Αρχείο κατηγορίας MAIN ARTICLES IN ENGLISH

GREECE: 200 YEARS OF DEEP DIVISIONS DUE TO SMALL AND OFTEN UNCLEAR CAUSES

Εvery time timeliness required it, we presented in the articles of our newspaper “MANIOT SOLIDARITY”, the divisions that were manifested during the 200 years of life of the modern Greek state. Many of these divisions were explosive and lasted decades. If we examine their duration and intensity, in combination with the external circumstances and their effects on the internal affairs of our country, we cannot, unfortunately, conclude that these divisions are decreasing in intensity and duration as the years go by. They seem to be fed by some form of genetic character, which is not eliminated over time.

Of course, behind the divisions are the interests of individuals and groups, who believe that with the divisions they promote, they will eventually emerge victorious and benefit from the conflict. Despite the fact that national slogans are mixed in with the theoretical background on which these groups attempt to base their divisive arguments, the results, in most cases, bring national losses! Let us remember just two such disasters: the loss of the Great Idea as a result of the division of the 1910s and the loss of any positive development on the Cyprus issue as a result of the division of the 1940s.

Could the 1975 Constitution, whose provisions have been described as groundbreaking for the time it was voted, be a framework of common acceptance for citizens and politicians? This constitution stabilises, in a balanced way, the rights and obligations of citizens and forms a commonly accepted framework for the political debate on the policies to be applied in the governance of the country. Its provisions are broad enough to accommodate all political debates, which can be carried out within the specified framework and can be relaxed before they become deep, thus leading to divisions.

No conscientious citizen wishes to impose his opinion on any issue on a fellow citizen who has a different opinion from him/her. Persuasion and dialogue, either directly or through modern discussion forums, are the best methods to bridge differences. At the end of the exchange of arguments and the formulation of improvements to the initial positions, it is necessary to have a final position, the one that emerges from the views of most citizens on the basis of the common course agreed, through the constitution.

The divisions of the last decade have ultimately resulted in the escalation of the economic crisis and the deterioration of the financial situation of all citizens, and especially of many of the social groups that have played a leading role in divisive actions. The outcome, of course, would be even worse for the country and the citizens, if the majority tendency formed on the basis of theoretical approaches was applied in practice. It seems, however, that a tendency towards divisions is a permanent characteristic of some social groups, those that are formed on the basis of common beliefs which are completely disconnected from the prevailing beliefs of society.

The latest split in pro-vaccination / anti-vaccination groups for protection against the novel coronavirus, is evolving in much the same way. Anti-vaccination groups, each with a different starting point, focus on the individual rights of citizens, which are of course protected by the constitution, but not in an absolute way. Individual rights are related to the general interests of the society to which the constitution refers, thus shaping the interests of society as a whole in relation to the views or interests of minority groups, especially when the context of the conflict is about health and the lives of citizens. In other words, the decision of each citizen, which concerns his/her personal attitude and decision on an issue, cannot be disconnected from the damage that this attitude can cause to the wider society.

What constitutes, in addition to the constitutional requirement, common sense in the context of the voluntary coexistence of social groups, came to be confirmed by the decisions of the courts. These courts were called to rule on the constitutionality of government measures, related to the mandatory vaccination of social groups in close contact with large groups of citizens. Let us respect these decisions, avoiding another pointless division…

In Mani, it seems that the situation has somewhat improved. The old divisions, culminating in the vendettas, have disappeared as the population thinned out and tourism invaded. There are still low-intensity conflicts, mainly of a local nature, which are far from being divisive. Let us hope that these too will be eliminated soon.

                                THE EDITORIAL BOARD

AT THE 200TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE 1821 GREEK UPRISING, HOMOGENISATION OF PERCEPTIONS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT MESSAGE

It seems that anniversary celebrations of the national uprising of 1821 in our country have always been unlucky. There was one exception: the 50th anniversary, which was celebrated during the fourth inaugural term of the Maniot prime minister Alexandros Koumoundouros, and which brought not only strong emotions, but also substantial national achievements inspired by the Greek Revolution. All subsequent anniversaries were met with obstacles in achieving their goals of restoring historical memory and shaping future prospects through planned celebratory events. The 100th anniversary coincided with the unlucky outcome of the Greek Army campaign in Asia Minor and, as a result, the celebrations were postponed for 10 years, only to coincide again with the impact of the American financial crisis of 1929 on Europe and Greece. The 150th anniversary, on the other hand, coincided with the first four years of the dictatorship (imposed in 1967), a period when the messages of liberation were inconsistent with the prevailing political situation. More misfortunes apply to the present 200th anniversary: the pandemic, the immigration crisis and the rampant wildfires. Nevertheless, because historical memory is not promoted only through representation of events in the places where they took place in 1821, but through reflection on situations of that period, the1821 uprising continues to inspire and teach…

            The cohesive factor of all the individual societal groups that participated in the preparation of the uprising of 1821 and in the actual war, both in the fields of battle with the Ottomans but also in the subsequent diplomatic arena, was the assurance of free life in a nation state that would guarantee the security of all its citizens. Papaflessas, the hero who set all Greek hearts on fire,  managed to use this factor with ingenuity and courage to light the wick of the uprising and to push the revolutionary events on an irreversible path. The social groups that eventually took part in the Revolution differed both in their wealth and in their views on the political system that should be implemented in the new nation state. The economically powerful wanted to retain most of their privileges, the expatriates who belonged to the upper echelons of the Ottoman administration of Istanbul wanted to be the backbone of the political governance of the emerging state, the leaders of the military groups wanted to control and direct the government. The ordinary citizens, city professionals, and landowners sought to get rid of the heavy taxes that were forcing them to lose their jobs and property. If we add to all this the linguistic pluralism and the significant differentiation in the prevailing customs and traditions of the individual regions, the homogenisation on a common basis of a single nation state was a difficult task and it took time to complete. Significant progress in this direction was achieved during the four-year rule of Ioannis Kapodistrias, who with patience and diplomacy, managed to soften the aspirations of individual societal groups by undertaking policies that raised the living standards of ordinary citizens. To a significant degree, this policy was continued by King Otto’s Regents during the three-year term of office that had been assigned to them. However, in the following decades, the standardisation process lost momentum and, in combination with international developments, found new obstacles on the path to full integration, which remain until today.

            We, the descendants of the 1821 heroes, upon reflecting, 200 years later, on their sacrifices that led to the stable state we live in, have an obligation to redouble our efforts in order to shape our country as coherently as possible towards a future that is, unfortunately, predicted to be increasingly uncertain. We need to honour those politicians who, either by exploiting international circumstances and forming beneficial alliances, or by inspiring the armed forces in times of war, have succeeded in enlarging small Greece, a state which was first formed in 1832, in both population and territory. At the same time, however, we also have an obligation to remember the causes that led to national tragedies and disasters. The disagreements, which from time to time appeared in a heightened form, were not ideological confrontations, but were based on the gaps in the formation of a standardised perception of the citizens about the path towards the future of our country. These gaps, to some extent, still exist. It seems that the gaps in the path to standardisation do not arise from social controversies, but are mainly due to different perceptions and therefore can be addressed, both on a political and on an individual level, through dialogue and good faith. If we continue towards filling the gaps of standardisation, it is certain that the messages of 1821, on the occasion of the 200-year anniversary celebrations, will have been successfully transferred to the present period, as the protagonists of 1821, and especially the most fervent of them all, Papaflessas, would have liked.

THE HOMOGENISATION OF SOCIETIES IS DIFFICULT, ΒUT THERE IS HOPE

If we examine the evolution of different societies, we can see how difficult the path towards homogenisation is. Social homogenisation is defined as the assimilation of many specific characteristics of individuals and societal groups and their harmonious fusion into a single framework, which is commonly accepted and decisive for a peaceful path into the future. Τhe slogan “Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood” of the 1789 French Revolution, which was accepted (at least in theory) by large groups of citizens, was a major boost towards the process of future homogenisation. However, it is certain that today there are still several groups of people who do not agree with this these ideas. A careful analysis of situations in modern societies shows that only long-term and conscious actions can guide various societal groups towards homogenised results. Significant homogenised results can be achieved only if there is coordinated common action; unfortunately, this is not always the case, and often actions towards the right direction are undertaken in isolation or are later reversed.

            In Western Europe, the ideals of the French Revolution (even in cases when they were simply slogans or failed attempts at stable governance) promoted the creation of the “nation states” and they strengthened these states. Homogenisation, based on commonly accepted long-term policies, on democracy and on parliamentarism, brought tangible economic results, which helped convince skeptical citizens of the benefits of integration. In these countries, even the challenge of social homogenisation between populations of different cultures of origin has been significantly addressed, i.e., the homogenisation of the native population with people originating from the colonies and with immigrants. It is certain that this type of homogenisation will become even more successful in future generations.

            In our country, the obstacles towards homogenisation have deeper roots. We lack the kind of progress that was achieved in Western Europe during the centuries of Renaissance; at that time Western European feudal societies became acquainted with new ideas about culture and politics. In our country, Ottoman tyrants prohibited the circulation of these European ideas that could harm their authoritarian rule. Here, our ancestors could not expect anything greater than simply maintaining their biological survival. In the 200 years of the modern Greek state, some measures towards homogenisation have been taken, but this happened relatively late. The first such attempts towards homogenisation of the culturally different populations that lived in Greece at that time took place during the governance of our county by Capodistrias (1827-1831). We need, however, to keep in mind that at that time Greece was a very small country, extending to the north only to Arta and the Pagasitic Gulf and possessing only the islands of the Saronic Gulf and the Cyclades. Ηοmogenisation was attempted through the peer-learning school system and through the consistent and strict application of the administration rules.

            In a few Greek areas, such as Mani, where the rocky and mostly infertile terrain was the main impetus towards freedom, homogenisation happened at a faster pace, although the different population groups of the area were more in number and more heterogeneous in their origin than they were in other Greek areas. In fact, to a certain extent, many aspects of the characteristics of the system of small-scale war feudalism that prevailed in most of the regions of Mani were mitigated, and conditions were created to reduce the size of social inequalities between the members of each micro-society. Before 1821, in Mani, from the slogans of the French Revolution, the slogan of Brotherhood was limited only to the members of each patriarchal family; however, during the two centuries of the Modern Greek State that followed, it has been promoted to a significant degree, especially in the societies created by the Maniots outside Mani, at sites inside Greece and abroad where Maniots settled.

It seems that the path towards the homogenisation of societies will be achieved through the process of merging individuality with sociability. The conscious realisation that the individual interest, as a qualitative and quantitative upgrade of the starting point, is often linked to the promotion of common interests, may be the best way to relativise the instinct of self-preservation, which drives towards narrowly self-serving behaviours. Another encouraging element is the increasingly accepted realisation that individuals are mortal, but societies, if not immortal, are at least long-lived.

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY AND ITS WEAKNESSES

Over the past two centuries, representative democracy, which started on the European continent, has gradually prevailed as the preferred form of governance in most countries. Universal voting is the best form of democratic expression. Over time, however, during the implementation of representative democracy, not only the strengths of this political system, but also its weaknesses have become obvious. Most weaknesses can be addressed by imposing regulations, but for some weaknesses no solutions have been found so far…

            The main reason for the deviations between the theoretical background of representative democracy and its practical application, i.e., the exercise of power by persons elected for a term by universal voting, is due to the very characteristics of representation. In other words, during the exercise of power by the elected politicians, new aspirations are formed that differ to a degree from the aspirations of their electorate. The predominant reason for these deviations is due to the generalities and ambiguities of the programs on the basis of which the election takes place, and also to the new realities that arise during the term of office of the elected politician. An additional reason for the occasional malfunctioning of the institutions of representative democracy is the poor observance of the established rules in the struggle for power between those who hold it and those who seek to seize it. The above applies to all forms of representative democracy, i.e., parliaments, self-governing organisations and associations. The closer representative expressions approach direct democracy, the less are the weaknesses and deviations of this political system.

            The main weakness of the institutions of representative democracy is the strong pursuit of prolonged tenure by the elected politicians. Motivated by this pursuit, those elected in the representative institutions make choices that serve specialised interests, that is, interests that do not benefit all the societal groups of the electorate, but only a limited number of individuals. The individuals thus benefitted are either already very powerful or they have previously provided services to the elected politicians. These choices lead to the allocation of most available financial resources to projects that do not address generalised social needs, and they drastically reduce the effectiveness of the institutions of representative democracy. At the same time, they cause the economy to become less competitive. When the institutions of representative democracy operate under this logic, they cannot fulfill their purpose of competent governance, and societies are led to decline. An extreme version of the pursuit of prolonged tenure in the positions of the elected representatives in this political system are the phenomena of populism which, in addition to negative economic outcomes, also undermine the foundations of the representative democratic institutions, while at the same time creating a great risk for the complete collapse of their democratic character and leading to authoritarian ways of governing.

            Typical examples of the theoretical analyses given above are the situations which we have experienced in our country during the last decade. The strong desire of politicians to prolong their tenure led to granting favourite groups benefits, for which they paid through borrowing. This, in combination with catchy populist slogans, led to their electoral success. But deviating from the laws of sound financial management led to ever-increasing public financial deficits that ultimately overturned the political goals of those who pursued these policies. On the other hand, populism with its arrogant and unrealistic slogans can create some temporary enthusiasm due to the use of emotional language, but the huge gap between unatainable promises and hard reality becomes quickly obvious.

            The above-described weaknesses of representative democracy become more obvious in lower-level institutions (municipal governments, local associations). For example, the returns of self-governing higher education institutions depend on maximizing the proper use of their financial resources. The discrepancies in the performance and returns between the educational institutions of our country are obvious: some educational institutions produce remarkable research and teaching results as well as good employment opportunities, while others produce degrees that do not help their holders to perform well when writing competitive job placement exams.

            The same applies to municipalities and regions. Here, the distinction between populist rhetoric and substantial results is more obvious than in large areas due to their limited territory and the ability of voters to observe, evaluate and relate politicians’ rhetoric to work performed. In small regions it is easier for citizens to measure the positive or negative impact of public initiatives on their quality of life. Of course, when politicians do not choose to invest in projects of generalised social benefit, or when they prefer to allocate their budgets to projects and initiatives that serve groups of citizens who will provide them with future electoral support, their effectiveness is drastically reduced. Eventually, the average voter will see through all this and will vote against those politicians who apply this kind of micropolitics…

HERD IMMUNITY AND THE NEED FOR SOLIDARITY BETWEEN MEMBERS OF DIFFERENT SOCIETAL GROUPS

The long duration of the corona virus pandemic, in addition to the pain and sadness that it has brought upon us, has caused the surge of various social phenomena, which academic research would find difficult to foresee and record. The range of the reactions of the public to the disease has been very wide, feelings of fear and self-protection were mixed, and the results were in many cases unpredictable. People’s behaviour during the first cycle of the pandemic was compliant and disciplined, but became very unpredictable during the later stages of the disease. To a large extent, the outbreaks of the disease that occurred in the later stages were fuelled by some of these later behaviours, creating in several areas problems of inadequacy in the treatment of those who became ill with the coronavirus.

            A year ago, we were all hoping for the production of coronavirus vaccines as soon as possible. When this became possible and the vaccines started to be distributed to the general public with the goal to vaccinate the entire population in a short period of time, divergent attitudes arose in a significant number of the population. These different mentalities, created another reason for the slowdown in the resolution of the pandemic situation, which could have been controlled through generalised immunity. There are mainly two categories of people who refuse vaccinations. Those who do so because of ideological beliefs are the easier to understand. The other vaccine deniers who base their denial on conspiracy theories, i.e. those who believe that a spying device is introduced into the body through the vaccine, are most likely influenced by the widely-spread science fiction films. In both of these categories of vaccine deniers, the main negative element is their lack of sociability. Cooperation and sociability are qualities that are  normally expected in cases of great common danger. In these situations, all societal groups are expected to follow a common course as directed by the state. The behaviour of those groups that avoid vaccinations is, in a way, understandable, since people are discouraged by the post-vaccinaton side effects that have in a few cases occurred. Fear for one’s life is an extension of the instinct of self-preservation, and such manifestations are, in principle, understandable behaviours.

            There is, however, a significant number of vaccine deniers whose denial lacks any ideological basis. They are those who are waiting for the rest of the people to acquire immunity in order to form that percentage of the population, about 80% of the total, which creates generalised natural immunity, the so-called “herd immunity”. This category thinks and acts on the basis of absolute selfishness. They want to avoid the (unlikely) vaccination side effects by acquiring immunity through the vaccination of others. This attitude, which, as an individual choice, is neither fair nor ethical, suffers from absolute antisociality. This mentality is not legitimate and demonstrates no will to conform with the norms of society or to cooperate with the rest of the people, while at the same time benefitting in many areas from the discipline and the efforts of the others. Antisociality becomes particularly dangerous if the percentage of the unvaccinated is high, as persistent mutations increase the risk of the new coronavirus strains. Due to the mutations, even those who have already been vaccinated are at risk of becoming ill, as well as the vaccine deniers, who, as unvaccinated, are subject to increased risks of the disease.

            The new universal experiences of an unprecedented nature gained in the past fourteen months, strongly reiterate the demand for SOLIDARITY. Recent developments in the disease caused by coronavirus have shown that there can be no absolute individual protection without generalised protection for all societal groups. All human societies, in addition to finding a commonly accepted way of life within themselves, are de facto obliged to pursue, and succeed in implementing, joint activities and policies of common necessity. The obligation to work towards this kind of initiative has become urgent after having experienced emergencies with devasting developments, such as the one that preceded the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and which is still in progress for an undetermined period of time. If, starting immediately, we implement policies of mutual cooperation on a general level and on a large number of issues of common interest, something good will emerge in the midst of the evils that are happening right now. Then the ancient Greek saying “there is no evil that does not contain something good” will come true in this case as well.

REFLECTIONS IN THE AGE OF GLOBALISATION – GOOD AND BAD EFFECTS

Globalisation or internationalisation is the expansion of all those parameters (economy, communication, etc.), which until a few decades ago were exercised restrictively within states. The parameters that tend to be projected beyond the borders of each state following globalisation include communication, social structure, technology, culture, political system, knowledge, etc. After the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, which has brought the whole planet to a state of emergency, a new dimension of globalisation has emerged: the spread of epidemic diseases. Individual states now need to concern themselves with global pandemics. Thus, the pros of globalisation are now mixed with the cons. Since we cannot reverse the conditions that have led to the present disastrous situation, constructive reflection needs to be directed to a way of managing the already existing crisis in all its dimensions.

                Why have we been unable to better manage this global crisis so far? The reason is the following: while globalisation is accompanied by generalised situations, the actions undertaken to address the pandemic were fragmentary and unilateral. This fragmentation and one-sidedness delays, and in many cases hinders, the implementation of solutions on a global level. An ideal solution for the rapid and effective response to the negative consequences of globalisation would be the management of the crisis by a single efficient body or, at least, the universal acceptance of the same strict rules of conduct enforced by all states and citizens. It is clear, however, that the institutions established after the two world wars, the League of Nations after WW1 and the United Nations after WW2, were equipped with minimal decision-making powers and meager financial means. This is why the global interventions of these institutions so far have brought few positive results. It seems that humanity is still far from fully integrating individual and societal interests and even further from integrating national and transnational aspirations. For this reason, under the present circumstances, we can only reflect on the defective management of the negative situations created by globalisation.

                Since the founding of the League of Nations in 1920 and the United Nations in 1945, several organisations of supranational activity have been gradually formed, closely or loosely associated with each other: the World Health Organisation (WHO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, UNICEF (an organisation for children), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). If one wants to delve into their goals and areas of activity by studying their founding acts, one will find that the potential for effective interventions is weak and that the possibilities for generalised actions are very limited. The limitation of their potential for action is exacerbated even more by their meagre or selective funding, which is usually associated with terms and conditions that serve their sponsors. There are many reasons that limit the capability of these organisations to undertake universal interventions which would benefit the whole human race: the pathogenesis associated with their founding acts, their limited and selective funding and the rigidity caused by their bureaucratic structure and operation, designed mainly for the benefit of their high-level executives. Under these circumstances, the practical possibilities for generalised emergency assistance that could be provided to countries in times of need, such as the new pandemic, are significantly reduced.

                To this defective mode of operation of the international organisations has now been added a global (hence the name “pandemic”) threat to the health of all human societies on the planet: the new corona virus. If an independent observer analyses the actions taken so far in order to combat the pandemic, he/she will clearly see their fragmentary and closely micromanaged nature. With this new virus, which in the course of its spread and mutation does not recognise barriers and state borders, the control policies undertaken so far are limited to maximizing the protection measures within the internal borders of each state. International economic organisations and multinational industries are moving quickly in order to maintain their own rights and maximise their profits from the growing need for measures to tackle the pandemic. But are such behaviours acceptable? Should those who profit the most from the generalised benefits of globalisation refuse to contribute to tackling global misfortunes? Or, more specifically, should health industries ultimately benefit by increasing their profits with the new forms of vaccines required by emerging new coronavirus mutations, which are mainly due to the limited number of vaccinated citizens in third world countries?

                Let us hope that the long-term traumatic experience of humanity from the current new pandemic will help improve the conditions for the creation of a globalised efficient structure, with the sole purpose of preventing and protecting the health of the members of the human society as a whole, from any pandemics that may occur in the future.

UNITED MANI: REALISTIC OBJECTIVE OR UTOPIAN DREAM?

                It is historically established that in difficult times, when the independence of our region was threatened by external enemies, Maniots always joined forces in a united front to repel them. It is also historically proven that, despite cross-breeding with the new inhabitants, who for various reasons were arriving to our region, the original population nucleus was homogenised and uniform with common characteristics such as religion, language, customs, traditions and a strong desire for freedom. These observations are not in conflict with the traditional autonomy of the smaller areas of Mani and the autonomy of the families that lived there. The crucial question at the present post-modern phase of evolution of human societies, is whether it is necessary for Mani to face the future as a single administrative unit. The 200th anniversary of the revolution of 1821 is an ideal opportunity not only for celebrating, but  also for reflecting and finding answers to this question.

                On  March 17, we celebrated, in Areopolis, the 200th anniversary of the decision made by the Maniot warlords to join arms against the Ottoman conquerors in order to  liberate the Greek territories. This memorable date could be the starting point for reflection on the administrative reorganisation of our region. After the presidential decrees of 2020, which officially recognised the leadership of our ancestors in the national independence struggle of 1821, the highest representatives of the state came to this year’s celebrations in Areopolis. The Maniot leadership and vanguard were often mentioned in the official speeches of that day. This long-overdue recognition of the value and the huge achievements of our ancestors needs now to be furthered with corresponding political actions. One such action is an administrative restructuring, so that Mani can speak as one, with a common voice. This will give Mani the capability of a single expression, so that it can deal with the challenges of the future in a unified way.

                But despite the favourable starting point of March 17, there are many difficulties to overcome. The local representatives of our region need to have the appropriate moral stature, so that they are able to put aside individual aspirations in order to work for the common good. It is difficult to deal with the distractions created on a daily basis by petty jealousies and personal political interests. The only way to advance the goal of the administrative restructuring of our region is by studying the prevailing conditions and carefully planning the reorganisation process step-by-step. Of course, this can only be achieved by first establishing the desired form of administrative restructuring,  with which all representatives of polyphonic Mani must agree. In the recent past we have had two important successes, which can be considered as the first step for a wider unified administrative restructuring: first, the renaming of the Diocese of Gytheio and Oitylo to “Diocese of Mani”, which resulted in the resurgence of the term “Mani” as  the official name of our region; second, the final restructuring, in two phases, of the many communities of the region into two municipalities that again contained the term “Mani”: Eastern Mani (although not only Eastern) and Western Mani. These changes were made due to the cooperation and joint action of both local government and ecclesiastical officials. This element of cooperation between secular and religious authorities is a precondition for the positive outcome of any project aiming at the administrative unification of Mani.

                The disagreements between local government officials that followed the successful events of March 17 in Areopolis, brought again to the surface our traditional curse: the discord that is inherent in heroism. We need to exhaust all means, every resource and all bravery and inner strength, so that we can combat this divisive tendency. In order to advance the goal of the administrative restructuring of Mani, we need first, to eliminate the disagreements, and second, to get our local representatives to discuss with the wider Maniot community and reach an agreement on what kind of administrative restructuring is needed. Do we want a single municipality of Mani (Δήμος Μάνης) or a regional unit of Mani (Περιφερειακή Ενότητα Μάνης) in the Prefecture of Peloponnese (Περιφέρεια Πελοποννήσου), which according to the current electoral law, is a single-chair district in the parliamentary elections? Once we are clear on what kind of administrative restructuring we want, we can then reflect on both internal and external obstacles, but also determine the potential allies of our intended goals. Of course, once everything has been reflected upon and a common basis for action has been drafted, then we can mobilise all potential allies and we can bring our common plans and aspirations to the institutional decision makers.

                The general recognition of the leadership, the courage and the sacrifice of our ancestors during the independece war of 1821, as was shown above, is a very strong basis for legislation, by way of exception, for the administrative restructuring in our region. The granting of special legislation to Mani will  express a minimal reward  from the state and political leadership of the country for the immense sacrifices and contributions of our region to the war of independence and to the Greek state in general.  

                                                                                                                                ΤΗΕ ΕDITORIAL BOARD

200 YEARS SINCE 1821: THE CURRENT DIFFICULTIES LEAD TO RENEWED CALLS FOR UNITY

                    It is customary that the centennial or bicentennial anniversary of an important event be celebrated by organising commemorative ceremonies. These celebrations, in addition to reviving historical memory, also call for comparisons between then and now, and for a critical reflection on events that happened during the intervening period. This holds especially true for important events that concern an entire nation, such as the rebirth of the Greek Nation that emerged as a direct consequence of the Greek independence war of 1821. In this article we will reflect on both the one-hundred and the two-hundred year anniversaries since the beginning of the Greek Revolution. It seems, however, that in both 1921 (one-hundred year anniversary), and in 2021 (two-hundred year anniversary), the conditions were not favourable for a calm contemplation and evaluation of the events. The Asia Minor Campaign in 1921 and the COVID-19 pandemic at the present time brought about emergency situations of the utmost importance which needed immediate attention in order to avoid high-level risks. Emergency response measures to these events had to be drafted and  implemented, while commemorative celebrations were deemed of only secondary importance. In 1921, due to the Asia Minor situation, it was decided to postpone the commemorative ceremonies until the year 1930; this would be the one-hundred year anniversary since the founding of the modern Greek state after the signing of the Treaty of London by the three Protecting Powers (England, France and Russia) and the acceptance of its terms thereafter by the Ottoman Empire.  In the current year, the two-hundred year anniversary since 1821, most events so far have either been postponed, will be offered online, or will be implemented on a reduced scale in areas where heroic events took place. Any festivities planned for the coming months will depend on the evolution of the pandemic, and might be deferred or even cancelled.

                    However, commemorative ceremonies always produce strong visual messages and their cancellation may, in a positive way, cause us to reflect on the problems that we have faced as a nation since 1821. That is, the present cancellations may lead us to a deeper analysis of what has happened during the entire period of freedom from the revolution until now. This deep reflection, if it is related to the difficulties that arise during the management of the pandemic, can bring to light many negative elements, created by our attitudes and mistakes during the last two centuries. Such a reflection will help us understand the frequent disagreements between politicians and citizens, which in many cases have led to divisions and civil unrest. It is these mistakes in critical periods of our national life that led to national tragedies and prevented the complete incorporation of all the unliberated parts of Hellenism into the modern Greek state. During the current phase of the pandemic, disagreements have taken a different form: a significant percentage of citizens have refused to be vaccinated against Covid-19, by invoking the exercise of individual rights, guaranteed by the Greek constitution. The invocation of these rights, however, has caused negative social repercussions and infringes on the constitutionally guaranteed right to protect the health of the wide community.
                    We will mention two very important periods: those after the end of the two World Wars. Although we were on the side of the winners both times, due to lack of national unity, our country was deprived of the possibility of incorporating  into the national body unliberated areas with dense Greek populations. After the First World War, Eastern Thrace, extending all the way up to the outskirts of Constantinople, was  assigned to Greece, but due to disagreement between Prime Minister Venizelos and king Constantine, not only we were led to the Asia Minor Catastrophe but also we were forced to evacuate the whole coast of Asia Minor, as a prerequisite for the signing of a ceasefire. After World War II, due to the British military support during the Civil War, we tacitly resigned to claim the incorporation of Cyprus into Greece, as Great Britain had promised at the beginning of the war, while we almost lost the Dodecanese as well!
 
                    In this anniversary year, while reflecting on the critical events of the years 1820-1830 and the messages that they send to citizens and politicians, we should focus on the tragic figure of the first Governor of Greece, Ioannis Kapodistrias. It is our duty to remember his superhuman efforts to expand the borders of the newly-established Greek state as much as possible and to found a well-functioning state on a non-partisan basis and with fair rules of law. We have an obligation to reflect on the consequences for our nation of the loss of this great man. It is important to remember his selflessness and to emphasise at every opportunity his tireless efforts to achieve political unity. Finally, as a token recognition of his contributions to our nation, we have the obligation to embrace the  ideals and the policies he pursued; this is necessary for the safe course of our country in the future.

GREEK SOCIETY AND ECONOMY IN A STATE OF LONG-TERM INSTABILITY

   Two hundred years after the revolution of 1821, our country is once again entering into conditions of uncertainty and insecurity similar to those that prevailed during the long submission to the Ottomans. The new coronavirus not only hinders the organisation of anniversary events which require large public participation, but also undermines the psychology of the citizens and their financial stability because of the uncertainty about how much longer the pandemic is going to last. However, just as during the independence struggle we had the obligation to fight, taking into account all the details of the events that ocurred on the battlefields, so in the current conditions we have the obligation to evaluate all the data available, so that we can minimise the individual and societal risks from the coronavirus and its many mutations. Especially we, Maniots, descendants of the heroic warriors of that period, we have the obligation to show the same effectiveness as they did in fighting all kinds of dangers, under the present conditions.

    The pandemic and the many measures undertaken for the public’s health protection, have caused a severe slow down in economic activities, thus creating large government deficits. Responding to its social mission, the state, despite the reduction of its revenues due to the sharp reduction of economic activity, has tried to provide subsidies to companies and large groups of citizens, so that, as much as possible, businesses and employment are kept at pre-pandemic levels. This complex landscape, due to the uncertainty in the evolution of the pandemic, creates the need for elaborate prohibitive measures for the present as well as the foreseeable future. This need is becoming even more urgent because our country had already been in a bad debt situation even at the beginning of the pandemic a year ago. The increase of the public debt to twice the gross national product (GNP), in combination with the  repayment plan of reduced installments only until 2032, require measures based on foresight, sound decisions regarding the distribution of subsidies and maintaining significant monetary stocks in order to deal with unforeseen situations. The risks of a new financial crisis after the pandemic remain high.
 
   In order to address all these risks, our partners in the European Union have implemented different strategies. For example, in Italy there was a government crisis due to its policy of diverting a significant part of the money owed to the Recovery Fund towards repaying the country's high debt (it must be mentioned that their debt is much lower than ours…), while in Great Britain the super-conservative government decided to pay the government deficit, which was created by implementing measures to support those affected by the economic crisis, by taxing the rich! Our government has decided that the revenue from the Recovery Fund be directed to projects and actions that aim to modernise the development of the economy in order to, through the attraction of private investment, achieve high economic growth rates. This approach was chosen because it is believed that it will lead to increased government revenue, thus making it possible to meet our high debt obligations without imposing new taxation.
   Of course, the efficiency of all measures is judged by positive results, which, however, cannot be foreseen. This effectiveness can be achieved through the thorough adherence to the implementation design in the stages of development and through the strict observance of intermediate deadlines. We will be able to judge the effectiveness of our country’s program after its final approval, which is expected in the coming months. Until then, however, we have an obligation to draw attention to the long-existing tendency for fraud and corruption that prevails in several strata of the Greek society, both in the private and in the public sector. We have already observed this tendency even at the present preliminary stage of implementation: there have been twice as many applicants for subsidies as those entitled! This makes us suspect that there has been long-term concealment of assets and tax evasion.
 
 
 
 
   Let us hope that the mechanisms for allocating the Recovery Fund resources aimed at overcoming the effects of the pandemic and advancing our economy, will be strengthened by the appropriate measures to eliminate wide-spread corruption. The ordinary citizens should follow these developments, which so far have been directly related to the preservation of the positive measures already taken by the government. 
 
                                                                                                           THE EDITORIAL BOARD

WILL THE SECURED E.U. CAPITAL OF €32 BILLION FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE GREEK ECONOMY BE USED TO BEST ADVANTAGE THIS TIME?

The coronavirus pandemic has temporarily put a stop to the economic development of almost every country in the world. This stagnation has created many debts, and measures have to be taken to make up for the losses. The European Union, after difficult negotiations, has decided to make financial loans available to its member states. Most of these loans will not be paid back by the states that will receive them, in order to thus help close the growth gap that has been created. One of the most notable terms of these financial allocations is their absorption by each member state over a predetermined, relatively short, period of time. If funds are not spent within that strict time frame, non-absorbed funding will be withdrawn and redistributed to other member states that have exhausted their allocated funds. This strict condition brings to mind the phrase: “time is money”, first used by Benjamin Franklin in 1748.

   The question is whether the organisation of the Greek state, and especially those related to the design, planning and execution of public works, have the necessary capability to comply with the full and effective absorption of funding, according to the tightly defined terms set by the EU. Unfortunately, the answer to this question, based on our experience so far, is negative. However, this does not mean that, if new administrative and managerial approaches are implemented and if strict conditions are set in time at each stage of development, it is impossible to overcome this negativity. We will list below some of these conditions:

   1) At the top level, the governance of our country so far creates confidence in the intentions for change for the better. But intentions are not enough, if they are not accompanied by the right leaders who will implement them. These leaders must not only believe in these intentions, but also have the required managerial ability. Two actions taken so far give us hope: first, the preparation of the plan of compatibility with the conditions set by the Recovery Plan, which was submitted to and was approved by the Summit, and second, the selection of a Minister with recognised managerial ability, who will be responsible for the implementation of the projects.

   2) The next phase, i.e. the selection of projects to be implemented, has to be based objectively on real needs, so that the best future prospects for our country can be realised. The degree of achievement of the selected objectives will show in the coming years if this phase was successful. The technocratic staff that will be selected to draw up coherent and realistic programs of projects, in addition to the necessary technical knowledge, should also steadfastly believe in the goals set by the legislative and executive authorities.

   3) It seems that the next stages, i.e., the many phases of completion of several small and large projects, will be met with the big obstacles that have been plaguing the Greek public administration for a long time. These obstacles (parasitism, private interest transactions, distancing from the common public good and much more) have been recorded many times, but so far have only been addressed to a very limited extent. In general, obstacles of this kind that prevail in our country are very difficult to deal with effectively through the usual ways that have been attempted so far. An intelligent plan for dealing with these kinds of obstacles was designed in the mid-2000s in regards to major highway construction projects. Unfortunately it has yielded limited results due to the ensuing ten-year economic crisis and also due to the change in mentality of the following administration. This approach was reflected in the relatively transparent terms of the tender and the contracts that followed. Quality construction was ensured through the provision for long-term maintenance by the manufacturer at no additional public expense, but mainly through the creation of competing interests between contractors and lenders.

   4) It has been established, for several years now, that the effective treatment of the entrenched unhealthy conditions in the public administration can only happen through radical institutional reforms. The incompatibility between being a Member of Parliament and a Minister and the introduction of an electoral system similar to the one in Germany (single-member constituencies for the election of half of the Members and a list for the other half) could be two of the most substantial initial reforms. Such changes, which separate the legislative from the executive power, lead to the democratisation of the functioning of the parties, link MP’s more closely to their constituencies, and can serve as a form of policy-modelling with a view to assimilating and operating beneficially in the overall political community.

   The average citizen, the one who suffers from the ills of the above-mentioned public administration, remembers the huge funding provided to our country in the forty years since its accession to the European Union and can, without making detailed calculations, see the disproportionately small beneficial effects on the economy, society and the natural environment. For this reason, he/she wishes and hopes that this new, perhaps last, opportunity will bring fruit.    We, the people of Mani, hope that many of our compatriots, who hold high-level positions at all levels of the state administration and regional self-government, will not forget their place of origin and, finally, will make sure that Mani will get its share of the projects that is entitled to from this latest financial package