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Anthony Strano

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The Goddess Forsakes Greece

Posted: 05/30/2012 3:34 pm

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 things.

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 finishes.

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 hear

an invisible procession going by

with exquisite music, voices,

don't mourn your luck that's failing now,

work gone wrong, your plans

all 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 public sector.

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 ruin.

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 said: "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 person.

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 possibilities.

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 and Odyssey, 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 clearly understood.

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 restored?

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, 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 went first.

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.

 
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