2017 MAIN ARTICLES IN ENGLISH

JUNE 2017

LET US CREATE HARMONY AMONG INDIVIDUAL – FAMILY – COMMUNITY – STATE

The four concepts Individual – Family – Community – State are full of nuances and semantics, which were acquired during the long journey in the development of societal groups. In some societies, these concepts co-exist harmoniously and complement each other, while in other societies the relationship between these concepts is either underdeveloped or exaggerated. According to the science of Sociology, only harmonious relations between people lead to strong states with prosperous citizens. In Greece, the lack of harmony between Individual – Family – Community and the State is one of the main causes of the present lengthy economic crisis. This means that the fundament of the crisis is basically sociological. If we could pinpoint what leads to co-operation or lack thereof between the above groups (Individual – Family – Community – State), then we could have a first understanding of how to plot a course out of the present economic crisis.

If we examine the social development of the other European countries, we notice that Greece missed the transition from Middle Ages to Renaissance, a transition very important to western European nations. Greece experienced the Middle Ages during  the later years of the constantly declining Byzantine Empire, followed immediately by subjugation by a barbaric occupying power (the Turks). We did not experience the economic necessity that led the other European states from feudalism to monarchy, which is the first step towards the ethnogenic phase with the ultimate formation of separate independent states. Centuries of Renaissance and social revolutions, which followed the formation of social classes, strengthened the state administration, so that it could safeguard not only the external security but also the individual rights of its citizens. In this way, slowly and gradually, the harmonious rapport among  Individual – Family – Community – State was forged, a formula that led to the prosperity of these states.

In our country, during the Turkish occupation the state was a foreign conqueror. Subjugation stifled social development and restricted the harmonious rapport among only three of the four groups in the title of this article (Individual – Family – Community). It is a blessing that the relation between Individual – Family – Community was strong. This is an advantage, when we compare our country to western European nations. Unfortunately, it is not enough of an advantage to reverse the existing poor rapport of the above three groups to the state. The fact that for the last 200 years our state is not foreign, but our own, has not reversed the mentality of the previous 400 years, which is still deeply rooted in Greek people. It is possible that the economic crisis with its ensuing hardship will finaly lead to a change in mentality.

In a strong state, the leaders are elected according to democratic processes, and the finances are based on economic activity as well as on fair taxation of the different social classes. Such a state provides security for its citizens and is able to deal with most external or internal problems. In such a state, the rapport between Individual – Family – Community – State is more harmonious. In case of conflict between the above groups, these states are able to revert to harmony in a relatively short time.

This is the kind of state that we need. We, its citizens, are the only ones who can achieve this goal; however, we need to internalise first that the state is not a foreign entity. It is ours, it belongs to us, since we are the ones who elect our leaders according to democratic processes. It is even more important for us to internalise that since the state is ours, we are obliged to obey to the laws. Even when our leaders do not act accordingly to their pre-election promises, we can criticise them, but we need to wait for the right time (the elections) to replace them and thus punish them.

In our region, Mani, from the time of our ancestors, the bonds between Individual – Family – Community were exceptionally close. In addition, our ancestors understood the necessity for the creation of an independent modern Greek state, and they willingly and selflessly led the struggle for indepenence. They did this, although occupation was not as hard in our area, since Mani had the privilege of local autonomy. In the present difficult times, we need to learn from our ancestors and finally develop a genuine rapport to our state. Harmony with the state can be achieved not only by careful selection of our representatives during election time, but also by our adherence to the laws. In this way, we too will contribute to fostering a harmonious rapport of Individual – Family – Community – State, which will be an important step in the development of our area.

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

 

 

LET US CREATE HARMONY AMONG INDIVIDUAL – FAMILY – COMMUNITY – STATE

The four concepts Individual – Family – Community – State are full of nuances and semantics, which were acquired during the long journey in the development of societal groups. In some societies, these concepts co-exist harmoniously and complement each other, while in other societies the relationship between these concepts is either underdeveloped or exaggerated. According to the science of Sociology, only harmonious relations between people lead to strong states with prosperous citizens. In Greece, the lack of harmony between Individual – Family – Community and the State is one of the main causes of the present lengthy economic crisis. This means that the fundament of the crisis is basically sociological. If we could pinpoint what leads to co-operation or lack thereof between the above groups (Individual – Family – Community – State), then we could have a first understanding of how to plot a course out of the present economic crisis.

If we examine the social development of the other European countries, we notice that Greece missed the transition from Middle Ages to Renaissance, a transition very important to western European nations. Greece experienced the Middle Ages during  the later years of the constantly declining Byzantine Empire, followed immediately by subjugation by a barbaric occupying power (the Turks). We did not experience the economic necessity that led the other European states from feudalism to monarchy, which is the first step towards the ethnogenic phase with the ultimate formation of separate independent states. Centuries of Renaissance and social revolutions, which followed the formation of social classes, strengthened the state administration, so that it could safeguard not only the external security but also the individual rights of its citizens. In this way, slowly and gradually, the harmonious rapport among  Individual – Family – Community – State was forged, a formula that led to the prosperity of these states.

In our country, during the Turkish occupation the state was a foreign conqueror. Subjugation stifled social development and restricted the harmonious rapport among only three of the four groups in the title of this article (Individual – Family – Community). It is a blessing that the relation between Individual – Family – Community was strong. This is an advantage, when we compare our country to western European nations. Unfortunately, it is not enough of an advantage to reverse the existing poor rapport of the above three groups to the state. The fact that for the last 200 years our state is not foreign, but our own, has not reversed the mentality of the previous 400 years, which is still deeply rooted in Greek people. It is possible that the economic crisis with its ensuing hardship will finaly lead to a change in mentality.

In a strong state, the leaders are elected according to democratic processes, and the finances are based on economic activity as well as on fair taxation of the different social classes. Such a state provides security for its citizens and is able to deal with most external or internal problems. In such a state, the rapport between Individual – Family – Community – State is more harmonious. In case of conflict between the above groups, these states are able to revert to harmony in a relatively short time.

This is the kind of state that we need. We, its citizens, are the only ones who can achieve this goal; however, we need to internalise first that the state is not a foreign entity. It is ours, it belongs to us, since we are the ones who elect our leaders according to democratic processes. It is even more important for us to internalise that since the state is ours, we are obliged to obey to the laws. Even when our leaders do not act accordingly to their pre-election promises, we can criticise them, but we need to wait for the right time (the elections) to replace them and thus punish them.

In our region, Mani, from the time of our ancestors, the bonds between Individual – Family – Community were exceptionally close. In addition, our ancestors understood the necessity for the creation of an independent modern Greek state, and they willingly and selflessly led the struggle for indepenence. They did this, although occupation was not as hard in our area, since Mani had the privilege of local autonomy. In the present difficult times, we need to learn from our ancestors and finally develop a genuine rapport to our state. Harmony with the state can be achieved not only by careful selection of our representatives during election time, but also by our adherence to the laws. In this way, we too will contribute to fostering a harmonious rapport of Individual – Family – Community – State, which will be an important step in the development of our area.

 

IS THERE A FUTURE IN OUR COUNTRY FOR UPCOMING GENERATIONS?

   The Greek generations that were in charge after the fall of the dictatorship in 1975 are those carrying considerable responsibility for the difficult financial situation in which we are today. Of course, we, the Greek voters, carry responsibility for the governance of the politicians that we elected; we are also responsible for the general mentality, the life goals and the everyday activities that gradually developed in our country. These ideas have been dominant for many years; they are automatically being transferred to future generations and have helped create negative role models. This mentality was the product of the false booming financial situation, which was due to extensive borrowing and the populist way of governing by the state. The false prosperity is still being promoted and it is considered by the newer generations as a given. The weaning of the Greek people, particularly of the young ones, from this mentality, is very slow and painful in spite of the economic crisis that has been plaguing our country for the past eight years.

The process of reversing the present difficult situation will be long and painful. Getting out of a long societal or economic crisis will require a drastic change in the mentality that we, the older ones, have transferred to the young generations. Since we are those who created this mentality, it is our responsibility to identify its characteristics as well as the negative societal archetypes that it has created for the young people.

   We have given our youth exemplars that were characterised by fragmentation and reduced effort. These negative examples were promoted slowly but steadily by the political institutions as well as by the family and schools. Any effort to change these exemplars has to start in the way the country is governed, which unfortunately has largely remained the same during the eight years of the crisis. It is hard to foresee how many years the crisis will last, since this is not a crisis of numbers, but a crisis of mentality. We might have recently seen a ray of hope in the right direction

As we mentioned, the responsibility for the mentality that we described above does not lie only with the political institutions. School institutions and the family are also partly responsible for it, and it is necessary that they too start promoting the opposite of the above negative societal archetypes. It is necessary that they promote instead the following values: solid and effective combined efforts on the part of all members of the society. When the society as a whole promotes this kind of steadfast effort and healthy mentality, and when these values are reinforced by the schools and the family, then we can hope to see an increase in our productivity and a recovery from the recession in the long term. It has been proven that for economic recovery to happen, we need a society that works with efficiency and conscientious collaboration. We, the older generations, have ignored these values. We need to own up to our responsibilities and promote the values of efficiency and collaboration to the new generations.

The negative societal archetypes that we mentioned, the fragmentation and reduced effort are generalised and are found everywhere in our country, and of course, in our area, Mani. However, we believe that here, in Mani, the recovery will be easier, because ours is an area that attracts a lot of tourists. The physical environment, the climate, our cultural heritage, they all contributed to increased tourism in Mani during the last decades. Income from tourism, in addition to income from agriculture, livestock farming and construction can provide a sufficient living for the young people of our area. It is important for our youth to understand that life becomes more meaningful and of better quality when it is based on a sound plan with combined and well-coordinated efforts. Sufficient proof to the thesis that it is still possible to achieve a decent living standard in Mani is the fact that hundreds of recent economic migrants, who remained here during the years of the economic crisis, have managed to achieve a respectable standard of living for their families and education for their children. It is important that the Maniot youth does not forget that the continuation of the heritage of our ancestors relies on them. The Maniot element in our area will continue to exist through the work endeavours, the family life and the cooperation of the Maniot youth within the small society of Mani.

 

FOREST REGISTRY, ECOLOGY AND POLITICS

Forest registry, ecology and politics are all concepts that can be emotionally charged, but nevertheless are all necessary elements of a modern democratic state. However, these concepts must be harmoniously integrated within the democratic political system. Plato said that when the procedural rules of the best political system (democracy) are not adhered to, then democracy diminishes in character and becomes the worst of all political forms. To paraphrase Plato, we can say in this case that when the three concepts, i.e. forest registry, ecology and politics, are not harmoniously integrated, then their mixing leads to confrontation, opposition and conflict of interests.

Since the beginning of history, the inhabitants of our planet tried to establish a harmonious relationship with nature. From gatherers who foraged wild plants and fruit, the first people progressed to become farmers who cultivated selected plants. It is certain that during this stage they cleared parcels of land. Later, in order to face hostile environment conditions, families grouped themselves together in larger units, formed societies and established different systems of government, culminating with democracy. In ancient times, the most perfect model of democratic governance was the Ancient Athenian Democracy of the 6th-5th centuries B.C. This was the period of the Greek golden rules, fine balance, harmony and moderation. After many ups and downs, after periods of peace and periods of crises, again in modern times we are called to find the “golden solution” to the issue of our harmonious relation with nature and to act in ways compatible to the concepts of fair balance and harmony; this is what European people did in the years that followed the Renaissance and their actions resulted in progress and well-being.

We believe that it is not possible to compile a forest registry without long and systematic foundation work.  Before we can create such a document, we need to study not only the terrain, as it is depicted in geophysical maps of different periods, but also past centuries’ policies and regulations concerning the utilisation of the land. If we do not take the terrain and regulations into account, then any legislation will be useless, as it will conflict with the interests of many groups and will cause negative reactions on their part.     

                We will briefly refer to two policies regarding the utilisation of the land, which should be taken into account in establishing a forest registry in Mani. First, during the Venetian occupation of the Peloponnese (1685-1715), lands were leased to families living in certain areas on the basis of open-contract rentals. One of the tenants’ responsibilities was to clear forest areas and cultivate the land. After a few years of these indefinite-period rentals, the ownership of the land reverted to the tenants. Second, during the rule of King Otto (1832-1862), farmers who successfully grafted wild olive trees in areas belonging to the state would subsequently own the land they sat on. The Ministry of the Environment should have researched and codified the older legislation of each area, before proceeding with the compilation and publication of the forest maps. Instead, the forest maps were  based exclusively on aerial photographs, many of which, particularly the older ones, are difficult to decipher. Aerial photographs are definitely the wrong starting point, but this way of proceeding is definitely the easiest and the one requiring the least effort on the part of those who compiled the forest maps. It is also the most profitable, because before bills of repeals can be submitted, they must be accompanied by a fee. These fees will of course increase the income of those who will review the repeals!

                We respect those citizens who are environmentally aware and even more those landowners who place environmental awareness above their personal interests. We do not know how many Greeks belong to the second category, but we suspect that they are not many… The majority belong to the first category, citizens who are environmentally aware, and particularly our politicians, who always legislate according to their personal interests. We are certain that a walk through the “natural environment” of these politicians would be particularly pleasant, since it would lead us through some “wild” areas; whether the natural environment enjoyed by our politicians was aquired by adding to the “forest” maps non-cultivated properties of their fellow citizens, which subsequently turned into forests, is to them of no importance. This is an issue that does not particularly worry our politicians.

                Forests, ecology and politics can again be harmoniously integrated, but under the condition that our Constitution protects the legitimate ownership of land which might be forested today, but used to be cultivated in former times. Development of agriculture and tourism can both flourish today within the harmonious integration of forests, ecology and politics, as described above.

 

CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS  FOR ΤΗΕ PROTECTION OF ΟWNERSHIP AND THE PROTECTION OF FORESTS AND THEIR APPLICATION

The forest maps displayed at administrative departments, including Messinia, have created intense concern on the part of some land owners, who have seen their properties labelled as forestland there. Because of this, we will examine the relevant articles of our Constitution, as the Constitution is the document that defines the conditions of co-existence of citizens. We will also present our conclusions and some ideas for dealing with the situation, as it has developed.

We will be referring to the following two articles of the Greek Constitution:

Article 17, which refers to property, the essence of which is found in the first two paragraphs:

  1. Property is under the protection of the State; rights deriving therefrom, however, may not be exercised contrary to the public interest.
  2. No one shall be deprived of his property except for public benefit which must be duly proven, when and as specified by statute and always following full compensation corresponding to the value of the expropriated property at the time of the court hearing on the provisional determination of compensation. In cases in which a request for the final determination of compensation is made, the value at the time of the court hearing of the request shall be considered.

  Article 24, which refers to the environment, the essence of which is found in the first paragraph as well as in the explanatory note:

  1. The protection of the natural and cultural environment constitutes a duty of the State. The State is bound to adopt special preventive or repressive measures for the preservation of the environment. Matters pertaining to the protection of forests and forest expanses in general shall be regulated by law. The State shall compile a forest registry. Alteration of the use of state forests and state forest expanses is prohibited, except where agricultural development or other uses imposed for the public interest prevail for the benefit of the national economy.[1]

Explanatory Note:

The forest or forest ecosystem is the combined total of wild plants with woody stems occuring in a particular region, which together with the co-existing flora and fauna and through interdependence and interaction form a special biocommunity (forest biocommunity) and a special natural environment (forest natural environment). When the wild plants with woody stems, high or low, of the above-mentioned biocommunity are sparse, then we have forestland.

From the Articles 17 and 24 above, and particularly from the second paragraph of Article 17, it is clear that citizens are protected by the Constitution and they cannot be arbitrarily deprived of their property. There is only one exception: “except for public benefit, which must be duly proven” and even then, only after full compensation of the owner.

                Forests are also protected, as described in the Explanatory Note above. A crucial subject is the case of properties which turned into forests, because the owners had stopped cultivating them for various reasons. In this situation, the following two questions arise: First, does the turning of a property into forest mean that the owner can no longer use his/her property as he/she wishes? Does the Constitution allow this? Does the “forestation” of a property mean that the owner no longer has any rights on the particular property, although he/she did not receive any compensation?

                Second, does the constitunional ban on the alteration of the use or purpose of forest and forest expanses, with the exception of agricultural development, apply to the turning of agriculturally developed land to its previous (before “forestation”) state, particularly in cases where the land is situated at the edge of a community or at the edge of cultivated fields?

                We are of the opinion that the forestry laws that have been passed by the relevant Ministry subsequent to the Constitution of 1975 have not taken into account that the protection of property is enshrined in the Constitution, as described above. Of course, the need to protect the forests that existed at the time of the foundation of the modern Greek state is an obvious duty of the state and its ministries. However, contesting legitimate ownership due to laws that are not in agreement with ALL the articles of the Constitution means that these properties are in effect expropriated by the state, something that goes against not only the Constitution, but also against the national economy and development.

                The ideas described above hold particularly true in our region, Mani, not only because of the geophysics of the area, but also because of the particular system of governance in the region before the Revolution of 1821.  At the present time, when the development of Mani depends more than ever on its special landscape, climate and culture, there should not be any restraining policies of the state and its agencies, and in particular no arbitrary elimination of the ownership status of properties that Maniots owned for generations.

The misuse of the powers described in the previous paragraphs could be rectified if the three ministries of Environment, Agricultural Development and Tourism convened together and came up with new legislation, taking into account all the protective measures enshrined in the Constitution, and in particular the protection of property, which is a fundamental right in democracy.

[1] the translation of Articles 17 και 24 (with the exception of the Explanatory Note) was done by  hir.org

 

REFLECTIONS ABOUT THE FUTURE AT THE BEGINNING OF 2017

We have suffered a lot during the seven years of the ongoing economic crisis. We have experienced austerity measures and harsh policies, which have been applied equally to everyone, no matter who deserved them and who did not. It is possible that we will have even worse experiences during the next few years, until our country is able to stand financially on its own. In spite of the crisis, we have managed to safeguard one very important right, which is the essence of democracy: Greek citizens still have the right to elect those who will govern them. Regardless of what happens in the future, we have the obligation to protect this right, even if we do not belong to the majority who saw their political candidates win. We should never abandon our efforts to influence the majority with our minority views.

The framework described above is the foundation of democracy, it is the confirmation that the “social contract” which we, the Greek citizens, decided on, and which expresses the common will of the people, is alive and above the selfish interests of individuals or societal groups. We should not forget that this common will was always the basis for the great moments of our nation during the 200 years since our struggle for independence began. We should also not forget that every time that we deviated from our common will and the corresponding actions that were dictated by it, we were led to national disasters with tragic consequences.

Unfortunately, in spite of the last seven years of the crisis, we still have not seriously reflected on the causes that led to the financial ruin of our state. The analysis given by the political parties did not help us to self-reflect. On the contrary, our politicians helped create among the people the mentality that has led us to the present predicament; the leaders of our political parties waived responsibility, fought among themselves and blamed each other. Unfortunately, this denial of responsibility has also been passed on to individuals and societal groups. Instead of a common will for rational actions, we continue to see selfish efforts of people who try to keep their privileges, acting in underground ways or in ways that are quasi-legitimate. We did not learn anything from the other European countries, which for various reasons were also led to financial crises, but were able to recover, when their leaders and their people formed a common will for resolving their economic problems. It seems that in our case, the crisis is not only economic, but also societal. This is why in our case, every Greek citizen needs to reflect in a very profound way on what should be the right way out of these dire straits.

It is not difficult to understand why our state is essentially bankrupt, while private deposits

in Greece and abroad are higher than the national debt. It is obvious that for some years, possibly for decades, there has been a hidden or half-hidden drain from the state into the private sector. Claiming compensations and payment for work not done, not only goes against the ethics of just governance, it also goes against universal financial laws. This financial drain from the state coffers to special interest individuals and groups, which was often done in quasi-legitimate ways, created a hostile climate, as the rest of the citizens, those who were excluded from this preferential treatment, immensely disliked both, the privileged groups and the state.

After a series of elections since the beginning of the economic crisis, and repeated disenchantment, we believe that Greek citizens have gradually developed some political maturity and constructive criticism skills, which will allow us to delve into the reasons which have led us to this predicament; self-criticism and self-reflection are critical in this process. If individuals apply this political maturity, which was acquired through traumatic experiences, to the political level, then we can draft common policies and undertake the necessary common actions that will allow us to end the present economic disaster. There are some decent politicians in every political party, and we believe that today it would be possible for them to come together and draft a common course of action. We hope that this will happen, bringing on a climate of optimism, which in turn will help private citizens take action.

It has been said that our area, Mani, because of  the fierce love of its inhabitants  for freedom and because of its sparse population, constitutes a “social lab”, an area where social phenomena can be studied. If we examine the history of our region, we observe that in most instances of grave danger, Maniots quickly and effectively developed a common plan of action and were successful in averting the danger. Similar action is what is needed today. Let us learn a lesson from the history of Mani during the years before the revolution of 1821.

 

BORROWING MONEY AND PAYING OFF DEBTS

Borrowing large amounts of money, disproportionate to the financial capabilities of a family or a business, rarely happens because of random or imponderable events. It usually happens because of poor management of family and business budgets. Those who get into default because of random or unforeseeable events deserve our sympathy; those who get into default because of poor financial management are usually dealt with sceptically. If we examine the financial management of family and business budgets and delve into the reasons for default, we will see that insolvency is usually due to undertaking extravagant projects and excessive spending that does not correspond to the financial capabilities of the borrowers.  In these cases, it is certain that leniency and restructuring of the debt are not effective solutions.

What we described in the previous paragraph does not just apply to families and businesses, but to all societal groups. Similarly, the conclusions reached above, already well-known to most people, also apply to individual states, particularly to Greece. Unfortunately, poor financial management by our governments during the 200 years that we have been an independent state, has led our country to seven bankruptcies. Since 1824, when we first got our first loan, our country did not meet its financial obligations towards its foreign creditors seven times. It is obvious that the money borrowed each time was not managed in a productive way, but rather was distributed among supporters, so that corrupt leaders could stay in power and get reelected. The consequences were disastrous: new borrowing was required in order to pay off the previous debt, curtailing of the income of those citizens who were too weak to protest and new unfair taxation was imposed, usually directed towards the poor. Each time, between bankruptcies, there were periods of artificial (false) prosperity and unjustified optimism as well as overconsumption, usually of not-needed products, promoted by corrupt politicians. Thus, the next bankruptcies came very quickly…

We believe that the current proposal for paying off our country’s debt is the correct one: prolonging the pay-off deadline of our large debts. If we are successful in setting back the pay-off date, the tax burden imposed on the Greek citizens will be reduced. Of course, this measure alone is not enough, as it needs to be accompanied by additional long-term legislation. Other prerequisites for ending the present economic crisis are unanimity and consistency in the policies of the next governments as well as improved productivity. We need strong will, constructive criticism of our actions up to now, deep reflection, and of course reforms, with the most important one being the reform of our educational system. These reforms will slowly change the mentality of the Greek people, will help reduce parasitism and corruption, will help increase competitiveness and finally will bring improved productivity in work, businesss initiative and technical know-how.

Good governance is the key element in achieving the above goals. Greek citizens should elect those politicians who will be able to put into practice these aspirations and will bring meaningful reforms, by legislating the appropriate bills and enforcing them. Unfortunately, the electorate has so far not responded appropriately to the urgent need for reforms in order to end the economic crisis that has been plaguing our country for so many years. It is possible that something positive will finally come from this slow response of the Greek people: a deeper realisation of our obligations as citizens, which will steer us steadfastly towards realistic and achievable goals.

In Mani, the mountainous landscape has played a role in creating “closed” societies for many generations. Maniots were taught by their ancestors to avoid getting into debt at all costs; if an urgent, unforeseeable need left them with no alternative but to borrow money,  the ideal was to pay off the debt as soon as possible. This mentality continues to the present time in Mani, although during the last few years of false prosperity we have seen isolated cases of irresponsible borrowing. Financial responsibility, a concept that our ancestors valued, is an ethical obligation, that should not only be practised by the newer generations of Maniots, but also guide us in electing the right politicians who can steer our country out of the present economic crisis.