THE NEED FOR SOLIDARITY IN SITUATIONS OF GREAT IMPORTANCE
The choice of the subject matter and the views expressed in our newspaper, all stem from the concept of SOLIDARITY, a word which features prominently in our title “MANIOT SOLIDARITY”. We make a conscientious effort, so that SOLIDARITY characterises our personal conduct. SOLIDARITY is not enough, if it is confined only to the conduct of individuals or small groups, although it can still improve human relations, which are usually plagued by petty selfishness and self-interest. SOLIDARITY between individuals does not usually extend to broader situations that affect larger groups. Yet, if SOLIDARITY were to be applied to larger groups, it could help greatly in situations of great importance or in emergency situations. To illustrate this concept, we will give below three areas in which, if we want to be successful, we will need to act in SOLIDARITY .
First, the financial crisis of our country and the declining finances of most Greek citizens is a major problem not only of the last decade, but also for many decades to come. We have seen many expressions of SOLIDARITY to individuals affected by the present adverse economic situation; this example of solidarity shows sensitivity on the part of individuals or small groups, and we hope that we will see many more such examples in the future. Unfortunately, we did not see any such examples of SOLIDARITY on the part of political parties. On the contrary, we saw intense rivalry and false promises on the part of many politicians, who were only interested in getting elected. The co-signing of the various “memoranda” by most of our pollitical parties and their agreeing to the disastrous consequences, that came after the bankruptcy of our country, do not constitute SOLIDARITY; we have seen many times that a new intense political rivalry would begin as soon a new “memorandum” was signed. We would have considered as SOLIDARITY the agreement of the political parties and their engagement in finding new viable economic measures that could pull the country out of the economic crisis in the foreseeable future; what we saw instead, was the shifting of responsibility to others and blaming the previous and the next political leaders of our country. Our political leaders did not see, or they refuse to see, how the concept of SOLIDARITY was used in other countries, particularly in our neighbouring state Cyprus, a country that was also subjected to a “memorandum”. We should learn from the Cypriot situation and act accordingly. Let us hope that if we are faced with new political impasses in the future, our political leaders will act in a more mature way.
Second, extreme weather conditions occasionally create emergency situations; in order to deal with these emergencies, SOLIDARITY is needed not only in helping those immediately affected, but also in coordinating the efforts for restoring the infrastructure damage. Again, we saw considerable SOLIDARITY between individuals and small groups; unfortunately, we did not see any SOLIDARITY between local municipal groups. What we saw instead, was rivalry between different local politicians, who tried to use the recent natural disaster in our area to their own political advantage. This is a sad situation, and it will most certainly affect the timely and effective restoration of the damages to infrastructure and private property, that were caused by the recent floods, in a very negative way.
Third, the waste disposal issue in our area becomes more and more intense each year, since suggestions and possible solutions are always put aside and never carried through. We need to understand that we need to solve this problem locally, in our area. Since individual municipalities are unwilling to undertake this complex project on their own, we have to look at the larger area of Mani as a whole. We need to understand that somewhere in our area we need to establish landfill sites. SOLIDARITY could be expressed by compensating those municipalities that will accept dumping grounds in their area (and therefore will experience devaluation of their real estate) with generous infrastructure public works. We should also learn a lesson from the waste disposal problem in Mani, an issue that was allowed to continue unresolved for a very long time: the impasses in which municipalities often find themselves should be dealt in a timely fashion with understanding and SOLIDARITY.
In conclusion, we believe that only with solutions based on SOLIDARITY can we build a country that will be better than the one that our children will inherit from us. A stable country, that will not be on the verge of bankruptcy, which will always be an imminent danger, if we do not change our mentality. So far our politicians’ actions were characterised by petty selfishness and self-interest. We need to change, and show SOLIDARITY towards our fellow citizens, both on the individual and on the municipal level.
INCREASE IN PRODUCTIVITY IS THE ONLY WAY TO END THE CRISIS
High productivity is a concept that Maniots have always put into practice. The older generation still remembers the ways in which our ancestors managed to face their unrelenting expenses every year. First, they fully exploited their few fields, which, because of their rocky terrain, only rendered a small income. The men plowed the most fertile fields, in which they planted wheat. The women dug the edges of these fields with pickaxes, as well as the other least rocky fields. In alternate years, the women planted oats or vetch for animal feed. Each family also had 3-4 goats or sheep (some families had even more). They tended their olive trees the whole year (plowing, fertilizing with manure, weeding and pruning), so that they could maximize their olive oil production. And finally, if the family budget could not be balanced by the proceeds from their own property, in the spring or summer, when there was no agricultural work to be done in Mani, our ancestors, mostly women, but also men, worked as seasonal workers in the rich Messinian flatland or in the valley of the river Eurotas. Because of the work ethic, the high productivity and the fair distribution of work among family members, our ancestors managed to balance their revenue and expenses every year.
The situation described above also applied to all other Greek rural areas, where, until the 1950’s, half the population of Greece lived. This is why it is easy to bring back the concept of high productivity, and to adapt it to the present-day circumstances; however, we will need first to dismiss the false images of prosperity, created and promoted by the Greek politicians of the last decades.
One of the principles of psychology is that people easily adopt solutions that will benefit them, without checking first to see if these solutions are credible and feasible. Unfortunately, the majority of Greek people have been brainwashed by our politicians and some of them actually still believe that they will receive what was promised to them, although it is very obvious that these were false promises.
In recent years, when politicians presented false images of prosperity, the Greek electorate believed them, because they had access to easy money. Unfortunately, the electorate did not realize that this money was far above their productivity and that the gap between the low productivity and the high compensation was based on state borrowing. If anyone tried to analyze the economic data and point out the fact that the economy was in trouble, he or she was considered as a political opponent, and people disregarded what he or she had to day. Now we have a new version of the old false promises: the concept that redistribution of wealth between the rich and the poor can solve the economic crisis in the long-term and that prosperity can be achieved once again. We do not know if there is credible data to support this redistribution; but even if the data exists, we believe that redistribution of wealth cannot alone solve the present economic crisis. Recent history has shown us what happens to those governments which could not increase the productivity of their citizens: these countries fell behind and were crushed by the competitiveness of the global market.
We believe that increased productivity is the only solution to end the present economic crisis. It needs to become common conscience in the minds of the citizens, workers, employers and self-employed. If this happens, then according to psychology, a climate of optimism will develop, which is necessary for economic development. When this is achieved, Greek employers will invest capital, but will also attract foreign investments, the workers will see their salaries increased according to their increased productivity, and the self-employed will profit from increased consumption, which always happens under these circumstances.
In conclusion: the concept of balancing the family budget by maximizing individual productivity of each member of the family was a reality for the older generations of Maniots, and it can still serve as a guide to us today for our economic development.
 a fodder crop, member of the pea family
MAN AND THE LAWS OF NATURE
In the old times, time seemed to go by more slowly, because people’s demands and pursuits were simpler. Because their work and their activities were all in harmony with the seasons, people had to pay attention to the laws of nature. As they observed and understood the laws of nature, they acquired practical experience, on which they based the planning and realisation of their structures. This practical intelligence determined the right location to build their houses, the way to fence their fields and the choice of materials that they should use.
The climate conditions, the norms of the water flow and the terrain characteristics of each region were observed and informally “studied” for a long time, and this practical knowledge was transferred from generation to generation, so that people could build safe structures. The water, principal element of life (the most important element for the existence and continuation of life) and the practical knowledge of its laws and functions added to the quality of life of our ancestors. Particularly in Mani, people needed to have a sound knowledge of the corrosive properties of the calcareous rocks (limestone) and the characteristics of the limestone crevasses. These features, together with the many steep inclinations that are formed between the Taygetos mountain chain and the sea, used to determine and continue to determine the norms about the flow of the rain water. In addition, the inhabitants of Mani, had observed that the weather changes that come from the western Mediterranean Sea, when they reach the elongated chain of the Taygetos mountains, can cause intense and long rainfalls.
The first measure taken by our ancestors, so that the rain water can safely flow to the sea, was the preservation of the natural geological basins, which were slowly formed by nature during many centuries. Older Maniots made certain that any man-made structures were in harmony with the terrain that was defined by the natural flow of water. During the last decades, however, all this practical intelligence about the laws of nature, that had been painstakingly obtained by our ancestors, was put aside because of new trends, such as the exploitation of land for commercial purposes. Plots of land, especially those that could be used for building tourist accommodation, appreciated in value, resulting in a generalised sense of financial prosperity. This quest for money encouraged ordinary people to appropriate parts of the natural rainwater basins and attach them to their own plots; other people diverted the course of the rainwater away from their properties, in order to join adjacent plots of land and make them bigger (i.e. buildable). For many years, it seemed as if nature had accepted these changes that men brought upon the rainwater flow, and we were lucky to experience only mild natural phenomena. However, weather patterns are not always predictable; under certain combinations of weather elements, extreme natural phenomena occur, like the recent ones that we experienced in September, and nature reclaims its terrain, causing great damage. Natural disasters are often the inevitable result of human recklessness. Under the present circumstances, however, the most important thing is how long the young Maniots are going to remember the lessons taught by the recent flooding, which they witnessed themselves. The new generation of Maniots witnessed first hand the results of the imprudence of the previous generation.
The trend among ordinary people to become rich quickly, is not an exception or something that happened by chance. It is the result of the way in which political parties always try to outdo each other in promises, which they know they are not going to keep, or in cover-ups and in tolerating illegal activities. This mentality, combined with the instinct of self-preservation, which naturally increases in difficult times, makes people disobey the laws of nature. Man forgets that he/she is just an immeasurably small part of the immense nature, and as a result his/her behaviour changes to “hubris”, as the term was understood in Ancient Greece (a person who went beyond the natural laws, which were set for human behaviour, was considered to commit “hubris”). The message, after the recent extreme natural phenomena that we experienced in our area, is clear: man must live and act according to the laws set by nature.
PRINT MEDIA, THE INTERNET AGE AND US
The transition from the era of messengers and town criers to the publication of newspapers meant a sudden and effective improvement in the transmission of information. During the three centuries that have elapsed since then, newspapers have been the primary means of publicising ideas and ideologies that were formed after the Renaissance. However, since the beginning of the 20th century, the influence of newspapers on forming public opinion has decreased: new means of transmitting information, such as radio and television were invented, and newspapers were no longer the only source of current information. After WW2, the progress of technology was great and brought many new inventions. Then came the internet, which, together with the movement towards globalisation, challenged the long domination of newspapers. During the last few decades, because of the developments described above, the circulation of newspapers gradually became smaller and smaller. In this article, we will try to describe the challenges that printed publications are faced with today, and how they affect our own newspaper, MANIATIKH AΛΛΗΛΕΓΓΥΗ.
The new means of transmitting information (radio, television and internet) are all characterised by providing information in a quick and cumulative way. As a result, information now reaches the audience unfiltered and unclassified. Since the information is not delivered in “hard copy” form, it is difficult for the audience to study it and determine how it corresponds to their personal interests. Evaluation of information and determination of how it affects each individual can only be achieved through access to printed publications, and this is why some readers remain faithful to receiving their information through printed matter.
Printed publications, however, have lost their “immediacy”, since all information now leaks through the new “fast” means, before it is even possible to send the publication for printing. Because of this fact, circulation of daily newspapers has been severely curtailed; this is not the case with “thematic” newspapers. The readers now prefer weekly, biweekly or monthly printed publications. However, in order to assure readership in these publications, there has to be quality processing of information, which should be relevant to the personal interests of the readers.
Already in the first issue of our newspaper MANIATIKH AΛΛΗΛΕΓΓΥΗ (April 1999), we clearly defined our scope (as described in the last sentence of the previous paragraph). This scope is defined in our masthead: “monthly newspaper with Maniot themes”. Our themes are taken from the glorious past, the tormenting present and the future of Mani (hopefully, a future which will bring development to our area). Our subjects are chosen in such a way, so that we can contribute to the successful transition from the military culture of our ancestors to today’s peaceful culture, as dictated by present circumstances. In our newspaper, we do not cover the criminal/police events of our area, because they do not correspond to the scope of our publication.
In an effort to improve the quality of the news and themes in our newspaper, we conduct thorough research of the content; we also process the information to be published, by removing biased material, by connecting it to other similar information and by examining the chronological sequence of events. Finally, we take great care, so that no propaganda elements or political party agendas are contained in our articles. The process described in the previous lines is not easy; it was achieved slowly and painfully, issue by issue. It took time to achieve the maturity that hopefully our readers can see in our newspaper. Our quest for high quality reading material was dictated by the primary reason that led us to found MANIATIKH AΛΛΗΛΕΓΓΥΗ, and which can be summarised as follows: through our publication we hope to contribute a) in creating a peaceful and prosperous Mani, worthy of our glorious ancestors and b) in helping Maniots form mature political thinking, so that they can make correct decisions and choices.
So that our readers can access, whenever they want, articles published in previous issues of MANIATIKH AΛΛΗΛΕΓΓΥΗ, we have updated our webpage, by enriching it with many topics that we have published in the past; we are also providing the Table of Contents of each issue since the inception of our newspaper. Shortly, whenever visitors of the website www.maniatiki.gr or readers of our newspaper want to access an older issue of our publication, we will be able to accommodate their request, by providing them with a copy from the ones in our archive.
WE NEED A VISION AND A STRATEGY FOR ITS REALISATION
Polls have proven that Greek citizens believe that the main culprits for the decline of our country are our politicians and the way they governed. After the fall of the junta in 1974 and the political change-over, Greece has experienced two types of governance: policies that were aiming towards goals for the common good and policies that were not. Political initiatives and actions that aim at benefitting the majority of the Greek citizens are strategic in nature and express the long-term hopes of our nation. The opposite are political initiatives and actions which aim at benefitting the members of a certain political party or even at promoting personal interests and ambitions. It is such policies that led our country to the present financial and social crisis; as long as such policies continue to govern us, the hope for economic recovery will never materialise…
The big question during the last years of the crisis is how our country will get out of it. We do not want to pontificate, but we believe that we need a new clear vision for our country, accompanied by corresponding strategic actions. For this new vision to come to fruition, we need common goals and capable politicians who will undertake their realisation. Since it is possible that there will be many propositions for the new national vision, a constitutional revision might be now necessary. Since vision, strategic goals and common will are all inter-connected thematically and chronologically, time-consuming and painful negotiations will be needed, so that common mentality is reached among the Greek citizens, and that even more importantly, this mentality is reflected in the stances of the political groups.
There are many issues that need to be discussed and approved during the present and the next parliamentary terms. Out of these issues, the most important ones are the following three: a stable electoral system, the obligatory completion of the full four-year parliamentary term and the incompatibility between the offices of the MP and that of the minister. If these three concepts ever become law, then we could have the appropriate political framework within which we can define widely-accepted national strategic goals and projects. Our experiences up to now have been disappointing: politicians who during the election campaign have promised projects that never materialised; different types of government (progressive, conservative and liberal), which have delivered almost identical results, i.e., unsuccessful programs.
We need to look elsewhere, at countries that have a stable electoral system, such as Germany and Israel. These countries have been governed for a long time by alliances of political parties, yielding excellent results; they manage to implement programs that are fully effective. In Germany there is a provision for a stable 4-year parliamentary term, while in Israel there is a permanent electoral system in effect, that of proportional representation. These examples demonstrate that a political consensus can be very efficient, since it is based on the will of the people, as it is expressed through the electoral process. Germany and Israel have managed not only to turn the vision of their land into achievable strategic goals, but also to build conditions of prosperity for their people.
It should be mentioned that when 150 years ago the political unification of Germany was achieved, there were many local German dialects. The need for a uniform German language was evident, and the model for the grammar and syntax rules was taken from the Ancient Greek language. These rules, which were firm and stable, helped the German citizens and politicians establish a common, precise approach to their institutional texts. Whether we, the Greeks, also managed to transfer the ancient grammar and syntax rules to our Modern Greek language remains another disheartening and painful topic… The fact that we need to change even the way in which we approach Ancient Greek is a difficult realisation. Change of mentality in this regard needs to begin with the experts…
This kind of reform is needed not only for the institutions named above, but also for all the other, less far-reaching institutions, which have smaller goals. The reform should not only happen in the way these institutions work, but also in the way that their leaders co-operate with each other and with other groups. Thus, we can achieve a new, more effective approach to our strategic goals even at the municipal level. Our region, Mani, which has been administratively divided into two areas, needs these reforms even more. We believe that it might be easier for us to achieve these reforms, because in our local history we have many examples of successful co-operation among our ancestors.
SELF CENTREDNESS AND POLITICAL COMMUNITIES
Human life has a limited lifespan, a community has a longer lifespan, and nature has an eternal lifespan. Whether we like it or not, we need to always remember these truths. It is absolutely necessary to adapt our behaviour and our actions to these realisations.
Human actions that are contrary to these truths are unwise, and their outcomes are short lived and easily reversed. Societies, in which most members act unwisely, soon disintegrate and eventually collapse. Nature, although temporarily hurt from irresponsible human action, continues its eternal course, and recreates itself, by forming new societies, enriched with new characteristics.
Because our time is a period of high quality of life and considerable wealth, devoid of widespread wars, we tend to forget the ideas expressed in the previous paragraph. However, fights for supremacy and conflicts between big societal groups or individual states have become more frequent, although they no longer evolve into fully-blown wars. Differences such as disputes over borders and sovereignty as well as fights in order to maintain the privileges of special societal groups can potentially lead to widespread confrontations.
The ideology and the morals which moulded people into homogeneous, cohesive groups has often degenerated into forming groups based on the common financial interests of their members. These groups are characterized not by the combined efforts of their members for the common good, but by strong self-centredness. Unfortunately, the Latin proverb “homo homini lupus” (a man is a wolf to another man), quoted by the 17th-century British political philosopher Thomas Hobbes, might again become relevant in our times, four centuries later! It seems that the people constituting the “political communities”, (i.e., the individual states) have not achieved a balance between their self-centredness and the pursuit for the common good and the advancement of the state, which they themselves, willingly, helped create. When the economy of a particular state is in trouble, the conflict between the personal and the societal good leads to even more instability and disintegration. This is what is happening now in Greece, and this is why we all need to help promote the interests of the Greek society as a whole. If we do this, we could help bring an end to the present economic crisis.
Unfortunately, our hopes that the leaders of the governing political parties in Greece (the high-level officials of the “political community”, as Thomas Hobbes calls them) would promote the common good, were shattered. The short-lived governments that led Greece during the present 6-year long economic crisis promoted only “pseudosocietal” (and not “societal”) interests. The political actions undertaken by these leaders were spectacular and appeared to benefit large societal groups, but in reality they only benefitted very few people. On the contrary, other, well-hidden actions came to light, which were undertaken in order to benefit target individuals or groups and were geared towards the politicians’ personal interests. With this kind of governance, it is impossible to achieve solidarity among the citizens for promoting the common good. Without co-operation and common goals, there will never be dynamic development in our country. Since every single Greek government during the last six years of the economic crisis followed the same corrupted practices, any endeavours that were undertaken by individual Greek citizens towards the right direction remained fragmented and uncoordinated. These individuals are left only one option: to wait for a change in the political climate.
Our area, Mani, a miniature society of the Greek state, could not be exempted from the unfortunate situations described in the previous paragraph. However, the special characteristics of our area, could help create the right circumstances for the pursuit of common, and not personal, goals. One of these characteristics is the courage, which rises above self-centredness. Our local history offers many examples of bravery, the most important one being one that was displayed during the uprising of 1821: our Maniot ancestors, although they themselves were enjoying a privileged, autonomous status, they nevertheless rose and fought for the independence of the whole Greek nation. Today we can see something similar in the cooperation between individuals and groups who work in the tourist sector, resulting in the alleviation of the economic crisis in our region. Such commendable actions are still the exception to the rule. If, however, they become more common, these examples can be aptly showcased; they can be used as a means to put pressure on our political leaders, who need to reconsider the absolute necessity of promoting the common good through their policies and benefitting as many groups as possible through their actions.
WILL WE APPRECIATE THE LESSONS OUR LOCAL HISTORY HAS TAUGHT US?
The beginning of the Greek struggle for independence in 1821 was largely based on the war expertise of the Maniots. The local military rulers promised under oath to the “Society of Friends” (Φιλική Εταιρεία) that they will join their forces and will fight together in solidarity against the Ottomans. This promise was kept for the first two or three years of the revolution, when many victories were won. Then various disagreements started. Ulterior motives, excessive ambitions and envy of the more successful, became common weaknesses within the groups of military and political leaders. This resulted in interior conflicts which lasted for years, and which would have probably led to the defeat of the Greek sand the renewed subjugation of the country to the enemy, if it were not for the intervention of the European powers of that time.
Mani was not an exception to the general situation. In those turbulent times, our region was again divided into counter groups which were siding with opposing military and political leaders. Unity was achieved, but unfortunately, only temporarily and to a lesser degree than before. Action was undertaken in unity only in 1826, when the danger presented by the Egyptian forces led by Ibrahim was too great. The solidarity of 1821 was never achieved again to the same degree. The division of the Maniot people was the main cause of the clash between the inhabitants of the biggest part of Mani with the Greek Governor Capodistria and its tragic consequences. These historical events lead us to conclusions that can also explain the present crisis in Greece, and, of course, in our area.
Solidarity is an expression of our character, which is formed by our family, the education we receive in school, the society in which we live in, but also by the way that public administration works and its effect on our lives. Unfortunately, in the last few decades, the way the Greek state is run constitutes an example to be avoided. This negativity adversely affects the young people, the citizens of tomorrow. Schools are also affected by the way the Greek state is run, with each societal group that is part of the school community pursuing a different self-serving goal. All these negativities affect every small society and every family.
In the last 6-7 years, we have all been hoping that the economic crisis will finally come to an end. Our hopes, however, were in vain, because the end of the crisis will not magically come on its own; change needs to come from within everyone of us. Only when each member of a societal group has the will to take individual action first, only then can unity and solidarity, necessary for dealing with the economic crisis, prevail. Solidarity cannot happen, when each one of us wants to keep what he already possesses, but also get something more from the common treasury. It cannot happen, when he/she is only willing to lose less than what the austerity measures dictate. In these difficult times, we need well-coordinated common actions, which will put the interests of the whole fiεstas opposed to the interests of the individual. Only in this way, will we succeed in creating a surplus, which will gradually bring an end to the economic crisis and the general gloom in our land.
During all these years of the economic crisis, we have been looking for a solution outside of Greece. However, our foreign partners are mainly interested in guarding their own interests, that is to make sure that they will not lose the funds that they have lent us. They also want to make sure that every year we will be able to repay to them part of the debt plus interest. For this to happen, the society and the economy of the indebted country (Greece) must be growing at such a rate that it can support its population at a reasonable standard of living, and can also create a surplus to serve its loans. This is what we should be aiming at.
The historical events of 1821 have taught us that this goal can only be achieved through solidarity and common mentality among the citizens of our country. A first step to the right direction would be to act in the society at large the same way that we act within our own family. We can then vote for politicians who embrace the same way of thinking as us. Only in this way, can we change our thinking and undertake common action. This will be the only way to get out of the long societal and economic crisis, which has been affecting our country for so long.
CAN MANI BE COHESIVE AND UNITED, IF MANIOTS ARE DIVIDED?
Since the founding of our newspaper many years ago, we have steadily maintained that our area,MANI, is COHESIVE and UNDIVIDED. This is not some kind of utopian statement, but rather a steadfast conclusion, based on the history of both the pre-revolution era and the post-revolution struggle for the foundation of the modern Greek state. The firm belief that Mani is one and undivided was confirmed in recent years by a) the renaming of the Diocese of Gytheion and Oitylon to “Diocese of Mani”and b) the creation of two districts, with both names containing the term Mani, that is the “District of Eastern Mani” and the “District of WesternMani”. Unfortunately, the common belief that our region is one and undivided is not always reflected in the dealings of its inhabitants. A few people have undertaken divisive actions due mainly to ulterior political motives.
We are referring to specific events which happened during the recent celebrations for the anniversary of the declaration of the Greek Independence War, events which were covered by the press. How each one of us perceives varioushistorical facts depends not only on his/her knowledge of these facts, but also on his/her own personal value system and education. Therefore, different people can have differing opinions, which is valid, as long as their knowledge of these historic facts is based on reliable sources and as long as their opinions are expressed in a moderate way, devoid of extreme words and actions. However, this does not apply to the events that recently happened during the celebrations for the Greek Independence. It is certain that in this case, these unfortunate events happened because of ulterior motives. These events have tarnished our Maniot heritage, according to which a high purpose should take priority over personal ambitions and ulterior motives.
The reconciliation of the three most powerful families of Mani(Mavromichali, Troupaki and Grigoraki), their oath to undertake common military action against the Turks and the document they signed on October 1st 1819 in the presence of the “Society of Friends” representative Christophoros Perraivos, show us the importance of being united.However, our ancestors were not saints. During their independence struggle for “bread and freedom”, there were times when they fought and undermined each other. Their morals, however, meant that personal ulterior motives were put aside everytime that there was a higher purpose. Our ancestors put aside their personal differences and they united many times during the 400 years after the defeat of the Byzantine Empire. The most important element of our history is exactly this ability to put aside our personal interests and unite in times of war. We must continue to do this, as our ancestors have taught us, in today’s times of peace.
Today the population of Mani is small, because many Maniots have immigrated in past years andalso recently. Those who live far away become more alienated every year, particularly during the present economic crisis. Because of our low population, it is difficult to rigorously claim sufficient state funds for Mani. This is why at presentsolidarity is very important. Only if we are united, we will manage to preserve our area from the assimilation which characterizes our time of globalisation. Only a strong nucleus of homogeneous people who are united and can undertake actions in solidarity can absorb outside elements and characteristics. Otherwise, the human element of a region changes and becomes assimilated by the strong outside economic influences.
Personal gains through political associations appear worth pursuing, but in reality they are worthless, since they are obtained in a climate of general corruption and decline. Pursuing personal interests by exploiting venues such as celebrations of important historical events is unacceptable and leads to many other negative consequences. People who create these situations should reflect on what they are doing; those who oppose them should be less offensive. Finally, both groups should realize that strengh lies only in unity.
ΦιλικήΕταιρεία: secret organization founded in Οdessa in 1814 with the purpose of uniting all Greeks and overthrowing the Ottoman rule
 for these events of 1819, see the article “Christophoros Perraivos in Mani”, which was published in our newspaper MANIATIKH ΑΛΛΗΛΕΓΓΥΗ, issues No. 37 and 38, of April and May 2002.
IDEAS FOR BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN WANTS ANDPOSSIBILITIES
However, we must really reflect on which is the best course to take,
not necessarily the one that is suggested by our suffering and our hungry children…
(from the poem “An Old Man By The Riverside” by George Seferis -1942)
Greece and its citizens are at risk of being swallowed by the chasm between wants and possibilities,a gap which can no longer be bridged by securing new loans.This huge gap is the rootcause of the present economic crisis.For the past 5 or 6 years we have been suffering from the continuous thwarting of our wants, without really reflecting deeply on the reasons that caused this chasm.Unfortunately we are still concentrating on our wants and not on realistically examining our possibilities.We need to list and research our possibilities, and then examine what are the reasons that haveeach time led us to disappointing results.
For the past 5 or 6 years we have been observing the following scenario: unrealistic and deceiving pre-election promises, followed by post-election rude awakenings. Loans cannot be secured to bridge the gap between what is wished (wants) and what is feasible (realistic possibilities).The Greek electorate has gone through several vicious circles of hope-disillusionment and is learning to gradually comprehend the real political situation. Not voting for politicians promoting unrealistic promises is a first step towards reaching a point from which we can search realistic solutions.
We know that Mathematics is a “cold” science. Cold, because its principles are precise and not vague. They are exactly what they are, nothing more and nothing less. The human mind moves from λογισμός to λογική,and then to real-life application of Math principles.One mathematical axiom teaches that only similar values can be compared.For example, if we want to understand why our neighbours are richer than we are, we have first to search for a common background, such as heredity, cognition etc., so that we can form a basis for our comparison between them and us.Such a basis can only be formed by introspection, by looking deep inside of us, so that we can compare our findings with what we know about our neighbours. Only in this way we can be led to sound conclusions.Those who do not follow this process of introspection, cannot possibly comprehend how economic development happens in our times. They do not understand the competition in effectiveness and the comparative process in the production of goods. They also refuse to examine the foundations for the building of the human personality as well as the foundations for the education and general culture that each state offers to its citizens.
What is needed is to first objectively evaluate our own possibilities and then to adjust our wishes/wantsaccordingly. If each one of us goes through this process, it will be possible for us to project this process to our political candidates and not vote for those politicians who promote exaggerated, unrealistic proposals and solutions. These are the politicians who have poor problem solving skills and propose grandiose solutions, while the actual possibilities are very limited. These are the politicians who cannot think objectively and do not know how to adjust these unrealistic proposals to the actual possibilities.(It is fortunate that in our time credible and objective information can be found quickly in the media and in many on-line search engines).
The Greek electorate should be particularly harsh to those politicians who even today, in the present difficult circumstances,try to use, to their benefit, corrupted situations of the past, such as the “expansion” of hirings in the civil service. During the decade of 1980, there were many appointments in the civil sector, as a restitution for the injustices committed by the previous right wing politicians against the leftists. During the decade of 2000, politicians tried to “appoint” as many civil servants as the ones appointed during the years 1980-2000. The pinacle of this madness happened when it was recentlyproposed that the services of the resistance fighters during the WW2 occupation of Greece should be compensated by “appointing” their descendantsto the civil service!!!
Greece has gone bankrupt because of the continuously widening chasm between wants versus possibilities. It is now the right time to try to bridge this chasm and help rebuild our country. It is necessary that each one of us starts by self-examination, introspection and by becoming an active member of the life of his/her own region, such as Mani, where everyone is more or less known for his/her capabilities and productivity.
JOINT VENTURESIN THE INVESTMENTSECTOR
Post-war elementaryschool children used tostudya short textreferring to the effectiveness of joint effort. In this story, a father gave each of his children a reed and asked them to break it. Breaking individual reeds was easy. Then the father took the same number of reeds as the number of children and tied them in a bundle. This time he asked each child to break the bundle. None of the children was able to do it. The father showed his children in a visual way the strength of the group compared to that of the individual.A lot of people still remember this story and use it in their everyday lives. The editorial board of this newspaper, in particular, uses the moral of this story as a guideline for choosing and presenting the content of this publication.
The fact that thisparticular storywas chosen for a higher-grade elementary schooltextbookstresses the ideals of the Greek society at the time, ideals that encouraged local societal groups to act as a whole; although Greece had just suffered ten years of war, joint efforts resulted in joint investments. The standard of living, which at the end of the war was significantly lower than it was before the war,rose constantly for about twenty years.
As the years went by, Greek people forgot the war, and they started to believe that an individual could succeed better than a group.Capital funding was easy to secure and with a relatively small effort Greeks achieved a period of prosperity, which they believed would last for ever. Unfortunately, as the years went by, this prosperity proved to be more and more elusive.
It is time for the older of us to look to the past, examine closely our experiences from the undertaking of joint efforts, and see how we can teach these experiences with love and patience to the younger generations. Today these ideas could be translated as follows:joint efforts can result in securing capitalinvestments, which will be applied to common professional ventures, and will eventually help raise our standard of living.
It is not only the nouveau riche attitudesthat turned Greeks away from undertaking common ventures. It is also the faulty education, which we received and which led to our extreme individualism. High-ranking politicians often contravened every ethical rule, while they were in power.If we look at the few politicians who have been sentencedbecause of economic crimes at the expense of the Greek citizens, those who are presently serving sentences and those who are suspected of such economic crimes, we see that the percentage of such corrupted politicians is quite high. There are even more cases of “crimes” that are morally wrong, although they do not contravene any laws.Thus we have reached thepoint where extreme individualism and unjust enrichment on the part of our politicians led to the plundering and bankruptcy of the state, that is the exploitation of all the societal groups that the state is supposed to protect.
One positive thing that has come out of the long-lasting economic crisis is the uncovering of many cases of corruption that were until now well hidden or silenced. This uncovering could cause some groups of people to self-examine their conduct, something that they have until now been avoiding. If large groups of Greek people start examining themselves, then we might not have to wait for foreign investments before our economy recovers. We could slowly start common ventures in our neighbourhoods, in our professional circles, in our villages and in our cities. For some of these ventures no capital is required. For the other ventures, we should remember that the larger the group, the smaller the amount each member has to contribute. The “managers” of these ventures have to be chosen carefully; fortunately, there are still Greek people who do not associate their social activism with their personal enrichment and have displayed strong ethics.
In Mani we have a tradition of patriarchal families, where joining efforts was an everyday occurrence for the members of each family. Adapting the concept of the traditional Maniot patriarchal family to today’s society should be easy. The ideas presented in this editorial could be applied to the contemporary reality. We hope that the people who will be able topromote these ideas will be found.
THE “MANIOT ROAD” NEEDS BIG IMPROVEMENTS
Our ancestors called the main axis that traverses Mani the “Maniot Road”. It starts in Kalamata, goes through the most important municipal centres (Kampos, Kardamyli, Platsa, Areopoli) and continues to Gytheion.
There was a recent government decision to review the contract with the conglomerate of companies that are in the process of building the motorway Corinth-Tripoli-Kalamata,with a detour at Lefktron in Arcadia leading to Sparta.This road is expected to reach Sparta in early 2016, and also the south exit of the Kalamata ring road that leads to Mani.We believe that now is the right time to vehemently demand improvements in the Maniot Road, which is the continuation of the Corinth-Tripoli-Kalamata motorway.
Unfortunately, the modifications to the Maniot Road during the past twenty years were made without taking into consideration any of the real needs of the Maniots in modern times. The two new public works that were completed were both fragmented: a) the new bridge in Koskaraga and the small new section of the road towards Kalamata and b) the two small sections of the road Gytheion-Areopoli,that is the detour of Gytheion and that of a small piece before Areopoli.
When we look at the studies of three major public works projects in our area, we realize that: 1) although a thorough study was prepared for the detour of Kampos-Stavropigio a decade ago,a big part of the funds that were meant for this project were diverged to another area of Messinia 2) the study for the detour of Verga, immediately after the ring road of Kalamata, was abandoned and 3) the study for the national road between Sparta and Gytheion, which was tendered twenty years ago, is still incomplete!
Theabove brief review of the progress of public projects in our area shows that the central government policies during the last forty years have been weak and ineffective. The basic connecting infrastructures of Mani to the neighbouring areas of Laconia and Messinia that exist today are mainly the result of the effective efforts of post war era Maniot politicians, such as Ioannis Psarreas, Pausanias Lykourezos and Dimitrios Davakis.
The reasoning for connecting a rural area to a city has radically changed since the 1950’s. Then the challenge was to replace the roads used by mules with bigger roads that could accommodate cars. This is why the roads that were designed then, as a rule, followed the routes that were taken by mules and donkeys. Today,at a time when everything moves rapidly, the design of roads has to consider not only the transportation of goods, but also the transportation of tourists. The EU, based on this reasoning,has a) generously subsidised the major roads between different regions of Greece,connecting the regions not only to each other, but also connecting Greece to other countries and b) provided funds to individual regions so that they could build the necessary regional roads .Unfortunately, in both cases the subsidies did not bring the expected results. The overruns, of which we have spoken many times in this column, brought negative results, since priority was usually given to those public works that were beneficial to those in power. The public road works that would have benefitted Mani (even those which were decided fifteen years ago) either never moved beyond the “promise” stage or have been indefinitely postponed …
At the present time of limited financial resources as well as limited EU subsidies for the construction of new roads, it is difficult toimplement an ambitious major project such as the Maniot Road.Wishful thinking is not enough.In low population areas such as Mani, in order for a bid so crucial to the future of the area to be successful,strong solidarity is needed as well as detailed planning and close cooperation among the municipal and the central government politicians as well as all Maniots and Maniotphiles .
It is a positive sign that there are Maniot MP’s in the Greek central government, who honour their heritage and always attend certain anniversaries of events important to Maniots. The best way to honour their heritage, however, would be to promote in the Greek Parliament and in the appropriate ministries the need for big improvements to the Maniot Road. The strongest argument they could use would be that in the current situation it takes as longto cross Mani, as it takes to travel from Athens to Kalamata.
Of course, this kind of effort entails personal cost for those who will undertake it, but the honour that would come from the implementation and the benefits of the successful completion of this endeavour would definitely be worth it.
NEW YEAR: OPTIMISM BECOMES MORE RESTRAINED
It is customary for people to exchange good wishes at the beginning of a new year. However, in our country, as the years go by and the social crisis is not dealt with effectively, optimism continually decreases. We consider the economic crisis to be a result of the social crisis. Governments change, new hopes are born and they quickly die, and the crisis continues. It seems that we have not understood the proverb that comes from the experiences of the Greek people: either the sea is crooked, or we follow a crooked course. The measures taken by the politicians who represent us today, the ones before them and the ones before the last ones, have not been effective. It is as if our politicians are trying to straighten out the “crooked sea”. They refuse to reflect on their own very obvious “crooked course”. The discrepancy between the pre-election promises and the post-election actions is proof enough that the course taken by all the Greek governments since the beginning of the crisis is wrong. None of these governments accepted their share of responsibility for the causes that led to the crisis. Neither any of the pre-crisis goverments has claimed their share of responsibility in the crisis that ensued.
Of course, no crisis is solely caused by the politicians. Crises always start because of the mentality of the electorate. However, what influences the way in which the electorate thinks and makes choices? We believe that people’s behaviour and choices are influenced by their family values and by two schools of thought: by what is taught in the Greek schools and by what is taught by the behaviour of the Greek politicians. However, the responsibility for the ineffectiveness of these two schools of thought lies with the politicians. Not only do they determine how the education system works, they teach the citizens by example, that is, by the way the govern the country. They teach behaviour patterns, which together with the visual information that inundates the media in the last decades, have become very powerful.
Aware observers of the political scene today are not very optimistic about the future.They see that our politicians refuse to reflect on the real causes or to take efficient measures in order to deal with the prolonged social crisis that has affected almost every group of the Greek society. Even worse, our politicians refuse to draft realistic programs that could help end the crisis; instead, they try to blame each other for the creation of the crisis, and they refuse to undertake measures that will help create profitable investments. These investments will in turn help the economy recover, they will lower the unemployment rate and they will create a surplus in the budget. Greek politicians have not owned up to their mistakes, because any admittance of responsibility on their part will have a political cost. Greek voters expect, from the politicians they elect, immediate personal gains, and not gains for the society in general.
In this editorial we have tried to portray realistically the social impass to which we have been led and how we have been steered away from the necessary radical changes that need to take place. It is proven in the past that after a powerful shock, our nation can recover from confusing and conflicting situations.We hope that in these difficult times we will not need another powerful shock in order to do what we need to do. We hope that our elected representatives will fulfill their obligations towards our country, our nation as a whole, and not only towards their base. We hope that they will find the way to steer the country towards the right course, the one of productivity, development and progress. A coalition government which will distribute jobs to its own followers is not the solution and could lead to an even worse situation than the present one. What is needed is a true coalition government, which will be efficient, only when it treats all Greeks as equals, depending on their productivity and on their real needs. Then, the people will feel optimism, which is also necessary for an economic rebound.
The situation that we described above also applies, in a smaller scale, to Mani, our area. Due to the difficult times that our country and our area are facing, we need increased productivity and cooperation among different societal groups,. We hope that the ideas that will prevail in Mani will be those that will lead to a large consensus, so that the necessary actions can be jointly undertaken.