Friday, December 21, 2012

What is wrong with the Greeks and Europeans in general?

I often try to explain to many fellow Europeans how on Earth the Greeks have allowed their country to reach this point. How a country with so many resources and a great geopolitical strategic position can not achieve stability and become like many other developed European nations. One would of course ask; is this country meant to? 

Besides the Greek "condition" in my opinion is not just Greek, but European overall and in fact it affects all developed countries. It's been around 60 years since the '50s where the world started recovering from WW2 and there was a post war boom in every aspect of life. The economy, population, discoveries, industrialization, innovation, all driven by the rebuilding of Europe and other regions badly affected by WW2.

In my opinion that generation, the generation of post WW2 baby boomers is the main driving force of this crisis. They are all in their 50s or 60s, middle aged and it is the generation that dominates the political and economic life of Greece and Europe. And since they are during their middle life crisis years, they pull our continent with them. Old ideologies, attitudes, political ideas, social stereotypes and way of life, that is what they represent. 

And it shows in our political and economic life of today. Yes they do have experience and knowledge, but they suffer from lack of new ideas and vision. That I am afraid will come from us, the younger generation if only we get seriously involved in our country's and Europe's politics. 

In Greece the generation of over '50s inherited a country in tatters after an era of numerous Balkan wars that lead to the expansion of Greece's borders but also the Asia Minor disaster. A situation that forced Turkey and Greece to exchange their populations. Many impoverished Greeks arrived in today's Greece with nothing but their own clothes and whatever they could fit in their pockets from their livelihoods.

More than a million people were displaced like this and all efforts of the newly formed Greek state went into providing these people with housing and integrating them. But peace was not meant to last. The great European powers had other plans for the continent of Europe and the region of the Balkans. Two World wars broke out in the space of a few decades and Greece was dragged into both of them.

After those wars the country had to endure a bloody civil war that wrecked and devastated the country, economically, socially, morally and politically. It divided the nation and its scars have not fully healed until today. A few decades later and the country had to endure a military junta with the backing of USA. Another black page in the country's history that caused even further damage in Greece's politics and economy. 

Foreign powers always meddled with Greek affairs and politics. They helped to establish kings, democracy and  junta all in the space of half a century. But the Greek public was left with deep wounds and negative influences by all this instability. 

First of all corruption was established in all levels of the society. When the country was so poor and its people deprived, it is only natural. But it was also established by the state itself, in order to help keep control of the population and oppress them. Greece always had a strong socialist or communist population and in order to control them and keep the country under Western control, Greece became a police state.

If you were suspected of being a communist you were under surveillance by the police and if found guilty you were deported from the country and your fortunes seized by the state. Many children of communist families were given up for adoption in Greece, former communist countries of even in the USA and other western countries. 

Such cruel decades of poverty and deprivation, taught the Greek people to seize every opportunity they could to make a living. The state corruption soon became a way of life for everybody, as it was the only way to prosper. Very few people attended school and even fewer managed to go to college or university and get a degree. Emigration was widespread and a lot of the islands and parts of the mainland were abandoned. 

For example none from my family finished school. Neither my parents, nor my aunts, uncles never mind my grand parents who did not even go to school. They were all forced to leave studying and receiving any education to go and work at an early age. My father started working at the age of 13. My mother at 15. That was the social norm. Almost none of their cousins or friends ever finished school.

And it was not only the lack of education. They had to deal with a oppressive state that used a strong corrupt police force to oppress them. That is the reason that it is not in the Greek psyche to write to their mayors or ministers to complain about something, but only to court them for favors in return for their vote. You could not freely protest in Greece during the 50s. 

The police had too much power, and it kept this power until the '70s and the "Metapolitefsi" years. But even today the police has kept its old mind frame when dealing with its citizens. Authoritarian, corrupt and violent, especially when it comes to Greece's latest citizens, the immigrant communities.

When living under these conditions, in poverty, deprivation, social injustice and inequality, under an oppressive state and police system, with no education or a chance for a better life, generation after generation of Greeks learned to have a very limited and narrow minded perception of their political and social life. First of all they were not encouraged to be political creatures, rather to obey with no questioning. 

Similar situations existed in most countries of Europe after WW2 and that is correct for most of the Eastern part of the Continent that fell under the Communist rule. But countries like Ireland also had to endure their own oppressive institutions, this  time coming from the Catholic Church and not the police. One can really see this in the older Irish population, that also grew in poverty, deprivation, oppression and a brutal Catholic regime.

People like that can not protest or express any political opinion. They are ignorant and easy to manipulate as they accept the country's status quo without question. And even if they did have the ideas, they would keep them to themselves and do not protest in fear of losing the little that they had and be deported like in the Greek case. How can you have active citizenship under those conditions? 

So a whole generation of Greeks, Irish and many other European nationalities learned not to question and just follow what was happening in their countries. And when the boom times came, they just went mad and were spending like never before. Well it is natural, don't you think? Once you live in poverty for decades, you will of course try to make the most of it while you can and use any method to accumulate more and enjoy the good times to the maximum. 

But they only fell into a trap, that was set up by the those who control the global economy. They knew what would happen to a poor country that accumulated wealth so fast and they gambled on them. Now that Europe is changing, we see a greater citizen involvement in European affairs, even if in many cases that happens with a negative way. 

European youths that have access to the internet, have studied, traveled abroad and even worked for some years in another country than their own, they are becoming more aware of politics especially European. There are various EU funded forums and portals on-line that one can receive information and even come in contact with various EU officials and politicians. 

And from my experience they are far more willing to respond and get engaged with the citizens, than the national politicians.They usually tour a country only to gather support and gain votes from the people, by making promises that most likely won't keep. 

The future looks brighter for citizen involvement in European politics. But we still ignore the generation of over '50s, in trying to educate them or show them the benefits of EU membership or what are their rights as EU citizens. 
What we need is to reach out to them through the media they use and trust the most, the television. We should promote more awareness and information through television programs for people of an older age and encourage them to get involved too. Help them understand how the EU and politics in Europe work, and offer them unbiased information detached from any national interests and propaganda. 

Imagine for example if the British public that are the most "euro-skeptic" of all EU nations, found out the real benefits of their country's EU membership. If they were offered another point view, apart from the obviously and openly "euro-skeptic"  media, especially the press. It is again the British populace over 50, the pensioners and others near that age that are most conservative and vocal of their anti-EU sentiments. 

It is also true that the German people over '50s are far more inclined on being conservative and oppose any major change in their country's politics, any bail outs or transfer of funds to poorer EU countries. It is them that control the country's economic and political reigns and influence of course European politics as the largest member of the EU. 

In Greece too, it is that age group that rules and has an outdated, conservative idea on how to run the country. They do not like change or modernization simply because they will lose all their power and influence in the country, by bringing a new way of doing business or reforming the country's economy. How can anything change with such conservative approach?
Yes in the future Europe will be more "European", but if we do not focus on the older generation, that development will only take place decades later, when they pass. Until then, they may do permanent damage with a rise of nationalism, xenophobia, conservatism and protectionism. The younger generation that has studied abroad and speaks foreign languages, it is natural that they will feel more "European" as I am. 

What about people in my parents' age group, will we let them be indifferent? They do have the right to vote and they use it. And the more we leave them uninvolved or ignorant in many European issues, the more we will be delaying any real progress in Europe.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Defining corruption.

I often wonder what makes a country corrupt, what are the reasons that some countries riffed with it and how we are defining which countries are more corrupt than others. In the recent list published last Wednesday by the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI), we saw this year's worse offenders and the "shining examples" of the least corrupt countries.

But I often wonder who and why decide to place certain countries in such place. And under what criteria? The list showed that Afghanistan for example is right at the bottom of this list, while the USA in the top 20. That is a thing that I find hilarious. Afghanistan, a country is still under foreign military occupation is being placed at the bottom. 

Could the country have done any better? Can a country better its system when under an occupation? And what about America being at the top 20? Is this country really "transparent?" Well it depends how you see things, and how you define "corruption!"

Perhaps you think of corruption as only when it happens in a poor country with other traditions than the dominant "Western" and "Anglo-Saxon," but when it happens in a developed country it is just "lobbying." Or is it perhaps only when it happens between bribes and financial transactions of certain parties of the public with certain parties of the national or local government? 

Then how can we explain the fact that America is in a state or perpetuate war with the excuse of providing certain "unfortunate" countries that lack "democracy" with "freedom," when the real reason is to make their arms and oil industries richer, thus helping their economy?

What is the difference between me going to a civil servant in the country I am living in, paying him/her with a lump sum in order to gain a favor for my business or me, with when an arms company is lobbying a country's government to engage in a war that is not justified, for profit? And of course this is a profit shared, as this company in return will support that government in its future political campaigns or even worse will share some of the profits with that government. 

Please do not be surprised this is not a scenario, this is happening as we speak. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan was all about oil and profit, nothing more. And some companies made huge profit, helping in return some lobbies or political parties in their country of establishment. 

Because despite the public outrage or lack of support, Britain, Spain and Portugal for example went on and joined the Americans in their campaign in those countries right away. Isn't this a show of lack of democracy, when despite the public disapproval, the government enters a war that will have no benefit for the nation whatsoever, rather for the global oil companies?

And why the "corruptor" that is corrupting a country with money or other means in order to serve his interests is never listed as being corrupt, like in the case of Afghanistan/USA? The first country is being invaded and has its resources exploited and not only that, is being forced to a regime change that will only serve the invaders, then this country finds itself at the bottom. While the second country is considered less corrupt, simply by judging its GDP or wealth, even though that it uses this wealth to corrupt other countries.

Do you want another example? The case of the Greek government and many German multinationals like Siemens. The German multinational was bribing the Greek government for years in order to be appointed the main constructor of many public works before the Athens Olympics. 

When they got it they made a huge profit out of the Greek public wealth, they avoided taxes and overcharged the Greek state. This is the so called "Siemens scandal" that rocked Greece a few years ago. Yet it was the Greeks who were branded as a "corrupt" nation and not the "corruptors" the Germans. I think it should work both ways shouldn't it? They were both part of the equation.

I have also always wondered how a tax haven make it towards the top of the list. Like the "corruptor" states, they are a part of the global corruption plague, simply by having secretive banking policies and lower their taxes for the rich or the multinationals. In this way they offer the ground for corruption to exist elsewhere. Without them, corruption would be difficult to hide as those who tax evade would have no place to hide their money that they stole from the state or other decent tax payers. 

So why exactly most tax havens also make it to the top of the list, like Luxembourg, Switzerland, many Caribbean and Pacific islands, Monaco, etc. If they could not act as tax havens, if we imposed sanctions against them if they did not comply with international laws, the corrupt fat cats would have no playground to stash their money. You will think that it would be outrageous to place sanctions against tax havens? Why? We place sanctions against any country that does not play with our rules, like Iran or Cuba for example. 

Is it perhaps that "the West" is corrupt as a economic and political block? In my opinion yes. Wherever there is a lot of money and power involved, there you can find the worse corruption of all. In that way, the USA, Britain and yes even the EU can be the most corrupt states or organizations that exist. For example whenever a banker's wife steals money in Switzerland it is not breaking news. 

Or when a French President is involved in a scandal (and my God almost all of them have) that is something  natural. When there is a scandal of pedophilia, a scandal of police corruption or tax evasion in Belgium there is not an outrage across Europe, or whenever there are problems in Holland with some failings in the legalization of prostitution and cannabis.

When British MPs are involved in a scandal, stealing money from the tax payers to build a much needed duck house in their pond, or a large establishment of the British press is involved in one of the worse cases of corruption that is not something shameful. If the same happens in Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria or Greece of course there are plenty of fingers pointing. 

And isn't it more natural, wherever there is poverty and decades of human deprivation to have more severe cases of corruption? Poverty urges people to find a corrupt way to make a better living. It seems though that wealth has the same effect, but only when rich nations or people do it then it becomes more "glamorous."

Eastern European states for example, had to suffer decades of communism and poverty while the Western part of the Continent was progressing fast. Why are some western European countries so critical of Bulgaria or Romania and instead of helping them, they point the finger towards them? As if everything is crystal clear in their affairs. 

And very few countries in Europe had more turbulent past in their modern history than Greece. Decades of a war after another, foreign meddling and intervention left whole generations of Greeks in poverty and absolute deprivation. These are the "ways" that they learned to survive and make a living. Why instead of helping to find a solution on a European level, correct the mistakes of the past and reach a reconciliation, the rich western states prefer to throw all the mud against other states instead of cooperating to eradicate corruption from Europe, or at least minimize it?

Is it because it is nice to have a scapegoat, and divert their public opinion towards the misfortunes and faults of others, rather on letting them focus on what is wrong in their own backyards? And since in most cases they are partially responsible on what is going on in the poorer countries is it ethical to criticize them? European states especially have a lot to answer for their colonial and post colonial influences in the poorer regions of the world. Likewise America is practicing unethical policies that force many poorer regions into deprivation and of course corruption.

Or is it because if any action is to be taken to deal with corruption in the poorer European countries, the same will have to apply in the rich ones and that can cause a lot of trouble to the corrupt political elites of Europe and America? They are all interconnected anyway.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Privatising European healthcare to make it more innovative? I do not think so!

Recently many leaders in Europe are discussing ways on making Europe and its economy more competitive and promote innovation. Of course  one of the things they love doing in situations like these is to cut the much hated by the capitalists social security funds. And privatize everything.

So with those two in mind, many leaders and policy makers in Europe are debating on if we should privatize healthcare, to make it more "innovative!" They want to make us all pay for our health services and allow some people make money out of our health issues.

I strongly disagree. Health must be free and available for all. Health and education are the only two things that I believe they should not be privatized. Private companies may do a good job but they charge a whole lot of money. Why should better health be the privilege of the rich only?

It is the state that must invest in health and education. That is why we are paying all those taxes, aren’t we? Let them privatize everything else but provide their citizens with good health and education. Those two are an investment. If you have a healthy and educated population, it is the best investment you could make as a statesman or woman.

Good health means less social welfare for the sick and good education means a capable workforce that can attract investments.Why on earth would you give that on private hands, so that any multinational can manipulate the health and education of your population? Thus owning the fate of the young and the old or weak.

A private company cares only for money. Little does it care for assisting citizens in need. And the worse example of a bad health service is the USA. They have privatized their social security services and they have one of the worse systems in the world. While Cuba that has kept them in public hands, has one of the best health services in the world.

I am not saying that we all should become like Cuba, but on the health care debate I am absolutely against privatization.

Monday, December 3, 2012

My experiences as a young Greek immigrant in Europe.

For the past 8 years, I live permanently in Dublin, Ireland. My decision to leave the country I was born proved to be the wisest decision of my life. Not that there are no problems and everything is rosy. Βut migration gave me an advantage over others who have not lived in a country other than their own, or have traveled to other countries.

When I first moved to Dublin, I did not know anyone here. So I started hanging out with people of many different nationalities. I learned new customs and to think in a new way, to see things from another perspective.

And in many cases I've learned how to improve or change my way of thinking, how to start thinking like the Irish and the other people that I came in contact with. At first my attention was focused on other things. It was difficult to consolidate friendships, find work that satisfies me and not fall victim to manipulation.

But all these lessons were valuable life lessons that forced me to use my head to survive. Once I learned the mentality of the locals I began to understand where we are going wrong in Greece in labor, political, social, cultural and other issues. And of course where we have advantages.

Over the years I began to lose my narrow and limited perception of most Greeks and Irish locals. Like someone gave me a magic mirror that every time you make a mistake and you wonder where do you go wrong, it shows it to you.

My mindset changed, my beliefs changed. Then began another battle: to find out where I belong. When I'm in Ireland and speak with Irish friends, there are times that inevitably I criticize all they are doing wrong and give them a different solution to their problem.

Many times they perceived it the wrong way and think I'm a snob. And yes, there is jealousy and xenophobia between the Irish and especially in whatever is foreign and different or better.

The same happens with some Greeks when I am visiting Greece. In some of our friend gatherings, we discuss social and political issues, but they do not understand some arguments that I use in our discussions. Although they show certainly some interest. Some people show admiration others envy. Just because I think about things without the small "national" state of mind, a thing that they can not do.

The difference is that now I am and feel cosmopolitan. I am not only Greek, but also European and world citizen. Some characteristics of the "typical" Greek I've left behind. And some of these features I often use to get an advantage against the Irish and other colleagues of other nationalities.

For me, being a Greek is no longer being stuck in the "tradition," but to use some traditions to enrich your life. The hospitality, food, pride, diligence and "open heart" of the Greek I carry always with me and use them regularly when dealing with other people, to win arguments.

But the narrow-mindedness, fear of anything foreign or progressive, the blind acceptance of the ideology of our parents, the sometimes suffocating relationship between parent and child or between two lovers, all those I have left behind. And my relationship with religion and "Orthodoxy" has inevitably changed.

There is a Greek-Orthodox church in Dublin, and we have an Orthodox priest who is of Irish descent. He converted during his stay in Cyprus, while serving in the Irish Army and the United Nations following the Turkish invasion of the island.

So I can keep some of my favorite traditions like those of Easter, but without being a hardliner on doctrine.Christmas for example I celebrate in an "Irish" or "European" way. I just may go to a Catholic or a Protestant church with friends. I do not necessarily need to follow all the Greek customs, only the ones I like. 

The cutting of the St Basil Pie for example (a traditional New Year's Day brioche type of bread, that my mother sends it to me every year by post)! I generally accept many customs from Ireland and their national holidays. Like the St. Patrick's Day and the famous "Halloween." While I have abandoned completely other Greek festivals such as the "Assumption of Our Lady," that is celebrated in Greece on August 15th.National and religious customs are just one example of the new way of thinking and culture that I have acquired. A hybrid culture which often brings me advantages, while other times just make my life more colorful, interesting and different.

I feel incredibly lucky to be able to have this experience. Because despite the problems of racism and sometimes all the difficulties, I would not want to ever go back to what I was. Now I see things differently and if I ever move back to Greece, I will not allow myself to lose anything I gained from my life in Ireland.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A philosophical essay on the question of governance in Europe.

In the recent years across Europe and the world, we observe major political, ideological changes and developments. Many nations go through an economic crisis while others through a total change of regime.

During this time it is natural for people to question their governments, demand for change and envision a new political establishment for their country. They feel betrayed and let down and there are numerous debates on how to best move forward and out of the crisis.

In these debates people naturally focus on the weaknesses of the political system of their country and on ways to better it or even at some cases, reform it entirely.

The question is, how is best to reform an old and outdated political system, which is the best form of governance and what is the importance of having a government in achieving a civilized society? Is the existence of a state even necessary for our societies?

Humans are known to be social creatures and since the antiquity the communities they have formed were ever changing. And with every change the political or religious leaders, the scholars and thinkers of each era, have long debated about which is the best form of governance and state.

Humans developed from being hunter-gatherers into farmers and that made them form permanent settlements. These settlements later developed into cities, kingdoms or states. But could a large number of humans live peacefully side by side, if they haven’t placed a common set of rules, an agreement between them for a harmonious co-existence?

In ancient Greece we observe the first attempt to analyze the best political system for a fully functioning human society. The philosophers of that age, notably Plato and Aristotle, were among the first and most important to this day to attempt exploring how we can create a just and acceptable political system.

In Plato’s work The Republic, we read the story of Gyges, a shepherd in the ancient kingdom of Lydia. After an earthquake he discovered a magic ring that made whoever wore it and twisted it from one side to the other, invisible! He soon used his newly acquitted power to get the queen’s favor and overthrow the king, claiming his kingdom.

The issues raised from this story are obvious: would anyone do the “right thing” if he had superhuman powers? Are we prone to do just or unjust things? Can there be a just society and can we deal with any injustice and inequality, since there is the urge in every single of us to do injustice, if we could get away with it?
And as Plato explains, even if there were two rings and one was taken by a man who would do justice and the other one by a man who would do injustice, we would end up having the same issue. And that to him is a proof that any man is just not willingly or because he thinks it is the right thing to do, rather because he is afraid of becoming the victim of injustice too.

So that conclusion shows our behavior in a society and how can we create a just society. When everybody has the tendency of doing unjust things, we need perhaps to promote a mentality among the population that would prevent them from doing them. Promote laws, moral rules and role models that advocate justice as something that we all benefit from and we should strive to achieve.

If we all behave in an unjust way, then simply there would be no society to live in and with no society we would have no civilization. To develop any form of civilization, we need a group of people living and working together to create a successful, prosperous establishment that will allow them to develop their creativity and skills.

And how can so many people live so close together, if they have strong tendencies to harm each other. Our societies in a way are a contract among us and acceptance of unwritten and written laws; a truce that benefits us all!

So it is obvious that we need laws to create a successful and functioning society. But do we need an establishment; do we need a state to constantly overseer our behavior and tell us what to do? Why can’t us people decide and agree on these laws, compose them and then have only a policing body to make sure everybody abides by these laws?

Is it perhaps that we need to be ruled, we need somebody to lead us, make some certain decisions for us and take the responsibility for our destiny? If every state is being governed by a few “rulers,” while others just spend their whole lives as “auxiliaries” or “workers,” as Plato has described in his work “The Republic” the ideal consistence of a society, then that means that the fate of this society is in the hands of these few.

But Aristotle stated that “Man is by nature a political animal,” because what each one of us wants is a happy life. What will give us this he thinks, is the fullest development and exercise of our capacities that us compatible with living in a society. Unbridled self-indulgence and self-assertion will bring us into perpetual conflict with other people. (1) Thus no society and no happy life for anyone.

The above conclusion should be enough to make us obey the rules of the society we live in, as it would be for our own benefit, without necessarily the existence of and state authority. It would also mean that people would participate in the “commons” and help form the laws of the society they are living in, as it would be for their own interests to have a say in the laws that they will have to abide. If all humans are “political animals,” surely they can participate and practice politics.

So if people are able to put aside their selfish nature and compromise in a life in a community, but also participate in the formation of the rules, then democracy should be an adequate system to keep a society together.

But Plato’s ideas come against of what we perceive today of “democracy.” For him democracy means the rule of the “demos”. But in classical Greek demos can be understood both as the people or the “mob.” So, on the later understanding then democracy is a mob rule. His basic argument to support his idea is described as “craft analogy.” (2)

And it is very simple. If you were ill and wanted advice on your health, you should go to an expert.-the doctor. You should consult someone who had been specially trained to do the job. The last thing you would do is assemble a crowd and ask them to vote on the correct remedy. (3)

For Plato the best political system would be a monarchy, but to be a just system and not end up in becoming a tyranny, “the kings should be philosophers or the philosophers should become kings.” Philosophical training is a necessary qualification to rule. (3) In today’s capitalist world though, with a far more globalized and free market based economies, how many monarchs do we have with philosophical training?

The city states of ancient Greece were abolished by the Alexander the Great and his empire and then they were incorporated into the Roman Empire. The teachings of Plato and Aristotle could not fulfill the needs of this new reality and so many Roman philosophers had to update them to match their modern reality; in an empire, people from many different ethnic backgrounds, of different languages, culture and way of thinking had to be governed.

Similar changes continued to be happening when another large scale change took place in Europe, the rise of Christianity. Safeguarding Christian values or doctrine, while promoting a functioning political system was something that the Christian political philosophers like Thomas Aquinas had to deal with.

Since then Europe will see so many wars, uprisings and change of regimes and all that just to find this special “formula” of the most appropriate form of governance. Or perhaps to satisfy the megalomania, blind ideology or interests of those who were appointed with the task to lead?

How can we provide the citizens with a just system that protects them from any injustice caused by the ruling elite or other citizens? Some will claim that a form of communism or the other extreme, anarchy would be the solution.

But we witnessed that even in communism certain people are more “equal” than others and the personal happiness that Aristotle was talking about is not allowed to exist. As for anarchy, who is going to safeguard the interests of the people and in what way? Can we trust the mob for a fair and just judgement? So that answers the question of self policing; who will overseer if fair punishment is applied by an angry mob?

According to the Stoic movement of antiquity and especially Marcus Tullius Cicero, the Roman philosopher that followed the Platonic ideas, there are three pure types of states: monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. These rules are characterized by the love of subjects and reason, wisdom or freedom respectively. (4) But if monarchy can turn to tyranny, aristocracy to oligarchy and democracy to a rule of the mob, then how is best to protect our political system from failing?

One of Cicero’s characters in his “The Commonwealth” work was called Scipio. He states that although a monarchy is the best of the pure forms of government, he prefers one that mixes all three of the forms. (5)

And that is because inevitably all three governments eventually tend to degenerate into corrupt forms according to Scipio.

So by adopting a mixed government we could perhaps prevent this corruption. And of course by having a mixed state we could achieve a balance between the values of a monarchy and those of an aristocracy. Democracy for him was also unattainable as humans are not all equal.

Then if the best solution for a fair state would be a mixed government with the best values of monarchy and aristocracy combined with freedom, what impact would such a hybrid political system would have in our modern societies? How could the ordinary citizens be able to control or resist the institutionalized inequality that would favor the rich elites?

In fact if we examine the problems most countries are facing at the moment, this fact is exactly the root of their difficulties. There is no functioning democracy and in most cases it has been transformed into an aristocracy, with the business, economic, political and social rich elites in every country influencing the state’s policies for their own benefit.

Our societies are democracies only but in name, with very few exceptions. After centuries of debating, envisioning the best political system that would help us create a long lasting civilization, we have reached the point that the former remedies do not work anymore.

Today’s societies are ruled by economics, not enlightened visionary kings. The solution would be a new kind of political system, inspired by Stoicism but taking it to a new dimension. Starting from Europe, I believe that the future belongs to a federal multinational government. Have a new type of hybrid political system that establishes multiple levels of governance both on national and international level.

Europe and in extension the world, should be governed in local, national and European (or international) level. With two parliaments, one national and one European, together with the local authorities, cooperating, opposing, controlling each other and designing a more stable, equal Europe. We should form a democratic political system that does not rely solely on nations or classes.

So we can avoid populism and the dominance of a single political elite in each country. In that way, the qualities of the ancient Stoic philosophy will be best served; promoting cosmopolitanism with commitment to human equality and membership to a community that is transcending any political boundaries and borders.


1). Aristotle. The History of Philosophy. Bryan Magee. Dorling Kindersley Limited. 1998. Page 38.

2).Who should rule? An introduction to Political Philosophy. Jonathan Wolff. OpusGeneral Editors. 1996. Page 73.

3). Who should rule? An introduction to Political Philosophy. Jonathan Wolff. OpusGeneral Editors. 1996. Page 74.

4). Cicero, “On the Commonwealth.” 131, 140.

5). Cicero, “On the Commonwealth.” 140, 190.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A very short comment on the Gaza tragedy.

The Western media are rushing to make money by covering the situation in the Middle East and the escalating crisis in Gaza. "What should Europe do to help," many ask. "We must help those poor kinds in Palestine and bring peace in the region! Europe must get involved!" 

All so very humanist considerations of course. We should do something yes, but think of this: could Europe stand against Israel and do something about their aggression towards the Palestinians?

We are always supporting or tolerating their actions, perhaps because of a sense of eternal guilt and shame of how we treated the Israelis in the past. Of course the Palestinians themselves are not entirely clear of all blame. But unlike Israel, they are already being punished by being cut off from the rest of the world.

If Europe should get involved it should do so by imposing sanctions against Israel this time. But can we do that without angering the Americans and have them stopping all investments in Europe? In other words Europe can not get involved, apart from making statements and plenty of statements it gives.

The Israelis with the tolerance of the international community, have created a vast concentration camp in Gaza, a huge ghetto. And if the Palestinians react they call them terrorists and bomb them even more. I wonder if the ancestors of the modern Israelis would approve what their descendants are doing to other human beings. 

Wouldn't it be better to compromise, stop building new settlements and give the Palestinians more freedoms? The more they force them into poverty and deprivation, the more they radicalize them. Just because Israel has the full support of powerful "protectors" in USA and Europe, it does not mean that they can do whatever they want.

One side of the problem is the constant expansion of the Israeli settlements. This results to the Palestinians being "boxed" in a tiny strip, with almost no diplomatic or trade relations with any country of the world. Since the situation remains as such, the Palestinians become radicalized and support terrorist groups like Hamas and this goes nowhere.

More than 100 dead Palestinians, with around 10 dead Israelis this time only. Is that necessary? Why don't both sides make serious efforts for a peace deal? The Israelis consider the lands as theirs, but they forget that the Palestinians also have the same claims and they are right. They lived in the region for centuries. Equally the Palestinians have a sworn war waged against the very existence of an Israeli state in the region.  

So there is the question of if either side desires a peace deal at all. But once the Palestinians taste how being free and have rights is, it is doubtful that they will focus on making bombs for Israeli settlements anymore. Capitalism will do the rest and affect the Palestinian youths like it did in all other countries.

They will just want to buy this new i-phone that is being advertised, or education and similar lifestyle with that of Europe. That of course provided that the Arabs accept the fact that Israel as a state is there to stay. Its population knows no other country and after so many decades they have also the right to stay there.

If I am wrong and the Palestinians continue to behave as they do now and be hostile to Israel, then it will be them that will be on the wrong. The global community will turn against them and of course take action, while the Israelis then will be once again "the victims" and have full right to do what must be done then. And no one will blame them this time.

Both sides are partially wrong and so both must face the music for breaking human rights. Until now only Palestine suffers consequences. Perhaps it is time to put some pressure on Israel too, to save human lives from both sides. Europe does not help solving the issue by siding with one side because of guilt.

To a Palestinian the end of WW2 and the resolution of the Israeli state "problem," started their own misery and long fight for their land and human rights. The West solved the problem of an Israeli state, but created another one. It is no wonder then that the Palestinians feel hard done by the international community.

There is no doubt that their organizations are terrorist and must be dealt with, but not in the way that Israel is doing so. A good example is the UK. They have had attacks from the IRA, a terrorist organization that bombed and terrorized them for decades. But we did not witnessed the British cutting off Ireland from any international organization, or imposing a blockade.

Ireland was left to prosper and tensions were defused bit by bit. Britain got its way, Ireland got something too. There may be some dissidents but overall peace has been established. That is how you win both your way, stand your ground and solve a dispute.

Israel will be wise to follow Britain's example and end the blockade, while stopping all plans for future settlement expansion. The Palestinians and their Arab allies should stop the hostilities towards Israel and accept the Israelis as part of their region.

In the end of the day, they can both share the land in a federal Israeli-Palestinian state, if they manage to end their blind nationalism and religious fundamentalism. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Οι εμπειρίες μου ώς ένας νεαρός Έλληνας μετανάστης στην Ευρώπη.

Εδώ και 8 χρόνια, ζώ μόνιμα στο Δουβλίνο της Ιρλανδίας. Η απόφαση μου να φύγω απο την χώρα που γεννήθηκα αποδείχτηκε να είναι η σοφότερη απόφαση της ζωής  μου. Όχι οτι δεν υπάρχουν δυσκολίες και όλα είναι ρόδινα. 

Αλλά η μετανάστευση μου έδωσε προβάδισμα και πλεονεκτήματα έναντι άλλων ανθρώπων που δεν έχουν ζήσει σε άλλη χώρα εκτός της μητρικής τους, ή έχουν ταξιδέψει σε άλλες χώρες.

Όταν πρωτοήρθα στο Δουβλίνο,  δεν ήξερα κανέναν εδώ. Έτσι άρχισα να κάνω παρέα με ανθρώπους από πολλές άλλες εθνικότητες. Έμαθα καινούρια ήθη και έθιμα, κυρίως του ντόπιου πλυθησμού. Έμαθα να σκέφτομαι με άλλη νοοτροπία, να βλέπω τα πράγματα από άλλη σκοπιά. 

Και σε πολλές περιπτώσεις είδα που μπορούσα να βελτιώσω η να αλλάξω το τρόπο σκέψης μου, πώς να μάθω να σκέφτομαι όπως οι Ιρλανδοί και οι άλλοι λαοί που ήρθα σε επαφή. Στην αρχή δεν αντιλαμβανόμουν τις αλλαγές που γινόταν στις αντίληψεις μου.  Ήταν δύσκολο να εδραιώσω φιλίες, να βρώ εργασία που να με ικανοποιεί και να μην πέφτω θύμα εκμετάλευσης. 

Αλλά όλα αυτά τα μαθήματα ήταν πολύτιμα μαθήματα ζωής, που με ανάγκασαν να χρησιμοποιήσω το κεφάλι μου για να επιβιώσω. Αφού έμαθα την νοοτροπία των ντόπιων, άρχισα να καταλαβαίνω που κάνουμε λάθος ώς Έλληνες σε εργασιακά, πολιτικά, κοινωνικά, πολιτισμικά και άλλα θέματα. Και πού φυσικά έχουμε πρωταιρήματα. 

Με τα χρόνια άρχισα να χάνω την στενή και περιορισμένη αντίληψη που έχουν οι περισσότεροι Έλληνες αλλά και οι ντόπιοι Ιρλανδοί. Σαν κάποιος να μου έδωσε έναν μαγικό καθρέπτη που κάθε φορά που κάνεις κάποια λανθασμένη κίνηση και απορείς τί κάνεις λάθος, να σου το φανερώνει. 

Η νοοτροπία μου άλλαξε, τα πιστεύω μου άλλαξαν. Τότε άρχισε μια άλλη μάχη: να διαπιστώσω πού ανήκω πλέον. Όταν είμαι στην Ιρλανδία και μιλάω με τους Ιρλανδούς φίλους, υπάρχουν φορές που αναπόφευκτα τους κριτικάρω σε όλα αυτα που κάνουν λάθος και τους δίνω μια διαφορετική λύση στο πρόβλημά τους. 

Πολλές φορές το αντιλαμβάνονται  λάθος και νομίζουν ότι είμαι σνόμπ. Και ναι, υπάρχει ζήλεια και ξενοφοβία ανάμεσα και στους Ιρλανδούς, ειδικά σε ότι είναι και ξένο αλλά και διαφορετικό και καλύτερο.

Το ίδιο συμβαίνει και με πολούς Έλληνες όταν επισκεύτομαι την Ελλάδα. Κάποιες φορές οι  συγκενείς και φίλοι δεν αντιλαμβάνονται κάποια επιχειρήματα που χρησιμοποιώ σε συζητήσεις μας, αν και δείχνουν σίγουρα ενδιαφέρον. 

Πολλοί παραδειγματίζονται, άλλοι έρχονται σε άβολη θέση. Κάποιοι με θαυμάζουν, άλλοι με φθονούν. Απλά γιατί σκέφτομαι πράγματα που αυτοί με την περιορισμένη «εθνική» τους αντίληψη, δεν μπορούν. 

Η διαφορά μας είναι ότι εγώ πλέον είμαι και αισθάνομαι κοσμοπολίτης. Δεν αισθάνομαι Έλληνας μόνο, αλλά και Ευρωπαίος και πολίτης του κόσμου. Κάποια χαρακτηριστικά του «τυπικού»  Έλληνα τα έχω αφήσει πίσω μου. Και κάποια άλλα από αυτά τα χαρακτηριστικά τα χρησιμοποιώ συχνά για να αποκτήσω πρωταίρημα έναντι των Ιρλανδών και άλλων συναδέλφων άλλων εθνικοτήτων. 

Για μένα το να είσαι Έλληνας δεν είναι πλέον να είσαι κολλημένος στην «παράδοση,» αλλά να χρησιμοποιείς κάποιες παραδόσεις στο να εμπλουτίσεις την ζωή σου. Την φιλοξενεία, το φαγητό, το φιλότιμο, την εργατικότητα και την «ανοιχτή καρδιά» του Έλληνα τα κουβαλάω πάντα μαζί μου και τα χρησιμοποιώ τακτικά για να κερδίσω ανθρώπους και επιχειρήματα. 

Αλλά την στενομυαλιά, τον φόβο για κάθε ξένο και διαφορετικό ή προοδευτικό, την τυφλή αποδοχή της ιδεολογίας των γονέων μας, την αποπνικτική πολλές φορές σχέση μεταξύ γονέα-παιδιού ή μεταξύ δύο εραστών, όλα αυτα τα έχω αφήσει πίσω. Και η σχέση μου με την θρησκεία και την «Ορθοδοξία» έχει φυσικα αναπόφευκτα αλλάξει. 

Υπάρχει Ελληνο-ορθόδοξη εκκλησία στο Δουβλίνο, και έχουμε και Ορθόδοξο ιερέα που είναι Ιρλανδος στην καταγωγή. Άλλαξε θρησκεία κατά την παραμονή του στην Κύπρο, και ενώ υπηρετούσε στον Ιρλανδικό στρατό και τα Ηνωμένα Έθνη μετά την εισβολή των Τούρκων στη Μεγαλόνησο. 

Έτσι μπορώ να διατηρώ κάποια από τα αγαπημένα μου έθιμα όπως αυτά του Πάσχα, αλλά χωρίς να είμαι αδιάλλακτος σε θέματα δόγματος. 

Τα Χριστούγεννα για παραδείγματος χάρη, τα γιορτάζω με τρόπο «Ιρλανδικό» ή «Ευρωπαικό.» Πηγαίνω σε Καθολική ή Προτεσταντική εκκλησία με φίλους. Δεν χρειάζομαι να ακολουθώ απαραίτητα τα Ελληνικά έθιμα, παρά μόνο αυτά που μου αρέσουν. Όπως παραδείγματος χάρη την κοπή της Βασιλόπιτας (όπου η μητέρα μου στέλνει ανελιπώς κάθε χρόνο ταχυδρομικώς)! 

Έχω γενικά αποδεχτεί πολλά έθιμα απο την Ιρλανδία και εθνικές εορτές. Όπως την ημέρα του Αγίου Πατρικίου και το περίφημο «Χαλοουίν.» Ενώ έχω εγκαταλήψει τελείως κάποιες άλλες Ελληνικές εορτές όπως ο Δεκαπενταύγουστος.

 Εθνικά και θρησκευτικά έθιμα είναι απλά ένα παράδειγμα για τον νέο τρόπο σκέψης και κουλτούρας που έχω αποκτήσει. Ένα υβρίδιο πολιτισμικό, που πολλές φορές μου φέρνει πλεονεκτήματα, ενώ άλλες απλά κάνει την ζωή μου πιο πολύχρωμη, ενδιαφέρουσα και διαφορετική. 

Αισθάνομαι απίστευτα τυχερός που είμαι ικανός να έχω αυτή την εμπειρία. Γιατί παρά τα προβλήματα, τον ρατσισμό μερικές φορες και όλες τις δυσκολίες, δεν θα επιθυμούσα ποτε να γυρίσω πίσω σε αυτο που ήμουνα. Τώρα βλέπω τα πράγματα διαφορετικά και εάν ποτέ γυρίσω στην Ελλάδα, δεν θα επιτρέψω στον εαυτό μου να χάσει όλα αυτά που κέρδισα από την διαμονή μου στην Ιρλανδία.