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03 January 2009


maria v

there's no right or wrong way to raise children, but from somewhere, something, someone, somehow, the children of greece have learnt that it's ok to whinge and whine without learning to find a solution. they've also leanrt that violence is endorsed, or at least, it can be justified just by blaming someone or something else (and never themselves) for anything that goes wrong in their life, and that public property is the perfect target for venting their despise of social values, although private property is now being included - greed and jealousy play a role (in my humble opinion; greeks are generally dissatisfied with what they have, always wanting more with as little sweat as possible).

where did our children pick up these traits? the chaos of the state and the incompetence of the government is in complete contrast to what can be seen inside the homes of these people. the typical greek house is immaculate in tidiness and cleanliness, with every piece of furniture and ornament in its place. materialism and perfection is revered to the point that children will be scolded for creating marks on the wall with sellotape. (here's my take on this aspect:
Parents very often play a significant role in choosing the college/university that their children attend - nothing is left to chance.
something else is behind the chaos and destruction - the government is definitely to blame, because they are acting irreponsibly. monkey see, monkey do

maria v

maybe this link will work better:

Simon Baddeley

Pax vobiscum. There is no more appropriate nor easier place to remain calm than cyberspace. Reading these deep and sincere concerns about Greece reminds me of my flailing inadequacy as a father of teenagers in the UK in the 1990s. My beloved children seem OK now, but as they rebelled I had nothing robust nor central to offer but love and frustration. We struggled to set boundaries, to maintain some vestige of parental authority. We argued -
furiously at times – apportioning blame, but our centre held despite our inconsistency. Linda and I would take it in turn to drive around town looking for them outside and even
inside city nightclubs when they’d gone there under age. I’d threaten - futilely - to sue nightclub owners for allowing them entry. Drugs were rife of course. We even got the police out once when my daughter refused to come home. Then there was self-harm...and then they turned 16 and we really lost control except that frail moral authority we’d established by our unending endeavours to maintain some rules - supported by regular conversations with equally frustrated teachers (who oddly liked them both a lot). From 16 the banks took them, especially my son, with pressing offers of free loans and gifts for taking an account. If we complained to the banks concerned they’d say “they’re adults now”. In law they were...

Now in 2009, one’s in the police – and good at it in my view - and the other designs websites (rather well I think) but talk about a rollercoaster ride – for them and us – and we’re a fairly boring respectable family of means.

It was these experiences that drew me to an unlikely authority - a gay French intellectual of global fame. Michel Foucault’s explorations of the links between government of self, household and state – which he referred to as ‘governmentality’.
How I would have loved to have turned to that man for advice – but I doubt many would see him as an appropriate authority on family rule. Now I hear my adult children playing piano when they drop round and my heart turns over (treat these revelations with discretion says the bourgeois in me – for their sakes).
So I suppose this was what I was going on about when I wrote ‘parents of Greece could stop this’ Haha.

I suspect the Greek education system lacks the openness needed to even begin to deal with the ugly rebellious transition to modernity that is now the ordeal of growing up. For every enfuriatingly childish action by immature adolescents there's a counter reaction in the soulless world of global casino capitalism. How do you arm a young person with the personal and authoritative capacity for judgement that will enable them to navigate the morale wasteland that surrounds them, undermining them, undermining parents, schools and all those delicate linkages that make up Foucault's ideal of a robust connection between self, household and state? I am not actually seeking scapegoats. I am searching for ways to hold the centre. Self-improvement is not of itself enough. There needs to be a domus - a household. And that household needs a firm link to the idea of a state. Each levers the other. Each can weaken the other. But what is the state today? From whence comes it's legitimacy and its contract with its citizens, and what do citizens do to confer that legitimacy when they struggle to exercise authority over their children? For me, for us, this is a storm part weathered - but at no small cost in wear and tear, and the horizon's got a cold sharp edge to it.


In my view the main problem is that parents try to provide everything for their children, they try to keep them "close" to them by offering material goods and are less concerned with anything spiritual. Youngsters have everything they wish for instantly, they don't have to work to gain anything, the Greek word κορεσμός could describe the situation. This leads to boredom and to rebel. They think they have rights and no responsibilities. Most of the anarchists that vandalized cities in Greece during the recent troubles are offsprings of high standing citizens like high court judges, lawyers, bankers etc.
I glad to report though that having recently visited Athens I saw little evidence of the damages, maybe because I wasn’t looking for it. Athenians are trying to get back to normal life, replaced the burned Christmas tree, repaired their shops and it is business as usual. «και ξανά προς τη δόξα τραβά»...


Wonderful writing, Stavros, that conveys your feelings very well, and leaves me with a happy exercise in translation ...

I've enjoyed reading the comments left by your other readers, and take comfort from the length of theirs since mine is long too.

A long time ago now I read the quote below (from Eric Fromm, The Heart of Man: Its Genius for Good and Evil, p 173-178) and it seemed to me then such a good description of the path in front of all of us from our birth. I thought of it again and was pleased to find it where I thought it was. Today this also seems to have within it Maria’s desire to teach her children; Simon’s honest account of the teenage years of his now successfully grown-up children; John’s frustration and hopelessness at the inaction of the Greek government; your fervent wish for a return to Biblical and traditional Greek values.

I suppose we, as individuals, can do little except remember that we retain our own capacity to choose, and that we have a responsibility to ensure that our children grow up in circumstances where it is easier to choose the good than the evil, so that their wrong turnings are limited, and their back-tracking rare. Perhaps our efforts are best concentrated on the things we can change or help to change, whatever our frustrations at the events beyond our control and however sad they make us.

“Our capacity to choose changes constantly with our practice of life. The longer we continue to make the wrong decisions, the more our heart hardens; the more often we make the right decision, the more our heart softens – or better perhaps, comes alive … Each step in life which increases my self-confidence, my integrity, my courage, my conviction also increases my capacity to choose the desirable alternative, until eventually it becomes more difficult for me to choose the undesirable rather than the desirable action. On the other hand, each act of surrender and cowardice weakens me, opens the path for more acts of surrender, and eventually freedom is lost. Between the extreme when I can no longer do a wrong act and the extreme when I have lost my freedom to right action, there are innumerable degrees of freedom of choice. In the practice of life the degree of freedom to choose is different at any given moment. If the degree of freedom to choose the good is great, it needs less effort to choose the good. If it is small, it takes a great effort, help from others, and favourable circumstances … Most people fail in the art of living not because they are inherently bad or so without will that they cannot lead a better life; they fail because they do not wake up and see when they stand at a fork in the road and have to decide. They are not aware when life asks them a question, and when they still have alternative answers. Then with each step along the wrong road it becomes increasingly difficult for them to admit that they must go back to the first wrong turn, and must accept the fact that they have wasted energy and time.”



As parents we are often flying by the seat of our pants when it comes to raising our children. They don't come with an instruction manual and what works with one may not work with the other. I would be the last person in the world to claim I have all the answers, nor am I blaming parents exclusively. The message I am trying to get across is that we are failing as societies and as families in teaching our children the traditional virtues, many of which have been cast aside as "old fashioned."

You are very right about those immaculate well organized Greek homes. Have you ever noticed however that many of the people who live in them are totally apathetic to what happens beyond the walls of their property?

I don't like to generalize. There are definitely communities in Greece that function efficiently. There are also Greeks who have civic pride and want to solve problems. Unfortunately they are the exception and not the rule.


Alaykum As-Salaam. I too have had my share of days when I felt like a total abject failure as a father. Then I remember my own youth and my own parent's trials and tribulations. It took the United States Marine Corps to finally straighten me out. Youthful rebellion is a rite of passage, throwing molotovs is not. Thank God for fathers (and mothers) like yourself who don't give up, who are capable of tough love interspersed with plain old parental love. Who care enough to be more than a friend to their children.

I agree wholeheartedly with your emphasis on family. While the state may have a role in the form of public education, I would argue that our religious institutions are much more relevant in the moral education of the young. Perhaps that reflects my own narrow experience, it is however, an important source of the type of education that we so badly need right now. I daresay it is as important for our leaders and those running the financial "casinos" as it is for our children.


This is a problem I grapple with myself. I want my children to have what I did not. There is a balance one must achieve. Sometimes I think we do more harm than good when we are too attentive to their "needs." Good to hear that Athens is resuming some sense of normalcy. Unfortunately the problems that caused these events remain. I suspect it will only take another spark to ignite this combustible mixture.


Excellent comment. It is all about choosing isn't it? God gave us the ability to choose. Notwithstanding the best efforts of parents, schools, and churches, we often make the wrong choices for ourselves.

It does come down to the individual. If enough people make wrong choices then it can affect all of us in the long run and then we must ask why this is happening and how do we change it.

Then again, maybe the change required is so great and so deep seated that it will take a miracle to achieve it.

Simon Baddeley

"..they fail because they do not wake up and see when they stand at a fork in the road and have to decide." Yes. Thanks for this - and for the debate. These forks are ever present. Not being aware of that means that you don't even get to participate in the strengthening or weakening that M (Fromm)describes. To be aware of trying to do the right thing every day, every hour, requires a level of moral concentration that we are no longer in the habit of teaching or reminding ourselves. It is about the kind of personal discipline, or 'imitation' (in Christian terms) that Foucault spoke of, and which is even more critical when external authority (and encouragement) has become so weak, and the external imperatives that envelop us and which are indeed being transmitted to us, with increasing urgency, by our governments are all about consumption. As any professional advertiser will tell you, children are a primary means of encouraging consumption by adults. In many ingenious ways consumption and family love have been so cleverly linked that not buying things for our children questions, in our minds and theirs, the bond between parent and child. Knowing this is pernicious thing is happening doesn't seem to make it any easier to resist. Wasn't it the one thing that made Christ rage - the sullying of something sacred through drawing it into the cash nexus. I think what enrages me is less the people who involved in this (people need to make a living) but my own shameful collusion in the process. I must think about those choices more, those multifarious choices that those perpetuating unfettered market forces (and both right - see Luttwak - and left argue against this now) keep celebrating.



I agree with you.
It would have been a shocking thing, once...for a time I was mesmerised by the writings of Ayn Rand: atheism and capitalism. The infatuation didn't survive an actual reading of Aristotle, on whom Rand professed to base her philosophy.

I am more and more convinced the the experience of the early Christian Fathers is very relevant to modernity. We are in an even worse way, spiritually: at least the old pagans worshiped gods portrayed as actual statues in stone, wood, ivory or gold; housed in actual temples of delicate and surprising beauty. Our idols are etoilated,ghostly and insubstantial: codes on magnetic card strips, binary code in databases, flickering sub-pornographic images on television...
Orthodox priest Father Tobias has given a rundown on our modern eye opening compendium:
It is the "holy materialism" of Christianity, as Chesterton put it, that has become diametrically opposed to modernity: a faith of bread and wine, of an incarnate God who died and arose on the third day. Our modern world has no problem with vague spiritual yearnings- see the size of the "Self Help" and "Spirituality" sections in the bookstores. A faith of property you can touch and live on, as opposed to electronic zeros at the end of a sum in a charge account; of family and friends present in the flesh instead of MySpace and Facebook "friends"; of the pretty girl next door with the flashing eyes as opposed to the airbrushed Playmate.

Now that I think of it, the battle is more uphill than I thought. The ancients after all only had to deal with pikers like Diocletian and Julian the Apostate. The colossi that bestride our world are Oprah, Dr. Phil and their minions.

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