Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Report From the Harbor

This is where they sell the fish.  But there are no fish.

This is where they sell the local produce.  But there is no local produce.

This is where they sell the jewelry.  But there are no customers.

Then again, it’s afternoon in the old port of Mykonos and the farmers and fishermen have long since packed up and gone home. 

As for the jewelers, we shall see.

Greek Easter Week ended on Sunday.  Usually it offers a glimpse of peak season madness that will not return until June.  This year things were slow.  Hotels that would normally have opened for Easter did not, and many that did were not busy.  In part because Easter tourists are mainly Greeks, and Greeks are conserving their money.  Others who planned on coming decided to cancel their plans when ferryboat union workers called a strike that kept the boats in port until just after midnight Thursday.

Let’s see, what other good news is there to report. Oh, yes, national elections are May 6th. Mercifully, Greeks are spared the four-year electioneering cycle US voters endure.  Greek campaigning only runs about a month.  That’s probably a good thing considering the deep resentment Greeks are showing for their elected officials. 

Politicians are trying to distance themselves from decisions virtually everyone agreed had to be made.  Each of the two main parties spawned two others, and normally peripheral ones are sensing their best chance in decades to advance their influence. 

Old wine in new bottles is what the kinder cynics are saying.  Many say the party most likely to see significant gains is the “white party.”  Greeks must vote, so in protest they will submit a blank—white—ballot.

Sadder still, is the number of thoughtful observers who believe this election could easily make things worse, much worse.  That scenario is based upon what seems the likely outcome: no single party will have a majority, thereby requiring competing parties to work together in a coalition government.  If past experience is any guide, they say, coalition members are likely to be too busy acquiring and protecting their own fiefdoms to focus on what must be done for their country.  There will be no national direction and power vacuums will open to opportunists.

When it comes to Greeks’ current attitude toward their elected officials I think it’s safe to say pessimism rules.  They have no confidence in those in power, yet see no one on the horizon to replace them.

Sound like the US?

Oh well, it’s only April, and we know what they say, April showers bring May flowers, things are always darkest before the dawn, a chicken in every pot come May 7th….  

Frankly, I think the country would be a whole lot better off if its politicians behaved more like its farmers and fishermen.  They face reality everyday and make it work for them.  Otherwise, they starve.



  1. That is quite eerily empty... As someone with Greek family connections, I am waiting with bated breath to see how things develop. Thank you for conveying this atmosphere so skillfully in your blog. I wonder if it will find its way into your novels too?

  2. I am reminded of a comment of author Mary Stewart, I think, that, when 2 Greeks sit at a table, at least 3 political parties are represented. But, a month long political cycle, as opposed to ours: more bliss piled atop your wonderfully inviting pictures.

  3. Normally I'm irrespressibly and illogically cheery, but I'm finding the latest scandals involving icons in the US government(the Secret Service and the GSA) very, very depressing. No wonder the nation is becoming cynical.

  4. Marina, I think all of us who care for Greece share your anxiety. And thank you for your kind words. I can assure you that the exploration of issues confronting modern Greece is central to my mysteries, no more so than in Target: Tinos.

    Liz, I think that in adding up the numbers one left out a fifth.

    Charlotte, consider it all fodder for your next book...though no one will believe it's true...the part about the guy arguing price in the hallway with a hooker is priceless.

  5. I think the US is best served by not requiring that everyone vote. Happily, surveys have shown that those with the loudest and most negative voices don't vote.

    The constant negativity directed at Obama drives me crazy. The Republicans vowed that they would guarantee that he would fail. All bills involving money must originate in the House of Representatives which has a Republican majority. Except for the Affordable Healthcare Act, the House has not passed anything he has sent to Congress. It does not matter to the Republicans that the people who elected them are not being served.

    There is a ridiculous backlog in federal cases that should have gone to trial since January 20, 2009 but the House refuses to consent to any of the names submitted by the president. Even if the judges are Republicans, they are being nominated by Obama so justice is less important than thwarting the president.

    The Democratic majority in the Senate are the most craven example of spineless cowardice that the Senate has yet seen. They won't support the leader of the country and their party because they are afraid they will lose votes from the selfish majority who used to be the party who passed the Civil Rights Act and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society.

    Obama denies it but the biggest problem he has to face is racism. I had a history professor who said that racism in the south developed with the slaves were freed because whie sharecroppers were no better off in this country than newly freed slaves. So the whites latched onto skin color as proof of superiority. Does anyone really believe that there is a significant majority of working class and lower middle class men who support the idea of a man of color being the leader of the free world? Polls show that Obama cannot win that group in November.

    Instead, men will rally behind Mitt Romney who is disliked by most in his party. Romney has sworn that immediately after his inauguration, he will sign a law making the Affordable Healthcare Law void. I think he is a bit confused on the power of the presidency but there is no confusion about his moral backbone. He doesn't have one. "Obamacare" is built on the healthcare law Romney wrote and signed into law when he was governor of Massachusetts. Now he insists that it wasn't really what he meant to do.

    If anyone needs to collect unemployment, needs help with buying food, has a pre-existing health condition or is less white than he is, they should be very concerned if he is elected.

    Given a system that allows Romney to be the Republican nominee without the support of the rank-and-file, other countries might have the better idea.

  6. How dispiriting-for Greece, and the United States. I agree with Beth. The not so secret issue for Obama is racism, and that the GOP has become more reactionary. I shudder to think of what will happen if Romney wins. Not just for the very poor but for the country. I just don't think he is very smart. And he loves firing people. I think we're in trouble, and the Tea Party and its followers have a lot to answer for.

  7. Lil, Romney does not get good press in Massachusetts. When Mitt decided not to run for re-election, the reason he gave was Ann's need to ride horses as therapy for her Multiple Sclerosis. He didn't mention the Olympics.

    Ann has given multiple interviews in which she states that she has no symptoms of the disease because she competes in dressage, the very complicated dance routine seen at the Olympics. She may own two Cadillacs but
    she owns many more horses.

    Mitt may believe that Ann's experience of the disease is typical but a small percentage of those diagnosed have one active episode of the disease and then it remains in remission. If horse therapy is the reason for her freedom from symptoms , then should it not be offered to all patients? Ownership of the horse isn't necessary, just a couple of hours a week could make a difference. Beats the usual self-injection routine of most patients.

    Again, the Romney's have given proof that they have no idea of life in the real world. Ann did not have young children when she was diagnosed. She did not have to earn half the mortgage payment on the house. She had a full staff to keep her house running. She credits, in part, her freedom from the symptoms of MS to the "top-tier" care her health care provided for her. Does she worry that if her insurance changes she might not get new insurance because she has a pre-existing condition? Obama's Affordable Healthcare guarantees that will not happen. That's the insurance Romney's going to destroy on his first day.

    The Republicans have convinced some very hard working people who qualify as part of the 1% on paper that raising taxes on the rich is an attack on them. Apparently few people in the 1% were paying attention to Warren Buffet.

  8. Beth, you raise what distresses many Americans greatly. And, Lil, what distresses Greece is of even broader scope. All I can say is come the respective election days,"We'll see."

  9. When I think of politics I am always depressed. When I think of politicians I want to throw up. If only we could make it a law that they said what they thought not what they think we want them to say.

  10. Stan, I just returned from three days in Athens, and the general attitude is about what you describe: the people want to throw up at what they perceive as their choices in political candidates.