Archive for August, 2011

Burying the idol of our youth:Leonidas Kyrkos’funeral today

I will remember 2011 as the year of the big losses: after Lakis Santas we are saying goodby to Leonidas Kyrkos. After Thanassis Vengos, Iakovos Kambanellis and Manolis Rassoulis we bid farewell to Lykourgos Kallergis. All of them have been involved in politics and the arts in many, many ways but always from a progressive, democratic, left I dare say, perspective.

With his beloved wife Kali in the background

I first heard Leonidas Kyrkos speak back in 1974. That was the beginning of our “love affair” which lasted even when, after I returned to Greece, I joined the Communist Party of Greece, his opponent. It is my strong belief that Leonidas strongest point was his total honesty: he changed opinions sometimes and people were upset with him. In my view cde Leonidas always practiced what he preached: when he was on death row, during the civil war, when he chose Eurocommunism and mainly when he called for a unity of the left wing forces. Leonidas Kyrkos together with Charilaos Florakis managed to overcome their differences and create the Coalition of the Left and Progress with the participation of the two Communist Parties that existed till then.

He was an orator, he was a man, with a vision but most of all he was an authentic person, he was genuine and that is what his public always instantly realised. He brought a large number of Greek citizens closer to left wing politics and opened their minds to new horizons. One of the founding members of EDA (United democratic Left) he was elected to the National Parliament in 1961, ’63 and ’64. During the military dictatorship he was arrested and imprisonned. Later on,while heading small left wing parties, he was elected to both the European and Greek Parliaments
He is one more of the “drakogenia” – the dragon generation – to leave us. There is a feeling that this generation who lived, from the left wing perspective, through the German occupation, the resistance and the civil war was a generation of strong willed, dedicated and genuine believers who faced prisons, concentration camps, isolation and marginalisation within society, psycological and physical torture, were real dragons and their shoes cannot be filled. They remained young till their death in spite of their age and health because of their optimism and their love of life, a trait of the left that we must nurture in these difficult days.
Their memory, and there were many, is a constant reminder and help for us and the future generations to keep up our faith to left wing principles and continue our struggles.
Leonida you will always be with us, together with all the comrades who were with you during these long years of struggle but remained anonymous. You never forgot them and neither shall we.

Popular actor – activist Lykourgos Kallergis passes away.

Lykourgos Kallergis, 97,died in hospital on Saturday 27 August 2011.

The last of the actors of the ’30s, one of the founders and leading men in the Karolos Koon Art Theater, he was a real representative of the word ethopios: meaning actor in Greek but also a creator of ethos.
Born in the Rethymnon area of Crete, son of one of the first Greek socialists Stavros Kallergis, Lykourgos played leading parts in both the political and the theatre stage for half a century.
Blessed with an expressive voice and an impressive presence he was the protagonist in most Greek tragedies, he taught acting, he translated foreign plays, he was a unionist in the actors’guild. At the same time he was active in politics first in the ranks of the Communist Party of Greece, he was elected in the Greek Parliament in 1977 and then joined Coalition of the Left of Movements and Ecology till his death. A peace activist all his life he has left an indelible mark on Greek history but mainly in our hearts.

Greece in fire alert – strong winds and negligence the main factors

According to Greek daily Kathimerini the fires raging in the North East of Greece, in the Thrace area and very close to the Greek Turkish borders, have destroyed more than 15 thousand acres of wooded and agricultural land. About 10% of the nature reserve of the Dadia forest have been burnt while there is no danger for villages at the moment.

The south east part of the

Dadia Forest - summer 2007

Dadia Forest -summer 2007

prefecture of Arcadia, in central Peloponese, is also on fire. The particular area is far from the sea and had so far been secure from land mongers. Its forests and scenery were almost magical and unique in the south of Greece. Unfortunately, as I have seen with my own eyes, there is no environmental policy or awareness in Greece. In the most beautiful gorges you see dumping sites. The weeds that grow in the winter are not cleaned up so when they dry in the summer they are the best food for forest fires. The communities in the surrounding areas are not equipped with any fire fighting mechanisms (fire engines, hydrants, volunteer fire fighters, etc).

The Greek governments, present and previous ones, have never bothered to educate the people on fire fighting techniques and prevention. The authorities should know by now that August is the most dangerous time of the year and help minimize the climate risks. Instead they legalize buildings that have been built in non-residential areas with understandable results!!

Greek economist:The European Central Bank can open a way out of the present crisis

Yiannis Dragasakis, former MP for the Coalition of Radical Left (SYRIZA)who served as Deputy Minister of Economics in the all party government of Xenophon Zolotas, is acknowledged in Greece, grudgingly but acknowledged, as one of the best brains in his field.
In an interview at the Sunday (14/8/2011) edition of AVGI (left wing Greek daily) Mr. Dragasakis comes up with proposals that are new to me, at least and quite plausible if only the European leaders start listening to the people’s needs instead of the markets.
In reference to the Eurobond he claims that “This measure is not sufficient anymore. …..because what does “Eurobond” mean? It means borrowing from the markets and therefore the markets become the regulators of the debt.” Timing is important so Mr.Dragasakis goes a step further: “Now, the radical solution is for the European Central Bank to take up part of the debt. It has been suggested that part of the national debts be “unionized” (be considered as a debt of the European Union as a whole). Secondly, the European Central Bank can cover part of the debt by issuing money in order to prevent the risk of uncontrolled inflation, something already practiced in the US and Japan. Thirdly, countries should have the possibility to borrow money from the Central Bank. These measures mean a radical change of the European Union, of the Maastricht Treaty”.
Mr. Dragasakis’proposals become more credible if one goes to his personal page and reads his interventions in the Greek Parliament. He had been warning of a crisis since the autumn of 2006!!
The SYRIZA Parliamentarian claims that neither the conservative nor the social democratic models can give a way out of the crisis. The left forces, in cooperation with the unions, need to overcome their differences, unify their actions and connect the necessary resistance to wholly alternative policies.

Fires in Εvros – Thrace but also in Athens

A fire that broke out in Thrace has been rekindled this morning. The strong winds that blow in the area are pushing the fire towards the Dadia forest, a world famous forest reserve, home to many wild birds of prey.

A fire broke out yesterday in a southern Athens suburb – Ano Glyfada. It is a densely populated area and there was grave danger for the inhabitants.

This is the season of strong winds, they reach 8 and 9 Beauforts, which make the operations of the fire department extremely difficult and dangerous.

It must be noted that empty lots all over Athens but in the country side too are left to weeds and used for dumping which is an obvious fire nurturing practice. Some municipalities in Athens take care to remind the owners of unbuilt land to remove debris and dry weeds well before the summer season and thus help avoid fires. Unfortunately, the uninformed Greek public has a very low environmental awareness and continuously create new dangers.

G3 -Greek Government gaffes: new episodes

After accusing taxi drivers of harming the tourist season and defaming Greece as an international destination the Greek government decided to give them a helping hand by making things worse!
As from September 1 the VAT for foodstuff served in restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, fast food shops etc will go up from 13% to 23%!! The Small Entrepreneurs Association has issued a statement claiming that this move constitutes a “suicidal choice”, will lead to further loss of jobs and many small enterprises to bankruptcy.
This law proposal applies to about 14.000 catering enterprises employing more than half a million people. Greece will thus become one of the most expensive tourist destinations, according to the Association.
I would like to point out that the VAT for hotel rooms has been lowered in an effort to balance the situation but what actually happens is that the local population will bear the bigger burden, once more.

The lost honour of politics and politicians

The riots in Athens in 2008 and the recent ones in London can be interpreted in various ways. Mr. Cameron has chosen the view that all the rioters are criminal elements who thrive on violence. I believe the exact opposite: present and past European governments comprise criminal elements who thrive on violence.

Let us look at the evidence to decide who is right.
How many financial scandals have been unearthed all over Europe involving government officials and politicians? I can name two in Greece in the last two months, one of whom openly admitted that he did receive bribes!
In the UK things are no better from what I hear.Check this link

While Mr. Stross Kahn is facing charges of sexual harrassment his successor in the International Monetary Fund is involved in a financial scandal. Mr. Berlusconi has been repeatedly the center of financial and sexual scandals without any repercussions. These are but a few examples randomly selected to give you a hint to think of more.

The simple people in the streets of Athens, London and I suspect many more world capitals are desperate because they cannot trust politicians any more and they have no one to turn to. Politics and politicians have no credibility with the grassroots.

There is no way of saying this without becoming cliche or boring but unless the elected governments decide to put aside the greed for money and power of their members the riots will go on and will increase and will spread. Communities are trying to do their best to avoid such a development but it is crucial that political powers join them and lead them out of this mess.

Politicians should reclaim the honour of politics and turn it into a good word again.