The other day an old-time Mykonian stopped me along the harbor front. “What’s happening to our Island, Jeffrey?”
When he calls it “our” island I know what’s coming ain’t good. “My” island brings on bragging about something good.
“What are you talking about?” I asked in my most innocent voice.
“You know exactly what I mean.”
Oh, we’re playing that game. Yeah, I might know what he’s about to tell me, but if I say it, rather than waiting until he can’t resist blurting it out, he’ll be telling everyone what “Jeffrey said,” rather than generating the gossip on his own. Nope, I’m not biting at that one. Been down that road before.
“Sorry, my friend. Not sure what you’re getting at. If it’s the economy you’re about to complain about, get real. You’re living in a blessed bubble here on Mykonos. The German Bertelsmann Foundation just this week ranked Greece last among 41 countries in terms of its future viability with regard to economic policies, and that’s just for starters.”
He waved me off. “No, I know all about that. What has me riled up is… is...” he began waving his hands as if juggling pizza dough, “all the stuff I’m hearing people say we need to keep on the island to keep it popular.”
“Stuff?” I said.
“Yes, stuff. You know stuff.” He started in again with the hands.
“Okay, are you talking about there being more cars, motorbikes, quads, and private vans on the roads, than during rush hour on the LA 405 Freeway?”
“About no place to park them?”
He gestured no with a quick upward jerk of his head. “No, not that either.”
“I’ve got it! Drivers who think of themselves as somehow protected by the gods of Delos, no matter the condition in which they’re driving.”
“Forget about the cars, Jeffrey. I’m talking about stuff.” He practically shouted the word.
“Oh, we’re back to that. Is this stuff animal, vegetable, or mineral?”
“Stop fooling with me, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s everywhere and everybody knows about it. Every day I hear Mykonians arguing over how important a draw it is to our island. Can you believe it?”
“If you say so, who am I to disbelieve?”
He shook his head. “We’re loosing our moral compass.”
“That seems a bit dramatic. After all, the needle on the island’s compass has been a bit wobbly for a quite a while.”
“But now it’s threatening to draw us way off course. This may be a party island, but we’re not party people. We’re different than those who come here.”
Ah, philosophy. How could I resist jumping in? “It’s certainly nice to think so, but unless you’re willing to act as if you truly are different, just saying so doesn’t mean a damn.”
“Are you suggesting that because we take their money in exchange for showing them a good time we’re like them?”
This time I shook my head. “What you just said strikes me as what’s called ‘a distinction without a difference.’ But to be fair, there is a difference. Those whom you allow to come here and party in an anything goes environment, will at the end of their holiday return to someplace else to live normal civil lives, while you and your families are left to deal with what they’ve left behind. Of all the messes they leave for you to clean up, one you cannot ever thoroughly erase is the basic lesson you’ve allowed your children and grandchildren to learn first hand: The sort of conduct the island tolerates in its visitors must be acceptable behavior to live by elsewhere on the planet. If you can live with that, who am I to quibble? But don’t disagree with the result, for that sort of self-deception will only prove disastrous to your families.”
“Yeah, that’s what I’m trying to say. You’ve got to write something about the stuff. Before it’s too late.”
“Here’s the bottom line. Whatever this stuff is that has you so worked up, if you want to stop it you better get serious. Otherwise shut up and learn to live with the consequences. Besides, you’re giving me a headache.”
“I have some stuff that might help for that.”