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Thursday, 13 June 2013

Finalities (Τελειωμένα)

When I first came to Greece over twenty years ago, my uncles and I discussed the many differences between the Greek and New Zealand political and social systems. (My uncles are simple people who have worked in agriculture all their life. They do not have wives or children; they looked after their mother until her death.) They told me about how Greece entered the EU and the standard of living rose quite quickly. But their traditional little food store suffered from this rise in new money because people were now preferring the supermarkets. My uncles closed their store at the end of 1991, but they didn't regret it - they said it was the way of things, and they were happy to have worked hard to save some money from that store, which allows them to live a comfortable life with the 500-euro pension they receive from OGA (the farmers' pension fund).

They also said that because Greece's income levels had changed, some of the elements of the Greek political system and society would also have to change. I remember that they talked about the public services and how they must be downsized.

"Oh, that's just waht has happened in New Zealand," I informed them. "It's harder to get a job now, if you don't have a marketing qualification, and even education is not free." I finished my studies there in the last year of free university education, where we were actually paid a stipend as students.

"That happened in New Zealand because people accepted it as the way things go," my uncles said. "Here, people won't accept it, and politicians just keep making people happy."

Well, it looks as though those things that my uncles never believed would happen are actually happening, and within their lifetime!

Amid fear and suspicions,
with agitated mind and frightened eyes,
we melt and plan how to act
to avoid the certain
danger that so horribly threatens us.
And yet we err, this was not in our paths;
the messages were false
(or we did not hear, or fully understand them).
Another catastrophe, one we never imagined,
sudden, precipitous, falls upon us,
and unprepared -- there is no more time -- carries us off.
Finalities, Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)

At the weekend, I look forward to continuing that conversation with my uncles, even if it is 21 years later.

I hope you like the photos - that's the life my mother left behind when she went to NZ, and that's the way her brothers still live in Crete.

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