Athenapallas's Blog

July 18, 2011

WITNESSING THE ATHENS UPRISING May/June 2011

Narelle Scotford, the writer of this blog, visited Greece in May and June this year. Although of course her alter ego has resided for 2500 years in Greece, this was Narelle’s first trip. Long long ago she was a Greek bride and learnt to speak, read and write the language of her beloved Greek Gods and Heroes. In preparation for her trip she studied Greek language, mythology and history again as well as re-learning how to make Greek coffee and sampling the culinary delights of the great cooks in her Modern Greek class at Sydney University.

Narelle arrived in Athens at the beginning of the recent unrest finding a small hotel half a block from Syntagma Square. She  wandered around the square on her first day where only a handful of students were gathered and after this she was there every day until she left Athens for Delphi and for her attendance at a  Buddhist  retreat north of Athens in the company of other Athenians.

The following photos and comments are her personal record of her time in Athens. She left Athens a few days before the Parliament passed the Austerity Measures Bill when TV screens around the world showed over and over again violent images of what was happening on the streets. More about that later in the post……

Greek Cops Waiting

 
 
 
 
 
 
It was a common sight to see groups of cops (police) on bikes or foot around the square and gradually as the week  progressed their presence became more obvious particularly towards evening when the people were starting to gather in Syntagma Square for the evening discussions, speeches and songs.
 
 
 

Beginning of the Tent City in the Square

 
 
 
 
At this stage there were just a few tents and people were busy talking as usual and some were creating makeshift signs.
 
It looked more like a scout camp than a revolution.
 
Most of the young people I met spoke good English but appreciated my attempts to converse in my faltering Greek.
 
They were pleased I could read their signs some of which I will show and translate below.

Greek Parliament

 

Fancy Dress Soldiers on their way to guard the Parliament

 
 
 
 
 
 
           

What We Need!

                                                                                                   

 This is the first sign I saw after I started going to the Square, as you can see it
is Texta on Cardboard, hardly high-tech. Before I had a chance to translate it (always tricky as Greek Capital letters are often different to their lower case equivalents) I thought it must be a kind of  Bill of Rights or List of Political demands but no, it is nothing of the sort. Ever practical they were asking for:
 
CLOTH,CARDBOARD,PAINT,TEXTA PENS, SELLOTAPE,ROPE, BRUSHES,
TABLES,CHAIRS,TENTS,PORTABLE LAMPS, MICROPHONES,WATER, RUBBISH BAGS, NOTICE BOARDS, MORE TENTS, FLOODLIGHTS.
 
When I asked where these would come from they told me ‘the people’ and they were right, as the days went by all this as well as food and drink and sleeping bags, linen, clothes etc were donated by ‘the people’.
 
 
  

Love this tent!

              

More and More Tents

                                                                                              

 

REAL DEMOCRACY like we had 2500 years ago!

 
 
 The young Greek students who painted this sign and set up their website were well aware of the sorry history of their failed political process where cronyism, elitism and bureaucratic feather bedding had eaten away not only at their democracy but also their economic and  civic resolve. 
They all knew how Western Democracy and its many imitations around the world started here, when each of the 12 tribes of what was then Greece or Attica sent a representative to live and work  for one month in what was then their National Assembly returning home afterwards to allow another member of their community or group take their place.
 
 
 

In the name of Melina Mercouri

          
A visit to the New Acropolis Museum is a must for any traveller to Greece if only to realise how much has been stolen from  the birthplace of democracy by many of the countries whose citizens make their pilgrimage here.
The new Museum stands out for its modern architecture which aligns itself with the Parthenon way above  on the Holy Rock called the Acropolis.  What made the most impact inside the museum  for me was not the few marvellous sculptures that have managed to survive, but all the gaps left in the Museum’s mockup of the Parthenon where images of the Gods and mighty heroes of our shared mythology and history have been hacked away and taken to museums and private collections all over the world. If all these stolen artifacts and works of art could be valued and Greece compensated for them imagine how their economy might be!
                                                                                                             

Global Stooges

     

No word needed here

Individual citizens express their anger and frustration at what feels to them to be a return to a kind of dictatorship with the ordinary people having no say in  their future.

 
 

Man with a Mission

                    at first I did not realise what this man’s mission was until I saw the reference to the Bible, John 14:14. Standing at the top of the steps with the Parliament as his backdrop and looking down on all the activity in the Square,  seemed oddly appropriate when I translated his biblical quote: If you ask for something in My Name I will do it’.
 
 

Message from France

     

Riot Police Relaxing outside the Parliament

         

Syntagma Square Filling Up

Every night more and more people would gather in the Square I would walk there for a while and then go into nearby Plaka the old area of Athens to my favourite tavernaki to eat and listen and talk with other people working or dining there. Most of them depended on tourism and were worried on the effect of all this activity, noise and crowds on the tourists. Many were sanguine about it saying nothing will change, it never does.  ‘We have been living in a dream and now it will become a nightmare,’ one philosopher told me.
 
I came back to Athens on the night of the  biggest demonstration ever(over 200,000 people) travelling on the metro which was packed with well dressed well spoken people all heading for the Square. They advised me to take the back exit from Syntagma station which I did but the crowds were just as thick and it took me a long  time to find my way through them to my friends.
Back on my hotel balcony late at night I could still hear and see the crowds singing, shouting and blowing whistles and banging drums. I fell asleep to this cacophony wondering about the clash of pragmatism and idealism,the need for economic independence, civic responsibility, true democracy, the battle of the Titans, Heracles 12 Labours, Odysseus’ 20 year journey home to his faithful wife Penelope, and the mighty Achilles defeating Hector on the plains of Troyzzzzz zzzzzzzz.
 
Later at home in Australia watching the violent images from the Square where I had spent so much time, I was at first sad and then angry particularly when I had a message  from a friend in Athens I trusted who told me the rioters were paid provocateurs who had nothing to do with the People’s Movement I had been privileged to witness during my time in Athens.
                                                                
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July 30, 2010

ATHENA AND THE GHOSTS OF HISTORY

Filed under: Athena's ragings — athenapallas @ 5:28 pm
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THE SERMON OF HERMANNSBURG JULY  2010

Athena mounted the pulpit of this historic church and this is what she said to the ghosts of the past, present and future.

 I, Athena, The Warrior Goddess proclaim this to be a special place full of enormous power and inspiration emanating from the cataclysmic intersection of three cultures and Peoples: the Evangelical Lutheran Missionaries, the Expansionary European Settlers and the Aranda People of the West McDonnell Ranges of Central Australia.

 All three groups required courage and endurance to survive in this, one of  the oldest and driest continents on earth. And in the violence of their meeting a fire was lit whose flames can still sustain us or consume us if we do not listen to the message that this brings namely:

The Land is everything and  without it we are lost.

With no knowledge of  the  land we are doomed,

and if we approach it with ignorance and greed

we will die and our descendants will be cursed and the land will no longer support us.

From our connection to the land comes our humanity and our spirituality.

THE LAND IS US AND WE ARE THE LAND.

 In the  heavens ancient Gods may reign and fight among themselves but here on earth the mortals must collaborate and co-operate if they are to survive and flourish.

Pastors standing here in this pulpit may have raged about the wages of sin and declared the Glory of  their God but they also grew to respect, sometimes to their detriment, the power of Indigenous Dreaming and the intricate web of relationships between the landscape, the flora,  the fauna and the peoples of this land we call Australia.

I, Athena salute this sacred place and humbly thank all who have stood here before me.

June 24, 2010

A MODERN ATHENA BECOMES PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA

 

Athena, the Warrior Goddess, can’t take credit for what has happened over the last 24 hours but she  did ask her father Zeus not to desert the mortals and it seems as if his lightning bolt has created

an unprecedented event in Austalian political life.

The former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, elected by the people of this bright new democracy with such high hopes, has been  removed by his own party during his first term in office and such an event  has not occurred here in the last fifty years.

And his successor is Julia Gillard,  the first woman to become Prime Minister and  today she was sworn in by a female Governor General, another first.

The women of this country, whatever their political views, could be excused for cheering loudly.

ANCIENT DEMOCRACY

Democracy in the glory days of ancient Greece was  the pre-cursor to all modern democracies, and was a system of governance where the people could give

 ‘wise counsel to the state and where every man was free to speak out and be equal to the other’.

These principles still apply and much was spoken about them today, except in 2010 ‘the people’ include men and women, and no-one in this country is excluded from participating or indeed becoming the country’s leader.

LEADERSHIP

The ancient Greeks required of their leaders a  form of self-mastery that included  the Delphic  principles of Know thyself and Nothing in Excess. Knowing one’s self is fundamental to understanding others and communicating  effectively with them. And having the will and  the skills to do this is essential to learning  about oneself. Nothing in excess means aspiring  to have  balance in one’s work and personal life that is the opposite of,  for example, obsessive attention to detail or distrust of subordinates’ and colleagues’ ability.

COMMUNICATION and CONSULTATION

 Kevin’s communication style was ponderous  and sometimes impenetrable. Julia is a clear and concise communicator who can make sense of complex issues and who can use humour and self-deprecation to get out of sticky situations.

Kevin was exclusive  and  he alienated important allies by failing to consult and use the talents of his cabinet, the Caucus and his Parliamentary colleagues. 

Kevin dived obsessively  into the entrails of government, trying to be across every detail, failing to delegate where appropriate and thus creating a task for himself that even Heracles could not handle.Three hours sleep a night does not lead to coolness under pressure, and there is little time left over for the internal reflection so critical for clear thinking and powerful communication. It has been said that despite Kevin’s great intellect he did not acquire wisdom in his time as Prime Minister.

Julia has  made a  point of articulating this difference in leadership style her acceptance speech as Prime Minister, committing herself to inclusiveness, using all the talents of her colleagues, and consulting widely  before  important decisions are made, a style  honed  throughout her political life.  

Her first action as Prime Minister was to open the door to negotiations with the Mining Industry  and  to wide consultation with the community about an Emissions Trading Scheme which she vows will happen. She also demonstrated a  clarity of expression and a forceful consultative approach in her deft handling of barage of questions from the press.

During Kevin’s  final speech he began  to obsessively  list  all of  his achievements  which seemed to  be some sort of defence against the shock of what had happened, almost as if  he were saying,

‘I did all this and still it was not good enough?’

 And so for the first time his ever-present  smile disappeared      

 and we saw  frozen emotions trying to break through.

No-one who witnessed this it could fail to be moved.

 Here at last we could really see him and empathise with him and his family.

 

 

WARRIOR OF WORKING FAMILIES 

Now we have a new Prime Minister, a brand new modern powerful Athena, a brave and loyal woman, a weaver of relationships, a spinner of a new narrative in our political life who approaches her role as Prime Minister with ‘humility, resolve and enthusiasm’

Athena  the Warrior Goddess will watch over her and champion her cause both here and on Mt Olympus.

Julia will need the guile, wit, courage and endurance  of that other hero, the  mighty Odysseus, to overcome all the trials and obstacles she will meet along her way. The first  one will be convincing the people of the nation  of her commitment and ability so they can trust her to lead them into the future.

Zeus and all the Pantheon of Ancient Gods wish her well and counsel her to keep her faith  in herself strong

June 17, 2010

HOW ATHENA CAME TO ASK A QUESTION ON NATIONAL TV

 

On Monday 14th June 2010 Athena was in the audience of the Australian TV show Q&A

‘the show where you get to ask the questions’.                                                                                                                                                      

DEMOCRACY IS FUN 

She was amongst the citizens  waiting outside the ABC Assembly being entertained by minstrels playing stringed instruments that she thought were large lutes. 

She watched the Messenger of the Gods, Tony ‘Hermes’ Jones arrive full of charm and enthusiasm as  he delivered his important message that Democracy is fun. 

As they waited the citizens watched a movie about a big new tax on the Finance Gods to benefit the poor and the planet, and then the crowd of young, middle-aged and ancient citizens were ushered in orderly groups into the Assembly. 

Athena, borrowing Hermes’ winged feet, flew ahead to place herself in the first row behind the camera where she could plan her attack.                                                                                                                       

Victorious Greek Charioteer

 

HOMER IN OZ                                                                                                                

A wandering long-haired Homer greeted the crowd and told stories of the recent disastrous national ball game defeat of Australia by Germany,  apparently so humiliating  as to rival the famous defeat by the Greeks  of the vast Persian forces at Marathon 2600 years ago. 

Soon five esteemed elders of the nation arrived to be fussed over by ABC slaves to ensure no speck of dirt or hair was visible on shoulders or heads. 

One government minister’s large naked head proved challenging and powder was needed to dull its shine. 

Homer kept the citizens and elders laughing so  that by the time countdown began the excitement was escalating as the Democratic Assembly was about to begin. 

Back and forth the well-formed questions and answers came. 

 THE ELDERS 

The political elders, Coonan and Garrett vied for attention with too many words but were well restrained by Hermes Jones. Minister Garrett maintained a calm dignity throughout despite some difficult questions. Senator Coonan only became interesting when discussing her  Golden Retrievers’ ears. 

The Aussie Philosopher Singer, was popular, erudite and without guile. 

The Commentator and Biographer Marr was eloquent and cheeky. 

The Psychiatrist and Professor Kulkarni was forceful and elegant. 

CITIZEN POWER 

Citizens all over the country watched and sent their comments and questions via a strange tweeting mechanism. Amazingly citizens were concerned not only for themselves but for the wretched poor all over the world, the health of the planet and even the well-being of domesticated and wild animals. 

WHOSE PATCH IS IT? 

The debate around what was permissable to report about the nation’s leaders was strong with the Psychiatrist Kulkarni declaring that diagnosis of their character was her patch and not the province of a biographer or political commentator.  Biographer Marr took issue and the citizens agreed that  they were all curious about the character of their leaders. 

ANCIENT DEMOCRACY                                                                          

Athena remembered how such things were only discussed outside the Assembly in Athens in  400 BC. 

At every such Assembly the herald would summon  the people from the city streets to take part in the government, with the words: 

‘Who here will give wise counsel to the state? When every man is free to speak or not, and equal to each other. 

THE QUESTION 

 In 2010  the concept of a free and equal ‘man’ includes all people although it was still noticable that the majority of questioners here were men. 

Athena was determined to rectify that, but there was no other way except to hold her spear high in the air and stare down Hermes until he took pity on her and finally said: 

‘There’s a woman over here who has been patiently waiting to ask a question for a long time.’ 

He had  no idea she was not just any woman but was the immortal Pallas Athena Goddess of Justice, Weaving and Spinning.  At last Athena had the opportunity to ask her question: 

‘Professor Kulkarni, how can we the citizens decently assess our leaders and in particular our Prime Minister Rudd?’ 

THE ANSWER 

Kulkarni replied in part: ‘ We are all voters and we want to be able to vote in an informed way about which party has policies that make sense, strategies to get them to fruition, and to be able to trust people to do that. What I have a problem with is bringing things up that are very personal and then somehow putting this into the political system….’ 

THE MEANING 

 Athena  knew that the Greek concept of freedom from which all democracies have sprung was expressed by the ancient Greek word sophrosune which means self-control or self-mastery. It was the spirit behind the two great Delphic sayings: 

‘Know thyself’ and ‘Nothing in Excess’.          

The Oracle at Delphi

 

She understood that Professor Kulkarni, a modern oracle in the art/science of knowing thyself, was wisely cautioning the citizens against the modern excess of voyeurism and prurient gossip. 

But no-one can stop the citizens demanding of their leaders this ancient quality of self-control and self-mastery. And when their leaders display the opposite, it is the right of the citizens to know this, and then to decide such leaders’ suitability to lead the nation. 

THE RESULT 

Athena was pleased to have participated in this modern democratic assembly and urges all citizens of this new laid back democracy to do the same either here on Q &A. or in the many others forums for discussion and voting that are freely open to all. 

Maybe the mortals are not doomed and she might be able to persuade her mighty father Zeus, to save them and their dying world.

May 10, 2010

The Angry Ghosts of Athens or Why My City Burns

Filed under: Athena's musings,Athena's ragings — athenapallas @ 12:48 pm
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My city is burning and angry ghosts from its turbulent past are appearing. Its citizens’ rage is being fuelled by the perfidy of the government but most of all because the wily citizens of Athens know the extent of European hypocrisy. It will take the labours of Heracles to get out of this mess and the wisdom of Zeus, embodied in his favourite daughter, Athena, to understand what has happened.

In 1999 the revolutionary Eurozone was established as a unified monetary bloc across Europe with an optimism that ignored the lessons of both ancient and modern history. . ..the same continent that was the burial ground for millions of fallen warriors from every nation state now thought these states could unite their economic interests for the good of all.

Eurozone has the same currency and interest rates across its members set by the European Central Bank with strict rules to stop large deficits emerging. Member states agreed to observe the so-called euro-convergence criteria which included limiting fiscal deficit to 3% of GDP and government debt to 60% of GDP.

The average debt across the zone is 6.9% while average government debt is 78.6%.

The worst offenders are Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain, with Greece having the second highest debt behind Ireland. However Britain which is not part of the eurozone has a fiscal debt of 11.2% – nearly as much as Greece whom they are all too eager to pillory along with the other so called ‘PIGS’.

Even though each country would like to think that their circumstances are unique, the truth is member states have cheated ignoring the basic rules they agreed to uphold.

And in their guilt they have played the blame game as only nations of this once mighty continent know how. Greedy speculators, the markets, financial institutions, credit rating agencies, and finally other members of the zone especially Germany with its ‘cradle-to–grave welfare state’ came under attack.

An Aussie Greek newspaper editor quipped on local TV, if Greece goes down the gurler we all do.

For this is not just a European problem it is a global one.

During the 2008 global financial crises government bailouts around the world

stabilised the system but did nothing to address its underlying weaknesses.

Worldwide debt was transferred from banks to governments who tried to solve the problem

 by inciting their citizens to a kind of monetary bacchanalia

even in this sparsely populated  southern continent where I, Athena, now reside.

The ‘developed’ economies have been slow to invest in infrastructure for the future

 and to come to grips with the failure of their own institutions and dreams.

The new economies of China and India await the outcome, as the old ones

 drift across the seas like Odysseus plagued by monsters and waylaid by goddesses…..

Heracles, during his tenth labour, brought back an immense herd of cattle from Geryon,

passing through most of the countries of the eurozone.

He even had time to stop and build two enormous pillars..

the Rock of Gibraltar. How’s that for infrastucture development?

He implored my father Zeus to rain down stones from heaven

to discourage  marauding brigands along the way.

Over 2500 years later maybe that’s what is needed.

Not money from heaven,

but the determination to stop monetary brigands,

and to re-build what has been lost.

Then we can start to dream again.

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