Κατηγορία: 2018 MAIN ARTICLES IN ENGLISH

PELOPONNESE DEVELOPMENT CONGRESS:  GLOOMY OUTLOOK FOR MANI

The Development Congress of the Peloponnese Administrative Region took place in Tripoli in February 2018. It was the 10th of thirteen (13) congresses that are supposed to take place in the capital of each Greek administrative region. These congresses are organised by the Ministry of Development and Finance together with each region. According to the government, the goal of these congresses is the in-depth investigation of the production capacity of each region and  the drafting of a coherent implementation plan for economic reconstruction. This was supposed to happen through consultation during the work of the Congress, resulting in establishing a road map of procedures according to the priorities set out in the “National Development Strategy 2021” and the initiatives that have already been planned or developed, thus marking the transition from the economic crisis to the equitable development for the region.

The generalities of targets and goals, as described above, have probably been set vague on purpose, so that personal interests are promoted through unclear statements and development congresses. During the three days of the Congress in Tripoli, the vague speeches of the ministers and the pretentious public statements made at press conferences by central and local government politicians did not lead to any conclusions and were definitely not conducive to triggering a process of regional development. The speeches of the local politicians, shortened to fit the timelines of the Congress, did not contribute anything essential to the Congress, as they were supposed to do. There was also no provision for statements of case or pleadings to be submitted. Two months after the conclusion of the Congress and the ensuing discussions, recommendations and suggestions, there has been no progress.

   In order to achieve a proportionate and equitable development among all Greek administrative regions, the development budget needs to be divided equitably. Based on fixed data, such as the population, the area and the number of dwellings, which have been determined by the Hellenic Statistical Authority, stable allocation guidelines of the available resources could be established. Realistic projections of the central and the regional budget could be established and communicated to the relevant organisations and agencies, for further action. If this procedure were to be followed, allocation of funds would be a lot more efficient and political/personal gains would be reduced.

   Once more, our region was left by the wayside by the Peloponnese Region Development Congress. Mani’s needs, even after the considerable tourist development of the last decades, once more were not taken into account. As a matter of fact, not even one of the proposed projects or procedures addressed our area! It seems that being ignored by the state and by the regional public investment programs has become business as usual. A quick glance at the official data provided by the Hellenic Statistical Authority proves this injustice. If the allocation of the development funds were done in a fair way, i.e. taking into account the population, the area and  the number of dwellings, Mani (Eastern and Western) should receive 4,4% of the total regional public investment funds for the Peloponnese  (we arrived at the 4,4% percentage by taking into account the following data: a) total population of the Peloponnese 577.903 inhabitants and of Mani 19.950 inhabitants, b) total number of dwellings of the Peloponnese 411.462, and of Mani 22.692 and c) total area of the Peloponnese 21.550 km2 and of Mani 913,3 km2). It is obvious to anyone who has even a passing familiarity with Mani and its villages, that for many decades the investment funds allocated to our area do not even amount to 1/3 of the 4,4% that our area is entited to according to an equitable distribution of the development resources.

The recent Peloponnese Development Congress is tangible proof of the long-term negative attitude of politicians towards Mani. It is now left up to Maniots and philo-Maniots, who care about our area’s development, to carefully evaluate the above data and take action accordingly. We would like to stress once more, that injustices of this kind are not to be dealt by using with personal gain politics, but with common rallying and organisation of the considerable Mani human resources.

THE TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF OUR NEWSPAPER “MANIOT SOLIDARITY”

 

The beginning

In 1999, when the members of our association decided to publish this newspaper, they had no idea of how difficult the undertaking would be. However, the will of those of us, who decided to volunteer our free time so that our love for Mani could be expressed through the newspaper, was stronger than the difficulties that we would be facing. For all of these years, our course of action was guided by researching and publishing those historical elements that constitute the heritage of our heroic ancestors; we also tried to connect these elements to today’s needs and to the prospects for the future, a future that we would like to be as bright as possible for our children and for future generations.

 

In our very first issue, we presented our professional ethics, which have remained the same in the twenty years that have passed. These values are also reflected in the title of our newspaper: “MANIOT SOLIDARITY”. We all know that for many centuries the primitive custom of family scores and blood feuds prevailed in our area. This inhumane custom caused long-running conflicts and constant agitation in the Maniot society. It is a blessing that during the last decades this custom has disappeared, at least in the form of revenge killings. It is not certain that the societal and biological substrate that caused these blood feuds has also disappeared. This mentality, expressed as suspicion and resentment, leads to selfish perceptions and makes a meeting of minds impossible. However, the reconciliation of different positions and the finding of common ground are absolutely necessary for the development and prosperity of the region. Our goal is to help bring Maniots together, so that we can together showcase those elements that make our area unique. The geophysical characteristics of our region, our cultural monuments, the great climate and the spontaneous hospitality of Maniots are timeless characteristics that attract many visitors. If Maniots decide to stand in solidarity and support each other, the disastrous divisions that we have seen, and which have cost our area more than the blood feuds of the past, will become less frequent. These divisions continue to hinder the efforts necessary for the development of our area.

 

The course of action

The phases of our long publishing journey were not always smooth or without problems. Because of the common efforts of the members and directors of our association, we managed to overcome them. In addition to the steady publication of our monthly newspaper, we went further in our editorial goals. We ventured into the publishing of several books on Mani, such as:  “Guide to Tourist Investments”; “Vignettes from the History of Mani”, volume 1; the booklet “Western Mani: 20 Sightseeing Spots Starting at the Boundary at Kalamata”; and “Travel Routes” (Outer, Lower, Inner Mani and Bardunia) with detailed references to all settlements. Last year, in response to today’s digital era expectations, we upgraded our website www.maniatiki.gr by adding a lot of data about Mani and many articles and editorials from our newspaper. The high number of Maniot and philo-Maniot visitors to our website proves the necessity of our most recent undertaking.

 

The future prospects

We believe that our moral obligation towards Mani does not end here. We will continue with further work, such as the publication of the second volume of the book “Vignettes from the History of Mani”, which will bring us to the years relating to the preparations for the revolution of 1821. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the publication of our newspaper “MANIOT SOLIDARITY” and always loyal to our original goals, we are also in the process of finalising plans for additional initiatives to be undertaken in the near future.

 

We would like to end this article with the following excerpt from the editorial of the first issue of our newspaper in April 1999, with a message which is still relevant today: “The publication of this newspaper will fill a void. Mani is characterised by sparse populations and long distances between villages. The infertile soil and the need for employment as well as the civil wars have forced a large percentage of Maniots to immigrate either to other Greek regions or abroad. However, the main characteristics of our ancestors are still present in their genes, particularly the love for our country and everything that is related to our home region, such as its institutions, the occupational activities of its inhabitants, its prospects for the future and its prosperity. Maniots are indeed an integral part of Mani, and based on strong common roots, they have succeeded in developing common attitudes and have accomplished some of the most glorious achievements in the history of our country. Through the newspaper that we are now launching, we will try to showcase all relevant facts, so that the younger generations will also learn about the basic principles, attitudes and lifestyles of their ancestors. Hopefully today’s young Maniots will also be inspired by their glorious common past and they will firmly move forward and face the future by adopting strong joint undertakings.”

HISTORIC AWARENESS AND MANIOTS OF FUTURE GENERATIONS

A development which has been taking place in Mani for the past two decades has brought not only financial gains to our region, but also new practices and mindsets. These are the customs and mentalities of both visitors/tourists and of new settlers. As long as these new characteristics are in harmony with our own culture, they are welcome. However, when these new customs are not in harmony with our values, then there is the danger that the local culture and the specific nature of Mani (the particular character of the area), which is the product of many generations of Maniots practising the same customs and cultural norms, will change drastically. In order to avert this risk, coordinated actions of the whole region are needed; unfortunately, this kind of initiative has not as yet been undertaken. The question now is: how many people are aware of these risks, and even more important, how many local people are willing to undertake action in order to preserve the Maniot culture?

It is hopeful for the region that according to the prebookings for the Greek tourist season of 2018, there will be an increase of 10% in tourists. Some of these visitors will visit Mani, which means increased business in our area. The beauty of our natural environment and the welcoming nature of Maniots are well known and do not need to be praised in our column. However, what would really help local entrepreneurs is if first-time visitors became repeated visitors to Mani and if they advertised our region to friends and acquaintances. It is certain that visitors would enjoy their stay in Mani more, if they were to get to know our cultural monuments through quality foreign-language publications on our cultural heritage and through well-documented guided tours. The same can be said about the local cuisine and local food ingredients. Some progress has already been made in these areas, but these are mostly isolated actions that need to be grouped together and systematised. The long-term preservation of the main characteristics of our area (i.e., nature, climate, cultural heritage, history) needs stronger coordinated action across the whole region of Mani.

A small tour of our villages reveals very different demographics than thirty (30) years ago. In some villages the new settlers are more numerous than Maniots. The question now is the following: which culture and lifestyle are going to prevail? The local culture that was developed many centuries ago or the culture of the new settlers? This issue is crucial, particularly for the indigenous inhabitants who believe in Mani and our heroic ancestors and have spoken in public about these issues. These people in particular should look for innovative ideas and suggestions, so that they can support the preservation of the local culture not only with words, but also with actions, which might require some small personal sacrifice.

The new residents of our region can generally be divided into two large groups: a) those who come from countries with a high level of civilisation, particularly from western European counties, and b) those who started coming to Greece after the collapse of the former Eastern Bloc, thirty (30) years ago; these economic migrants continued to arrive in Mani for twenty (20) years after the fall of the communist block. This flow only stopped with the Greek economic crisis. In spite of the economic crisis, many of the economic migrants stayed in our country, and most of them have now become permanent residents. Their children were born and raised here.

The first group of the new inhabitants of Mani (citizens of western European nations) already had a lot of knowledge about our area before they settled here; actually, most of them settled here exactly because of this knowledge. The second group, however, (the economic migrants from the former Eastern block) had very little knowledge about our area; even today, they have learned very little about Mani, because the constant struggle for survival leaves them with little time for anything else. Both of these groups are characterised by a general lack of interest in acquiring more knowledge about the Maniot culture and our heroic traditions. The children of these new residents might attend regular public Greek schools, however, even these children who were born in Greece, do not learn about Maniot culture. There is no formal teaching of the local culture, and in the few schools where this teaching takes place, it is incomplete and uncoordinated.

This last thought brings us to the following crucial question: how much knowledge about Mani, its culture and its history will the inhabitants of Mani of the next one or two generations have? Have the leaders of the municipalities of our area reflected at all on this issue? If they have, should they not be coordinating their actions, so that they can draft and implement long-term integral-type programs, which year after year will promote the cultural identity of our area to present and future generations? Should they not be promoting , the whole range of our local culture, from our dietary habits to the local Maniot mores, customs and traditions based on past entitlement?

We are leaving these questions unanswered, in the hope that some enlightened local leader might be moved by this editorial and undertake some belated action.…

A CRUCIAL QUESTION FOR THE FUTURE OF MANI:  COMMON RALLYING OR PERSONAL GAIN?

Recent developments have proven  that decisions and projects about the future of Mani are made or cancelled without consulting its inhabitants. The following three incidents prove this observation:

1) At a meeting of the Economic Committee of the Region of Peloponnesus, councillors voted against the proposal for public tender of the road that would join the village of Milea in Western Mani to the Monastery of Panagia Giatrissa on the ridge of Taygetos and from there to the road network of Eastern Mani. This particular road is the second provincial road of the Messinia Prefecture and according to a royal decree was designated as a “first priority” road already in 1955! The Peloponnese Region politicians who have been elected since 2010, instead of apologising to the Maniots for the 60-year state delay in proceeding with the construction of the road, which will finally connect Western to Eastern Mani through theTaygetos mountain range, they have tried to cancel this project! Even worse, some “minority” councillors tried to change the designation of this road as a “first priority” road, and they proposed the transfer of the funds, which since 2013 had been deposited by the Ministry of Development  to the Regional Peloponnese Fund, to another project! On the other hand, the “majority” councillors, instead of apologising for the four-year delay between the assignment of the state credit and the approval of the tendering documents , they presented the bringing forward of the project as a great achievement.

2) In 2005 the Ministry of Infrastructure ordered the study of the national road Sparta-Gytheion.  This study has not yet been completed, although since then, the road Scoura-Pyri, which bypasses Sparta, has been completed and therefore the scope of the study has been reduced. We believe that this project should be given a “first priority” status, as it is beneficial for the whole area of Mani, and particularly the eastern part of the region. We believe that it is crucial that this study gets completed as soon as possible, so that this project can then be incorporated into in the current Community Support Framework. This has still not happened, although almost fifteen years have passed since the decision for commissioning the above study. Since then, five or six different governments have been elected, and Maniots could have voted for the ones that would have moved the above project forward. Maniots might be few, but still, when they act in solidarity, they can get results!

3) Recently the forest maps for the region of Mani were partially approved. During the first six months of 2017 we reported on many injustices caused by these maps, as compiled by the Forest Registry, and the protests of many Maniot landowners who were negatively affected. We reported on meetings of the landowners with those responsible, and we also reported that protests by local municipalities would be submitted. Then, during the last six months of 2017 there was no further action. What happened? Those of us who believe that it is ethical and legal to declare the truth about the status of private properties that had become forested because they had not been cultivated, were we wrong? Why was this proposal not considered? Were Maniots not able to defend this proposal or once again were they divided and could not come up with a clear statement?

Under the present circumstances, the trend for development, which is supported by the specific climatic, geophysical and cultural characteristics of our area, will always be halted because of the lack of state funding. A low index of development in Mani will also mean weak development in the private sector similar to the mid-term development of our country and stagnation, disappointment and frustration on the part of local business people. Low development will negatively affect entrepreneurship, labour market, real estate and our everyday life in general, and it will crush the hopes of the new generations.  If all Maniots do not mobilise and do not commit themselves to unite and demand what is rightfully due to them, the stagnation of public funding in our area, which has been going on for the past twenty years, will continue. Only common action can bring a development proportionate to the potential of our region. The crucial question is: are we going to internalise this reality or are we going to continue acting according to narrow-mindedness and short-term personal interest?

 …

LOCAL, NATIONAL AND GLOBAL CONSCIENCE

Times are getting harder. Individualism is on the rise and is often expressed through aggression. It is obvious that, although aggression is no longer necessary for survival and many centuries have passed since it was, violence has still not been eradicated. Social solidarity and the need to jointly address individual challenges have still not become common place. There is a need to tackle these issues, and the situation can only be improved through conscious efforts and actions of all citizens.

   Local, national and global conscience are three components of the same basic concept: the individual is part of the global human community. This is why the aforementioned three kinds of conscience and all resulting actions need to be closely coordinated. When this happens, progress is faster and the benefits are universal. If there is lack of coordination, any benefits are short-lived and ineffective. This has been proven many times throughout history.

Local conscience has the advantage that any changes and benefits can be easily observed and measured because of the small area involved. Anyone who wants to study the developments and the results of actions based on local conscience can easily do so. Of course, there is also the false local conscience, which is practised by individuals whose main goal is personal interest. False local conscience can be detected in a relatively short time, because of the lack of progress and positive developments for the common good.

National conscience is an extension of the local conscience: people who feel that they possess the same genetic, linguistic and cultural characteristics have made a conscious decision to follow a common path. Thus, it is as if an informal democratic “contract” has been signed by these people, which binds not only them, but also their descendants, to stay on common course. National conscience is very closely related to social conscience because of the undertaking of each of the members  to serve the others in their group towards a common goal.

As with the false local conscience, there is also the false national-societal conscience, which is also practised by individuals who do not possess this trait and are only interested in personal gain. Again, the false national-societal conscience can be detected, but in a relatively longer time, mainly because of lack of any positive results. In false national-societal conscience, any “benefits” are not usually for the common good and bring with them damage and harm. Unfortunately, it has also been proven that people who brag about their selfless actions, which they claim are based on their national-societal conscience, often do not possess any such conscience, and their motives are directed only by selfishness and personal interest. On the contrary, people who truly act on their national-societal conscience, usually do so quietly and their actions bring beneficial developments to the whole of the particular national-societal group.

The fact that all humans inhabit the same planet is the foundation of global conscience. The concept seems to go back to the archaic era, and is based on common characteristics between people who have the same national-societal conscience and who espouse commonly-accepted human values. Far-right and extremist groups value national conscience much more than pan-human conscience and place narrow-minded national interests above the interests of the global humanity as a whole. Populist politics create numerous dangers and impede global progress. Dangers include wars and other similar adverse developments caused by short-sighted nationalism. These policies bring some short-term “benefits”, but mid- to long-term calamities.

   The humanity of man is the foundation of the local, the national-societal and the global conscience. The societies which progress the most are those which go beyond the narrow local and national-societal conscience and have espoused global conscience instead. It is the moral duty of each member of society to reflect and act upon their conscience, using their abilities to promote the common good and with their actions contribute to the progress of the humanity as a whole.

 

   As a New Year wish for 2018, we would like to wish the Maniot and philo-Maniot readers of our newspaper to act upon their local, national and global conscience and contribute to human progress with their particular strengths and talents.

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