A 70-minute drive south to Kardamyli on a divine mission to pay tribute to the extraordinary accomplishments of two Englishmen, now departed – Patrick Leigh Fermor and Bruce Chatwin.
Leigh Fermor lived in the area almost 50 years and was given honorary citizenship of the village as well as greater awards by the Greek Government.
Chatwin visited Leigh Fermor and when he died some years later his ashes were scattered at an ancient Greek Orthodox chapel on the steep hillside behind “Paddy’s” rambling, self-designed residence.
What did these two men have in common? Both were born adventurers, renaissance men and writers who travelled and wrote about their travels.
The basic information for the social archaeologists is this:
Patrick Leigh Fermor born February 11, 1915, died June 10, 2011, aged 96.
Bruce Chatwin born May 13, 1940, died January 18, 1989, aged 48.
Leigh Fermor is regarded as the finest travel writer in the English language of the 20th century (A Time of Gifts, Between the Woods and the Water and Mani) and Chatwin’s Patagonia and Songlines are literary masterpieces of place, history, myth and people.
Leigh Fermor requested that he die in his homeland so he flew home on June 9, 2011, and died the next day. He was buried next to his wife, Joan Rayner (nee Ayres-Monsell) daughter of the First Viscount Monsell, in the churchyard at Dumbleton near their family home in Worcestershire.
I scrambled around the overgrown garden admiring the magnificent granite stone residence with its paved courtyard and rockery gardens. I stood on the rooftop deck overlooking the sparkling Hellesport where he swam every day and tried to imagine the legendary parties they hosted here for locals and expats. Ouzo, retsina as well as red and white wine preciously fresh from the local vineyards.
Behind me stands an almost verticle cliff face which is covered by impenetrable spikey bushes and rocky outcrops. I can see the top of a small church with its dome and cross and I ask a neighbour whether that is where Bruce’s ashes were cast. He doesn’t understand me and I can’t understand him. He doesn’t know the name Bruce Chatwin. Man of mystery to the very end, I thought. I go away slightly dejected but also exhilarated. I hadn’t found the songline but I’d felt it.
WHY I’M SICK OF ECONOMISTS
Financial commentators, bourgeois economists (those saturated with the values of capitalist larceny) and the Western media have managed to create a simple, plausible and easily digestible view of the Greek economic crisis: the Greeks don’t pay taxes.
Oh, and by the way, the Greeks are also bone idle.
The radio shock jocks deliver this bigotry in the course of any mention of the Euro-crisis. The broadsheets and the ABC relay a similar message but they use more sophisticated language.
What about some short history lessons so we know what country we are talking about and who its people are?
In the 20th century the Greek people, living in the “cradle of democracy”, experienced war, civil war, revolution, counter-revolution, dictatorship (twice), economic recession and depression, mass unemployment, starvation and mass migration into the country (twice) and large-scale movement out of the country (almost continuous).
At the end of World War Two the country was plunged into a civil war. The British and US Governments supported the right-wing conservatives and monarchists against the popular resistance which had fought the Nazis and the Italian fascists. It was an act of coldblooded betrayal, aka the Truman Doctrine: the Cold War had commenced.
From 1967 until 1974 Greece was ruled by a military dictatorship, the colonels’ junta. During that time parliament, political parties, trade unions, free speech and the free press were either banned or severely restricted. Thousands of political activists from the unions, universities and the arts were arrested. Many were tortured while others were banished to prisons on remote Greek islands.
When the junta was overthrown by an insurrectionary upsurge of workers and polytechnic students, formal Western democracy was reinstated and the PanHellenic Socialist Party (Pasok) was founded and liberally funded.
Since then Greece, the weakest link in western Europe, has teetered on the verge of national bankruptcy. Stripped of its oil tanker industry (and the invisibles that supported its balance of trade) and with her other smaller industries crushed by the emergence of the single market of the European Union (EU), Greece faced a rising national debt.
ENTER THE BANKS
For the past 30 years the Western banks have gone to the Greeks bearing gifts – in the form of loans worth trillions of dollars. They have financed and refinanced Greece’s national debt several times over and, in the process, put the economy into hock. By the time of the 2004 Olympics the banks were shunting money into Athens at a fast and furious rate, just as in the US they were writing home loans for people who were so broke they couldn’t afford the 10 per cent deposit. Bankers and developers dreamt up schemes for hotel resort projects, defence contracts, infrastructure and high-yield investment funds. Nothing was built that offered jobs, met a social necessity or even created real economic activity. They simply passed the money around between themselves each taking performance fees, bonuses, dividends, salaries, pensions, expenses and superannuation. Sometimes they took out personal loans at risk-free rates for private investment.
Rich Greeks became super rich. Poor Greeks became super poor and many stopped paying taxes because they couldn’t afford to or they refused to.
If every Greek paid all the back tax that they owed it would not amount to a teardrop in the tank of Euro-bank debt with which Greece is now saddled.
So can we stop having those charlatans in the business world telling Australians that the Greek people are responsible for this crisis? It’s the banks, stupid.