Athena bestowed wisdom, peace and prosperity to the people not only of Athens, her city,
but to all of Greece. It seems at the moment she has taken time out, because wisdom, peace
and prosperity are quickly evaporating.
There is a phrase that I have heard here often, which comes from ancient Greece:
"Along with Athena, you have to move your hand."
This means that the Divine helps as much as you become responsible. However it seems that
the Greeks' hands have fossilized or have been put behind their backs or they have been
moving them in the wrong direction. The point is Athena is no longer motivated to move
Options, policies and plans are extremely abundant. However, amongst the heaps of piled
opinions the reality of things is emerging: nobody really knows what is going on, no one
really knows what to do, no one really knows where they are going. It is the midnight hour
for Greece. An election that was inconclusive and another one coming up which will almost
certainly prove as inconclusive. Another Trojan Horse is galloping towards a finish that never
No one knows the future although the predictions are many. Possibly it is better to ask
Athena's brother Apollo, as he has the talent to see the future. Mere mortals can only guess,
surmise, speculate, pipe-dream and conjecture, moving in continuous circles where there is
no ascent to another level of comprehension and action.
The situation in Greece reminds me of one of Cavafy's poems. The poem is actually about
Antony losing the city of Alexandria to Octavian. The poem begins at the moment when
Antony feels his protector god, Dionysius, forsaking him. The poem could be applied to the
Greeks and Greece. Here is an extract:
"The god forsakes Antony."
When suddenly, at midnight, you hearan invisible procession going bywith exquisite music, voices,don't mourn your luck that's failing now,work gone wrong, your plansall proving deceptive -- don't mourn them uselessly...and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing."
Desperate people, understandably, grab at the demagogue politicians as the last straw of
hope but simultaneously do not trust them. When no options are available you make the
best of the worst, hope for the best and vote for politicians whose sleight of hand might
do the trick. However, jugglers do their work best in a circus, not in governing a country,
wherever that country may be.
The emerging new parties in Greece are really just that, parties: an illusionary celebration
that is creating gas balloons of hope that can easily burst and definitely will. At its worst time
of crisis in its modern history, the country's leaders cannot cooperate. Instead of trying to
understand each others' point of view they squabble and wrestle for ascendency. A common
vision is only possible when there is a selfless care and concern for people, a spirit of serving
rather than aggrandizing.
Plato said a good decision is based on knowledge not on numbers. At the moment in the
political arena, too many cooks are spoiling the broth. The real problem is the parochial
egos that cannot see or refuse to see the larger picture. The crisis is in ethical principles and
consequently this breeds upheaval in the social, political and economic sphere. They try to
solve the problem from the outside in but the real start is from the inside out, which means
a mindset change, a change in inner structures.
The despotism in both politics and religion with its sense of exclusive superiority, with
its "divine right of authority," has denied the Greek the freedom to think independently
and move with the times. Nepotism based on Byzantine mental structures in its political
and religious systems inevitably propagates a social immobility, which the Greek type of
governance has facilitated over many decades. Plato knew his people very well and said
over two thousand years ago that mishandled democracy leads to despotism. The bridge
between the two is nepotism.
Foreign countries are aiding Greece but mainly to save their own economic necks; there
is no real benign action in most of their policies. However the real culprit is the dinosaurian
Greek state, which is completely out of touch with the true spirit of democracy. Blatant
despotism by church and state has blocked progress, which you find in other countries. Any
system based on favors and obligations, rewards and punishments creates political and
unnatural dependences, which in the long term atrophy the freedom and creativity of the
mind. A state becomes a huge social jelly in which no distinct functioning parts are visible, just a blob of selfish patronage.
Why is it that so many Greeks outside of Greece create wonders and succeed? They are
capable of working very hard, they can be very committed, and they can and do give the
best of themselves. Any real democratic system serving its people creates opportunity and
space -- it does not block, crush nor exploit them, which is so characteristic of the Greek
Figures from The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) state
the Greeks are amongst the hardest workers in the world
, many working 12 hours per day;
however, according to the many hours of work they are also amongst the least productive.
Why? The private sector in Greece, where people do work long hours and, before the
economic crisis, was very large, has to face the public sector of bureaucracy. The legal and
administrative infrastructure of the latter makes efficient production next to impossible.
When the private sector meets the public sector, then the downward spiral begins. The
public sector delays, unequivocally wants constant bribes of various kinds and is notoriously
disorganized. Only very recently the tax offices and other civil offices in Greece started working digitally but in a rather primitive way; enquiries, applications, administrative
processes are often dealt with in an ad hoc manner. How can people hope to succeed? They
need to be deeply self-motivated, which does happen. Other options are: close the business,
which is rife at the moment, play the game, or leave the country.
The European Council has stated it wants Greece to stay in the euro. So do most Greeks.
How can this be viable?
Christine Lagard , director of IMF, says that Greece is inconsistent. She goes on to say quite
belligerently that more tax needs to and must be collected. Maybe so but from whom?
Already the middle class and poorer people are bled and the lower middle class is becoming
a dying race. Again it is not the foreign agencies to be blamed, although their demands and
judgments demonstrate very, very little understanding. Ultimately Greece's welfare is not
their responsibility; it's totally on the shoulders of the elected government. The reality is
that inside the country there has been for decades a constant travesty of justice and total
disregard for integrity. Get away with what you can, as much as you can, whenever you
can has been the motto and the practice of many. Cheating and cunning became esteemed
codes of behavior. Of course not everyone is like this. There are many, many with integrity,
but the higher you go up the social rank the more dishonesty is prevalent.
People are waking up to the empty rhetoric of their politicians. The rhetoric of Greek
politicians is famous from the days of Alcibiades who lived at the time of Plato and Socrates.
Alcibiades was from Athens, defected to Sparta, then defected to Persia then back to
Athens. As politician and strategist he advocated the Sicilian Expedition which proved
one of the greatest disasters for Athens. Plato actively disliked democracy as practiced in
Athens, for it did not recognize the worth of enlightened individuals like Socrates. In fact the
Athenian governing body even ordered his death. On the other hand, they could be deluded
by a statesman like Alcibiades who eventually brought the resources of the city to complete
Of course such political phenomena are by no means exclusive to Greece. It is just that
Greece has a rich tradition of ethical codes and principles dating from its ancient past,
whether Hellenic or Christian, that one expects something better from such a place of
deep wisdom. Maybe it is a wrong expectation because possibly even in Socrates' time the
majority did not use the abundant and diverse wisdom of their own culture.
Coming to the 21st century George W Bush most probably meant it as a joke when he
: "You can fool some of the people all the time and they are the ones you want to
concentrate on." However, even jokes are based on silent truths. Doesn't party politics work
like this in every country? Eventually some scandal inevitably breaks the mirage and the
deception is seen. Unfortunately though, it repeats again, sometimes even with the same
Let's return to Socrates in ancient Athens. He used precise questions to break through
deceptive thought. He showed how one can be fooled by ideas or statements that really
have no meaning. He felt it was the responsibility of the individual to understand the
plausibility of ideas and norms presented. Via inquiry, reflection, and dialogue Socrates tried
to get the Greeks to evaluate the truth of things. He asked basic questions that would help
them to clear their thinking. The questions in essence pivoted on the following:
What does it mean to know? Where does the right knowing come from? What am I really
believing in, why am I believing it? Why I am doing something? Where am I going with this
way of thinking and doing? Why do I want to achieve a particular goal?
These fundamental questions would be very useful and practical for the Greeks and all
Europeans of today. Such questions facilitate a clear honesty with one's self. Not an honesty
that condemns, but an honesty that liberates from guilt, fear, blaming and releases new
This is spirituality. People often think that spirituality is not practical. But what could be
more practical than learning to be honest, showing respect, inventiveness and appreciating
difference? Courage is needed to reflect and question ourselves. The solutions for wellbeing
are with us: by examining our motives, our belief systems and the coherence of our values
and behavior. The rot is from within and that is where we have start. No use to keep blaming
external factors. It's time for Europe to self-evaluate.
In Greece a crisis was waiting to happen. It happened and now there is chaos. From the
chaos more chaos is emerging because most people are trying to fix the rotten limbs of
an old tree instead of concentrating on a new seed -- the seed of new possibilities, which is
cultivated by inquiry, fresh alignment to principles, and challenging the accustomed. The
limbs of the tree have not only rotted, they have fossilized. The policies, plans of politics are
trying to activate a fossil ... it cannot work.
What made Greece great in the distant past? Why do many people feel nostalgia about
ancient Greece? The one distinctive characteristic was the ability to reflect deeply, which is
why so many creative perspectives and understandings came in medicine, arts, philosophy,
mathematics, architecture. The Olympic Games which are happening in London this year
came from the Hellenic spirit to try to overcome conflict and create peace and unity through
sport. In honor of Zeus the Father of gods and people, the Games were played. The athletes
did not participate to glorify themselves but for something beyond than themselves: for the
principles of Harmony, Peace, and Friendship.
At the beginning of his great epic poems, The Iliad
, Homer implored the Muse
to guide his tongue as his spoke. That awareness of the Divine Presence, of something
beyond one's self that could assist the success of a task was a great motivator. In ancient
Greek tragedy hubris, the selfishness of the parochial self was depicted as a major reason
for chaos, both personally and collectively. Hubris, as the Achilles heel of human beings, was
The individual and society can find new life once the blinkers of the little self are removed.
In one's own soul are the blueprints for recovery. Here we find not just one seed but
many fresh seeds. Until this spiritual dimension is resurrected how can social wellbeing be
Spirituality is not imposed, not dogmatic, ritualistic nor full of illusionary privileges. It is
a space of personal awareness where the person and society are aligned to the original
selfless principles, such as generosity, respectfulness, integrity, friendship, equality,
happiness. The new solutions are not primarily in politics and economics but are first found
in spiritual awareness. The quality of systems such as politics, religion, and economy manifest
accordingly to the extent of their alignment to those principles. The lesser the alignment the
greater the chaos.
Spirituality as a social vehicle of change is practical and necessary. The understanding and
personal application of spiritual principles to relationships, commerce, politics, religion,
technology facilitates betterment. Otherwise, as the famous song, goes "Parole, parole,
At the moment global politics is full of parole, parole: words, words, promises that deceive.
However, deceptions cannot last, it is a matter of time before they are revealed. The depth
of a crisis reveals the depth of the deception. Apollo the far-sighted god of the Greeks,
declares it should be clear this crisis is not only a Greek phenomenon, all countries and
people will eventually face something similar. Greece, being the oldest in Europe, simply
From what I have heard, in a short time Athena is coming back fully armed with the wisdom
to contend all these delusive promises and policies.