GREECE BETWEEN THE MYTHICAL ‘SYMPLEGADES’ (CLASHING ROCKS)

THE DROP OF THE CURTAIN

This article is intended for my English speaking friends who have an interest on Greece and are confused with what is happening under the crisis, today.

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Mythical female monsters that Ulysses had to pass through.

During this period of political, economic and social instability, ​​I am expressing some fundamental concerns questioning whether a small nation like Greece, can remain independent to decide its future and generally whether it can survive as master of its destiny. Even more, how and to what extent, Greece can contribute in shaping international rules and environment.

Historically, Hellenism played an important role, regardless of the size and power of existing nations, or the population distribution, in each historical period.

The world attributes to Greece the birthplace of western civilization and the fact that its culture affected large populations with different cultural backgrounds.

But, conditions were very different then.

Nevertheless, remarkable still was the journey and the survival, for centuries, of Hellenism through heterogeneous and conflictive conditions.

Under this perspective, it would be interesting to study this course in history and try to draw conclusions. If ‘current correlations and conditions, could leave room for maintaining influence and allow survival, or, conversely, conditions have now changed to an extent that would crush whatever is left from the spirit of Hellenism, on the closure of the mythical Symplegades (clashing) stones.

This, not to support an aristocratic view of the Greek Nation, which would not have special significance today, but to wonder if there is hope of reversing a situation, which currently seems to sustain and support the law of the strongest.

Greece has survived several difficult situations. For this reason, mythology often includes different symbolic myths such as those of ‘Symplegades stones’ and ‘Scylla and Charyvdi’, the last referring to two mythical female monsters that Ulysses had to pass through.

The passage between the two monsters ‘Scylla and Charyvdi’ is a metaphor  of the historical contradictions which acquired philosophical dimension that still governs the passage and survival of Hellenism, with all that implies

Contrasts charted the course of Hellenism and swept the history influencing developments to a major part of the global community.

How important role did the adventures of Greece played, in the formation of today’s West, with the rivalries and conflicts between East and West, for millennia;

But even within Hellenic geographical space, one wonders, how local fundamental contradictions, such as the conflict of Athenian democracy and its cultural development against the militaristic culture of ancient Sparta, influenced other evolving civilizations;

Renaissance recognized the importance, contribution and magnitude of influence that Hellenism had, but did not reveal the problems, whose solution led to unprecedented, explosive cultural development.

The idea of ​​democracy was born and prevailed through many opposing trends and practices, such as oligarchy, aristocracy, and even slavery which coexisted, at the time.

For centuries, Greece’s geographical position was destined to be a frontier which protected western civilization from eastern cultural influences and allowed our own civilization to develop, but in reality, it was more than a frontier, it was a ‘virtual middle ground Empire’ that managed to survive between two worlds in conflict, East and West.

For Hellenism, the East and the West were and probably still are compared with ‘Scylla and Harivdi’, and of course the ‘middle ground Empire’, that only Alexander  the Great managed to conquer and sustain for a little time only, collapsed due to his early death, and the growth of the Roman Empire.

But even this could not ascertain the dynamism of Hellenism which regained its position with the establishment of Byzantine, the real ‘middle ground’ Empire.
The succession of this ‘middle ground’ Empire Ottoman Turkey tried to succeed without success.

But again, during this period, the nightmare of ‘Scylla and Charyvdi’ was revived.

Thus, one can watch Ottoman troops, to maul Hellenism with the religious fanaticism of the East, on one hand, and on the other we experience the aggressiveness of Venetians and the Barbarism of the Crusaders, hand in hand with the scepticism and medieval behaviour of Catholicism acting against the Orthodox Greeks, the appearance of another face of West, during medieval periods.

It’s really amazing how, after all that, the Greeks of Byzantium, the ‘Middle Region Empire’ retained their cultural inheritance, and Ethnical consciousness, to an extent that they generated liberation trends in dozens of new nations, suspending the expansion of a Theocratic and militant Ottoman Empire, which had already reached up to Vienna.

This is something that modern Turkey cannot overcome, neither can come to terms with, even today.

But, enough is said about the distant past. The monsters of ‘Scylla and Charyvdi’ revived once more, in recent years and the biggest test is lurking today.

The European Union was born from the wreckage of the 2nd World War and for many years was the hope of the generation which lived the horrors of war.

Ideals were reborn and along with growth, both capitalism and its counterweight of communism found fertile ground to flourish again.

Once more, Hellenism was trapped in the middle experiencing a fraternal civil war. The concepts of liberty, democracy, patriotism and heroism are claimed and abused by both sides.

Greece was the only nation that suffered a second destruction, after the war, due to this rivalry; hence Greece became the omen that soon followed, with the Cold War.

With the collapse of the Berlin Wall, hope was renewed once again.

International and other organizations were strengthened, the UN, the Council of Europe, human rights body and finally the European Union that was meant to be the first experiment of reconciling the conflicting interests were born within the context of neo liberalism, and the nuclear threat, not forgetting the National and historical rivalries.

Greece became founding member of the European Union, despite the fact that it did not have the time to restore the damaged infrastructure on equal terms with the rest of West Europe; this was due to eight years delay inflicted by the civil war.

The spirit of Hellenism found its way to overcome economic deficiencies and conflicting political ideologies, in the name of hope offered by the vision of political and economic union of Europe, not so much because Greece felt the need of protection, which would have been legitimate as well, but due to the popular instinct that had the maturity to see very far, the future that was shaping.

Unfortunately, the passage proved to be more complex. The experiment of a united Europe was overtaken by global developments and mainly by the transference to a new era, ‘Globalization’.

Globalization gave an outlet to needs for uncontrolled growth of capitalism, but at the same time put to the test, the foundation of solidarity and equitable growth, principles essential for the completion of the European experiment.

Now, the notions of equality and solidarity are confronted by the concepts of competitiveness and high productivity.

The ‘monsters’ of neo-liberalism and neo-socialism are revived within new contexts and unpredictable factors.

We now observe the effects of globalization, while new trends are developing, as «localism» and regional development which are juxtaposed or undermine traditional concepts such as ‘Nation’ and ‘State’.

At the same time world community becomes aware of the new factors and broader concepts which were previously, for many, only objects of science fiction, issues of a very distant future. Among these new decisive factors we can refer to overpopulation, the decline or even extinction of raw materials, environmental disasters, environmental pollution, and massive migrations due to various reasons, etc.

Further, people are becoming increasingly more aware of differences in methods of assessment of growth factors, such as the value of information, assurance and protection of intellectual property rights, cultural infrastructure, political stability, human resources etc.

In view of such changes, the experiment of a united Europe is tested because it has ceased to be a representative model of the wider global environment, and doesn’t, any more, play a crucial role in it.

As a result, centrifugal forces are developing, challenging the principles adopted for the creation of the European Union. Solidarity features as an expendable item, the common policy is nonexistent, let alone a common defence policy. How could anyone believe that there is real unification if there is lack of a common defence policy?

The competitiveness and productivity have become dominant factors and provide the pretext for the destruction of uniformity, which was an original target for the completion of the political union in Europe.

Manifestation of this evolution is the conflict between the European North and the South. But also, the approach of Great Britain, on commercial issues, with China and USA, provides more evidence to that effect.

So, what is the role that Hellenism could possibly play under this environment, what role could 20 million Greeks play, they can barely equate the population of a village in countries like India and China?

Strikingly, even the most negative aspect of modern Greece, is leading to be the guinea pig for the survival of the European idea, despite new factors. Such guinea pig could provide a basis for a system that will evolve from a European to a global example for effective management of rivalries and monstrous conflicting interests.

Perhaps this is the greatest contribution towards stabilization and evolution of the European and global community.

What, then, in content of this analysis, resembles to ‘Scylla’ and ‘Charybdis’, that Greece is called upon to find a passage?

It is, the fight for survival,  passing thru the two ‘monsters’, on one hand, the need for continuous growth, in any way, under the pressure of competitiveness of the so called developing countries, that  ruthlessly enforce measures imposed by neo-liberalism and on the other hand, the excessive populism, self cantered trade union movements, and sluggishness of inactivity imposed by parts of the ideological left, mixing the claim for solidarity with every measure to protect their acquired popular rights, regardless of productivity.

The peculiarity of this situation, though, is that, compromise and management of conflicting interests within the European community, which would be the main goal and achievement of the European Union, seems to be insufficient to provide an optimistic way out, for the future of the global economy. It will be insufficient to ensure stabilization in the global community.

The message eventually, if not the final conclusion, is that the problem of global stabilization exceeds the limits and potential of Europe.
I hope that the pessimistic closure of this text will prove to be a mistake of my assessments.

NK

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