The Two Faces of Greece

As our homeland approaches the European elections on May 26, the atmosphere is becoming more and more suffocating.

The propaganda of Mr. Tsipras’ team so distorts facts and events that the campaign is becoming ever more insulting to people’s intelligence. White is presented as black; day as night.

And who knows, in the end, they might convince some Greeks that is the case, and that is the way things are.

Last week, they tried to convince pensioners that Kyriakos Mitsotakis would cut their pensions.

Yesterday they said that the chief opposition leader had called for a “7-day work week” and is pushing labor relations back into the Middle Ages, etc.

It is really a sad picture of a country and a people that deserve better.

But this shameful game has been played several times since 1981.

With almost the same bogeymen: The Chicago Monetarist School of Economics and Friedman, dictators like Pinochet, and neo-liberals like Thatcher.

The other day, former Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, speaking in Munich to Greek expatriates, called those who oppose the Prespes Accords ‘far-right’, ‘fascists’, and ‘pro-junta’. Imagine!

And on the domestic front, like magic, we have turned the clock back to the good old days. As if hundreds of thousands are not suffering in Greece. As if the Turks are not taking strolls and cruises in the Aegean, or drilling in Cyprus – for the time being, only there. As if we have not learned anything from this and past economic crises.

Only foreigners seem to be singing the praises, becoming Greece’s new muses, of our incomparable heritage, the unique beauty, the seductive calm and the radiant light of Greece.

It seems that you must be a stranger to really appreciate Greece, like British writer Pico Iyer, whose paean to Hellas was introduced with this moving headline in the New York Times: “A Journey Into Greece’s Land of a Thousand Stories – One writer chronicles his voyage to the island of Ithaca, where Odysseus was once reputedly king.”

He speaks about Agamemnon and Odysseus, Mycenae and Epidaurus – but also about the charms of today’s Greece, and the many reasons to love and appreciate it.

We either take it for granted or we do not understand it – the great potential beyond the current challenges, the variety of joys that can be experienced in the midst of peoples’ struggles.

It appears that you must be Pico Iyer to write the following:
“NO ONE IN GREECE seems in a hurry to get anywhere. It took me a taxi, two long bus rides, two boats and another taxi — 11 hours in all — to get from Nafplio to my next base, Ithaca…”
“When finally I did set foot on Ithaca, the site that was somewhat wishfully said to be that of Odysseus’ palace consisted of a hut and two buildings set across a barren hill. I managed to cadge a shared ride in one of the island’s only taxis, and when I arrived in the central town of Vathy, I asked a friendly travel agent about getting around. The bus, he told me, had likely finished its run for the season (it was mid-September).”

But the writer conveyed that he found the paradise he was seeking – he was in Greece.


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