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The beautiful and the good in Greek civilization

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I studied Greek history in college. However, unexpected changes in my student life diverted me from my goal of teaching about the Greeks. However, I kept reading the Greek texts. I also wrote two Greek history books.

In America, 1961

Moving from Greece to the United States in 1961 was shocking. The startling contrast was that of size. In my village and high school town in the island of Cephalonia nearly everything was human-sized. Landing at Chicago’s giant O’Hare Αirport was exciting and frightening. I had never seen so many people and so many stores and buildings vainly trying to reach the heavens.

My uncle George picked me up from the airport. He drove through downtown Chicago. I noticed a tremendous contrast between the glamorous stores of downtown Chicago and the tiny stores and homes lining the streets leading to Oak Lawn, a suburb in south Chicago where my uncle lived.

On our way to Oak Lawn, I started seeing electrified large glass crosses, headed with large glass letters reading “Jesus Saves.” I thought these crosses were more than an appeal to Jesus. They looked to me as if they carried some kind of a secret message. Such crosses were all over south Chicago. What did they mean?

These peculiar crosses became my introduction to a divided America. Whites and blacks had their own societies right next to each other. Whites had the power and wealth. Blacks had very little, save for a living memory of slavery. They protested white oppression and struggled for integration within the large white society. But in 1961, things looked frozen. Trouble was in the air.

Being eighteen years old, with rudimentary English and starting college removed the injustice of America from my mind. I could not handle it. My instinct led me eventually to the Greeks. The choice had something to do in helping me cope with my new environment – strange, silent, threatening, difficult to decode.

Moral decline

After several years at the University of Illinois and University of Wisconsin, I earned a doctorate in history. I followed that with postdoctoral studies in the history of science at Harvard. Later, I worked on Capitol Hill and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). My unpleasant and often bitter experience in these institutions partly reflects my disappointment with the lax ethical standards and corrupt science prevailing in political Washington and industrialized America.

Greek architecture shaped the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, and congressional buildings. In fact, in a dreamy moment I compared the congressional neighborhood of Washington DC, to Athens. I thought I was walking in fifth century BCE Athens.

I went to work thinking that some of this Hellenic affection of America must have been more than a fake imitation of Greek architecture. So I began my professional career thinking about how to improve human life and protect the natural world from the myriad gadgets and poisons industry had been churning out for decades.

Once my delusions about America faded, I embraced the Greek achievement even more. I felt good and secure in those imaginary and real realms of Greek literature, philosophy, science, gods and heroes.

The Antikythera Mechanism

My Greek journey took a new turn about ten years ago with my study of the Antikythera Mechanism, a gear-based computer and scientific masterpiece which the Greeks created in the second century BCE.

In 2006, I saw for the first time the fragments of this sophisticated astronomical device in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. I looked carefully at these fragile fragments and examined dozens of x-ray pictures of the largest fragments, which revealed the intricate and interlocking gear trains inside the computer. This immersion in the technology and beauty of the astronomical device brought me closer to understanding why the Greeks invented and manufactured this machine, without a doubt the greatest achievement of their civilization.

Ancient Greeks put their modern-like science and engineering skills and virtues to work in this computer in order to open another window to the heavens, a cosmos of order and beauty. This device accurately followed the movement of the sun, moon and the planets, and predicted solar and lunar eclipses. It was also an accurate calendar.

The expansion of the Greeks to Egypt and the Middle East after the death of Alexander the Great in late fourth century BCE set the foundations for the modern world. The Greek kings of Egypt created the Mouseion, a university of sciences and humanities, and a library. They funded the exploration of the natural world and the heavens and the study and editing of the poets and writers of ancient Greek civilization. The Italian scholar of the Alexandrian age, Lucio Russo, said the result of this intellectual activity at the Mouseion and Library was an explosion of scientific knowledge about the world. The Antikythera Mechanism came out of the scientific institutions and Library of Alexandria.

Greek Art

My research and interest in this explosion of enlightenment in the Greek world led me to Greek art – the material remains of Greek civilization and the images Greeks made of themselves and their world. They decorated everything, including the humble ceramic cups they used for drinking water and wine. They painted the walls of their homes and those of public buildings, including the Parthenon.

Mosaics, paintings, ceramic vessels, jewelry, coins, statues, altars, stadia, theaters and temples told the story of their makers. The end was a mixture of science, craftsmanship, beauty and goodness. It’s in that combination that you can see a reflection of the ancient Greek world.

The surviving art shows the Greeks no different than the characters coming through the pages of poets like Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes; philosophers like Plato and Aristotle; and the writers of the Alexandrian era. Art was philosophy.

Naked athletes

Of course, the Greeks were not perfect; they knew that well. Their literature aimed at enlightenment, not perfection. They aimed at eudaimonia, the enjoyment of the good and examined life. They left perfection to gods and, possibly, heroes.

The athletes competed naked in order to erase any sign of inequality among them. In addition, nakedness revealed beauty. And looking at a naked athlete, god or hero you also thought of the good and beautiful embedded in that nakedness.

Seeing is believing

I borrowed images from museums, books and Wikipedia. I also take my own pictures. I use photos for the illustration of Greek history. Pictures give life to the Antikythera Mechanism, Greek traditions from the second millennium BCE to mid-twentieth century, the Olympics and other Pan-Hellenic games, the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer, mythology and Greek medieval and modern civilization.

These images bring me slightly closer to ancient Greeks who gave us so much of our civilization: political theory and the warnings of Plato and Galen, the great Greek physician of the second century, to not put money and wealth ahead of science; the Parthenon; the biology of Aristotle; the geometry of Euclid and abstract mathematics; the geometry and engineering of Archimedes; mathematical astronomy and gears for computers.

Greeks are especially relevant today

We need Greek wisdom right now, especially science uncontaminated by money and lobbyists.

I know that I live in revolutionary times. The United States and other countries devoted to the commercialization and militarization of science and technology are posing a threat to civilization and the world.

Second, in 2018, the United States is falling apart. President Trump is consolidating the power of the rich, pushing America to plutocracy. The Republicans and Trump lowered the taxes of corporations and the rich, handing them something like a trillion-and-a-half dollars.

This inequity, which in 1961 troubled me, has become a gigantic gangster-like force undermining democracy and civilization. The conflict between Republicans and Democrats may lead to civil war. Trump’s attack against public and environmental health is an onslaught against each one of us and the natural world. Honeybees are on the verge of extinction. The very institution I worked for twenty-five years, the EPA, is openly licensing corporations and factories to pollute.

The Greeks did not need an EPA. The natural world was sacred to them. But they went through political schisms and civil wars. Reading them sheds light on the roots of America’s breakdown.

The Greeks thought plutocracy was a bad government. It still remains the worst form of government.

Opinions 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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After Embarrassing Defeat, NATO, EU and the West Try to Alter Reality in Macedonia

Amidst all the faux cheer and public displays of confidence of the pro-NATO/EU crowd, a palpable sense of unease hangs in the air.

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Authored by Aleksandar Pavic via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Although the September 30, 2018 name-change referendum in Macedonia, which was supposed to set that ex-Yugoslav federal republic on a path to (certain) NATO and (blithely promised but much less certain) EU membership, failed miserably, with only 36.91% of the voters turning out, well short of the 50% + 1 necessary for it to be valid – one would never know it from the reactions of its Western proponents and impatient beneficiaries. Indeed, a new term may be needed to adequately describe the reactions of the key pillars representing the reliquiae reliquiarum of the Western-led post-Cold War unipolar moment. Fake news simply doesn’t do them justice. Fake reality anyone?

The US State Department was firmly in denial, releasing the following statement“The United States welcomes the results of the Republic of Macedonia’s September 30 referendum, in which citizens expressed their support for NATO and European Union (EU) membership by accepting the Prespa Agreement between Macedonia and Greece. The United States strongly supports the Agreement’s full implementation, which will allow Macedonia to take its rightful place in NATO and the EU, contributing to regional stability, security, and prosperity. As Macedonia’s parliament now begins deliberation on constitutional changes, we urge leaders to rise above partisan politics and seize this historic opportunity to secure a brighter future for the country as a full participant in Western institutions.”

EU Commissioner for European Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn wasn’t to be outdone in his contempt for the 63% of the Macedonian “deplorables” who stayed home in order to voice their disagreement with renouncing their perceived national identity and country name (it was to become “Northern Macedonia”) in exchange for the double joy of a) becoming NATO’s cannon-fodder in its increasingly hazardous game of chicken with Russia and b) the EU’s newest debt-serfs: “Referendum in Macedonia: I congratulate those citizens who voted in today’s consultative referendum and made use of their democratic freedoms. With the very significant “yes” vote, there is broad support to the #Prespa Agreement + to the country’s #Euroatlantic path. I now expect all political leaders to respect this decision and take it forward with utmost responsibility and unity across party lines, in the interest of the country.” He was seconded the following day, in a joint statement, by Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the EU Commission.

Understandably, as the most direct public stakeholder, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was particularly (hyper)active. As the disappointing results began to roll in, Stoltenberg went into immediate damage control, tweeting“I welcome the yes vote in Macedonia referendum. I urge all political leaders & parties to engage constructively & responsibly to seize this historic opportunity. #NATO’s door is open, but all national procedures have to be completed.” He reinforced his delusional missive the next day, releasing a similar statement co-signed by EU President Donald Tusk. And the day after, during a news conference, Stoltenberg even offered lightning-quick NATO accession to the unwilling Macedonians – January 2019, to be exact – if they would just be so kind as to urgently implement the very agreement that they had just so emphatically rejected. When NATO says it promotes democratic values – it means it!

But that wasn’t the end of the “democracy mongering” surrounding what may well prove to be NATO’s, the EU’s and the rest of the end-of-history West’s Balkan Waterloo. For example, the EU Parliament’s Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, although “regretting that the turnout was less than 50%,” nevertheless hailed the referendum’s results and “call(ed) on the opposition to respect the expressed will of the majority [sic] of voters.” The Group’s leader, Udo Bullmann, while also maintaining that, somehow, a voter turnout of under 37% still represented a “majority,” additionally used the occasion to chastise Macedonia’s President for having the nerve to call for a boycott of the referendum (he committed the crimethink of referring to it as “historical suicide” during his UN General Assembly address), as well as to decry – what else? – “reports about Russian interference in the electoral process.” It goes without saying that Bullmann offered absolutely zero proof for his assertion. On the other hand, according to numerous media reports, as September 30 approached, while no high Russian official was to be seen anywhere in the vicinity, a veritable procession of Western political bigwigs made the pilgrimage to Skopje in order to reveal to the natives their “true” best interests: Sebastian Kurz“Mad Dog” Mattis, the indefatigable StoltenbergFederica MogheriniJohannes HahnAngela Merkel. No meddling there, obviously…

Speaking of Angela Merkel, she also joined her fellow Western democrats’ show of unanimous disdain for the Macedonian voters’ majority opinion, urging the country to “push ahead” with the implementation of the majority-rejected accord, citing voters’ “overwhelming support” [sic], and arguing through the mouth of her spokesman that the required 50% + 1 turnout was actually “very high,” as voter registers purportedly included many people who had long since left the country.

Coincidentally (?), the same argument was used by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, who opined that the “yes” votes cast in the referendum do, in fact, “represent the majority despite the low turnout because Macedonia does not have the 1.8 million voters entered into its electoral rolls but just 1.2 million since 300,000 people have left the country since the voter lists were last updated 20 years ago.” The fallacy of his reality-challenged claim is easily exposed if we just take a glance at the results of Macedonia’s last parliamentary elections (December 2016), in which voter turnout was just under 1.2 million (1,191,832 to be exact) or, officially, 66.79%. If we were to believe Kotzias and Merkel (who lodged no objections at the time), that would have meant that the turnout for the 2016 elections had been 99% – a figure that would make any totalitarian dictator blush with envy. On the other hand, since those elections did produce the “desired result,” enabling the current heavily pro-NATO/EU government led by Zoran Zaev to be formed, that automatically made them “valid” in the eyes of the high priests of democracy in Brussels, Berlin, London and Washington.

Needless to say, Zaev joined his Western patrons’ charade, hailing the referendum as a “democratic success,” and announcing that he would seek the Macedonian Parliament’s support to amend the constitution and get the agreement with Greece ratified (according to the so-called Prespa Agreement, the Macedonian Parliament must adopt the necessary constitutional amendments by the end of 2018) so that the Greek Parliament can do the same, which would seal the deal. However, Zaev and his Albanian political partners are currently well short of the necessary two-thirds majority (reportedly, they can count on 71 deputies, or 9 short of the needed 80), and will have to call early elections if they don’t soon succeed in securing it.

Yet, let it not go unsaid that Zaev was singing a rather different tune prior to the referendum, assuring that “citizens will make the decision,” and that Parliament would vote on the necessary constitutional changes only if the referendum is successful. But that was then, when confidence was still high that the usual combination of Western pressure, money and overwhelming domination of the media spectrum would get the job done. And then reality struck on September 30…

Still, amidst all the faux cheer and public displays of confidence of the pro-NATO/EU crowd, a palpable sense of unease hangs in the air. As a Deutsche Welle opinion piece put it, the “low voter turnout for Macedonia’s referendum is a bad starting point for the country’s future development.” And, according to DW in Serbian, a Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commentary warned that “politicians who otherwise ceaselessly talk of democracy as a ‘special value’ should not call on the parliament in Skopje to accept the voting results.” In other words, Macedonia’s people (read – a large majority of the majority Slavic population) have “voted with their feet” and rejected the agreement, and no new parliamentary election, no matter the results, can change that unpleasant-but-immutable fact. That alone will delegitimize any Western-led effort to “manufacture consent” by ramming the agreement through the present or future Parliament – although, as we know, NATO doesn’t put too much stock in referenda anyway, while the EU is not averse to making citizens vote as many times as needed to obtain the “right” result.

But the West has lost more than just legitimacy in Macedonia – it has damaged its reputation, perhaps irretrievably. In the words of former presidential advisor Cvetin Chilimanov, “The West has humiliated us… Macedonians have rejected this media, psychological, political and propaganda aggression against the people, and that’s the tragedy of these days, that a large percentage of a people that had been genuinely oriented towards the West has changed its mind and stopped looking at the West as something democratic, something progressive and successful… That is the reason for the boycott. Pressure was applied against Macedonia, a country that had always been open to ties with the West, but which did not want to make this disgusting compromise and humiliate itself before the neighboring countries, before Western countries. We did not understand why that humiliation was needed so that we might become a member of Europe. What’s worst, perhaps that is now the thinking of a silent majority of the people, that they won’t forget this insult and this attack on Macedonia.”

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Greeks Owe A Stunning €182 Billion In Tax Arrears To The State

Greece repeatedly raised taxes during its international bailouts between 2010 and August 2018.

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Via Zerohedge


Data from the Independent Authority for Public Revenue show tax arrears totaled 182.5 billion euros ($214 billion) on Aug. 10, according to a note sent from the agency to parliament last week and seen by The Associated Press Wednesday.

“The Greek government is owed so much in tax arrears from households and companies that it could pay off more than half its massive public debts if it collected it all,” writes AP, adding “unfortunately for the government, that’s unlikely to ever happen.”

However, as KeepTalkingGreece.com reports, more than 80 billion euros of that represents interest and fines on delayed payments from debtors that include companies that have been out of business for decades.

The arrears come close to Greece’s total economic output, estimated at 184.7 billion euros ($217 billion) this year, and Greece’s total public debt is worth about 180% of these arrears.

Eurozone-member Greece repeatedly raised taxes during its international bailouts between 2010 and August 2018.

Some 3.7 million Greeks – about 60 percent of the total – are behind on tax payments, and while the EU governments have attempted to crack down on the so-called shadow economy, black market activity still thrives in Greece.

As Statista’s Niall McCarthy notesexamples of black market activity are pretty common, whether it’s a warehouse worker driving an unlicensed taxi between shifts, an electrician accepting cash payments without declaring his earnings or a simple drug deal in a shady alleyway.

However, the level of black market activity, also defined as the shadow economy, depends highly on your country of residence. Generally defined as businesses and individuals engaging in inappropriate practices without complying with certain legal obligations such as paying tax or maintaining acceptable standards of employment, the shadow economy costs governments around the world trillions of dollars every year.

According to the IMF, heavily regulated economies with weaker administration tend to have well-established shadow economies. It’s far smaller in natons with strong, well-regulated and efficient government institutions. Back in the late 1990s, this was readily apparent in former Soviet states like Georgia where the shadow economy was estimated at 64 percent of GDP.

Today, the shadow economy is booming across southern Europe, though the scale of underground activity can only be measured indirectly.

You will find more infographics at Statista.

According to a new study published by the Institute for Applied Economic Research at the University of Tübingen in Germany (IAW), Greece’s shadow economy is estimated to average 21.5 percent of GDP. In the United States, undeclared cash transactions seem to be rarer with IAW’s study placing U.S. shadow economic activity at 5.4 percent of the country’s GDP.

 

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‘Hell on Earth’: MSF doctor tells RT of rape, violence, inhumane conditions in Lesbos refugee camp

One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

Alex Christoforou

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Via RT


One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

The overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos, built to accommodate 3,100, houses around 9,000 people. “It’s a kind of hell on Earth in Europe,” Dr. Alessandro Barberio, an MSF clinical psychiatrist, said, adding that people in the camp suffer from lack of water and medical care. “It is impossible to stay there,” he said.

According to Barberio, asylum seekers are subjected to violence “during night and day.””There is also sexual violence”which leads to “mental health issues,” he said, adding that all categories of people at the camp may be subjected to it. “There is rape against men, women and children,” and the victims of sexual violence in the camp often have nightmares and hallucinations, Barberio told RT.

Asylum seekers in Moria “are in constant fear of violence,” and these fears are not groundless, the psychiatrist said. “Such cases [of violence] take place every week.”

There is “one toilet for 72 people, one shower for 84 people. The sanitation is bad. People are suffering from bad conditions,” Michael Raeber, an aid worker at the camp, told RT. They suffer from mental health problems because they are kept for a long time in the camp, according to Raeber.

“There is no perspective, they don’t know how their case will go on, when they will ever be able to leave the island.” The camp is a “place where there is no rule of law,” with rampant violence and drug addiction among the inhabitants, Raeber said.

In its latest report, MSF, which has been working near Moria since late 2017, criticized the unprecedented health crisis in the camp – one of the biggest in Greece. About a third of the camp population consists of children, and many of them have harmed themselves, and have thought about or attempted suicide, according to the group.

Barberio was behind an MSF open letter on the state of emergency in Moria, released on Monday, in which he writes that he has never “witnessed such overwhelming numbers of people suffering from serious mental health conditions.”

Calling the camp an “island prison,” he insisted that many of his patients in the camp are unable to perform basic everyday functions, “such as sleeping, eating well, maintaining personal hygiene, and communicating.”

A number of human rights groups have strongly criticized the conditions at the camp and Greece’s “containment policy”regarding asylum seekers.

Christina Kalogirou, the regional governor of the North Aegean, which includes Lesbos, has repeatedly threatened to shut down the facility unless the government improves the conditions. On Tuesday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that Greece will move 2,000 asylum seekers out of the severely overcrowded camp and send them to the mainland by the end of September.

Greece, like other EU states, is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since WWII. According to International Organization for Migration estimates, 22,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Greece since the start of this year alone.

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