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Friday, 21 August 2015

Agiotfest 2015

For a seventh year my friend Paul McGovern runs his music festival at Agios Ioannis in the centre of Corfu...

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This is a quote from page 12 of the first chapter - The Ploys of Cunning - from the the 1978 book by the French scholars Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant called Les ruses de l’intelligence: la mètis des Grecs, translated later into English...

Antilochus won by skill, or trickery or cheating; cunning or...?
With this the horses, responding to his threat, speeded up for a while, and soon the steadfast Antilochus saw a narrow place in the sunken road ahead, where a stream swollen by winter rain had eroded the track and hollowed out the course. Menelaus drove on assuming no one could overtake, but Antilochus veered alongside, almost off the track. Then Menelaus called to him, in alarm: ‘Rein in Antilochus, that’s recklessness! The track’s wider further on. Pass there if you can, mind my chariot, don’t wreck us both!’ He shouted loud enough, but Antilochus, pretending not to hear, plied his whip and drove the more wildly. They ran side by side a discus length, as far as a young athlete testing his strength can hurl it from the shoulder, then Menelaus held back, and his pair gave way, fearing the teams might collide and overturn the light chariots, hurling their masters in the dust, for all their eagerness to win. Red-haired Menelaus stormed at Antilochus: ‘You’re a pest Antilochus, we Achaeans credited you with more sense. All the same, you’ll not win a prize, when I force you to answer on oath to this.’ The Iliad Bk XXIII:362-447 The chariot race
I was at Euston Station at 9.15pm on Thursday when I saw - for seconds - on a big Sky screen above the concourse, the news that Tsipras had resigned...

So for the third time in eight months, Greece will hold a national vote. In late January after SYRIZA won a famous victory their new leader proclaimed 'the future has begun' telling the electorate...
"You are an example of history which is changing... Your mandate is undoubtedly cancelling the bailouts of austerity and destruction...The troika for Greece is the thing of the past"
Then this June Tsipras won a 'No' referendum testing the population's  opinion of the terms of the third bail-out demanded by EU finance ministers - the third Memorandum of Understanding. Accounts suggest the result astonished him, and many others. Now Tsipras calls a third election -Sunday Sept 20th I've read - gambling on a good chance of winning again, despite the inevitable break-away from SYRIZA of MPs who see his acceptance of the third memorandum as a betrayal...and, the unlikely possibility, that, as the Greek constitution requires, other political parties are able to command sufficient majority in the Hellenic parliament to form a government without an election...Yannis Varoufakis, Finance minister of Greece, still an MP, resigned from the government over his former colleague's acceptance of the third Memo...
'Tsipras made a decision on that night of the referendum not only to surrender to the troika but also to implement the terms of surrender on the basis that it is better that a progressive government implement terms of surrender that it despises than leave it to the local stooges of the troika, who would implement the same terms of surrender with enthusiasm...This mutation I have already witnessed. Those in our party/government who underwent it, then turned against those who refused to mutate, the result being a split in the party that our people, the courageous voters who voted No, did not deserve'
Long ago I learned why 'many-travelled' Odysseus 'turning one way, then the next' has a special place in the pantheon of Greek heroes - renowned for his brilliance, guile, and versatility - polytropos πολυτρόπως - known by the epithet Odysseus the Cunning (mētis μῆτις - cunning intelligence). Richard Pine wrote in March:
Cunning is integral to Greek integrity, hence the disfavour it incurs from Anglo- and Teutonic mindsets...Greece is playing the game of her life, and how she plays the game despite holding a folding hand, will determine the history of the coming future. Being geographically small, Greece and Greeks value the classical merit of cunning - the talent of metis, referring in Greek to wisdom or craft or nous, and to the goddess of wisdom and prudence - η Μήτις. Cunning in Hellenic culture stands higher than it does in ours (tho' Greeks have seen perfidious Albion as a mirror). We are more wary of cunning. It can be ruefully respected, but also detested - no part of our understanding of integrity. Of necessity it's different in Greece.
Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant published a book in 1978 called Les ruses de l’intelligence: la mètis des Grecs, translated in 1991 as Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society.
...There is no doubt that mêtis is a type of intelligence and of thought, a way of knowing; it implies a complex but very coherent body of mental attitudes and intellectual behaviour which combine flair, wisdom, forethought, subtlety of mind, deception, resourcefulness, vigilance, opportunism, various skills, and experience acquired over the years. It is applied to situations which are transient, shifting, disconcerting and ambiguous, situations which do not lend themselves to precise measurement, exact calculation or rigorous logic...

One critic of the original book wrote on
La métis, c'est le flair, la connaissance oblique et tordue qui permet de comprendre une situation. Une forme d'intelligence pratique, non analytique. C'est le contraire du savoir théorique, la sophia. C'est l'esprit de finesse opposé à l'esprit de géométrie.
Detienne et Vernant nous présentent cette forme d'intelligence pratique au travers de l'histoire des dieux dans la mythologie grecque. C'est une lecture utile à une époque où nous sommes dirigés par des crânes d'oeufs qui prétendent appliquer leurs théories partout et en tout lieu sans se soucier du contexte et de la réalité.
...from p.16 of Detienne's and Vernant's book...

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Like the serpent that wrapped itself around Laocoön...well not really. Our wisteria, ever ready to turn feral, had tangled itself up with our balcony and wind vane - the one designed by my stepfather showing two dogs, Genie the whippet and Sukie the Jack Russell - we owned long ago, brought to Greece from mum's home in the Highlands, but Mark saw the problem and sorted it and phoned us from Ano Korakiana an exquisite image of the sky as blue as her flag over the sky of beloved Greece...
208 Democracy Street (photo: Mark Jacks)

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Simon Baddeley