THE OPEN SPACES AND SOCIAL/FAMILY STRUCTURE OF MANI PROVIDE PROTECTION FROM COVID-19
Although there are many things unknown regarding the spead of the corona virus, epidemiologists agree that social distancing is very important for our protection. However, social distancing is difficult in cities because of the dense urban living, close proximity in the working enviroment and the urban way of life in general. After the end of the two-month lockdown, the experts were advising the most vulnerable in the population who own homes in their places of origin, in the provinces, to move there. We knowsince the outbreak of the pandemic in March, that sparse population and widely-spaced buildings together with the rest of the measures against corona virus are important protection factors.
Mani is a good example of an area with sparsity of population and buildings. The establishment and the development of the Maniot settlements, particularly during the last five centuries, reflects the lifestyle choices of our ancestors, their love for freedom, their decisions and cultural expressions, as well as the financial and social autonomy of each patriarchal family. Because of all these factors, the residential areas of Mani consist of small, widely-spaced family settlements. The infertile terrain meant that the inhabitants needed to work much harder, extensively cultivating the land, growing crops and raising livestock. The sparsity of settlements meant that with the exception of social communication within each individual family, Maniots rarely had social interactions with others, except for when they jointly undertook activities in times of war and peace.
Specialists tell us that long-term social customs gradually become the norm in the moral code and conduct of each society. According to the science of Sociobiology, some of the social customs that have been practised for centuries, eventually become part of our genetic code. It seems that our ancestors, in addition to protecting and preserving the geographical area where they lived and became distinguished in military operations, they also passed on to us the ability to apply the advantages of scarsity and distancing to today’s conditions.
Because we do not know how long the pandemic will last, it is very difficult to foresee the changes that COVID-19 will bring to the social structure and its effects on the working environment and on the building domain. The big changes that happened in the workplace during the past six months of the pandemic have given us a rough idea of the possibilities that are provided by the sparsity that characterises Mani. We have now discovered that recent advancements in technology provide the opportunity for remote working, teleconferencing and teleteaching (i.e., delivery of lessons, archive research and text study).
The trial period that we recently went through has shown us that there are new roads to be explored, such as exploiting the splendid geophysics and the temperate climate of our area and promoting Mani as an ideal workplace for remote working. Of course, for this to happen, we need first to work on the following infrastructures:
1) improve the road access to Kalamata and Sparta, and through these roads the access to the new motorway that leads to Athens (two such public projects which are to be auctioned soon are the first step in the right direction, although other more extensive technical projects still need to be implemented). Easy access to these cities / bases of operations will allow efficient radial travelling for those who work remotedly either in full-time or in part-time positions and as a result, will be provided with higher quality and more secure working conditions.
2) upgrade computer skills for both students (through the public education system) and also for employees who work in the public and municipal sectors.
3) upgrade the services offered by those who work in the tourist industry, so that tourist income is distributed more fairly to more small businesses. This makes sense because of the compact size of local Maniot hotels.
4) gradually step up the agricultural production through larger cluster organisations so that the agricultural production income sums up with family income that is derived from other sources.
Of course, advocating and realising these development proposals requires fostering and coordinating them by the two main local institutional venues, the municipality of Western Mani and the municipality of Eastern Mani. Unfortunately, during the 20 years that have elapsed since the establishment of these two municipalities, no such long-term measures and projects have been undertaken or initiatives that would substantially improve the future of our area. Neither have the two prefectural administrations until 2010 or, after that, the regional self-government undertaken any worthwhile development public works in our region. Let us hope that the corona virus pandemic and the first auspicious signal by the new administration of the regional government will lead to some new extensive investment projects, like the ones we stated above, and which need to be undertaken in the present circumstances.