Αρχείο κατηγορίας MAIN ARTICLES IN ENGLISH

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

2021: CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM AFTER A LONG REFLECTION ON PAST EVENTS AND SITUATIONS

Time is continuous, but we, humans, like to slice it into intervals… We do this in order to do all kinds of measurements and calculations during the limited course of our lives. Time, however, moves at its own speed which for humans is hard to comprehend. Events happen in time scales that do not reflect human life times. Humans need to carefully re-examine past events and situations and draw valid conclusions that will help us now, as we move forward. The reflections in this introductory paragraph are the basis for a short analysis of last year’s events and some thoughts on the new year 2021.

            Events of 2020 have erased all erroneous expectations that life on our planet will continue to progress and prosper. Most of us used to believe that health, employment, security and, most important of all, democracy, are based on reliable and steady risk prevention systems. We had forgotten, after many decades of peace and normalcy, that the relations between nature and society are dynamic and that the balance between the two of them can be negatively affected by fluctuations of power and by unforseen new elements that come up and cause changes and events catalytic in nature. The new coronavirus pandemic that humanity is currently experiencing proved wrong the consensus that the Spanish Flu pandemic, which happened a century ago, was the last one. It has reminded us that all countries have to cooperate and develop common stable health policies. We have now internalised not only that public health is the most important public good, but also that emergency, exceptional and temporary measures can adversely affect other sectors, such as the economy and employment.

            In our country, we have clearly observed once more that the policy of “putting things off for later” and the extensive corruption in public administration are not just data for statistics, but also the causes for the big imbalance between us and our neighbouring country. This power imbalance was what fuelled the Turkish provocations, which we experienced many times this past year. Finally, the ludicrous political events that are unfolding in the USA remind us once more that the populism of the working classes can severely threaten democratic systems. The unfair distribution of wealth and the poor efforts by the state to provide education for the young are the main causes for the rising populism.

               Now that mobility is limited due to the pandemic, our extended stay at home gives the opportunity for everyone, citizens and government, to examine all the events of the past year and reflect on the causes. In this way, everyone (citizens as well as their representatives, the politicians) can cooperatively and coherently move from the surface to the deeper causes, and contribute by all performing their own duty. It seems as if last year’s disasters can be reversed, but only if individual actions are carefully co-ordinated. Vaccinations and effective medication as well as the experience gained in the treatment of the disease, are all positive developments in the course for radical treatment of the new pandemic; however, we need to form a unified stance on preventive measures. Subsidies for workers and businesses affected by the coronavirus, combined with favorable loan repayment terms and new lending, can counteract the negative effects on the financial sector, as long as they are not abused by parasitic tactics, as in the past. The strategic alliances which we are steadily forming, the careful, although late, planning for the purchase of military equipment, and the recent election results in the USA, all strengthen the sense of our national security.
 
               In our region, it seems that the low population density, a product of the special way of social coexistence chosen by our ancestors, has limited the expansion of the new pandemic, while the generally positive effects of the new motorway have greatly supported the finances of the people who live and work in Mani. In matters of national security, the disposition to protect our national sovereignty, as we inherited it from our ancestors, is considered given, permanent and essential. All that remains now is to formulate a firm desire to fight populism. A key factor in promoting this goal in our region is to enhance the effectiveness of our schools, which now face the added difficulty of integrating the many children, who come from foreign families permanently settled in Mani, into the national and local culture.
 
                                                                                                           THE EDITORIAL BOARD 

A COMMON VISION FOR THE FUTURE OF OUR COUNTRY IS NECESSARY FOR DEALING WITH THE MANY CURRENT ADVERSITIES

     Cohesive relations between peoples are defined by the regulations set by individual constitutions. The articles of the constitution reflect our shared values, which were developed after many years of people living together and forming a state. A common vision for the future of a nation is based on these shared values. Materialisation of this vision means that each citizen has to put the common good ahead of his/her personal gain. Aiming towards the common good always brings good results for every citizen of a nation.

     In 1821, the shared vision for freedom united different Greek societal groups, led them to common action, and finally resulted in the country’s liberation from the brutal Ottoman tyranny. The vision for a reborn free Greece was morally higher than the petty personal interests of individual citizens. Individual gain was placed in second place to freedom. Our area, Mani, is a representative example of putting aside personal ambitions and gains before the common vision of freedom for Hellenism. Maniots fought for the common freedom, although at the time they were enjoying autonomous administration with their own local Maniot leader, their everyday life was secure, and they were relative safe as far as their life and property were concerned.

     The common vision for liberating all areas that were inhabited by populations with Greek consciousness was expressed in the “Great Idea”, which dominated the dreams and aspirations of Greek citizens for the greatest part of one hundred years. This vision resulted in the liberation wars of that period in many regions that used to belong to Greece, but were still under Ottoman occupation. The Maniots again were leaders in the struggles for liberating their subjugated compatriots living in the rest of the greater Greek geographical area. However, before a national vision materialises, it has to be realistic. A thorough analysis of the international conditions and a careful examination of the power relations (the actual relations between the powers?) of a certain period (of the time?) has to happen beforehand. It is necessary that international conditions and power relations are taken into account. Every time when the vision of the Great Idea was pursued at periods when the circumstances were adverse, untimely acts of war were undertaken and disaster ensued. However, those times when military operations were based on careful diplomatic preparations and on a realistic analysis of the power relations, spectacular successes were achieved.

     In the previous paragraphs, where we examined (looked at) the need for a new vision, we often saw the words “common” and “shared”.  If the vision is not shared, then it lacks broad support, and such a national undertaking is not realistic; it is either frivolous or it conceals personal interests, and it will lead to a catastrophy. In the recent history of Greece we have had such examples, with the most important (respresentative?) one being the coup d’état against Makarios, the President of Cyprus, in 1974, which resulted in the invasion of the Turkish military in Cyprus and the permanent occupation by Turkey of a big part of the island. Unfortunately this kind of pseudo-visions (false visions) are quite popular in our times, and they threaten the normal evolution (smooth working out) of our crucial (most important) national affairs.

     If we look at the situation in our neighbouring Turkey, we will notice that the Turkish leaders have worked diligently to promote their own national vision. First they stabilised their political system, then they developed their economy, steadily increased the production, and used effectively the advanced technology which they imported from countries with a strong background in this area (with a strong digital background?). They created a strong industry, which resulted in not only the strengthening of their country, but also in a significant improvement of the standard of living of their citizens. When all these preparations brought positive results, then the politicians started appealing to the emotions of their people, glorifying the period of expansion of the Ottoman empire and promoting their national vision, which consists in revising and overturning the present status quo.

     Based on the above, we can conclude that for the national vision to be effective, it is necessary for it to be based on a strong and realistic basis. The first step for its materialisation is the strenghtening of the private and state economy. It is very important that the national vision be based on fairness and accepted as such by the powerful states of the time. However, the most important condition for the success of the national vision as it relates to the future of a country is for the vision to be embraced not only by the political parties and their leaders, but most of all by its citizens. If we start working on creating the necessary conditions, as described in this last paragraph, then it is certain that the national vision for the future of our country will soon be defined.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC: ATTITUDE SHIFTING FROM FEAR TO FRIVOLITY

   We believe that now, ten months after the appearance of the coronavirus, is the right time to conduct sociological studies which will examine the present attitude of society towards the pandemic, i.e., of the human society as a whole and of the individual societal groups of each country. We notice that the societies of Asian countries with autocratic regimes tend to enforce firm restrictive measures which result in the quick confinement of the spreading of the pandemic. The societies of countries with democratic regimes tend to give priority to saving human lives and to a lesser extent to balancing the economy and the professional activities of their citizens, so that the whole economy does not collapse. In theory, our country has followed the framework adopted by democratic states, however, in practice it seems that individual behaviours deviate from the norm.

   It is normal that older people are more afraid during a pandemic, because at an old age it is easier to catch the virus and more difficult for the treatment to be effective. Because older people are more vulnerable, they are more likely to comply with the daily practices proposed by health professionals and the restrictive measures that are enforced by the government. The government decides on the specific measures to be taken after consulting with committees of specialised scientists who study the epidemiological data and make relevant proposals. Older people voluntarily restrict autonomous actions and the fulfillment of personal desires. The opposite is true for younger people who are more impulsive and full of energy. They do not always comply with the restrictive measures, because being young and strong, they know that they are not as vulnerable to the disease. Even if they catch the virus, they may be asymptomatic and not need treatment.

   The challenge which the politicians and health professionals of our country need to face is how to make everyone, but most importantly the younger people, comply with the rules for combating the pandemic. Citizens need to respect not only the preventive measures taken by the state but also the restrictive measures for the spreading of the disease. Since the repression of irresponsible conduct is difficult, if not impossible, the best way for the politicians to promote responsible behaviour is to become role models themselves by exhibiting social responsibility and thus try to persuade the younger generation to act in a more responsible manner. The best education for the society as a whole is the exemplary daily conduct of its leaders. Of course, time and a consistent effort are needed, so that the average citizen will learn to copy the “beacon” model and the daily behaviour of his/her leaders. It will be difficult at the beginning, but once the model is established, extreme autonomous actions will become increasingly rare among young people, who will realise that they need to voluntarily self-impose restrictions to their excessive freedom, so that the most vulnerable societal groups can be protected.

   The requirement to lockdown in our homes during the first stage of the pandemic was applied successfully by the government, because at that time the Greek citizens actually obeyed the authorities due to their fear for the impact of the new and unknown until then coronavirus.  Unfortunately, the lockdown was followed by the lifting of these measures and the reopening of businesses, an act which was necessary for the partial recovery of the economy and the avoidance of a new bankruptcy for our country. After the first wave of the pandemic, younger people thought that the consequences for human health were not as serious as previously thought and that the death rate was actually lower than previously believed. For these reasons our youth thought that they do not need to compromise their freedoms or restrict their autonomy and their personal choices. Recent data has proven that they are wrong. Not following the restrictive measures might mean that younger people who catch the virus are asymptomatic, however, when these asymptomatic people come into contact with older people, they spread the disease to this vulnerable group of people with catastrophic consequences.

      Recent negative developments make us pose the following two questions: in a democratic country like ours, is it an obligation for citizens to impose self-restrictions on the freedom that comes from their extreme autonomous activities? is it an obligation for citizens to make sure that their autonomous activities do not negatively affect the preservation of health and the preservation of life of vulnerable societal groups? Most Greeks agree that the above two requirements should be followed by all citizens. We hope that as time goes by, everyone will realise how catastrophic the results of non-compliance to  the preventive and restrictive measures for the spreading of the disease are. We hope that more and more people will realise that the measures enforced by the government are for the common good and they will be willing to comply.

THE IRRESPONSIBLE ATTITUDE OF YOUTH TOWARDS THE NEW CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC IS A RESULT OF OUR EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM

People who have been observing the developments in education for many decades, and in particular in the area of the effectiveness of education, noticed a big shift after the fall of the junta (1974). This dichotomy became stronger and stronger, and we think that it has recently reached its peak. There is some justification in the reasons that created such a dichotomy: the oppression during the junta repressed free thought and the exercising of political and social rights. It is certain that the reactions towards finding a reasonable balance after this oppressive period were negative, disproportionate and asymmetrical.

Ever since the liberation of Greece and the creation of the modern Greek State in the period leading up to the 1960’s, our educational system succeeded in not only fixing illiteracy, which was predominant in our country, but it also managed to build national conscience among the diversified students attending the Greek public schools. Teachers of all levels were able to harmoniously combine their national duty to educate and guide their students but also to vindicate their professional labour rights. The proper functioning of schools of that time produced positive results which benefitted society in general. The education system produced upright citizens who possessed not only national conscience but also displayed self-constraint in their claims for labour rights. They did not pursue unrestricted claims of “guild” privileges.

After the return of parliamentarism in 1974, a new tendency started to develop, which was aiming to balance the long oppression during the years of dictatorship with a new extreme permissiveness in the performance of duties towards society and towards the state in general. One of these tendencies was the extreme demands of all members of the educational community (both students and teachers of all educational levels). Unfortunately, the politicians of the time, who were mostly interested in being reelected, eagerly legislated many of these unreasonable claims.  With very few exceptions of the rare periods of better governance, the situation kept getting worse as the decades went by. Unfortunately, since the education system breeds a country’s future citizens, many of these tendencies continue to survive today. A small improvement was observed because of the changes that were necessitated during the recent deep economic crisis.

A mark of a cohesive society is the extent of solidarity among its members, particularly the solidarity towards those fellow countrymen that we do not personally know. When solidarity is present, self-centredness and extreme egotism are diminished. The empathy and the capacity for individual growth for everyone who practises solidarity more than compensate for the potential loss of personal interest.

During the first period of the pandemic, solidarity was practised mainly by our health professionals. In unprecedented circumstances, the vast majority of them provided excellent support to the infected patients, who could not enjoy the support of their own relatives due to the nature of the disease. Unfortunately, not all citizens understood why the tackling of the pandemic in our country was so successful. Some groups of professionals and many young people thought that the low numbers of affected persons was not due to the preventive measures enforced by the government and the strict adherence to the thorough action plan, but instead to the low morbidity of the virus. This view held by some citizens led to laxness in complying with the necessary preventive measures and to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases.

Based on the above, we can conclude that unfortunately Greek society has learned to function according to the negative tendencies in our educational system that were formed during the years after the fall of the dictatorship in 1974. Students of all educational levels during that period learned to become extremely relaxed in applying the ideas and complying with the institutional responsibilities that all citizens of cohesive societies have to obey. Many of these students later became teachers in the public education system and they made the laxity that already existed in the education system even worse. This kind of mentality led to the high external indebtedness of the country for many years, the scandal of the Stock Exchange (1999) and the scandal of the Structured Bonds (2005). Irresponsible and damaging behaviours such as these caused the inflation of the already high national debt, which unfortunately will have to be paid by our descendants, the young people of the present and the next generations. The current reaction of the youth to the restrictions, which are enforced so that the pandemic does not spread further, is just another example of the slackness that our young people have been accustomed to. It is also a reaction to the national debt that has been transferred to them by the previous generations. However, this kind of reaction is not constructive and does not solve any of the current problems; instead it only makes societal impasses even worse…

Our country needs reorientation. We believe that our society needs to be redirected, and that solidarity is the only effective way. Of course, this kind of reorientation has to start at the base – at our education system…

                                                                                                                                                THE EDITORIAL BOARD

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.

                                                                                                                               

200 YEARS AFTER THE INDEPENDENCE WAR: EXAMINING OUR RECENT HISTORY

   The best way of summarising the history of the 200 years since the Greek revolution (1821-2021) is the following: SEVEN WARS, FOUR CIVIL WARS, SEVEN BANKRUPTCIES. This is also the title of a book published in recent years by History Professor Georgios V. Dertilis (the author comes from a Maniot family which settled in Neapolis Voion, in Laconia). Upon reflecting on these two centuries, we note that with the exception of some wars which had more wide-ranging causes, the rest of the wars, the bankruptcies and the civil conflicts were all caused by the typical mentality of the Greek governments, which were representing the desires of the political circles of the time. Upon examining our history, we realise that the political homogenisation of the Greek nation was not as thorough and successful as it could have been. If the homogenisation had been stronger, the Greek political community would have had common goals and the electorate would have elected the right politicians to promote and achieve these goals. These politicians would have adapted these goals to the possibilities that were offered at that time and they would have used whatever resources and means were available to full potential.

   During the 19th century two important Greek political ideas failed because of internal causes. These goals, although they were realistic, failed to gain common acceptance and thus political homogenisation was not achieved. These political goals were the following:

a) Governor Ioannis Kapodistrias’ efforts to create a civilised, righteous and just Greek state, immediately after the internal civil conflicts. Not only his efforts failed, they also led to his assasination and to even more serious armed warfare.

b) The efforts to include in the Greek territory the areas outside the borders of Greece where ethnic Greeks lived. This movement was called “The Great Idea”, was supported by the idealist Bavarian Otto, King of Greece, but was undermined by internal disputes and disagreementss between the political parties. It ended badly with the disastrous Greek-Turkish war of 1897.

   The uncooperative attitude of the political community and the lack of desire to pursue national goals, which would certainly have meant sacrifices and personal costs, resulted in failure. Even in the few cases, where the international situation was favourable, the Greek political leaders were capable and they had clear and realistic goals, failure ensued because micropolitics and personal gains got the upper hand.

  Two very capable great Greek politicians were Harilaos Trikoupis and Eleftherios Venizelos. Harilaos Trikoupis changed the until then inward-looking operation of the Greek state, and he tried to modernise the country by introducing many European technological advancements. However, he was very wrong in his expectation that the Greek citizens would be responsible tax payers. The result was that Trikoupis could not collect through taxes the funds that would have allowed him to pay back the loans that he had taken so that he could undertake extensive modernisation public works. This failure led to his defeat in the next elections, resulting in his death, and to the bankruptcy of the country. Eleftherios Venizelos had foreseen the political developments in the Balkans and in Europe, and he tried hard to lead Greece forward with a strong and ambitious vision for the future. Again, however, micropolitics, personal interests and the fatigue of the Greek soldiers who had been fighting external wars for many years, they played a role in the defeat of the army and the death of the “Big Idea”. Venizelos’ hopes that Greece would be led to its great destiny were cruelly dashed.

   Similar situations to the ones we have mentioned above have also developed in the past and continue to develop today in our area, Mani. The political homogenisation of the small militant communities of Mani started in 1818 when the Maniot warlords promised to the representatives of the Filiki Etaireia (Society of Friends) that they will support the War of Independence. The cooperation among them continued during the first three years of the Revolution (for some of them at great loss to life, property and privileges). Maniots, who were enjoying a semi-autonomous status in small communities, without the presence of Turks, embraced the common goals of freedom and independence. They put aside economic interests for the common good and they rushed to the battlefields, with the very vague promise that their sacrifices would be recognised if the war turned out victorious. Unfortunately, the developments after 1824 gradually divided the local Maniot leaders, who put aside the high ideals, and pursued instead personal interests. This shift in mentality led the whole country, but even more our own area, Mani, to tragic developments. Ever since, division and polarisation have followed us like a curse. These phenomena are even more prominent during critical times. During the past decades, we have seen an opening in our small local communities and the creation of some new ideas, which gives us a reason to be optimistic that some positive changes can also happen here, in Mani. Let us hope that the solidarity of the years 1814-1824 will gradually be guiding more and more Maniots, so that the necessary “critical mass” can be formed, which will lead us to more common goals and prospects for the future.

                                                                                                THE EDITORIAL BOARD  

NEW CORONA VIRUS: THE TRANSITION FROM FEAR TO SOLIDARITY IS DIFFICULT, BUT NECESSARY

NEW CORONA VIRUS: THE TRANSITION FROM FEAR TO SOLIDARITY IS DIFFICULT, BUT NECESSARY

   Three months have passed since the strict measures against the COVID-19 pandemic were first implemented in our country. These measures, proposed by the appropriate health authorities and legislated by the government, were systematically adhered to by the public. This was a pleasant surprise, because as a nation, we are not characterised by obedience and compliance to the laws. This has made us reflect on the reasons why the implementation of these measures was so successful and why this time the Greek citizens listened to the competent health authorities and the government. Most people concluded that the success is due to two reasons: a) the decisive action of the government at a very early stage in the outbreak of COVID-19 and, most importantly, b) the fear of getting sick and the strong desire for the continuation of life.

   We are wondering if this fear and the adherence to the safety measures will also continue beyond the first trimester since the outbreak. We are worried that as the spreading of COVID-19 diminishes, the fear of the citizens will also diminish, and they might undertake activities harmful to their own health and the health of others. People might now just want to satisfy some strong desires that they have put aside during the past three months. We hope that these desires will not prove to be more powerful than the sense of reason and self-preservation. If all of a sudden we have a lot of people who no longer care about health safety measures, then we might end up with the reversal of the present positive situation and fall back to the situation we had in March, with detrimental effects. We might even have to re-implement strict emergency measures again.

   One way to deal with citizens who are falling back to lax behaviour and are not being careful about maintaining high standards of safety, is to remind them of the data, facts and situations from the early stage of the pandemic, which had instilled fear in them and made them comply. This way of helping resolve the problem of falling back offers us only a temporary means of controlling the situation; however, if we really want to achieve solid and permanent results, we will need to undertake a long and difficult journey. What we will really need to do is to develop a sentiment of social solidarity. The difference between a) remembering the fear at the beginning of the pandemic and b) building social solidarity, is qualitative, with the second one being much superior to the first. Bringing back the fear and implementing strict measures might eventually turn the fear into a phobia and create psychological problems. On the other hand, considering cooperation as a social obligation and developing a sentiment of societal solidarity towards our fellow citizens is a more difficult route to take, which does not lead to phobias or have any negative side effects. The difficulty in adopting social solidarity lies in the fact that in order to achieve that, we first have to put our personal interests aside and instead focus on our obligation to protect our fellow human beings. By doing this, we are also protecting ourselves from the disease. In addition, we get rewarded by the feeling that we belong to a bigger community, to the society as a whole, and we keep our psychological balance, which is of the utmost importance for a good quality of life, particularly in times of difficulty.

   We need to reflect on the fact that all societies which have reached a high standard of civilisation were (and most continue to be) cohesive societies, and their people were individuals who placed the common good ahead of their own personal interests. In ancient times, human groups needed to work together in order to face external dangers; they also needed to cooperate, so that they could secure enough food for every member of their group. The first examples of cooperation and solidarity between the members of a social group came from that prehistoric period because of the need to meet these primary needs. Even in our times today these basic needs are still met in the same way.

Defending the borders and the territorial sovereignty of a country is the duty of every nation, which has to be based on cooperation, solidarity and the sharing of common ideals among the citizens. In the present corona virus period, the sense of protecting each other by having everyone adhering to strict safety health measures is also an expression of social solidarity. This should apply not only to individuals, but also to states who are members of transnational unions and associations. It seems that states more and more understand the need for mutual protection from the pandemic, cooperation and solidarity, although there are still a few exceptions to the rule.

IN SPITE OF SOCIAL DISTANCING, THE DESIRE FOR CLOSE COOPERATION IS THE SOLUTION TO FUTURE PROBLEMS

The considerable time we have spent in voluntary social distancing  as a means of protection against the  spreading of the corona virus has been for most of us a time for reflection, personal assessment, and most importantly, a time for making decisions on our future course, after the end of the pandemic. In Greece, the first phase of health protection measures against the pandemic has been successful, however, the second phase will be a lot more complex. In order to achieve the highest protection of the population while suffering the least economic losses, close cooperation between individuals and societal groups is needed, and well thought-out political decisions have to me made. Flexibility is also needed in modifying the existing plans according to the new data and the effectiveness of the measures that are being taken

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                The most important condition for successfully dealing with the new situations that will arise during the second phase, is reaching a solid consensus on what exactly individual citizens should do. Reaching consensus on the protective measures that have been implemented so far was what made the first phase so successful.  During the second phase, the consensus will need to address both health protection of the population as well as recovery of the economy. In order to succeed in reaching a consensus, we will need to make a conscientious effort to place the good of all Greek citizens ahead of our personal financial interest. An encouraging factor for dealing effectively with the challenging second phase of the pandemic is the realisation and the satisfaction that we were able to go through the first phase with a minimum loss of human lives. Hopefully the humanity  that has prevailed during the two months of our mandatory self-isolation will be the basis for moderation. This is not the time to have unreasonable demands on the state for compensation of individuals for loss of wages or businesses for loss of income. The reduced economic activity of March and April, which at times in many areas was non-existent, cannot be dealt with unreasonable financial demands in terms of subsidies. Furthermore, it is very obvious that public finances cannot survive an extended period of granting subsidies or offering reductions of the tax rates for individuals and businesses. We need to agree on the fact that the burden of the present economic downturn will have to be carried equitably by everyone. Everyone of us needs to accept that we will all experience a reduction in our finances. Once we reach a consensus on this necessity, we will be able to judge with constructive criticism the economic policies that will be implemented. Thus, if necessary, we will be able to intervene in a mild and cooperative manner, so that we may help right any injustices or even advocate for favourable regulations for some needy societal groups.

                By reaching a common understanding on what needs to be done during the present circumstances, we can address the new situations that will develop during the evolution of the pandemic, calmly and with clear thinking. Closer human contact will bring increased economic activity and the reopening of various business operations, so that we can eventually return to the normalcy of the pre-pandemic days. Given that even if we take all the precaution measures, we can still get infected or infect others with corona virus, we need to keep in mind that protecting just ourselves is not enough. We also need to worry about others and help protect everyone that we come in contact with. In this way, we can develop the conditions for mutual protection, which will help bring about closer relations among people. In a time of crisis, we might develop emotional relationships that are much more meaningful than the ones that we have experienced before the outbreak of the pandemic, an emergency which has threatened the lives of all of us.

                Medical scientists believe that the elimination of the corona virus and the pandemic will happen only when an effective vaccine is developed. Coordinated research efforts will hopefully produce medication that will be effective in treating patients infected with COVID-19. We should remember that even in the field of medico-biological science, collaboration plays the most important role.  Medico-biological information is exchanged through transnational collaboration and through publications of experiment results in scientific publications. It is the same preparedness for collaboration that is fostered by the whole human community at times of crises, so that dangers can be addressed, particularly new, not well-defined dangers, such as in the corona virus pandemic. This kind of cooperation between the citizens and the scientists of different countries as well as the cooperation between state leaders makes the vilified concept of globalisation much more desirable and beneficial.

                We are hopeful that at the end of this general health and economic crisis, we will all come out of it more aware, sensitive and cooperative. We are hopeful that we will always remember in the course of our lives the collaborative initiatives that have come as a result of our common desire to combat this pandemic.