When the muses speak…
Yesterday, March 25, was the celebration of independence from the Ottoman occupation of Greece. It was nearly two hundred years ago in these southern islands and provinces, but a scant hundred years up in the north where Athan was born. Several years ago we attended a festival commemorating the exchange of whole villages, families and animals and households between Greece and Turkey. Families simply exchanged houses and some walked hundreds of miles to relocate into a land that was their nation but not their home.
We met friends for coffee in one of the many crowded cafes overlooking the Port of Aegina harbour. Thick plastic curtains kept out the rain and the wind from the port and separated us from the main boulevarded street and the parade that would commence once the rain stopped. Men were selling small blue and white Greek flags and as we hopped over puddles along the waterfront on our way to the café. We saw various clusters of parade participants, young sailors, policemen, and band members trying to stay out of the driving rain as they waiting for the call to begin.
The weather never quite cleared but the muffled sound of drums and trumpets robustly called us out onto the sidewalk to be one of two or three who actually stood along the sidelines to cheer them on. One trombonist in burgundy regalia, glanced away from his tiny sheet music atop his instrument surprised to see anyone at all. There were two bands and they kept up a pretty good tune and beat as they passed this way and then back the other way. Children in traditional dress wore warm and colourful modern coats on over the whites. Between the bands and marching local celebs, parents filled in the gaps carrying umbrellas and extra coats and chatted amiably amongst themselves. They appeared unperturbed that no one is there to wave a flag or take a picture.
As meagre as this showing is there is much to celebrate these days in terms of freedom from oppression. The last two years we have been in Athens on this day and the military presence was immense and foreboding. Army trucks and busses lined the parade route so that people could only filter in a narrow aperture to access the main street closed off to traffic. Police in full swat gear, rifles in hand, stood in pairs or threes with riot shields resting casually on the ground before them. Small groups with Mikis Theodorakis songs of freedom blasting carried placards with printed words railing against the bank financial crisis that caused such hardship worldwide but was never punished.
Prime Minister, Tsipras and Minister of the Economy, Varoufakis, coincidentally both with homes here on Aegina, are the Davids to the German Goliath and the EU Troika, which with unemployment at 28% (spiking to over 50% for 18 to 25 year olds) has bent the spirit of Greeks. For the first time in years since the recent election, the youth have something to hope for. These men addressed the crowds yesterday not from a podium but from the very concrete ground that everyone stands on together. They do not promise miracles – only transparency, which in this age of rewarding the guilty and punishing the innocent is a miracle in itself. …The Clearing.