Sunday, 19 July 2015

July 16 - “Greetings from Greece”

(Stars above Lesvos; photo: Eleonora Pouwels)

Sometimes there are nights when you cannot sleep. Last night was such a night. I lay in my bed, I heard the crickets partying in the silent, warm night and realized that I could only catch some sleep if I knew whether next morning I would wake up in Greece, or in a new nation.

I went outside and took a seat under the enormous dome of stars and stared towards the other side, where strings of lights twinkled in Turkey. The only sounds disturbing the quiet night came from never sleeping insects and the gossiping waves on the beach. A beautiful night, though hiding so many things. I took my iPad and opened a newspaper: Greece just had accepted the horse yoke of Europe. I was disappointed. I had hoped that there would arise a new country from the mess Europe has created.

I looked at the stars, which are according to the scientists millions of years old, and I wondered how they would see the earth. Would they care about what happens for example on an island like Lesvos? Or do they just shrug their shiny shoulders, knowing that the Greeks have survived so many things, that they will also survive this crisis.

A star shot through the sky and surprised me - I mean, normally August is the month of the shooting stars - so I forgot to make a wish. I stared over the black sea and heard a motor roaring over the water. Were there refugees out there looking for Europe? The sound became so loud that I knew it must be the port police, who now patrol day and night because those fragile dinghies now launch at all hours of the day and the night.

I looked at the lights in Turkey twinkling like bright stars and wondered how many people there hid in the dark waiting to board the boats and to risk the crossing. The sea looked like the smooth black surface of a skating ring and would not be so difficult to cross, provided that the smugglers put enough petrol in the motor of the boats. Maybe there were dinghies already underway over the dark sea with the Turkish stars shining at their backs and in front the few lights of the northern coast of Lesvos as a landmark where they can find Europe. I wondered if they had also seen the shooting star and found time to make a wish.

The sound of the motor died away on the water and the chirping of the insects took over the silent night. I thought about Athens, under the same stars and wondered if the rioters had already gone home. I thought about Greetings from Greece, a book by the Belgian journalist Bruno Tersago (Groeten uit Griekenland, only available in Dutch), who explains the Greek crisis in clear words, interlacing this story with sad stories about the hard life in the Greek cities. Bruno used to be a blogger from Piraeus who described with great entertainment Greek life, talking about all kinds of things. But he started to write more and more about the politics and when the crisis really hit, his writings became alarmingly sad, highlighting more and more abuses of power. Eventually there was no more laughing about his blogs, his humour drowned in all the sadness; but he did become an expert of the current Greek tragedy.

I wish that for his next book Bruno will go looking for the new society which will be born out if this crisis. How the young people will introduce new kinds of money, expand the use of guerrilla gardening and create alternative trading markets. Years ago this movement started, like in Volos where the TEM is, for a large group of people, now their new money. There also is an increase in interest for the
Bitcoin in Greece, but there are only a few places in Greece where you can pay with this internet money. I try to imagine my going to the local bakery in Molyvos and trying to pay with Bitcoins!

Here on Lesvos, at first sight, you might not see not much of the crisis. And there always is the hope for a good summer season, so that the money can keep on rolling on the island. Although the season started very well, it suddenly fell in like a plum pudding. The Greeks themselves have many reasons to be afraid, but it is the many tourists who have through cowardice annulled their bookings or even not booked at all, because they have listened to journalists who wrote things they made up.

I can assure you that money still comes from the atms, a bit more for the tourists than for the Greeks; I can assure you that the shelves in the supermarkets are full, especially because the Greeks do not have that much money to go on a shopping spree. And anyone who says that the island has become a dangerous place because of the refugees is just scare-mongering: what nonsense!

I look upwards to the Milky Way and the white glow suddenly reminds me of Pope Francis, who in a speech scolded the world leaders because they follow “The dung of the devil”. If the Pope says what so many people have been writing, I know that I am not the only one that is disgusted by Europe. This so-called Union has now shown its real face and I am sad that Greece saw no other solution than to remain in the power of this monster. Aldous Huxley already warned in 1932 for such a phenomenon in Brave New World, which now can be called Europe: a literary nightmare that has become truth.

I look above me, to that incredible old state of stars. How do they manage to remain that long and silent above the world? Then I see another shooting star and this time I respond quickly and make a wish. I am not going to tell you what I wished for, otherwise the wish will not be fulfilled. But I do hope that the refugees will see many more good luck tokens and that they keep on believing in a new future and I also hope that the Greeks, in or out of Europe, will soon find new ways that will bring them to a better future. It is time to clean up the mess Europe created and to deal with the dung of the devil.

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

Friday, 3 July 2015

July 1 – Europe

(The new road to Sigri)

Europe in fact was born in Lebanon, on the Mediterranean Sea, in the city of Tyre, not far from the border with Israel. As Europe comes from the Middle East, I wonder why the European Union doesn't care about the refugees (lots of them coming from Lebanon's neighbour Syria). Daily large numbers of refugees are still reaching the shores of Lesvos (and elsewhere in Greece) and most help is still given by volunteers, amongst them tourists. The locals cannot agree upon a more human way to help them, like a local shelter at Molyvos, and - it is still illegal to provide transport to Mytilini. So still the refugees - young and old, in elegant sandals, old sport shoes and even barefoot - trudge the roads of Lesvos towards the capital, under a merciless sun.

In any case this is an unusual summer for Europe and it looks like it has forgotten where it came from. Europe was named after the daughter of Agenor, king of Tyre. Zeus fell in love with her, changed himself into a sturdy but attractive white bull, made her caress him and when she climbed on his back, he ran away, into the sea and transported her as far as Crete, where he changed back into human shape and married her. Europe was the first queen of Crete.

Zeus abducted her. But now it looks like Europe is under the spell of another god: Plutus, god of wealth and money. He must have enchanted her because Europe has changed a lot. In Dante's Divine Comedy, Plutus guards the fourth ring of hell, where the avaricious and the prodigal have an eternal fight, doomed to start every time all over again. If Dante were to write his masterpiece in our times, I am sure he would classify the politicians as avaricious and the bankers as prodigal.

Zeus, god and master of the sun, rain, thunder and lightning is clearly not amused by the world, because even the weather in Europe is pretty upset. While in West-Europe sudden high temperatures are heating up people's tempers, in Greece it is pleasant, and even hotheaded protesters get cooled down by a local downpour. Clouds seem to be a steady presence in the summer sky and regularly rain clouds try to attack Lesvos from Turkey, with or without a thundering sermon from Zeus. But tourists do not have to worry: the sea is warm, a refreshing breeze dominates the heat and the island is like always a great summer paradise.

But Zeus is worried and just like the nearly daily meetings of European politicians last week, Zeus now daily meets Aphrodite, goddess of love. As there is not much love left in the world, it is time that Aphrodite seduces the politicians, so that they will no longer listen to the greedy Plutus and use more humanity in their acting. The whisperings between Zeus and Aphrodite can be followed live early each night in the western sky, where they operate under their Roman names: Jupiter and Venus. These two planets are holding an emergency meeting, an event which happens only once in a decade.

I have already seen them glittering in the nocturnal sky, Venus brighter than ever next to another bright point in the air, Jupiter, and that's with the sun not even set. The famous Star of Bethlehem was probably the phenomenon, when these two planets are seen so closely juxtaposed to each other, shining like one.
But in reality these planets will never merge, because they are about 670 millions of kilometers away from each other. That they now seem to be so close together is purely an optical illusion.

With the appearance of Jupiter and Venus still fresh in my mind yesterday I drove to Sigri, where they're still busy changing the road. Thanks to removing the road, and widening it at other places, lots of new petrified trees have been found. The finds first get protected by a layer of plaster and in their white covers look like phalluses. But the road has had other remarkable changes since I last drove over it in spring. On some parts they have started to lay black concrete lanes, painted with bright yellow lines. Those lanes reminded me of Jupiter and Venus: they run parallel to each other but then on occasion in parts diverge. But what's remarkable is that both lanes run along each side of the road, leaving a space between which is as wide as six lanes loaded with sand and debris!

Is there an eight-lane road coming between Sigri and Kalloni or are they going to make fancy middle banks, decorated with, for example, petrified trees? It is a big mystery to me what they want with this road. Are they hoping in the future that the Tour the France will start from Sigri and therefore are already building cycle paths or is this road getting enormous emergency lanes at both sides of the road? The best guess is that the road is prepared for the transport of the blades of the gigantic wind turbines that are planned to come in the west.

So it remains very excited what will become of this road and if the already laid concrete lanes will ever get connected. In the sky the lanes of Jupiter and Venus will widen again from after tonight (July 1st). I do hope that by then they will have reached an agreement about the future of Europe. And I do hope that Zeus will use the vindictive god Nemesis to get Europe out of the hands of Plutus, because otherwise he may have to abduct Europe again and make her Queen of Greece.

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

© Smitaki 2015