At the beginning of the new decade the political landscape seems cloudy. The whole world, and in particular Greece, is faced with dire circumstances, which are the result of poor political decision-making during the last decades. The fact that the political and economic situation in the competitor countries has improved makes the situation in our country even worse. The hope for determined intervention on Greece’s behalf by other friendly states has been overestimated. Unfortunately, in our country we do not even have the unanimity needed to face the complicated issues that lie ahead. It seems that the only thing we can do is to display individual courage so that we can manage the complicated problems that we are faced with.
Bravery was the virtue that characterised our ancestors in similar circumstances. This has been proven by their stance during the corresponding decades of the 20th and the 19th centuries. Because of their bravery, they were able to deal with problems disproportionally severe compared to the small size of our country and to the limited political and military resources of such a small population. Until the beginning of the 20th century, the vision of “the greater Greece of the two continents and the seven seas” was simply an unreachable dream. Before that, until 1820, the possibility of putting an end to the Turkish rule was also considered utterly unrealistic. However, in both these cases, two brave men rose above the difficulties and brought results favourable for our country, results which before could only have been dreamt about. Venizelos, a master in politics, external affairs and diplomacy, was able in 1920 to materialise the dream of the “greater Greece of the two continents and the seven seas”. Papaflessas (“the mad priest”, as people called him) was able in 1820 to inspire his compatriots, so that they acquire the necessary courage to abolish the servitude and to get our country liberated from the formidable Turkish rule.
Unfortunately, what usually happens is that after the first enthusiasms and the successes of brave patriots, division follows, due to greed, pursuit of personal interest and egocentricity. The toppling of Venizelos’ government and the “Asia Minor Disaster” occurred in 1922, just two years after the brave exploits of 1920. The same happened with the civil wars of the period 1824-1827, which could potentially have led to the loss of everything that had been won through the bravery of 1820.
It is beyond doubt that Maniots have always been extremely brave. Unfortunately, we can also be extremely divisive, a fact that was observed in both decades of 1920-1930 and 1820-1830. In the first case, the unanimous enlisting in the victorious wars of 1910-1920 was followed by the deep division of the citizens in two groups: the followers of Venizelos and the royalists, a division which brought catastrophic results during the next decade. In the second case, the unanimous enlisting in the victorious independence wars of 1821 was followed by the discord between the leading warlord families of Mavromichalis and Mourtzinos and the troops they commanded in Mani; this conflict reached a peak during the governance of Capodistria and brought subsequent catastrophic results.
What is needed during these hard times is not only bravery, but also continued unanimity and agreed upon planning and actions. If this base exists, then it is almost certain that competent leaders with strong personalities will emerge, who will be able to create the right conditions in order to manage the current complicated issues.
Of course, creating the positive climate that will bring the right conditions is the responsibility of the political parties, and the political system in general. The central government is responsible for creating the conditions for consensus. However, this is only possible if the opposing parties also recognise the need for these particular consents. It would be a blessing if the general consensus regarding sensitive issues such as national sovereignty could also be applied to other areas. Political parties should be able to express their ideological mindset in calm and resolute terms, while always keeping in mind the seriousness of the issues to be dealt with.
On the municipal level, it would be a good idea if the pluralistic municipal councils in Mani could achieve a common base of understanding on issues of public interest, and could express these positions in a low-key, matter-of-fact manner. It is certain that the expression of the political word in calm terms will help bring unanimity in the small communities of our region.