Until recently the street forum (ρούγα) and the elders’ council (γεροντική) were two very important institutions in Mani. Their importance came from their structure and their mode of operation. At the street forum, everyday events relating to the members of the community as well as other events were analysed, opinions were exhanged and objections were raised. Usually at the end, after the sythesis of all points of view, an agreement was reached. At the elders’ council more important affairs were discussed, i.e. those which affected the balance of the community as a whole. The elders’ council consisted of representatives from each family in the community, usually the older members, and was a form of governance within the autonomous system of Mani. As at the street forum, at the elders’ council decisions were also made after the synthesis of all viewpoints, however, this institution also had executive powers.  These two institutions (the street forum and the elders’ council) were practised for centuries, because they operated in the following integrated way: expressing opinions – objections – broad debate – comprehensive decision.

   Immigration and technology were the reasons why these two traditional institutions gradually became weakened and eventually ceased to exist. As a result of immigration, the number of people who participated in the street forum of each village became smaller and smaller and decisions became less and less comprehensive in nature. New technology, such as radio first and television later, meant that people moved from the street to the coffee house (καφενείο)[1] and later, once they had their own radio or television, to their own home. Τhe elders’ council declined and was gradually replaced by municipal government and the first courts of the modern Greek state. However, some elements of the street forum and the elders’ council survived in later years in the social relations between various Maniot municipalities.

The coup de grâce to these two long-standing institutions came a few years ago. Internet became the absolute tool of multi-information, not only for current, but also for past events. Social media, and in particular Facebook, established new communications on many levels among their users. We are now at the phase of building multi-communication through new technology. However, these new technologies lack some basic elements of the older “social media” (the street forum and the elders’ council). We believe that these missing elements cannot be addressed by new technology, and this is why no comprehensive results can be achieved.

Communication through the modern social media means lack of immediacy – the participants are not physically present, and they communicate in isolation, usually in their home. Technology can only partially and poorly replace the sound and movement or the local atmosphere of the area, the local problems of which are debated upon. Of course, in the future new advancements in technology might achieve a closer personal approach, however, we believe that they will never be able to entirely reach the effectiveness of face-to-face communication.

The above-mentioned differences between old and new social media have a profound impact on today’s society. They bring about social isolation, they decrease the desire for undertaking joint actions, and they replace quality with quantity of human interaction. They lead to tendencies that eventually weaken long-standing institutions that were established as a result of complicated, lengthy and painful procedures. This weakening starts at the lower social institution, the family, and it permeates through all the higher ones: it affects the common interests of the local municipality, the common interests of citizens with common ethnic roots and origin, and finally the common interests of the members of alliances between countries.

Unfortunately, these tendencies have also appeared in the cradle of the time-honoured social media, our area Mani. It is easy to observe today’s laxity here, because Mani is a small area. Of course, there are other reasons for this slackness, except for those given above. However, here the danger of weakening long-standing institutions is greater because of the sparse population. In our region, effectively responding to these problems can only happen through a very strong desire for social clustering and co-operation. Our ancestors were able to find effective solutions every time there was a need. Are we able to find effective solutions and carry them through?

[1] at the beginning there was only one radio (and later one television) at the village καφενείο

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