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Viewpoint: Stop kissing the bishop’s hand

Tourism, like the vast sums earned by Greek museums, probably cover up a more insidious reality in the modern-day Greece of 2018.

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The May 2018 international conference in Cephalonia was brimming with wisdom and smiles. I gave a talk but I also listened and learned. I felt good being Greek, especially from the Ionian islands and, more to the point, Cephalonia, the kingdom of Odysseus, my life-long hero.

Greeks of the Ionian islands from all over the world had come together to tell their stories – of war and peace, of history, archaeology, the environment, tourism, the continuing economic strangulation of Greece, of their crushed dreams in returning home to Ithaca.

The historians painted a picture of oppression and struggle. The Venetians and the British were unprincipled conquerors and colonialists.

The Venetians dominated the Ionian islands for centuries. They grabbed the islands from collapsing medieval Greece, which they (and their German and French allies) had dismembered during the Fourth Crusade of 1204.

Western European countries were ungrateful. Medieval Greece had taken the brunt of perpetual Mongol Turkish attacks alone for centuries, protecting Europe. In addition, Europeans allowed Christian religious bigotry to forget the civilization they had inherited from the Greeks through Rome. Clerical fanaticism had also divided Europe into East and West, the better for the Turks to finish off Greece decimated by Western aggression.

And once the Venetians took over the Ionian islands, they imposed their brutal way of life on the Greeks, including feudalism in the villages and tyranny. This differs little from conditions in Greece in 2018 run by unprincipled European and American agents of banks.

Listening to this medieval history and how outrageous the British were in the sixty or so years they governed the Ionian islands in the nineteenth century, it’s easy to understand today why the Greeks are putting up with the humiliations of foreign-imposed “austerity.”

Experts and the government have convinced the Greeks that any disruption of the present humiliations will bring hunger and chaos. A young urban Greek recounted the terror of going to the bank and not being able to withdraw more than 60 euros per day. Another said he was ashamed he was Greek.

Low self-esteem is always a product of humiliations and ignorance of history.

Of course, saying this from Cephalonia is almost meaningless. This beautiful and green island is in a world of its own, a world fudged by tourism. Tourists drop their coins everywhere in Cephalonia. Those euros keep the local economy of merchants, hotels, taxis, coffee shops and restaurants humming. But underneath the glitter and sleaze of tourism there are black holes of dependency on foreigners whose governments are just as guilty for the ills of Greece as Greek politicians.

Dependency on tourism has all but wiped out “autarkeia,” or self-reliance, especially in food. Cephalonian farmers no longer grow wheat. Imagine abandoning such a vital and civilization-supporting grain like wheat. Importing wheat flour is no solution. What happens in a natural calamity or war? Who is going to feed Cephalonia?

Tourism is also responsible for corruption. A presenter at the conference, Gerasimos Zacharatos, professor, University of Patras, raised the controversial question on what happens to the billions of income and spending from tourism in Greece. He said the growth of tourism in Greece in the last three years equaled to the growth of the last thirty years. So, where is this large infusion of capital and wealth going? Is it staying in Greece or are we seeing a colonial situation of large-scale corruption and exploitation?

Moreover, when tourist euros/dollars are as high as eighty-five percent of the local economy, what happens to philoxenia (hospitality)? In fact, is philoxenia compatible with the aggressive tourism of billions and tourists and other non-Greeks eyeing Greece as real estate on the block of “free” market?

Tourism, like the vast sums earned by Greek museums, probably cover up a more insidious reality in Greece of 2018.

The country is still largely living and behaving as if in the dark ages. It pains me to say this aloud. No matter where in Greece, a high cleric is an expected furniture in any ceremony or public celebration.

A couple of times in the conference in Cephalonia, I found myself sitting next to the bishop in the front row. The bishop was decked in black silk and gold, very much resembling a medieval prince. I ignored him and he did the same. But to my astonishment, I observed high officials and citizens entering the room and going straight to the bishop and kissing his hand.

Kissing the hand of the bishop might look innocent, an old and harmless tradition. In some sense, it is an old habit. But harmless, no.

Christianity replaced Greek polytheistic culture – the Greek gods – in the fourth century, some 1,600 years ago. The replacement was extremely violent and lasted for centuries. One gets an inkling of the violence in looking carefully at the statues in the Greek museums. Most of them are victims of intentional savagery. Some have no heads; some have broken of missing hands and limbs; most document vandalism. Their faces show strikes by swords. The Christians also mutilated the statues of heroes, heroines and female and male gods. They cut off or damaged the breasts of the females and cut off the phalluses of the males.

These atrocities are the tip of the iceberg of the Christian destruction of Greek civilization.

The victorious Christians, especially the high ecclesiastics, became the leaders of the converted Greeks.

Kissing the hand of the bishop draws from this tradition of Christian dominance over Greek “idolaters.” Kissing the hand of the bishop also mirrors the power of the church in present-day Greece. It shows the country is not secular. All clergy, including bishops, are employees of the state.

In a country crushed by foreign interests and domestic servants of those foreign interests, the church remains neutral. Yes, the church feeds thousands of hungry people every day. But where is its leadership on behalf of the country?

Time has come to stop kissing the hand of the bishop. His interests are not the interests of Greece.

Greeks must decide to take their fortunes in their hand, rejecting medieval ideologies of defeat and obedience. Greek intellectuals need also rise above fudged summaries of foreign ideologies, becoming self-reliant in order to face the world and lead their country to independence.

Start with Aristotle. He is a superb guide to understanding the world and the cosmos.

Opinions expressed are those of the author alone and may not reflect the opinions and viewpoints of Hellenic Insider, its publisher, its editors, or its staff, writers, and contributors.

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Germany Returning Migrants to Greece

Germany’s policy contradicts claims that the migrants are “war refugees,” because if that were the case, they’d seek asylum at the nearest, non-wartorn country.

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Via Infowars Europe:


Germany will soon send back migrants to Greece if they had already applied for asylum there.

The two countries made the deal at the behest of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose coalition government is on shaky ground due to increased opposition to her immigration policies.

“EU law states that refugees should apply for asylum in the first EU country they reach, but Germany has typically allowed newcomers with open applications elsewhere to reside in the country as it examines their claim,” reported the Wall Street Journal. “In practice, very few ever leave Germany, even if they fail to obtain asylum there.”

Germany’s policy contradicts claims that the migrants are “war refugees,” because if that were the case, they’d seek asylum at the nearest, non-wartorn country.

In fact, many of the migrants travel across multiple European countries, including Greece, to seek asylum in Germany, which under Merkel has offered comprehensive welfare to migrants.

Merkel’s recent immigration backtrack was also likely influenced by the backlash against open borders in neighboring countries, particularly Austria.

Austria has ramped up deportations under recently-appointed Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

“I’m convinced that the solution to the migrant problem lies with decent border protection and stronger help in countries of origin,” he said earlier this year.

Poland, Hungary and other Eastern European countries have similarly sealed off their borders to the chagrin of the EU, which had previous demanded “migrant quotas” for each member nation.

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The Greek Disaster: State Inertia and the Market Economy

In Greece we witnessed this repulsive, internally-generated tragedy in all its horrifying glory. Unfortunately we may soon see more far-reaching consequences…

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What happened in Attica, Greece, close to Athens, is without precedent. An ordinary fire, like the ones that occur in this area almost every other summer, met up with a terrible, sudden wind that turned it into real galloping inferno.

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The tragic result was 87 dead Greek citizens and more than 20 still missing. Huge questions loom on the horizon and only very limited answers are forthcoming. Are some of the lessons from this tragedy related to the wider geopolitical and political-economic questions?

Public-sector clientelism is leading to disastrous inefficiency

Why do tragedies like these occur in social environments with firmly entrenched clientelist political systems and in political entities that operate on the periphery of major, bureaucratic, modern empires? Sweden saw huge uncontrolled fires this summer. However, there was no loss of life or major disasters that befell the urban centers.

In Portugal last year — and very recently in Greece  —  scores of people died, mainly due to the inability of the state machinery to efficiently deal with the problem. The major difference between these examples is the quality of the civil service. In Greece and Portugal there is no real ethics in the public administration, which frequently fails to meet any vigorous efficiency test .

In public bureaucracies that sprout favoritism the way trees grow branches, it is very difficult to design long-term plans to handle critical and life-threatening situations. Likewise, the political system lacks the prerequisites to draw upon informed societies that are trained to be cooperative and disciplined when there is a need for coordination.

When clientelism dictates and forms the essence of the political culture, this culminates in fractured societies that are infected with spreading islands of lawlessness and limited possibilities for administrative coherence.

In Greece in particular, the deep-rooted mentality of state favoritism produces whole sectors of uncoordinated urbanization, with no respect for the environment, chaotic borough formation, and a coastline that has been brutally violated by hasty real-estate developmental schemes.

In such a social context, thorough planning becomes almost impossible and the idea of applying administrative guidelines to deal with a crisis sounds like a joke. It is essentially the political system itself that invites disasters and not any sort of physical deluge that begets them.

The need for market solutions

Clientelism and heavy state intervention in the running of the economy and society are the basic causes of inefficiency and, henceforth, administrative chaos. It appears that the process of rational choice is the fatal enemy of the dominant mentality in such systems of government. This is represented by any model that relies on the market to deal with questions of economic policy and societal organization.

A bloated public sector that is encouraged by the political authorities to constantly expand, irrespective of its ability to deliver on its promises, becomes the major problem. Instead of being the solution to emerging issues, the state actually becomes the cause of most troubles and difficulties.

Henceforth, without clear objectives or cost-benefit solutions, the state is unable to provide reliable outcomes or to cope with situations, especially emergencies. In the case of Greece in particular, the fire-fighting service had been financially starved, while its personnel had been recruiting new staff based on specific social criteria!

In other words, firefighters entrusted with saving people from emergency situations were hired on the basis of their physical inability to deal with normal life situations, i.e., the physically handicapped, mentally unfit, generally unhealthy, or recruits who were simply from disadvantaged social backgrounds.

Relying on a market mentality means that choices are made based on measurable results, well structured plans to deal with crises, and thoroughly tested options. When none of these requirements are met, it is more than certain that achievements will be negligible and the consequences disastrous.

Hence one must assume that societies that do not rely on rational-choice procedures and which pursue policies of heavy state intervention and patron-client favoritism are not likely to see successful results. This essentially means that societies built on capitalist principles pursue measurable results that further the welfare of their citizens.

Geopolitical repercussions

There is also a geopolitical angle to these observations. If a country cannot keep up with globally established administrative and financial trends, it will end up facing dead-end situations and find itself being marginalized. With the exception of its reliance on heavy state taxation, the EU always pursues policies of open social frontiers and market economics. Countries that deviate from this logic find themselves gradually lost in a political wilderness.

They constantly creep along on the fringes of events and absent themselves from all contemporary processes. By acting as the exception instead of the rule, they will rapidly find themselves marginalized. They will become a stark anomaly and thus be excluded from every movement going forward. They will become the pariahs of the international system. Geopolitical events will pass them by, and they will be looked upon as the “black holes” of the international order.

Domestic events and major financial and/or economic choices cannot be limited any longer to national or regional occurrences. Notwithstanding the importance of events within a country, opting for heavy state intervention may lead a country into the international wilderness.

What’s more, its international standing may also be impaired, contributing to the nation’s overall marginalization.

In Greece we witnessed this repulsive, internally-generated tragedy in all its horrifying glory. Unfortunately we may soon see more far-reaching consequences…

Via Strategic Culture

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Greek-Russian relations at a crossroads

The political landscape of Greek-Russian relations has suddenly darkened.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras meet in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia on April 8, 2015.

What exactly is the matter? It is almost impossible to cull any accurate information enabling us to clarify the situation and shine a light on recent developments.

Let’s first sweep the picture clean of inaccurate assertions and unfounded claims. Commentators who almost always turn to the anti-Western narrative immediately took to the field. The Greek government, they claim, is trying to earn its credentials vis-à-vis NATO and the US.

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Although nobody has ever required such a demonstration of allegiance from Athens. Under the present circumstances Greece is not going to win any points with such behaviour. With the agreement at Prespa Lake and Athens yielding to FYROMacedonia’s membership in NATO, the Greek government has already earned what it could from like-minded Western European capitals.

A breakup with Russia would not have added anything to Athens’ pro-Western arsenal.

At a time when the US is blaming Germany for being friendly with Russia and other European states — namely Austria, Italy, and Hungary, among others — appear to be moving closer to Moscow, what would an anti-Russian gesture by Greece signify? How could Athens expect to capitalize on this? I cannot honestly discern any direct benefit for Greece.

Likewise, why would Washington pressure Athens to adapt such a hostile attitude? What would the Americans expect to earn at a time when the US president himself reiterates that in Vladimir Putin he sees a man he can fully understand … and make a deal with…

On the other hand, as far as bilateral relations are concerned, Athens’ relationship with Moscow has been seriously wounded — without any clear benefits for Greece. Putin has made it clear how he would react if faced with a repeated challenge: “If you squeeze a spring as far as it will go, it will snap back hard. You must always remember this”.

One should not overlook the fact that some months ago a meeting was called off between the Greek and Russian government ministries that had been aimed at fostering economic cooperation between the two countries. The reason given was the unexpected appearance at the meeting of some Crimean politicians — the Russians maintaining however that the Greek side had been forewarned and had not raised any objections at the time.

In the end the episode was brushed aside without any major repercussions, at least public ones. But it was an issue nevertheless…

At the last occurrence, culminating in the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Athens there is enough ambivalence as concerns the matter. The main issue being discussed is a possible Russian effort against the Prespa agreement, objecting in order to to nullify FYROM’s future membership in NATO. Two comments must be made here. Only Northern Macedonia can render the agreement invalid at this point, not Greece.

Even if the Greek parliament fails to ratify the agreement, the northern Macedonians will automatically become members of the Atlantic alliance. In order for that to happen the government in Skopje merely needs to satisfy the requirements set out by the Prespa agreement and stipulated by NATO. It is ridiculous to think that Russian diplomats are not fully aware of this situation. Why then, as some observers insinuate, should they try to nudge Greece into walking out of the agreement?

As for NATO, it is doubtful that the Russians do not recognize that the attitude of the US and of its president, who recently met with Russian officials and with President Putin himself in Helsinki, poses a greater threat to the cohesion of the alliance than the membership of tiny FYROM.

My opinion is that the various reports on the issue are making the matter seem much weightier than it really is. My assessment is that Moscow is much less concerned about it than is generally acknowledged.

There is, however, definitely an issue. Otherwise we would not have reached the point of repatriating diplomats. One should never overlook the fact that great powers are usually burdened by many decision-influencing centres. Sometimes they are working outside of the official process that the governments dictate. Russia can hardly be an exception. Often the tentacles of such decision-making centres reach the state machinery.

This has happened in Greece in the past, when a retired Air Force pilot attempted to bomb parts of Albania. We saw it again in the case of a fugitive from Turkey, the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan. In the US it is very often the case that various agencies take initiatives without the knowledge of the central government authorities.

With Russia, the issue of Orthodox Christian belief is quite important. Adherence to those principles can potentially prompt actions and moves without the knowledge or approval of a central authority. Unfortunately, I am not privy to specific information, but I believe that my ideas make logical sense.

Why should the Kremlin jeopardise a carefully cultivated cordial relationship with Athens just to pursue a dead-end policy on the issue of Skopje? After all, that’s an issue of paramount importance to Greece. And it could not possibly produce any fruitful results.

There are people in northern Greece who have often involved themselves in issues of vital importance to Greece without the slightest official authorisation or coordination with the aims of the Greek state. Some of them refer to Russia as a sister Orthodox power, without having been entrusted with such authority.

On the other hand, one should not overlook the fact that Greece carries a grudge against the Kremlin for having embraced Turkey in recent months, supplying it with missiles and accepting its friendly overtures on the Syrian front, although aware of its diverse inclinations concerning the future of that region.

It is not impossible that such sentiments may have culminated in and led to the recent crisis between the two states.

Notwithstanding the above, there is a wider issue contributing to the current misunderstandings. Russia has always been a puzzle for anyone attempting to do business with her. They find it difficult to comprehend her reactions and behaviour. Almost all are reminded of Winston Churchill’s words describing Russia: “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma“. What few people remember is the rest of Churchill’s phrase: “But perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest“.

Some years later he explained: “I am convinced that there is nothing they [the Russians] admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness”.

No country can expect a positive appraisal if it does nothing but beg and offers little or no policy coordination. These words might adequately explain Russia’s attitude towards other countries and its posture towards various global affairs.

Via Strategic Culture

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