Δευτέρα, 10 Ιουλίου 2017

Journeys of thought

Prologue
I've been writing since I went to school. Putting letters in sequence, to make words, stringing words along to make a sentence, adding another one and another one, in a continuous effort to make some sense. I'll be 50 this year and it was only a few years ago when someone quite close me, who was trying to help me, remarked that it seemed to him like my writing was my way of thinking.



I am a disorganised person. Constantly trying to be organised, maybe even achieving the impression of being organised, disorganised nonetheless.



Writing is my way of organising my thoughts. In fact, not even that, writing IS my thoughts. More often than not, what you read is the process of thinking about something. Of course not every piece of writing is the same, some are simple presentations of a simple thought or a memory, a series of memories even. Other times it may be more convoluted, and often it is these difficult ones that end up in my evergrowing backlog of unfinished articles...essentially unfinished thoughts.

Sometimes a phrase will stick in my mind, wanting to be put down on "paper" or rather "screen" or "bytes"... As often as not I will not get the opportunity and the thought will fly away just as quickly as it arrived.

I like to believe I am offering something. An insight maybe to the way of life, the history of my country, my thoughts, my feelings. I hope that these may be of some value. In the past I have written of things that hurt me, of difficult moments, of trials in life, and because really these experiences are not all that different to every other human being's, maybe an insight might be helpful to someone, someday, somewhere...



Today's thought is this:
I  don't like Americans.
Growing up in Greece in the 70's and 80's it was not difficult for something like this to happen. Fresh out of a collapsed military regime that was fully backed by the US, and with a Left that was still reeling from the serious persecution, torture and deaths at the hands of the junta's torturers and miltary police, who got their training, backing and blessings from the US (and the British too but that's another story) anti-American sentiment ran quite high. I remember as a child in the breaks at school we would sing between us little rhymes, like for example NATO kai CIA , prodosia... (Nato and the CIA equals treason) and other such kindergarten rhymes...



We also saw a lot of it written on the walls. As the right wing political regime (I will not call it a democracy for it was no such thing...)  that replaced the Junta, gradually lost it's majority at the elections, so did PASOK and Andreas used this anti-American sentiment to rally the Left around his so called socialist party (another joke) and win the election.

My parents had an American friend I remember. He was an officer on a 6th fleet Navy ship, maybe an aircraft carrier or something, or maybe I am completely wrong but I remember hanging out with him and his family, As a non-native speaker of English I have this stupid habit of picking up other people's accents. Very soon I was saying, something like warrah, for water, and other such americanisms much to my Mum's horror.

Yet at the same time as we (or some of us) disliked the Americans, we loved their music, their rock'n'roll, their films, the stuff they produced. Their Levi's jeans, their Timberland shoes, their Harleys, their Woodstock and Jimi Hendrix, their Lynyrd Skynyrd...



My dislike of Americans stayed with me until I read a couple of books by Bill Bryson, that gave me an insight into life there. Somehow through his books America became a place I would like to visit, and Americans a somewhat eccentric but interesting lot. On the other hand there was the Vietnam war which I had just read about and did not give me a good impression of the attitude that is so "U.S.", and other things like how the Native American Indians were mistreated, taken advantage of, and killed off.



And of course the everpresent American State, the CIA, and all those covert operations etc. that we read about, the men in black...

It wasn't easy to like them.

I also  met a few Americans of my own.

One of the first was Tristram, the surfer dude. He was (still is) this lovely hunk of a man, tall, tanned, no-bronzed!- blond, blue eyes, larger than life. He makes the meanest Margueritas, talks like a surfer dude!! He is the real deal... It is impossible not to like him. He is such an icon of that all-American California dream guy, and he is...exactly that. Real. He still is, albeit with kids and maybe a little loose around the belly, but only a little... I mean he owns a sailing boat built by his father and runs a surfshop in California... and still skates around on a longskateboard!!




Then there is Matt. (He's going to be reading this so I better watch it...) Matt  is a New Yorker. I 'm pretty sure his mum is Jewish and she is a shrink that organises group therapy sessions via telephone partylines! He is eccentric. Went through a phase of walking a lot, and smoking, not a good sign in Corfu...hahaha!! And very talented. And educated, and a thinking man. And a wonderful singer and guitar player. In fact I used to be in this band not exactly with him but we used to do gigs together and shared a bassplayer, drummer and rhythm guitarist. He is also an Elvis Costello fan and to this day if I listen to "Watching the detectives" it is his voice I hear in my head. He escaped the island and hopefully the stircraziness that goes with the island mentality... He is another classic, and entirely lovable American... The New Yorker!!



There was one American I met , who I may have found interesting as a person and attitude, but thoroughly disagreed with (the attitude especially) and to be honest he did nothing to change this inherent dislike I had. He shall remain unnamed... Although some of you will probably recognise him from the decription. He was of Greek origin but grew up there. One of a number of children exported for adoption from Greece to the States. I think he was a Republican, and a firm believer in the All-American dream... It would have been round about the time they had invaded yet another Middle Eastern country and when I told him I thought this was wrong, he told me no it was right because somebody had to do something about this dictator who had weapons of mass destruction, and that the good ole US of A where the worlds designated police and peacekeeping force and rightfully so!! It was expected of them!! He also hated the Left, and often gave me an impression of an almost McCarthyist like anti-communism... A true kid of the Cold War... I seem to remember he had some connection with the Armed Forces and I would not be surprised if he was some kind of spy or intelligence officer. If I remember well he was a Russ Limbaugh fan too. Do you know Russ Limbaugh?

... (long break of a few weeks... another unfinished thought...)

A little PS here to the above, before I continue... on to other thoughts

I have no pet hate against Americans. What I don't like about America is that in a certain way America leads the way in today's world...but unfortunately it is leading the way into a very uncertain (and in my opinion wrong) future...

Consumerism, lives that revolve around the acquisition of material goods, the TV celebrity mentality, people who only care about the latest "Survivor" reality show, brought up on sitcoms and tv dinners...



Uneducated people who don't know anything about other countries in the world, people who vote for someone like Trump, and not only, but people who idolise his kind... and people like this exist here too.

This is what America has given the world. This is what America is selling to the world. And unfortunately this is what most of the world is buying...

You know, in Greek there is an interesting insult, they say "pos eisai etsi? Amerikanaki eisai?" implying someone who is naive, loves the american way of life, the whole consumer/mcdonalds/starbucks thing... Once upon a time it had a weight as an insult, nowadays, most young Greeks are so, so it does not get used much...

and on to other thoughts...

I've been reading this very interesting (to me) book written by Michal Palin, that lovable "Python"... It is called New Europe and was written to complement his travel documentary tv series of the same name. The book and the series are about his travels through what he calls the New Europe, the countries that were behind the Iron Curtain once.

I have written in the past about one of the deepest issues in greek politics, the deep historical rift between the Right and the Left. And reading through Palin's book, it becomes immediately obvious that in almost every country there is a similar situation. After WW2 the world was divided into spheres of influence, the leaders of the winning side, splitting up the world...

Capitalism vs Communism, Right vs Left, call it what you like, they have both failed. Reading through Palin's book, in most places where there was communist rule, and now there isn't, the old age pensioners are suffering, and reminisce in many cases about the good old days, when they were better taken care of. Different countries, but the message is more or less the same, "we had less freedom, but we had more food on the table, we had something..." In every country you see more or less the same, a loss of the middle class, a bigger division between the increasingly rich and the increasingly poor...

We really need a new direction. The old Left-Right thing is, for me a thing of the past, which refuses to let go. And don't even think about aking "what about the Center?" In Greece the center is now non-existent. (come to think of it so is the left...) I think the Center was always just an easy option for those who didn't want to make up their minds and preffered to stand in the middle ready to go either way, depending on the way things were shaping up...opprtunists really.

Yes. The more I think of it the only way is up. Somehow mankind, the human race, we need to rise above our present lowly, greedy, selfish ways, to somewhere above. Somewhere where we can maybe make do with less, at least on the face of it, but where we stand to gain much, much more, of the things that are really important in life.

Eventually you grow up and realise, that the important things are not power or what you have, but love and care for yourself, for your family, for the people around you, in ever extending ripples, ripples of caring and goodness extending out from each one of us and from every good deed that we do.

Love can never be capitalist or communist, left or right, or even Muslim or Christian...



wake up world...   rise above... there is a better way.

Papapete

Δευτέρα, 24 Απριλίου 2017

Writing about difficult things

Prologue
I've been writing since I went to school. Putting letters in sequence, to make words, stringing words along to make a sentence, adding another one and another one, in a continuous effort to make some sense. I'll be 50 this year and it was only a few years ago when someone quite close me, who was trying to help me, remarked that it seemed to him like my writing was my way of thinking.

I am a disorganised person. Constantly trying to be organised, maybe even achieving the impression of being organised, disorganised nonetheless.

Writing is my way of organising my thoughts. In fact, not even that, writing IS my thoughts. More often than not, what you read is the process of thinking about something. Of course not every piece of writing is the same, some are simple presentations of a simple thought or a memory, a series of memories even. Other times it may be more convoluted, and often it is these difficult ones that end up in my evergrowing backlog of unfinished articles...essentially unfinished thoughts.

Sometimes a phrase will stick in my mind, wanting to be put down on "paper" or rather "screen" or "bytes"... As often as not I will not get the opportunity and the thought will fly away just as quickly as it arrived.

I like to believe I am offering something. An insight maybe to the way of life, the history of my country, my thoughts, my feelings. I hope that these may be of some value. In the past I have written of things that hurt me, of difficult moments, of trials in life, and because really these experiences are not all that different to every other human beings maybe an insight might be helpful to someone, someday, somewhere...

Since I started blogging almost 10 years ago, I have written a fair amount. I've had my ups and downs, with my more productive years averaging over an article a week, and then others again , very low, a few all year...

I dream of writing a book one day. But it is a kind of far off dream... As most writers I think I would like to write a story. About some guy and his interesting life, and all the women in it. I've had a few false starts, an intial draft maybe of a first chapter, but that is as far as I have got. One of my stumbling blocks is that I tend to immediately think of myself as the "hero", which makes it difficult for me to escape certain autobiographical parts in the plot. If not all. And that won't do...

Of course I have my articles, for want of another description, which are mostly thoughts, feelings, observations on life, politics, the world, they way we think and behave, what we do, why...

Reading back through some of my articles I realise that not only are they some kind of thought organisation, but in many cases they can be a glimpse into the actual process of thought itself.

Once upon a time when people had problems, mainly marital or emotional or even existential, they would go to the local parish, meet the priest, holy man, shaman, vicar or mufti and talk about it with him. Religion played a big part in calming people down, giving them a reason for all their woes, a pacifier of kinds.

In our times and in the developed western world, in many cases the role once played by the representatives of God (or Allah, or whoever...) is now played by therapists. In fact I think Alain de Botton, the noted modern philosopher once said that there should be a therapist in every neighborhood, and it should be compulsory for people to visit them every two weeks or so, especially couples, who could be trained and given exercises in coping with one another... and not breaking up!!

As some of my "constant readers" may know or may have noticed, the issue of divorce is one that has troubled me for a while. and when I say "troubled" I mean it in both ways!... I've been through two of my own, and before that my parents too.

And of course when I hang out with divorced friends often conversation revolves around the issue, sharing experiences, advice etc...

Bringing up children in a "divorce" environment is a particularly prickly issue. Let's face it bringing up children is difficult as it is, let alone in a divorce situation, and even more so if it is a messy one.

Unfortunately more often than not, the parents, supposed to be adults, behave in a very immature way, lumbering their kids with extr baggage to sort out later in life... It is bad enough going through adolescence and puberty what with all the hormones raging, you don't need your parents raging too!!!

I had this thought recently about writing a guide for kids. How to understand all the idiotic things your parents do, say, the way they behave...

When parents split up, inevitably there is some conflict, enmity, bad feeling in the air. There is a very popular saying that you don't know who you were married to until you have to break up with them.

It is so true.

Imagine how difficult it must be for the kids to understand why the people they knew to be a unit "the parents" , the "family unit", suddenly become two enemies, seemingly hating each other, nothing in common, in the worst cases using the kids as a weapon or a shield between them...

I toyed with the idea of writing a little funny guide on parents behaviour post-divorce.

Say for example a dad who now sees his ex with someone else, the new person in his kid's life, who cannot accept that he was inadequate as a husband and prefers to lay the blame on the new man who took his woman away...

He won't miss a chance to show he despises him , hating even a mention of the "other's" name, hating the car he drives, cringing when his kid accidentally calls him with the "other's" name.

How do you explain this to a kid without him getting the wrong idea? Your dad hates my guts because he thinks I took your mother away from him. He thinks I ruined your family, I came between him and her...

How do you explain to a child that affairs of the heart tend to draw out the immature in us, how egos that are traumatised react so badly, so unfairly. How do you explain without making the other party seem unfair, immature or childish?

Somehow I think it can't be done. If you have the balls to try and do the best, you take in your stride and hope that one day they will understand.

To try and explain while a child is still that, a Child, is to risk greater misunderstandings...

In a parallel to my problem of writing some kind of fiction that would be way too autobiographical to write without hurting others feelings, so it would be with my "Guide to Divorce for kids".

Can't be done.

I think you just have to do the best you can and hope they get a good enough job to afford the therapy later on in life... and to find a good therapist too!!



Δευτέρα, 30 Ιανουαρίου 2017

The D.I.V.O.R.C.E. Gene

In August 1987, I was transferred from the training center of Avlona, where I had spent the first 6 months of my national service, to the 26th Medium Armored Regiment in Litochoro. At some point I needed a haircut, and so I made a visit to the village barber.


Village barber nothing like the one I went too...
He sat me down, a snip here, a snip there and started grilling me. What's my name, where am I from, did I study anything and what, do I have any property (!). At that point he kindly explained that except for being the village barber he was also the village matchmaker, and had often "matched" young men doing their national service in one of the areas many army units, to one of the local girls! So he was always on the lookout for a good "catch". During our conversation it came out that my parents were divorced, at which he glumly said, Aaaa leave it, you won't do..." and stopped the interrogation...I was curious as to why, so I asked and got the following piece of popular wisdom: "Children of divorced parents get divorced too!" So they are no good for an arranged marriage...




I may not have paid particular attention at the time, but it would be a lie to say I didn't ponder a little on it. My parents divorce was fairly fresh, only 2-3 years before. I was 17 when it happened, at an age when you tend to doubt many things, and to which another doubt was added, a doubt about the institution of marriage...
What was quite interesting was that my grandmother on my dad's side (the greek side) had also divorced and remarried, which was quite unusual for that age (the '40s)

Some years later it was my turn to marry. Given my doubts on the whole idea of marriage it was not an easy decision. Also my wife to be was not pregnant, a fact which made a lot of my friends ask "Well, why are you getting married then?" I had the answer ready then. I just could not imagine my life without her. At 24 which I was at the time, that was enough of a good reason, I had no doubt.

Can not.
A year and a half later came the arrival of our first child. The seal of a happy marriage....
At the same time my dad was in his second marriage. My mother had not remarried and would never do so. 

Our marriage lasted officially just over 15 years, add to that the 5 we had been together already, that made it 20. We had a second child too, so I found myself in 2006 divorced with two kids.Like many people we had entered into a steady relationship early on, making what we felt was a mature decision, without being mature ourselves. That is one of the points where I think marriages suffer today, the maturity of the partners.

When I say it lasted officially 15 years I say so because in reality it had finished a while before, but I chose to turn a blind eye to this.
There were problems but I tended to gloss them over, in an attempt to keep my marriage going, to keep it strong. I created a story, a little fairytale which I told others, about how well we were together, a story which I believed too. Rather selfishly I did not want to break up, and so I would not allow it to happen! I also did not want my kids to go through the trauma of divorce. Finally one of us made the first step...

not on a jet plane...
As my marriage fell apart, so did I, almost... the only thing that kept me going was the fact I had the girls to look after.

So the barber/matchmaker/geneticist was right!! All was pre-determined, destiny was rushing headlong towards me like a freight train out of control...
As all this was going down, my father had already divorced his 3rd wife...

Six months later, a few days after I had decided I absolutely would NOT pursue any other women or another relationship, I met her. My second wife to be. Six months after meeting her, we were pregnant and 9 months after that I was married again and a proud dad of a lovely son...
Actually just before my second marriage/wedding, I would come up against this "divorcee racism" in another way... For this time I was considered "damaged goods" and not good enough for my new wife, according to my mother-in-law. Sort of like a used car. She obviously kinda hoped her daughter would opt for "new" and not "used"... She told me very clearly she believed I had destroyed her life, and shattered all her dreams for both of her girls..not sure how that could be I was only marrying one of them, but maybe in her world view having a brother-i-law who had been previously married was also a shame...

It didn't matter, we married anyway.

Only to divorce 5 years later.


yup!
I realise now, after two divorces, and spending most of my life married, that I made a number of very common mistakes. I got married too early on and for the wrong reasons. I failed to realise and also to accept that first marriage was a mistake, until it was way too late. 
Interestingly, and this is something I have spent a lot of time dwelling on, my inability to accept that first marriage as a "mistake" was tied to two things. One was this. I somehow felt that to dismiss my marriage as a mistake would make my children a mistake, which of course is totally stupid. Yet it is not an uncommon feeling, although I do fear it is a rather childish one... Children often deny the possibility that their parents were mistakenly together because somehow they feel this would negate the reason for their existence, but this is not so.
The other thing my inabiity was tied to, was the fact that I had this deep subconscious wish to NOT divorce, to NOT do what my parents did. Another mistake, is that I went into a very similar relationship as my first one, through some bizzare subconscious wish to achieve the unachievable. To have a succesful relationship with someone obviously unsuited to me... 
Yet another mistake, to not have a few "learning" relationships. I jumped into the first one, and the second one, without giving myself some time to find out more about myself. And how do we find out more about our wants and needs? By trial and error.. only I was intent on error...

After all these experiences, I have to say that I find it interesting that more or less, all of us have similar reactions to these matters. There is a cycle of emotions that one goes through. To a certain extent it depends a little on whether you are the one who is "leaving" or the one "staying". Usually the one "leaving" doesn't say much unless he is feeling so guilty and is so immature as to want to cover up his mess and decision by laying blame on the other side in as vocal a way as possible. More often it is the one "staying" who will be "advertising his or her woes and how much they were wrongdone... The hurt one then turns to hate, as a reaction to the pain, while the other usually takes a quick turn for the better, losing weight, changing hairstyle...

Then some time passes and the bitterness sweetens a little or at least so it should...

In every divorce a measure of responsibility lies with each of the divorcees. Ideally then at some point a mutual understanding should be achieved. All of this is way , way more important if there are kids involved. The worst thing you can do to children is to make them feel as if they have to chose a side. Remember they had no choice as to who their parents are, and they have both of you...

As a child of a divorced couple I can say that children usually understand all too well what is going on, but there is no need for hate, nothing becomes better by allowing hate in... (and when I mentioned hate further up as a step in the circle of emotions, I meant it only as something that must pass, and that must be kept inside or between the ex-couple alone, not allowed "out") In fact all of the emotions in the circle must be allowed their space and then must pass, if you linger too long, you and others will suffer.

I want to take this "article" a little further here on the subject of kids. 

Do you know that as a species, ours is the one whose infant is looked after by its parents for the longest period?

There is a reason for this. As a species we are reliant on this time that it takes to reach maturity, in order to acquire the knowledge required to survive and continue the species. No lowly instincts alone for us. No plopping out and rushing to stand on little spindly legs in order to rush of into the woods a few months later...

Instead years and years of human interaction teaches all we need to survive. Or at least it should.

How many parents have not wished that included in the little sack with the placenta, there were a little cellophane package with a full set of multilingual instructions? It is after all a requirement of EU law...

But even though we have tried to find a way around this by writing our own, still for the majority of kids, whose parents may not have access to some book by Dr Spock or whoever, the manual is the PARENTS. 

It is by our interaction with our parents that we learn to interact with other people , with the world... Ever wondered why boys seem to get on better with their mothers and girls with their fathers? It is a form of training. 
Little boys and little girls need both ther parents in order to interact with them in preparation. A preparation to face life. To face relationships to cope, to love, to nurture, to survive, to make it...


What's going on?
That is why it is important for couples with kids to stay together at least for a certain amount of time. That is why it is important for those couples who know they are going to be having kids, to know what they are getting into...
Jorge Bucay the Argentinian psychologist and writer, is adamant when he says that a couple about to have a child must be prepared to absolutely be together until the child reaches the age of  two, to do everything possible to stay together until it reaches the age of four, and then as the years pass it becomes just slightly less important, but that is always expecting that even if divorced the parents will do the right thing and continue to be just that, parents and active ones at that.

Only too often you see divorced couples, where the father slowly fades out of his child's life... or maintains an almost decorative role seeing his kids every other weekend... Eventually he may remarry and contact will slowly be lost... or the other thing that happens is when a father is scarce and he becomes the hero, as the mother is the one that has to take care of all the daily tiring stuff, and her relaltionship with the children often suffers for this...
Right, enough...

More soon...

Enjoy the song!

Παρασκευή, 20 Μαΐου 2016

BREXIT, GREXIT mas ta prixit....

A little exercise in Greek for you in the title... hopefully not too cryptic.. (and explanation at the end...read on...)

It is with a growing sense of amusement and a lot of curiosity that I continue to follow the crescendo of news, announcements and comments surrounding Britain's upcoming referendum...



Latest in a series of news that I found very amusing was the announcement that 250, no less, of the UK's artists had signed together a declaration saying it would be wrong to BREXIT (sounds like some kind of weird burp, or something a frog might say...eh?)
The article in the Guardian, mentions also that there are artists who back Vote Leave, but are loath to go public fearing repercussions in their careers...

Michael Caine obviously not one of those fearing repercussions...
In a very close parallel, a number of Greece's artists, came out with a similar announcement, prior to the referendum last summer... amongst them notables like Corfu's very own Sakis Rouvas...
As Corfu's "Vote No" percentage was about 67% I think he had to think twice about visiting his hometown for a while, at least until people forgot what he had been promoting even via TV spots!!

We have all suffered a lot during the crisis, but we have to say YES!
Sakis Rouvas above cuddling up to some of Greece's mega-rich untouchables...

Personally I do not profess to possess anywhere near the full knowledge and ability to see the "big picture" in regard to the question "Leave or Stay?" I didn't profess it in regards to Greece's referendum either, but my gut feeling was "NO" and I went with that.

I don't think anyone can really know... except maybe the conspiracy theory's "men-behind-the-scenes".. and even then I somehow sense that for them it has no consequence either way... or the consequences either way are to their advantage...

The parallel between Greece's referendum and the BREXIT one, are also another little example of the whole idea of globalisation.

I remember one winter a good few years back I had a customer who would come in the evenings and shop stuff for his little boat but we would also chat. He was an Orthodox Fanatic Greek, and something tells me he might even be a blοody Golden Dawn member, but then I remember him trying to persuade me that the Greek Orthodox faith was the only one, true, faith...
I tried reasonng with him that it somehow seemd impossible that a benevolent god would somehow exclude the rest of the world's population from being saved, just because they were not Orthodox.. I meaν how about the kids or the Aborigines, or the people who didn't know there WAS a Greek Orthodox faith? would they be left outside just because of not knowing?



Anyway I digress, One of his pet peaves was "globalisation". For him this word meant the attempt to join the world together in one "faith" and not the right one. To somehow "water down" his strong religion! He saw as a very bad idea any attempt for the various religions to come closer to each other and thought the Pope was a heretic who should be kept away from Greece at all costs. Come to think of it I think he was a little psycho to say the least as most of these extremists are.. and yes they are extremists!

I used to think the idea of globalisation was a good thing but then again what did I mean? I meant that I see anyone around the world, as fellow humans and brothers... be they black, brown, white, red or yellow, be they Hindouist, Muslim, Catholic or  Agnostic... as long as they do not want my harm I do not want theirs... as long as we could coexist that would be fine.



But globalisation it turns out is not the lovely altrouistic idea I had in mind... Gobalisation is the effort on behalf of big business interests to join the world into one ultimate great playground in which they can play as they like, in which they set the rules, set up the game and win...big and every time!

The TTIP is their latest effort to effect even greater control over their global playground. Through it they want to put themselves above governments and effectively above the law. Above any law, they haven't written themsleves...



Here is what I'm thinking. Brexit or not, Grexit or not, the same company names will be found on the supermarket shelves, the same brands of cars and vehicles will be driven on the streets of contries apart, countries at war...
I will not subscribe to the conspiracy theories that see a potential war between neighbouring countries or religions but is this not a war that we Greeks are facing now in Greece? A war of attrition, started by our own government at the demand of their creditors. And I say "their" because I never agreed that my country should borrow to make ends meet. I would have much preferred that it made them meet on its own, without outside help.

But the global banking system has made sure that no country shall have control over its own currency... and that the weapon called credit shall be used everywhere to the fullest extent.



Money (coinage) was devised by 3 separate civilisations (Greek, Indian and Chinese) round about the same time (between 500 and 700 BC) Before that of course there was an economy and of course there was credit. And yes, credit was used as a form of opression even then...

 I once read a very interesting book. It was written by a man called Joseph Tainter in 1986 and it is called "The collapse of Complex Societies" Mr Tainter is an anthropologist and historian. In his book he explains how societies come together to solve survival problems, and then grow and become increasingly complex in order to solve problems that arise from their own growth and increasing complexity. According to the law of diminishing marginal returns though this leads to their eventual collapse. Collapse being defined as a shedding of complexity or return to a previous less complex state.

Do you know what society are supposed to "return"? What is the "diminishing return" that is, according to Mr Tainter, leading to an eventual collapse?

It is happiness.

Our societies are supposed to make us happy. The problem is that the increasing complexity is keeping maybe a 1% elite of the population happy. The other 99% is unhappy... and something has got to give... eventually.

Brexit or no, something will give. Grexit or no, something will give.

The EU started as a lovely idea, of a joined Europe, an idea certainly very practical and good especially for those countries who are close geographically and close as mentalities, but as it turned out not so good for those countries, like ours who are at a greater distance, geographically and mentality-wise...

A lovely idea it may have started as, but it has become a monstrously complex labyrinth of rules and regulations, a bureaucratic heaven for the lucky few.. (although they are not so few...) As BrexitThe Movie pointed out the EU has become a pleasant pasture where all of Europe's failed politicians are set out to graze at our expense...
And it is this very "bureaucratic" monster which is criticising Greece for its bureaucracy? Greek politicians would have never got away with all they did at our country's  expense where it not for the backing of the EU's system... and its willingness to turn a very blind eye...

They know what they are doing very well. They have created an uber-government which we are unable to control even via the dubious electoral method. Most if not all are appointed, and the EU parliament who's MPs we vote for are there just to vote yes or no, they do not legislate, they do not propose laws... and they get paid VERY well...

Am I wrong in thinking that most of us feel powerless to do anything?

Yet a change can be effected... it has to start small. But that will be material for another article...

And the "solution" to the title's word play... Mas ta prixate is a greek expression for you have busted our balls...


Πέμπτη, 5 Μαΐου 2016

I must go down to the seas again...


"I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over."

Sea Fever, by John Masefield

My dear customers and friends.

A lot of you have been coming in to ask if the gossip is true, so I thought it would be best if you got the news straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak…

After 15 years and a few months (plus 3 years before that as Force 5 Marine Too) Boatman’s World will cease trading towards the end of next month.

It has not been an easy decision, and it has not been a hasty decision… In fact maybe it has even been an overdue decision…

I started this business in 1998, with but a few pennies and a lot of goodwill on behalf of suppliers and customers alike. I followed in my father’s footsteps when I started Force 5 Marine Too, which quickly morphed into Boatman’s World. 



It took a while, but eventually I stopped being known as Force 5 Pete, and became Boatman’s World Pete.
Boatman’s World grew and grew and the taxman loved me, and the bank manager loved me, and so did all the other bank managers too!
I loved my work, and really got a kick out of either having the right things or being able to source them quickly and efficiently. I acquired way too much stock, and did not learn some valuable lessons about saying no to salesmen and being tough, at least not soon enough.

Always my main concern was keeping my customers happy.
Contrary to popular belief (haha), I never became rich. I lived comfortably enough, but after 18 years, a couple of divorces, and the financial crisis, plus the continuous fleecing by the government I leave with little more than my clothes, motorbike and music keyboard… and a lot of fond memories!

Boatman’s World like many other business in Greece, except maybe for the really big and well connected ones, has suffered the effects of the crisis. I, unfortunately, relied too much on bank funding and loans, which of course dried up with the onset of the crisis.

you know the story...

I have found myself in a situation where I could see nothing better on the horizon, instead things were looking more and more grim... 

As I said before all I wanted was to keep people happy and in the process be able to earn a respectable living for me and my children. This is being denied me, by the situation in general... So it is my choice to change direction and try and make better use of my talents and knowledge in another way.


I will soon be a part of the company called Sail Your Soul, run by Klaus Mayer. I have known and respected Klaus ever since I've met him, and like the way he runs his business. I look forward to being a part of it, and of being able to offer yachtspeople my services as part of his team.

I have worked on and around boats, ever since I finished school. That was just over 30 years ago, nearly 23 of which as a chandler, but the almost 4 years I spent working on boats in the boatyard, and in the Marina, where  the most enjoyable. I look forward to going back to that...
As a young teenager, I used to listen to a lot of Neil Young, and one of my favourite songs of his was one called "Hey, Hey, My, My…" and favourite lyric, that one where it says, “it’s better to burn out, than to fade away…”

I could maybe have sold Boatman's World, but call me stupid if you like, I somehow don't think anyone could make it work as well as we did. I would rather it "burn out" than it "fade away"...

As Paul from the Agiotfest knows well, Boatman's World is, was, the "Rock n Roll Chandlery".



I hate the idea that if it were to continue and end up a badly run shadow of its former self, people would say "Ahh once it was great but now..." So best to go out with a bang and as many good memories as possible.
I shall remain incurably romantic against the flow of the times,

And I shall see you all out there, on the sea and the boats....

Your soon-to-be-an-ex-chandler friend, 

Peter

PS. As most of you know, I have a LOT of stock... I need to get rid of it ASAP. Some of my suppliers have agreed to take returns, so until the end of the month, I will be selling off stuff at good prices and hopefully in bulk. I need your help and support. Come to the shop, armed with some time and dosh, look around, ask and spend...it will be a great help. And the more obscure the item, the better deal you shall get!

PS2 just in case you are worrying, Jo has got herself a job with Sailing Holidays, and is now happily wading her way back into passenger-manifest-and-transfer-land...

PS3 There is one thing I will not miss. And that is finally not having to explain that Jo is my sister and not my wife...


Δευτέρα, 6 Ιουλίου 2015

An argument from the heart...

Almost a decade ago, I was on the "market" to buy a house. It was during the last couple of years of the so called "fat cows"... Soon after in 2008, the world economic crisis began, and as the "markets" started to collapse, and Greece found itself under Troika "management" (or rather attempted management) my finances along with the rest of the world's and my country's "collapsed" making my "dream" remain exactly that, a dream...

but I have one of these...

Back then I sat with a good friend and business associate as he explained in irrefutable numbers why it was not a good idea to borrow in order to buy a house. His arguments were very convincing, but he accepted there was one argument he could not go against, and that was the one of the "heart". The good feeling that comes with having your own house was not one he could disprove.

As the situation here became increasingly difficult, with memorandum after memorandum being implemented and the greek homeowner being taxed to extremes, I thanked god I had not bought a house...



As liquidity and bank loans also dried up and the banks started to ask for their money back I thanked God I had no property at all.

Today our Finmin Mr Yanis Varoufakis was forced to resign. Many of us, me included, considered and consider him still, very much a hero. He has been accused of not being enough of a "politician" and this endears me to him even more. But Europe thnks he is the devil...



I recently read his book "Explaining the Economy to my Daughter"

I challenge anyone to read his views and find them wrong. The only argument I cannot go against, is that which anyone might offer, that his views on the economy are not conducive to the continued support of the "markets" and that  "money" is only a tool meant to be used against people in the most terrible way. In other words if profit and money is your "god" I cannot argue with that... but do you have a heart?

Money, and with it Debt,  was first invented to aid commerce and the exchange of goods, but it very soon became a tool of conquering lives, keeping them under a gold or silver, then paper "boot". Finally through the modern banking system it has even become "virtual"... An "imaginary" means of keeping people down, all in the name of "profit" the one true God, of the banking and market system.



We have even created stock markets, modern temples where money is adored, created, multiplied at the cost of human lives, who are are worth nothing to those who worship the dollar or Euro...

The last few days, Greece's economy is teetering on the brink of collapse. Yet on the beach yesterday, we enjoyed the sun and sea, those in love gazed into each others eyes, chidren were played with, families had fun. Later we would enjoy a meal, at a restaurant, while we still can, and the day drew to a close with lovers in each others arms.

The Beatles once sang "Money can't buy me love" and this is very true.

Look at all the high and low priests of the money world... their "happiness" is invariably built on a good many people's UNhappiness.



Is this a world we want to be a part of?

We who live here and grew up here, know the problems that Greece has faced and continues to face. The European institutions would have you believe that they want our good... but if they had really wanted to see real change in Greece they would have helped us bring our corrupt politicians to justice, rather than give them the mandate to apply illogical cuts, wrong ideas and stupid decisions on our lives... For a while many said Greece was an experiment..an experiment on how much the taxpayer can put up with...

Many Greeks, me included, refuse to accept a bad rescue plan being implemented by the exact people who made it necessary. And it is obvious to me now, more than ever, that Greece is a microcosm of Europe.

Corrupt politicians supposedly showing us the right way to salvation... Corrupt EUROPEAN politicians showing corrupt GREEK politicians how to fuck the population.

Do they think we are so stupid?

Mr Varoufakis did not apparently want to play their game so they got rid of him. If they had a modicum of integrity, they would also resign too, and allow others to try and reach some agreement.

What they have to realise is that we are not numbers. We are People. Alive, trying to live a dignified life, bring up our children in a just world, love and be loved.



They have truly lost the plot.

As long as money and profit, remain the goals and the centre of attention there is no hope.

The curve of "happiness" that society and investing in it, is supposed to bring, is in decline. Life has to become simpler... the markets will eventually collapse. Nothing so self-centered can ever hope to be supported indefinitely...

Their arguments may have numbers behind them..but they have no "heart" ... and that is the problem.


Τρίτη, 30 Ιουνίου 2015

Referendum time!

I don't profess to be some know-it-all of economics or politics but rather, just like in other aspects of my life, a bit of a jack-of-all-trades...

When I was in Lykeio, second grade, at the beggining of the year, one day the classroom door opened and in came this young man, who looked distinctly like my kinda guy...

He didn't look anything like this, but I'm trying to protect his identity...

Dressed in jeans and a plain black tee-shirt with a peace symbol on a thin leather cord round his neck, he walked in that peculiar kind of lope that seemed to be the standard with persons of the revolutionary persuasion... he walked not only with his legs but with his whole body... lurching forwards with every step...

I decided immediately we would become friends. He was in Corfu, because his father worked for OTE, the telephone company, as a "problemsolver" and was sent all over Greece to sort out technical telecommunications stuff.

We quickly became very close. Our musical tastes for one were the same. He also opened my eyes up to a lot of other things, mostly political...

He was an anarchist. Now unfortunately this is a word with a lot of negative connotations especially in England but also in most of the world... most people would have you believe an anarchist is someone who firebombs policemen, breaks windows and stuff and generally runs riot...

However that is not true. There are quite a few varieties of anarchism, mostly radical Left, and many of them are anarchopacifists. Essentially anarchists reject the state as evil, but I digress..

This was 1984, 3 years after PASOK had won a landslide electoral victory and "toppled" the right wing government that had been going since the colonels left in 1974. I will close this little "story" by telling about the priceless moment, when my father asked over lunch, what my political "leanings" were, and I answered, in all my newly found fervour, "I'm an anarchist!!". My mother, bless her, almost choked. I'm certain visions of future generations burning my effigy in town squares, for trying to blow up something,  flashed before her eyes...


Back in those "primitive" times, with no internet and two television channels both state controlled, it was impossible to get "all" the news unless you knew someone to call and tell you. Athens was then, as it is today, a large part of Greece, almost half the population was and is there. And, unfortunately, pretty much everything is happening there, and we rarely got to find out about it...

For example the area of Athens known as Exarcheia, has always been a hive of left-wing, anarchist and generally "out there" activity... Often there were occupations of buildings for months or even years and attacks by riot police, tear gas, mass arrests...

And, as I found out from my friend, various forms of torture famous from the colonel's times, still continued to be applied by the police then... in a supposed "socialist" and "for the people" state...

Did anything ever really change in Greece?

I read an interesting article in the Guardian recently about what happened in Greece after the 2nd World War. It put another piece of the puzzle in place...
(unfortunately, as I now know, history is always written to justify the exisiting situation, so there was no mention of all this in our school history books...)

As the war finished, the begginning of the struggle between the US and the Communist bloc began..a struggle for world domination..on another level. Greece already had a strong Communist party, and what was "worse" (for the Western powers) was that the Communists having been in charge of the main resistance against the Germans , had already begun to create a form of loosely run state and were keen to start rebuilding Greece. As far as the Western powers were concerned they needed to be stopped before Greece joined the Eastern bloc... they needed help. Who did they enlist? The Nazi collaborators...

So the Nazi collaborators in Greece were never punished, instead they were given arms and the Civil War begun...

A Civil war which was won by them! Because of course they had America and England on their side...

You might wonder what has this to do with today... Well, did you know that a lot of our political persons in Greece are directly linked to families who were Nazi collaborators? And that a major part of the strong animosity between the Left and the Right in Greece has to do with that part of History...?

Nazi collaborators are called dosilogoi (δωσίλογοι) in Greek. Loosely translated it means those who did not do good on their word.

Samaras and the New Democracy Party are closely tied to extreme  right wing ideas and many of the party members are direct descendants of Nazi collaborators and pro-King right wingers. The small party called LAOS, had a member running for MP, who was the son of an infamous Nazi collaborator called Yosmas, who was so "succesful" in his role as "Captain Parmenion" he followed the Nazi troops when they left... he was tried in absence and convicted to death, but upon his return to Greece in 1947, his sentence was converted to 20 years in prison. Three years later he was let go and 1961 found him as the head of a school board in Thessaloniki. Soon he would be implicated in the murder of Grigoris Lambrakis, a well known left wing MP and pacifist... Xenophon Yosmas, as was his full name was also known as "Von Yosmas"...

There is a common "cheer" or "slogan" which is shouted at rallies about "the junta not having finished in 1973..." . This is very true.. The powers that be, could see that the colonels were making a mess of it, and were fast losing any small backing they had from the Greek people (to this day there are people who will answer to any disagreement "what you need is a junta..."

So what did they do? They arranged for a so called "liberation"... hahaha... and called it the Metapolitefsi...

A political government was quickly put into place, fronted by Kostas Karamanlis (the elder...uncle of the more recent PM of Greece, talk about nepotism...) Kostas Karamanlis who had been PM when Lambrakis was brutally killed...

You could say, in a way, that for many Greeks, the war never finished... The Nazi collaborators were never punished, instead they were given arms and power to fight against the perceived red threat. The Civil war tore apart villages, families...

And continues to do so even today. In a weird parallel to the years of the war, it is the Germans yet again, who appear to have their "sights" set on Greece... it may not be actually like that but it sure seems like it...

George Papandreou junior, his finance minister Mr. Papakonstantinou, Meimarakis from ND, and a number of MPs, all have grandfathers who were Nazi collaborators. These people saw to it that budgets and numbers were fiddled and Greece found itself under IMF-Troika rule...
Playing the German game? who knows...

you don't need to be a financial whizkid, to understand that Greece should never have joined the Eurozone. Balance sheets were seriously fiddled to make that happen... in fact many bonds and financial fiddling "ghosts" have come back to haunt Greece in the past years...

Europe's banks poured money into Greece, most of it into shady subsidy deals, and banks and through them to yet more shady businesses and deals.. and.. let's not forget a good many politicians pockets, both greek and European...

Germany's and Europe's heavy industry stood to make a good profit out of all this... Greece filled up with luxury German cars, Siemens got all the best deals to equip Greece with telecommunications equipment and anything else they made.. Pharmaceutical companies made excellent sales, often of completely useless items at exorbitant prices, stuff that would languish in halfbuilt hospitals for years slowly rusting away... (this happened in our hospital here in Corfu.)
For many of us this readily available funding was a Godsend.. after years of very high interest rates, suddenly it was cheap and easy to start or expand a business... But they did not stop there. You could get a loan for practically any reason..
Money, and debt, was deified.
There was even a song that said " Oi oreoi echoun chreoi" (The good looking guys have debts)

The bubble burst years ago...
I remember reading the first and second memorandum, the terrible "Mnemonia" that everyone talks about.. To be honest a lot of what they required as far as legislation and rules, was quite correct...the problem was, and is, that it was being applied (or not applied) by the same bunch of corrupt, good for nothing, politicians as before...
During the last 5 years, when Greece was supposedly changing for the better, and suffering for it too, nothing has really been done. The same people have still been looking after their own and their cronies interests... in fact, worse than before because they used the pressure of the troika's presence to pass law after law, taking away hard earned workers rights and running the health and education system into the ground, along the way.

On the 25th of January 2015, a Left wing party, SYRIZA won the greek elections for the first time ever. SYRIZA had always been a coalition, and is well known for incorporating many "currents" or "revmata" as they are called in Greek. There are more or less "radical" elements, often disagreeing with each other. Unfortunately, in order to have a shot at winning the elections, they had to broaden their views even more, accepting into their party, a number of ex-Pasok memebers and a variety of "weirdos"

(I know that my article is supposed to be informative and characterizations like "weirdo" are not really on... but believe me, they are...)

After five months as government and endless negotiations that were very obviously going nowhere, we now have a referendum scheduled for next Sunday...
The question that is being posed to us, is: "Do you want us to accept the agreement that is being offered/imposed by the Europeans?

Capital controls have been imposed and people are, sort of, panicking... no one really knows how this is going to work out...
I am, a businessman too, and things have certainly become a tad more difficult to say the least..but for now we are managing...

I don't know enough about global economics and how it all works to be able to have an "absolute" opinion on how things are or how they could be made better.

I confess that my opinions on all that goes on, are often more to do with "feelings" rather than some "absolute knowledge"...

But, to defend my position, is there anyone out there who can profess to be in possesion of some "absolute knowledge" as regards how the the "world" cookie crumbles?

We say that Europe is attempting to put its foot down... and frighten Greece's new government into going back on its electoral promises... otherwise they will derail "the program"...get with the program or else, is what they seem to be saying... but is it really the European governments or the big business lobbies behind them?

The idea of a unified Europe s great, hell the idea of unified anything is great.. I am the first to say that we are all brothers and sisters...

But i have to confess that the concept only ever made sense to me when travelling from luxembourg to Belgium to France, where the only sign that you were crossing the border was the sexy voice emanating from the GPS "You are now in Belgium..."

Still I believe Greece must remain a part of Europe... IS a part of Europe!

But not a Europe where money is God, not a Europe who looks after the interests of speculators and banks at the expense of its citizens.. not a Europe who turns its back on immigrants, not a Europe that does not CARE.

I'm voting NO to all that.