OPINION

On Cyprus, the smoking ban, and rising ticket prices

Pharmacies really need some therapy

Instead of fighting old wars, the Greek pharmacies sector should realize it really needs a big improvement concerning quality and effectiveness. I could write a long article here about that, but maybe this newspaper can explain how, for instance, Holland reorganized its pharmacies sector and what the effects were.

HANS VAN DER SCHAAF

THE NETHERLANDS

Opening hours

It continues to amaze me how something as simple as «opening hours» can turn into a controversy. A nation composed primarily of small to midsized businesses must be able to operate as they see fit. Longer opening hours contribute to an increase in sales, the need for more employees and greater tax revenues. I can’t see how this wouldn’t be a «win» for all sides involved.

CHRIS NIKOLOPOULOS

Poor analogy

Certainly it is a no-brainer that the post-dictatorship Greek state needs serious economic and political reforms, but the American «Tea Party» is a poor example to aspire to, and the comparison between Greece’s problems and the USA’s problems is a poor analogy.

Yes, until the 2010 crisis and resulting austerity measures, Greece had a bloated public sector, and political parties (both center-left PASOK and the center-right ND) gave away public sector jobs as a way of keeping the population happy in a country where there are «few corporate jobs» (as many Greeks put it, in an attempt to justify giving away public sector jobs as a welfare measure) due to the relatively small number of private firms.

Of course, part of the reason that «there are no corporate» jobs in Greece is due to the near-impossiblity of setting up a new business in Greece, as Kathimerini’s writers and editorial staff know all too well. Bureaucratic inefficiencies have also contributed to this problem, as has the culture of dependency that has been bred in Greece over the past 30 years.

Yes, all of that are true.

But your usage of the term «Tea Party,» without acknowledging what it truly entails, is a bit worrying.

As a reader who generally leans center-left to center, I come to Kathimerini for fresh centrist or center-right perspective that’s reasonable, pragmatic and not hyperbolic.

Living in the United States, where the right wing has moved way beyond the center-right — and is now encroaching on fascist — it has always comforted me to know that the Greek and European mainstream right (and center-right publications like Kathimerini or The Economist) are still reasonable and ?centrist.?

And as such, I think you owe a responsibility to your readers to acknowledge what the American Tea Party movement truly entails:

1) irrational opposition to having any kind of public sector, even public healthcare, and refusal to acknowledge certain public services (education, health) as basic human rights

2) extreme nationalism

3) complete denial of the science behind human-induced global warming, and outright hostility to environmental issues in general

4) a «grassroots citizens’ movement» that’s being manipulated by business interests

5) racism and hostility toward national minorities

6) anti-intellectualism

7) militarism, and support for borrowing and spending trillions of dollars for unjustified wars

8) anti-regulation, but hypocritical support for regulation that benefits conservative or Tea Party goals

Unfortunately, by assuming the Tea Party is a campaign that should be emulated in Greece — and without recognizing the Tea Party’s true properties as I outlined above — you’re lending credibility to the Tea Party as a legitimate and sensible movement.

You also risk damaging your own credibility on how well you know the country that you make references to (the USA) when you compare it with Greece. In actuality, Greece and the United States are two countries with vastly different problems: Greece has a bloated and inefficient state, while the United States has a highly manipulated state that’s completely at the helm of higher interests. Greece is apples and America is oranges, and you’re attempting to compare apples to oranges.

Eric G

USA

Smoking ban

Smoking is a big economic problem in Greece because, unlike many developed countries, the Greek worker is old before he is 50. A lifetime of smoking will not allow a Greek to work till he is 70. «Work» is on of the most enjoyable human activities, because it allows a person to be creative and to socialize in a meaningful way with his community.

The Greek workers? ideal of retiring early on a government pension shows how corrupt the whole country has become. In most developed countries only the dying give up on life, like Greeks do.

The smoking problem in Greece is a good indicator of the ineffectiveness of the Greek state in the last 100 years.

The Greek Parliament should not pass laws that it has no intention of enforcing. The failure of Greeks to understand and automatically obey the laws of the country stems from their disrespect for the institutions of the state.

Have the Greek parliamentary buildings become smoke-free zones?

C. LITHO

MELBOURNE

Mount Paikos

Mount Paikos, always the land of my dreams

Just standing on the Macedonian plain looking at its winter cover of snow, often where Alexander may have stood, cuts the everyday problems of the area down to size.

Climbing from the area of Pella in 1956 to reach the top, with a packhorse and a donkey, followed by my father and my 93-year-old great-grandfather, was a walk into paradise. No other place on earth, no matter how grand, has ever filled my heart with as much joy.

Its huge majestic oaks and the clear, cool waters dripping out of the rocks were enchanting.

We left home at 3 a.m. and reached our destination at 6 p.m.

The cool night under an oak tree and my great-grandfather?s tiny little fire with a wisp of smoke, between three smooth square-cut rocks was like burning incense inside a church to thank God.

Without words, sitting around a flat stone for our table, eating the hard wholemeal bread with some «Ranga,» the starlight delivering the blessings of God.

After eating, my great-grandfather took a few steps from the fire, kneeled down on the earth with his hands in front of him to pray, in silence. Before he stood up, he crossed himself three times, and we followed. That is the last picture I have of my great-grandfather, still in my mind.

A silent man who knew enough of life to thank his God for the gift of that day.

Thank you for the article. I will find the strength to dare to go back to Mount Paiko.

C. LITHO

MELBOURNE

Greek majority must guarantee rights of Turkish minority

The Cypriot government (Greek) cannot expect any agreement that does not guarantee Turkish-Cypriot self-rule and cultural rights. Pure majority rule will never fly. History and present Greek policy toward its Turkish and Muslim minorities in Greece (they won’t even permit the construction of a mosque in Athens, for 500,000 people) rightly make Turkish Cypriots suspicious.

JOHN Schneiderman

ASTORIA

Composting

Living in a Melbourne suburb on a 600-square meter plot of land with only 50 percent of the site covered with buildings and hard paving, very little perishable material leaves our block.

For 30 years, practically every house in our municipality has had a compost bin, where food scraps, vegetable material and even some leaves from our «fruit tree forest» is placed in the bin to be turned into fertilizer for the vegetable garden and our trees. It?s amazing how quickly earthworms devour vegetable matter.

We have also created a compost heap where we place all leaves and cut-up pruned branches to be turned into compost at the most in about two years for the thicker branches. We are a little lazy and do not turn over the heap every few months, as we should. We keep removing compost from the bottom of the heap as we need for the garden.

Our rubbish bin goes out weekly with only a few liters of nonrecyclable packaging material to be buried in a landfill by the municipal council. Often our bin does not go out for a month.

There is a new project on the way, to turn rubbish into a gas for powering an electricity generator.

We also have a recycling bin which takes paper, glass, metal containers and various plastics.

As we are careful buyers, we avoid buying anything that will burden us with waste.

On buying a new enviromentally friendly Turkish-made refrigerator, which came packaged in a heavy cardboard container, we made a deal with the retailer that the delivery people would take the container and the old refrigerator with them back for recycling.

On buying a new double bed for our guest room, the deal again was for the retailers? truck to take the old mattress and new packaging back to the municipal recycling plant for disposal.

All our old clothes, quite often hardly worn, are washed and ironed to go to New Guinea poor mountain villages.

Now comes the sad part of the story.

In our Macedonian village house, we have lived like Greeks.

We have 50 meters from our house a municipal waste bin where we and our immediate neighbors dispose of all of our rubbish. Our neighbors insist that the bin cover remains open so they do not have to touch it. The result is flies and wasps have feasts.

This year the municipal council has provided a tiny recycling bin in the village square, which is filled almost at once. I need to do something.

The municipal waste bin has everything thrown in from food scraps, metals, clothes, packaging and even dead chickens and old rugs. Luckily it?s far enough from our house not to be not to be obnoxious.

This happens all over Macedonia, and I suppose all over Greece.

This year I will change. Every time I throw something into the municipal bin, I will picture throwing it on to our Greek flag.

The flag that I have seen Uncle «Aly Pasha,» who fought in Albania with only an axe as a weapon, kiss the corner of with tears in his eyes, after listening to children reciting poems for the March 25 celebrations.

This year I will ask our village primary school teacher to allow me to give a lecture to the children on how they can create their own compost bin and compost heap.

I will invite the children to see the new setup in my village garden, and tell them what I was told by a university lecturer 40 years ago, about the benefits of recycling.

I will not bother trying to teach the children?s parents, as they may be a lost cause.

I will try to get the municipal council to set up a composting heap outside our village.

C. LITHO

MELBOURNE

Ticket price increase

Only a few years ago, the 90-minute, one-way ticket cost 1.50 euro. It was reduced to 1 euro, and has been that way until now. Even with the increase, the ticket is still cheaper than before, and no one even mentions that the price was higher. Also, only the ticket that includes the metro is 1.40.  By comparison, in 2004 when I was in Paris, it cost 1.40 for the bus, and another 1.40 for the Metro, and our trip was about the same amount of time. These demonstrations have nothing to do with fare increases, but more about the unions losing members, so the union leaders don’t make as much money.

LES GROVE

GLYFADA