OPINION

The Week In Review

We’re all going to die. But that does not stop us from living. With our social structures and our free will – in various combinations of the rigid and the fluid – each runs like a river born as a fickle trickle in the solitary highlands of childhood, broadening out and joining with countless others before flattening into an almost unmoving society of rivers that rushes headlong into the ocean and is lost. And yet there are moments when even that great river of humanity may be shaken, as if a tributary unexpectedly brought down some awesome cargo of ideas or disaster. The waters seethe and froth, propelling this new subject forward, raising it high, pushing it under, perhaps wiping it out quickly, perhaps being changed by it in some way. Heraclitus (the Dark, or Difficult One) declared that you can’t step into the same river twice. He also said that nothing is changeless except for change itself. (Paradoxically, this would suggest that what you are doing is actually stepping into the same river continually – because it is always changing and because change is the only constant the river is always the same one.) So, trapped between our source and the sea, we each rush onward, each driven in different ways, by the baseless yet incontrovertible understanding that we are masters of our fate. And here the degrees of difference begin to show themselves. And this is why this suddenly unsettled time is so interesting. Our river has hit a difficult patch of anger, ashes, detritus and blood. And though we know where it will lead for all and for each alone, not one of us knows to what degree our lives will change in the next few weeks, months and years. This is a time when humanity must marshal all its resources, to decide how best it can help that river flow. In the seething of guns and planes and passionate crowds, we see our differences and count our common hopes. And down this river of humanity sails Greece’s entry, a little like the survivors on the raft of the Medusa waving hopefully to what they think is the ship that will rescue them. Unfortunately, what they most often seem to be waving at is the departing sail of past historical greatness or the ever-present (but never close enough to rescue them) vessel of current fixations. Whatever we’re looking at, though, most of us are looking backward. Not that the experience of the past is not a good navigator, it is just that in this very swiftly flowing present, it might help for once to see exactly which variation of the past we are hurtling into and which will be the best way through it. For those who can only hang onto the makeshift straps of faith they have fashioned on the raft and listen to what the others say, the overriding concern of the loudest chatterers is to blame those who brought this trouble on our heads (invariably Captain America and not his sleeping crew or the torpedo that hit the ship – just as, in that other variation of war, the coach or the referee or the goalkeeper is the only one consigned to burn in hell). Up on the makeshift mast, keeping dry as we shiver in the spray and fight to keep the mast erect, cluster our politicians, shouting contradictory instructions and vague snatches of prophesies that have no effect on our course. And those who shout the loudest are those who blame others more than themselves and pretend to foresee every disaster on our course. They have been proved wrong over and over, and still they are the only ones whose voice is heard. When Greece provided a ship to join an allied flotilla when the world waged war on Iraq 10 years ago, there were protests in Greece that we should not help the Americans who allegedly wanted to control the world’s oil supply. When the world tried to stop the bloodshed in Yugoslavia, the Greeks discovered their hitherto unknown brothers in the fellow Orthodox Serbs. This bond, based on identifying with what we arbitrarily defined as the underdog and most other countries the killer dog, robbed us of credibility when we should have been able to block the ultimatum that led NATO into a war that crushed the backbone of a nation in order to protect a minority that could have been saved by other means and which has since committed the crimes that it once suffered. Our sober warning to the world that its commitment here would be open-ended appears to be coming true. But the disaster of imperialism’s presence in the Balkans can be justified only in the eyes of Americans who might find the commitment greater than they desired, whereas for Greece’s Communists and Orthodox and nationalists of all kinds, it is a gift. Because powerless and rudderless as they are, hating someone or something so much greater than them gives them a strength they would not have. It pushes them higher up the mast, where, in their delirious visions, they make prophecies that only they can see and declare them fulfilled. And the rest of us have, after all these years, become used to hearing snatches of madness in the wind, secure in the knowledge that whatever we do or they say, the raft cannot turn around and head back up the river. Smugglers abandon 270 illegal migrants on Turkish coast