Monday, 15 December 2008

Whatever takes your fancy ('Οτι σου γουστάρει)

The recent events in the past week in Greece have destroyed any sense of Christmas spirit that might have been flickering before the moment that tarnished my country's laid-back image once and forever. The waves of outcry after the events surrounding Alexis' death reached out into Europe and even as far as South America; for once in the modern history of the country, Greece became a leader and not a follower. Despite the death of a 15-year-old boy by a police officer that had earned the nickname 'Rambo', and the destruction of the city centre of Athens through vandalism, arson and looting, Greeks have to carry on with their lives. The burnt Christmas tree in Athens will be replaced and Christmas will still 'take place'.

For most Greek people this year, Christmas will be a time of reflection. They're going to have to think about what went wrong and why things got out of control. As to who or what is to blame, if Greek people could just start by pointing the finger at themselves, maybe we'll find an answer. It's not an easy thing to do, because people don't like to blame themselves for anything bad that happens. It's always the government's fault, they say to you, no matter which party is in power. When teenagers are rioting on the streets, surely it's not just the government's fault - maybe it's the parents' fault too. For Greece to find some peace, we're going to have to re-think our priorities in life.

There's definitely something wrong with our society. Our youth has been messed up. But I insist: EVERYTHING starts in the home. Here's what happened, exactly as my husband related the events to me, just two nights ago (Saturday) at about 8pm, in the beautiful old Venetian port of Hania, where he was taking a walk to clear his mind:

fountain lighthouse hania chania

Five college kids (all boys) are hanging around in the main square of the old port, near the fountain area, close to the chains that separate the square from the road. A car pulls up alongside the chains, and the driver looks out of the window.
"Ay," scowls the tallest of the boys, "whatcha looking at me for?"
The driver hesitated for a moment.
"I'm not looking at you," he replied. "I think you're looking at me."
The boy's friends showed support for him and aversion towards the driver, someone who they did not know, and had possibly never met before. The tall boy spoke again.
"So, what are you going to do, aim a gun at me and shoot me?" His friends cheered and jeered appropriately, as in a well-rehearsed act. At this point, the driver took off.

If I were there, I would have too, because there was no way out of this fracas, apart from an showdown of some sort, the situation having reached an impasse, as Polivolon writes.

If you are providing your children with pocket money to go out with their friends on a cold wintery Saturday night, do you not have the right to demand to know where they are going, who they are going out with, what they are doing, and whether they are safe? If you can't answer all these questions, then you need to reset your priorities; otherwise, you are allowing anarchy to rule. Half the high schools in the country are being locked up by students, who do not allow the teachers to enter. We worry about being attacked by terrorists, but are we the ones raising the terrorists? I do not want to be terrorised by anyone, let alone my own children. In five years time, my son will be a teenager. I, the parent, have a major role to play in my children's upbringing. I know the Greek education system sucks, but Greece was never an easy country to live in, and it's not getting any easier to live here, but it still all starts in the home.

Here's a piece of writing from one of my students (Serbian). This week's topic was “Who are the better teachers: parents or professors?” and here is her answer (as she typed it online; hand-written compositions are almost a thing of the past...):

By the age of the six every child has already had the first contact with the education school system. For the most of them this is the very stressful period and without the support of their parents, they usually have difficult time of adaptation. Every parent expects from the school teachers to give their children the best education and to help them with learning process next fifteen years. Some of them expect from teachers much more, sometimes to do their job of being parent. Can parents be teachers, also? If they can, are they better than trained professionals?

My opinion is that the parents are the best teachers and they have natural obligation to be the first tutor in child’s life. The law of nature organizes the learning process between parents and children. For example, young bird in the nest learns how to flight from parent bird, not from flight instructor. Baby penguin learns how to swim and how to catch the fish from the parents, again. The little monkey watches its society group and then imitates the parent’s behavior.

The human baby is listening mother’s voice during the nine month period in the stomach and reacts on every change, especially of voice intensities. Laugh, cry, music, noise and all other sounds from external surrounding, effect on baby’s development. The baby creates the picture and gathers knowledge about the whole world on this way. So, the first teacher is baby’s mother.

Coming to the world is not so difficult for the child, as it is for parents. They must consciously learn to live with that new creature and follow the demands of new member of their family. But on the other hand, they are teaching unknowingly this young, pure soul every single moment how to live. The child imitates mimicry of parents, sounds and body moves. Everything what baby does is simple copy of behavior of parents.

Forasmuch as the years passing by, the lessons are more complicated. To be a good parent means to be a good teacher. The school is only one of the necessary paths of education. Parents don’t need to do teachers job, but they have to prepare the children for capability of learning and personal evolution. They should create new stabile person, with good ability to adjust in the whole social background. The best teacher for this is a parent, naturally.

The main goal of a good parent is to become the best teacher of its own child. If the parent is able to hand over all its knowledge and wisdom, than it is the biggest success in human’s life. Every good parent is trying to triumph in this challenge. If parent manages in this, then that will be the best lesson in the whole world.

So, in conclusion I agree that no one can be better teacher than parent for its own child.

My job was not to comment on her opinion - I simply corrected her grammar errors...

*** *** ***
It's not an easy time to write about food, but in my house, we are still cooking and eating (we have to if we want to survive), and trying to find some pleasure in it. My trips to the supermarket are not so frequent; the garrish colours and superficial decorations for the festive season do not cover my deep regret with the way the events of the past week unfolded. The supermarket, for all its positive features as purveyor of the human right to variety and desire, also plays a role in the spread of the instant gratification malaise, prevalent among the Greek youth; armed with worthless degrees, lowly jobs and the minimum wage, they realise how powerless they are in a consumer society where they can't afford what they want, while an elite and wealthy group have a lion's share of the market (the same people own most of the flashy shopping centres that go by wide-ranging names such as The Mall, Golden Hall and Attica Centre), but they, the common people, can only gaze in awe at the material world from a shop window.

The supermarket is a form of escapism. When you enter the store, there are no windows, no natural light (apart from the glass doors at the entrance), no clock to remind you that you've spent too long inside its consumer society surroundings: soft music, vibrant colours, plastic wrapping, special offers, free gifts when you buy something, something you probably don't need but thought you did when you entered the store, all mask the purpose of entering the supermarket. My first stop is usually the bread counter...

bread notice
Greeks still need to be told: "PLEASE - Choose bread with the eye, and not with the hand, for your health's sake!!! THANKS" Obviously, some people are taking the loaves out of the bags...

We'd also run out of Greek coffee...

coffee varieties
All the Greek coffee your heart could possibly desire. The trend of scenting coffee with various flavours, as practised in the West, has caught on in Greece: now you can have ouzo, cinammon, rose, mastich or cardamon scented Greek coffee, whatever takes your fancy...

This sight reminded me of another homeland...

Thanks to our tourist residents, cheddar cheese - virtually unheard of and only available in the special (and expensive) cheese section of the deli counter - has now become so commonplace that the Irish Kerrygold brand is being sold as a 2-for-the-price-of-1 special.

... while this one reminded me of the madness that exists in the Western world when it comes to feeding oneself. Some people want to eat what they want, when they want, no questions asked.

imported products in hania chania supermarket
Asparagus (from Peru) at nearly 8 euro a kilo? Radicchio (from Holland) for 3.5 euro a kilo? You must be pretty desperate if you feel the need to buy these in a Cretan supermarket...

I decided to treat myself after all, to some of that cheddar cheese, and a newfangled version of the classic Greek frigania, a baked oven-dried toast-like crisp cracker used like a bread slice, mainly eaten for breakfast or as a snack, added to yoghurt and milk or spread with butter, cheese or marmalade:

linseed friganies
One for the ladies: linseed is believed to relieve menopausal symptoms, as well as being of benefit in the health of the aged. Recommendations from health studies are often being incorporated in the processed food industry in Greece. Friganies are now available with the addition of linseed.

I bought these crackers on the pretext that I am doing something positive towards my health. But I cannot escape the truth: I was trying to forget the crisis my country is now facing without any solution in near sight.

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