chaos'

BBC Radio 4 programmes on Greece
Greece: An Unquiet History (Mar 2012) Writer Maria Margaronis returns home to listen to those living through the Greek disaster - 2

Greece: Broken Marble, Broken Future (Dec 2011) Writer Maria Margaronis returns home to listen to those living through the Greek disaster - 1

Analysis: Preparing for Eurogeddon (Feb 2012) What if Greece had to get a new currency?
    In Greece, financial meltdown and soaring illegal immigration have led to the rise of young right-wing extremists 
    Winifred Robinson speaks to the Greek Culture and Tourism Minister to find out how the tourist industry in Greece is faring.
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I am excited that we've received conditional permission to place a bee-hive on Plot 14 of the Victoria Jubilee Allotments. Getting permission is not straightforward. Birmingham City Council wants to encourage bees on allotments, having for quite a while prohibited them. I realise, as I did not earlier, that the ‘return of bees’ to urban allotments is fraught with risk-averse considerations. There’s only to be one, let alone two, publicised incidents of negative encounters between bees and the public, and the process of making it normal to allow and indeed encourage beekeeping on allotments will be set back, not to mention the local authority facing litigation from parties inclined to blame them for not protecting the public. I do not, despite the frustrations of getting permissions and removing possible risks and observing probation and being reviewed, consider that council officers are being over-zealous about rules and conditions. This is the price beekeepers within a thoroughly urbanised population must pay for the distancing of so many people of all ages from the details of the cultivation on which we all depend for our food. Everyone knows bees can sting; far fewer know about their vital role in pollination.
Bar Maine, my grandmother, kept bees on Mill End Dairy Farm - where I was born. Many years ago - in the late 1940s - one of her bees got caught in my sister’s hair (she was about 5 or 6) and stung her. I think in curiosity Bay might have wandered rather close to a hive. She naturally screamed in shock and then cried. I was inclined to think ill of bees. Bar came to the rescue, calmed my sister and treated the sting (I think she removed it with tweezers) and told us that the bee who’d stung my sister would now die. I was 7 and I remember even now that my sympathies spread to include the bee (even tho' I now read that idea that a bee's death after it has stung is a 'myth'. It's not automatic) . So it has been since. I am, though, a newcomer to the whole process and the initiative by a friend to use my allotment - encouraged by me - as a hive site, has spurred my interest in the ancient art.

The conditions:
- The bees should be from a new colony, rather than an established one.
 - the beekeeper must have public liability insurance and be a member of the National Bee Keepers Association - No more than one hive can be placed on the plot
- A screen (including insect netting) of around 8ft should be installed a metre away from the boundary of the site alongside the fence. This will also help to shield the bees from unwanted attention from park users, and so ensuring the security of the hive. There is still concern that the bees are rather close to both park users and people working on the site, but the screen should mitigate some of the concerns.
- No bees are to be placed on the plot until the requisite screening has been added to the plot. If you could let your Allotment Liaison Officer know when it has been installed, he will be able to inspect it.
- A risk assessment should be completed by the beekeeper as soon as possible. The Allotment Liaison Officer can advise the tenant of the format of the risk assessment
- The introduction of the bees to be reviewed after this summer in late September, early October.
- Any complaints that the Allotments Team receive will be forwarded to the Victoria Jubilee Allotments Association for action. If any complaints are received, they will form part of the information used as part of the 12 month review.
- An approved bees expert to show where to position the hive on your plot.
With these conditions I was referred to 'a very useful document from NSALG in relation to keeping bees on Allotment sites.' (see also this from the British Beekeepers' Association)
I phoned my neighbour John Rose whose wife Gill, has public liability insurance and is a member of the National Bee Keepers Association. I hope and pray she will be placing her bees on Plot 14 in the very near future. John's already planning the safety netting
"I'll pay you when I see you, John. Brilliant!" We also chatted about local government news. So elected mayors have been voted out everywhere they were proposed except Bristol, though Liverpool went ahead with their Mayor without waiting for a vote.
"I voted against." said John "We are being asked to vote for the post without being told what powers the proposed elected mayors will have."
Nice news that all BNP councillors - sitting and proposed - have disappeared from the local electoral map.
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My friend John Martin - my host and colleague for three lecture tours in Australia - has set out on a Canadian bicycle odyssey, working his way across the continent visiting sustainable communities, research that compares them  them with those in his own Australia and will surely enrich the concept and practice:
We now have our itinerary for the first month worked out. Some people are welcoming, others rather pedestrian in their response. I guess we are the ones who are excited, why should they be. My colleague at U Concordia Bill Reimer - whom you would get on superbly with - is very good smoothing the way forward for us. He has bought an old car and in June will come to Vancouver with his wife Fran and they will travel across Canada with their oldest grand daughter (also an Amy!). They will stop off in many places (Bill's family history is Russian Mennonites and  his relative settles across the plains of Canada) so their Amy can learn about her family history (the Google map of our itinerary on Annie's blog was an idea from Bill).
I will do an update to sustainable canadian communities (the site about the study) early next week. I expect Al will do one his site - canadothis - mid next week and I believe Annie is always working on her site - visual journey across canada. I like the way these are all linked. Enjoy cycling and boating in Corfu. We have great memories of how special a place it is. You guys are very lucky to be able to live there for a good time of the year. Love to Lin, John and Annie
Why the bicycles? This from the project's website:
There are three of us involved in this research across Canada. Professor John Martin is Director of the Centre for Sustainable Regional Communities at La Trobe University. Alistair Walker is an Analyst with the Rural Finance Corporation, both based in Bendigo, Victoria. John and Alistair will cycle to each community and the story of these places will be part of a documentary on the sustainability of small Canadian towns produced by John’s partner, a filmmaker Annie Guthrie. Annie will be in a car. The car travelling with us will provide a backup for safety purposes as well to enable Annie to transport film equipment.
We have chosen to visit these places by bicycle because we are interested in seeing the country through the eyes of a cyclist, allowing us to take our time to take in more along the way. While we are both experienced cyclists we wanted the meet the challenge of the rigour and length of this 7,400 km ride. We believe using a slower means of transport will bring a new perspective to what we find on our journey.
We know from our previous journeys in Australia, you see things as you are cycling along that you don’t see in a car. We also have found that people are most welcoming when you arrive by bike. I can’t explain why but suspect people admire the tenacity or courage in taking on the challenge of a long distance ride. Arriving this way gives you an introduction to people and places that you would not otherwise get when rushing in and out in a car or bus. As such our itinerary below might slip a day or two here and there but it is our intention to stick with it as close as possible assuming the weather and other unforeseen events don’t intervene.
Outline of the research: Canadian and Australian rural communities have much in common. They are located in federations similar in structure and function with provinces/states having considerable authority over these places. Governments are often challenged to provide equitable services to all places, especially so in rural communities. Yet these communities continue to survive often facing the most challenging demographic, economic and environmental circumstances. In this comparative research study we ask:
What is it about these places, people and institutions that sustain them over time.
How does their past, current economic fortunes, social networks and public institutions work together to ensure their sustainability?
I recognise this research is not only about Canada and Australia. Apart from my pleasure (and envy) at following the adventure on which John, Annie and Bill are embarked, I am fascinated by their work; interested in the application of their research to the places and people that matter to me.

1 comment:

  1. An excellent report, Simon. You seem much more involved in your village than I feel down in Mandouki. Maybe I'm still a little disoriented from travel and the first swims of the season. But I have to be off to the mainland immediately after the elections, where I don't even have access to TV.


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Simon Baddeley