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August 24, 2015 / victoriaandreking

25 Years of BS: a layperson’s introduction to Greek politics.

I first came to this enchanted land in February of 1989.  Within a year the country had held parliamentary elections three times, the battle cry in the local and international press was “Catharsis” and the Koskotas scandal had brought the dirty laundry of the House Papandreou to the fore.

Perhaps here it would be prudent to provide a wee bit of background…  Greece may have lost its monarchy – however its political life has always been governed by a handful of families.  Since the end of the Greek Civil War three households have predominated: Karamanlis, Papandreo, Mitsotakis.  I won’t go into all of the nepotistic and (at times) incestuous detail, that would require tomes to relate and would involve a style of writing I personally don’t care for – let it suffice to say that were Aaron Spelling still around he could have a field day with Greek political life.

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:

Georgios Papandreo (the elder) had his hand in the political cookie jar since the Venizelos (Eleftherios not Evaggelos) days.  He got his law degree in Athens then studied Political Science in Berlin – strongly influenced by the then Social Democratic Party.  He enjoyed a 50 year tenure in Hellenic politics – is it any wonder that his progeny were all inducted to the Hellenic Club Politic?  He was Prime Minister until two years before the Colonel’s Junta, and had the good taste to pass away one year into their rule.

Konstantinos Karamanlis (the elder) never had a family of his own although he used his political power to “endow” all of his relatives with prime real estate and/or select government posts/contracts.  His siblings, nieces and nephews were “looked after” and received their memberships to the Hellenic Club Politic.  Their uncle lived his life quietly, with his “Gentleman’s Gentleman”, played golf, tossed out the occasional enigmatic quip to journalists and everyone said “What a worldly and elegant man.”

Konstantinos Mitsotakis (the bearer of bad tidings a.k.a. the “black sheep”) in many ways Mr. Mitsotakis, to my mind at least, is one of the most interesting figures in post WWII Greek political life.  He is one of the few extant “old school” politicians who always called the shots like he saw them, regardless of the personal political cost.  Sadly his children don’t seem to share his gift although his daughter, Dora Bacogiannis is more attractive on camera than in person and has charisma.  Mr. Mitsotakis was Prime Minister for only a brief 2 and a half year period before being usurped by none other than Antonis Samaras, founder of the Germanophile “mnimonio” – not one of the “grand old names” of Greek politics, but nonetheless a very ambitious young politician and contemporary of George Papandreo (the younger) grandson of Georgios the 1st, but I shall get to them later.

Andreas Papandreou (son of George the 1st and father of George the younger)  He enjoyed a fruitful academic career in Sweden and the United States (where he met his second wife) until he returned to Greece.  He was invited by Konstantinos Karamanlis (the elder) to participate in the Hellenic Club Politic in 1959. Unfortunately, after his rise to power in 1981 Andreas set out to fund a “Socialist” state with credit from the EEU that his mentor Karamanlis (the elder) had participated in the founding of.  The problem was he primarily funded fellow “Socialists” and voters rather than the establishment of a lasting infrastructure that would become a self sustaining complex.  He died of heart disease before his policy managed to blow up in his face.

Kostas Simitis (the technocrat) He was Andreas’ “heir” to the leadership of the PASOK party.  That seemingly mild mannered fellow ‘cooked the books’ to ensure Greece would be inducted into the EEU monetary union under the common Euro currency, to the benefit of the few and the detriment of the many.  The cost of living was summarily “rounded up” at the expense of the elderly and low income citizens in particular, while government and employer obligations were “rounded down”. That trend continued for seven years but the media focus was always on how “beneficial” the Euro was in enabling Greek industries to import first materials (many of which could have been produced or procured locally at lesser expense – not to mention the fact that the EEC imposed restrictions on the type and amounts of agricultural products that Greece was ALLOWED to cultivate).

Konstantinos Karamanlis (the nephew) took the political baton from Mr. Simitis just shortly before the extraordinarily over priced 2004 Olympiad.  His party members expected turnabout in that they would receive some sort of perks from the EEU ESPA funding programs, but much to his and their chagrin, the coffers were already seriously overstretched. The best he could do was to shrug it out until 2009, he couldn’t really promise much of anything, and his opponent was basically ignorant of the economic and political reality check Greece was facing.

Georgios Papandreou (the younger) won the popular vote in the 2009 elections with the simple campaign slogan “There is Money”… As lame as it may seem in retrospect it was sufficient to muster voters who were silently terrified after three decades of “easy living” at the prospect of 1) having their sources of funding cut off, and 2) being held accountable for their application of resources. As soon as Georgios was brought up to speed on the actual economic situation, in short the equivalent of a margin call on all of the “free” money his departed father had “invested” in his constituents on the parts of the countries International lenders, his first instinct was to call for a referendum – unfortunately he didn’t have the “cahones” to carry it out. In the interim the economic establishment of Cyprus came tumbling down with capital controls and deposit shaving to celebrate the end of “off shore” banking for former Soviet and Middle Eastern interests.

Provisional Government #1 (Papademos & Co 2011-2012) The first “bailout” package orchestrators.  Mr. Papademos had been governor of the Bank of Greece from 1994 to 2002, and vice president of the European Central Bank from 2002 -2010, it is hardly surprising that our European “partners” chose him to implement the first “reform” package.

Coalition Government #2 ( June 2012: Antonis Samaras – New Democracy Right Party, Evangelos Venizelos – PASOK Socialist Center Party, Fotis Kouvelis – Democratic Left Party) “Negotiated” the second bailout package, until the left party had to pull out to avoid betraying all of the principles it was founded upon.

Elections January 2015 (The “Great Left Hope” Alexis Tsipras) This was perhaps the cruelest moment in Greek political history, at least over the 25 years I have been living here.  People actually believed there was a possibility of genuine political change. But as it turned out Mr. Tsipras and his “team” were unfortunately ill-informed. Or at least that is how they played their hand. Realizing that he was backed into a corner Mr. Tsipras called for a referendum, what Mr. G. Papandreou (the younger) could have done back in 2009.

Referendum July 5th 2015, the truly curious thing is that Mr. Tsipras’ actions AFTER the referendum, were in direct conflict with his positions BEFORE not only the referendum but the general elections in January.  62% of the Greek voters said NO, he said YES… to everything his platform had been opposed to before the general election.

The moral of this story???  If you don’t break any eggs, you can’t make an omelette.

If you understand that, then you have a far higher IQ than most Ivy League educated Greek politicians. What will become of the general population? Good question, but as it turns out those in elected office whose salaries we pay via taxes don’t really give a damn.

April 15, 2015 / victoriaandreking

Tender Loving Care Publications

Tender Loving Care Publications coming your way!
I founded Tender Loving Care Publications as an effort to help Greek authors’ voices be discovered by English speaking readers. After more than twenty years as a freelance writer and translator in Greece, my author friends began expressing their frustration at the indifference their Greek publishers showed for foreign language markets.
The pat answer whenever they asked their publishers why they were not interested in pursuing English language markets was usually “No one is interested in Greek writers…” Occasionally they would be told that they could pay to have their manuscript translated if they wanted to… but the only effort on the publishers’ parts would be to send out a mass copy/paste mailing with the first 50 pages as an attachment. Not surprising that they never had any response…
Many publishers lack the infrastructure to judge the quality of a translation or remain up-to-date as to the submission guidelines of foreign houses. Also a “competent” translation may often homogenize all of the nuance and metaphor out of a literary work. I am asked time and again to try to “fix” poor translations but I have to tell them that the only solution is for me to translate it from scratch because otherwise the author’s voice is lost entirely.
So dear friends and colleagues help us spread the word and discover a new source of talented and insightful authors.

December 2, 2014 / victoriaandreking

The Miracle Coalition

I just received news today from a dear woman that she has had to face the most horrific decision any parent can be expected to make. Her young and talented son has been in a coma for the last two months, leaving his equally young wife, baby daughter, siblings and parents in an agonizing limbo between worry and hope. The physicians, due to the scope of the brain trauma he has suffered informed the family that, though his body is still able to support itself for an indefinite period of time, he will never be able to regain consciousness. What does one do? How does one cope? The only hope, would be a miracle.

My thought was, what if… What if someone started an international platform for prayer and meditation, where people facing impossible situations could reach out to their fellow humans the world over for support and encouragement? Not just friends and family by invitation – there are many such organizations and they are doing admirable work – but total strangers who happen to have had their lives touched by sorrow, so they can fully appreciate the value of joy! Imagine the empowerment that an outpouring of love from people that you do not and most likely will never know, can provide to the individuals and families facing overwhelming situations.

I don’t mean people writing messages to people they don’t know saying “carry on” etc. What I have in mind is simply a message board where people in pain can share what they are facing, and those who happen to see their post can include them in their prayers and meditations. It’s not about the words, or even the thoughts – it’s about the intention. By focusing positive energy (aka LOVE) through the ecumenical network of souls, a wave of love, a TSUNAMI of love can wash over, pass through, and empower those fellow humans in desperate situations.

Each and every one of us is a miracle in motion, even if we don’t realize it. When we combine our energies we can literally move mountains. As such it shouldn’t seem far fetched to think that maybe, just maybe, such an outpouring of love toward fellow humans in need could possibly inspire… a miracle.

Think it over and let me know what your thoughts are.

November 27, 2014 / victoriaandreking

What are you thankful for?

What are you thankful for?

November is always a month of mixed emotions as far as I’m concerned. One reason is that my birthday falls on October 31st. As such I automatically enter November another year older – but not necessarily another year wiser… To be honest I actually enjoy the changes in the weather (within reason) the changing character of the landscape and the varying moods of the sea serve to remind me that nothing is stagnant. The first rains settle the dust of summer exhaustion and wash away what my family and I affectionately call the “summer stink”. Our car gets a much needed washing, so there is a silver lining after all. Of course the laundry issue becomes a bit of a bother; it is all a delicate balance of give and take, grin and bear.

November does have one thing I always look forward to. I know that to many the USA is considered the “root of all evil” for various reasons – not least among them the gross commercial exploitation of human sentiment, always most vulnerable as the holidays approach. There is one peculiar holiday that has escaped however, what we Yanks call “Thanksgiving”. The things I love about this holiday are that: a) the purpose isn’t gift giving/receiving or fancy “kitsch” decorations, and b) it is about good food, good company and being thankful for all of those little things in our lives that haven’t gone pear-shaped.

Thanksgiving is not a secular holiday. Regardless of individual religious beliefs everyone can find it in their heart to acknowledge the good things in and around them. It is a holiday that doesn’t generate obligations – such as the universally dreaded holiday greeting card list! Or even worse, the fear of having to buy gifts for people you don’t really know but that you must get something for at mortal risk of seeming a cheapskate, having bad taste or in some instances even being considered downright demented (truth be told, my unique sense of humor is not always appreciated).

As a family we always try to observe, in our own quirky way, what I consider the most humane holiday. In some ways it reminds me of the ancient rites dedicated to a Goddess that in modern times has been all but forgotten: Hestia, the Goddess of the hearth and protectress of home and family. Everyone remembers Demeter or Dimitra – patroness of the crops et al. But few remember Hestia, the Goddess of domestic harmony.

The world over the hearth is a symbol of warmth, security and human companionship. Study any culture or civilization you like and you will find one common denominator: there is nothing more sacred than the breaking of bread. The acknowledgment of the real human necessities: shelter, sustenance and compassion – is a humbling equalizer in an age driven by heedless consumption and mind numbing convenience. So as winter approaches let us try to be thankful for those little things that provide us pleasure, comfort and purpose.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 3, 2014 / victoriaandreking

MRI: or Why Health is Wealth

Magnetic Radial Imaging… it sounds oh so sci-fi. One of those experiences you relegate to the “Interesting, but I really hope I don’t need to repeat it in the near future” category. I’ve seen enough episodes of “House” to know what it is so I wasn’t terribly alarmed at the prospect when my doctor told me I needed to have one. Comparatively speaking though – size does matter. The GE model I was inserted into was not nearly as spacious nor as well lit as those I had seen on TV. Apparently the diagnostic facility here on our lovely Greek island of Crete does not enjoy the same subsidies as the Princeton University Hospital that the fictional albeit charismatic Dr. House tyrannizes on the telly.

I found it fascinating, as a newbie, that the staff handling the procedure seemed to take it for granted that everyone has had one, or at least knows the drill. Am I really among the last to be initiated? As it turned out I wasn’t the only newbie, thankfully, because that forced me to be brave (I am mildly claustrophobic so the prospect of being inserted into a plastic tube a mere five inches from my nose, even if open ended, was not something I looked forward to). A gentleman who had been “tubed” before us, and who appeared to be an old hand at the whole business, kindly recommended we close our eyes and try to relax, that it wouldn’t hurt, there was just the sound…

I’m no scientist but the name itself had conjured some speculation as to what the sound might be like. I imagined a sort of whirring electric generator sound… NOT. In the beginning it was sort of like a maniacal Woody Woodpecker trying to peck his way through PVC, then sort of like gears grinding alternating with a pneumatic hammer. I neglected to mention that I had been given neoprene earplugs and thick cotton pads were wedged between my ears and the edges of the plastic cradle which held my head in place. What followed I could only compare to being lodged inside some hyper-physical and not necessarily well-tuned musical instrument. Piano forte, electric bass, at varying intensities and frequencies. There were a couple of moments that reminded me of a Phillip Glass concert I had attended years ago, others that reminded me of the “High Brazil” sing-song sequence from the Monty Python’s film “Eric the Viking”.

Thankfully I had had the forethought to ask the technician how long I would be in the tube… “It only takes about 20 minutes…”. GULP! I certainly hadn’t expected it to be as quick as an x-ray, but my imagination hadn’t considered anything beyond 3-5 minutes (they never had patients in there longer than that on “House”!). That called for a second helping of bolstering my courage.

During the process there were a few of what could only be described as “fake out” moments, when suddenly all of the sounds would stop for about 30-60 seconds, and my brain said “Hooray! It’ over!”. OK, the first had come way too soon (having asked how long I would be inside – I’d only counted to sixty about 7 times by then). The second I said to myself “wishful thinking”, I had counted to sixty 12 times by then. Then my nose started to itch and I lost count… The last one was bitter – about seventeen minutes in.

Another weird thing was that by the end I was quite warm and, without realizing it, had tensed the muscles in my legs and shoulders. When the noises were finally silenced for longer than 60 seconds, the tube became cool. Then the magical vacuum sound of the chamber door opening confirmed I was free at last. The tube spit me out and the technician helped me up. I pulled the neoprene out of my ears and was on my way out the chamber door.

Standing patiently outside the chamber, stoically awaiting her turn was a little girl. She couldn’t have been more than 10. She knew the drill inside and out, even knew the names of all the technical staff. Suddenly I felt really silly for having been such a wuss, and my heart went out to that girl who had incorporated that freaky machine into her life with incredible aplomb.

Health is wealth. Respect it while you have it!

August 8, 2014 / victoriaandreking

5th Corner

Some say I’m irresponsible
Just trying to escape.
From what?! I want to scream,
From my grave ‘fore it’s too late?

I haven’t really lived as yet,
My soul’s too young to die,
Not born to work five days a week
And spend weekends getting “high”.

Morality… Fidelity…
Run grab them while you can.
Security… Monotony…
Those walls are all a sham.
Where is the 5th corner?
A different point of view?
I’ve been in every corner,
Turning, turning like a screw.
Round and round I go,
I know those corners all too well.
There has to be a 5th somewhere,
Even if a gate to Hell.

I’m not afraid of Hell these days,
I’m already living there…

Living this caged vertigo
Isn’t “living” anymore.
Where is that 5th corner or the door?

You can be a dragon lady
or become a trophy wife.
There are many lovely packages,
From which to choose your life.

Just climb aboard the gravy train,
It’s all been prearranged.
They’ll even pay your ticket,
If you’re suitably deranged.

Morality… Fidelity…
Run grab them while you can.
Security… Monotony…
Those walls are all a sham.
Where is the 5th corner?
A different point of view?
I’ve been in every corner,
Turning, turning like a screw.
Round and round I go,
I know those corners all too well.
There has to be a 5th somewhere,
Even if a gate to Hell.

I’m not afraid of Hell these days,
I’m already there…

Living this caged vertigo
Isn’t “living” anymore.
Where is that 5th corner or the door?

One part of me says “WTF”,
What is there to lose?
Everything is so screwed up,
Why not forget with pills and booze?

The other “me” screams in my head,
“At least you’ve got to try!
The point of your existence cannot be
Your soul must die!”

Morality… Fidelity…
Run grab them while you can.
Security… Monotony…
Those walls are all a sham.
Where is the 5th corner?
A different point of view?
I’ve been in every corner,
Turning, turning like a screw.
Round and round I go,
I know those corners all too well.
There has to be a 5th somewhere,
Even if a gate to Hell.

I’m not afraid of Hell these days,
I’m already there…

Living this caged vertigo
Isn’t “living” anymore.
Where is that 5th corner or the door?

NYC, October 1994

August 2, 2014 / victoriaandreking

Oneness aka The All

We are the All, each of us a point of light simultaneously interconnected with every other. Blogging is an act of sharing, of reaching out electronically to family, friends and every internet surfer out there who may stumble upon your stuff and recognize a little piece of themselves in what you write. In short the world wide web is just a reflection of the cosmic reality that exists but of which many simply aren’t yet aware. We are all one, we just don’t know it yet :D

July turned out to be Poetry month here on my blog. That’s what happens when one finally starts sorting through years of accumulated files (and I literally mean boxes of ancient hand written musings on yellowed spiral notebook paper, paper napkins, take away bags…). Now my literal house cleaning has momentarily given way to virtual maintenance of my electronic spacial existence.

My first quest was to get caught up with my notifications (a futile quest, I never seem to manage to actually get caught up…) and low and behold there was one from a favourite blogger of mine: http://www.wildonewithin.wordpress.com and all my other quests were suddenly shifted to the back burner.

She had posted an animated .gif and asked her readers to share their thoughts. What follows is my rather long winded comment, inspired both by the post itself but also by several of the comments. Thank you eM for getting my brain revved up this fine Saturday morning!

COMMENT
Words are labels for concepts – until you experience and embody the concept any word remains just a label, a bundle of syllables. Cliches are what happen when words are used to sell things to people that have not yet experienced or embodied that concept, by people who may or may not have experienced but certainly not yet embodied the concept.

In my humble opinion the words (Oneness, Awareness, Acceptance, Thankfulness, Respect, Service, Strength, Kindness, Wisdom and Love) are all thought provoking. I have had the blessing of both experiencing and embodying those concepts within the concentric circles of the self, the other(s) and the All. It is the little cartoon “.gif dude” which promotes a stereotype: the barefoot bearded sage. Is he supposed to be Jesus? Heraclitus? Jim Morrison? Is the equation ‘beard = wisdom + barefoot = humble x masculine form = Logos = “The Word”?

How would people react to the message were it being presented using a “feminine” .gif – say Mary Magdalene, Hypatia of Alexandria or Mother Teresa? Regardless though of who or whatever does the presenting, those 10 concepts are vital to an healthy existence.

Expressing gratitude is a gracious art and a cornerstone of genuine communication. Most of us, myself included, don’t do so often enough. The immediacy and thus perceived “urgency” of modern communication technology has in many ways stripped the elegance from how people address one another – reducing holistic communication to a rapid fire exchange of information akin to Morse Code.

I for one am grateful every time a lovely post like eM’s provides a welcome respite from the perceived urgency surrounding me. That is why friends, be they virtually or literally holding your hand, are so important: we remind each other that the small things do matter and have the potential to inspire great happiness!

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