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ITHAKA ON THE HORIZON: A Greek-American Journey



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11 December 2008


Simon  Baddeley

I am honoured (and surprised), Stavros. I'm thinking this morning whether Kostas Karamanlis (and George Papandreou) both from political dynasties of great experience can rise to the times. It has been a conundrum in the history of states how leaders steeped in the past can create the conditions for something quite new. The father's of both these men could be said to have achieved that - Karamanlis elder recovering Greece's honour as a democracy and Papandreou initiating the reconciliation so long withheld after the civil war. Never has a historic process been made more visible not a conversation about the future shared by so many. We hang on the moment.


We do indeed, "hang on the moment." I am trying to stay optimistic about the future though I suspect that things will continue to get worse before they get better. The events in Greece are a harbinger, I fear, of things to come elsewhere. I was struck by this today in Kathimerini:

"But the anarchists’ rage and the government’s groveling pale beside the emotions that the murder and its aftermath stirred in the greatest part of the population. Everyone saw something to grieve for in young Alexis’s death: the unjustified violence that took his life, the sense of helplessness in the face of a state that does not protect its citizens, the anger at the myth of a state that provides education, health and security to its citizens. These feelings came at a time when Greece is being rocked by the beginning of an economic storm, the outcome of which no one can predict but which is sure to leave us much worse than we were before."

I find it ironic that we here in America are placing all our hopes on the exhaustible largess of the state, while Greeks are realizing belatedly that the state is quite unable to fulfill their own high expectations. I am worried that economic upheavals often make people turn to the extremes of Left and Right. Let's hope that political expediency is set aside in the interest of the common good. So far it seems unlikely; again from Kathimerini:

"The chief of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), Alekos Alavanos, has been a guest on one TV station after another since Monday night, when he left the protest rally he himself had organized. On Wednesday evening he was on Mega, ranting nonsensically about young people being angry at banks for lending money at interest rates double the legal limits. Does this mean that he excuses the fact that many youths torched banks across the country? This is not something we want to believe, but we can also not ignore the fact that for the past two months Alavanos has been feeding the public and hotheaded youths false information and phony arguments against banks, accusing the government of giving them 28 billion euros that will come from taxpayers’ pockets."

BTW, you should not be surprised. Thank you for your comments, which I value, even when I don't always agree with them, which is seldom.

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  • Keep Ithaka always in your mind. Arriving there is what you're destined for. But don't hurry the journey at all. Better if it lasts for years, so you're old by the time you reach the island, wealthy with all you've gained on the way, not expecting Ithaka to make you rich. Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey. Without her you wouldn't have set out. She has nothing left to give you now. And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you. Wise as you will have become, so full of experience, you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean. C. P. Cavafy


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