Re: David A. Wisner article on ‘civic education’ and the young

As a Brit recently moved to Athens I am bemused at the lack of what I think of as civic society across much of Greece, whether exemplified by no one objecting to drivers parking on pavements or citizens not bothering to get together to clear the piles of litter in the streets outside their houses.

Surely civic education needs start with people acting collectively to improve their surroundings?

However, volunteering oneself alone may be insufficient. What is the value of planting shrubs in parks if no one then looks after them or of joining grand tree-planting schemes, say on Mt Hymettus, if there are no fire breaks so that the next fire will burn all the good work over a wide area.

Why do many Greeks accept living in such shabby surroundings and accept what most in the West see as unnecessarily low standards?

Why are there no campaigns to report illegal rubbish-dumping or defacing of signs? The Greek approach to observing their fellow citizens spoiling their surroundings appears to be to look the other way.

There is no logic to this. It costs no more to live in clean surroundings, rather than use your countryside as a rubbish dump. It would be nice if the elderly, the infirm or parents with pushchairs could use pavements safely, as they can in other western countries.

A good civic education should show that there is value in thinking of your fellow citizens.

Geoff Hughes

Yes, what future do you have as a youngster in Greece. A question I do discuss many times today with parents here. In the article the future of students is the subject. But what about when your parents can?t afford you to be a student? Many will not be able to afford that now, in a country in steep recession and political regression.

Yes, there will be elections soon. But what party to vote for? The ones who were preparing the last war and lost it? Or those who are still preparing the war before the last one (the extreme left).

The (political) diagnosis of what?s wrong with this country is still partial or coming from abroad. So, until now the therapies are pre-last war or traditional political and party orientated. So where does the hope come from that this country can and really will reboot? It?s still not clear it will. And the elections are held soon. Why? To continue what Greece is doing now? So, why should you vote and why should you stay?

I think it will take three generations of youngsters to restore what has been destroyed. So we better start some very basic therapy here. Before the elections.

Hans van der Schaaf

Dear David A. Wisner,

I wish you well in your endeavors and I would love to see all these wonderful private initiatives take root in Greece.

In my experience of Greece, the young ones who go out to Europe and America and elsewhere to be trained and educated, and those in Greece who would like to apply the lessons of the outside world in Greece face impossible hurdles.

The percentage of Greeks who go abroad to study, and the percentage of Greeks even at home who understand or try to understand what the outside world is offering in terms of a different way of life, are in their relative minority. In their attitude to life, in their openness and their willingness to work together they are in a minority.

They are trying with huge efforts and the best intentions to drag a culture and society and institutional legacy from the 19th century into the 21st. Most Greeks emotionally are still stuck somewhere in between the 19th and 20th centuries. They have tasted the possibilities of the 21st century with time spent in the EU and receiving money to try to create something a little more modern in Greece.

However, the cultural, social and institutional lethargy of Greece that is still somewhere in the Ottoman Empire, and is still recovering from a century of conflict, cannot begin to handle the energy and dynamism of the outside world and the 21st century. A country needs to have evolved structures, attitudes, institutions, mechanisms and procedures, ways of working together and connecting together, individuals through merit rather through (Byzantine-Ottoman style) patronage in authority, in order to work together, to pull in the same direction towards the progressive and enlightened and away from the passivity and the ossified history of Greece’s past.

In effect, what your Anna is saying is echoed in the OECD report on the Greek administration in its very first sentence, about Greece as a nation, as a society, as a culture and as an institutional system having no clear idea where it might want to go in the future and how to get there. Despite all the influences from the outside world, there is still this astonishing huge vortex within Greece of passivity, conformism to an irrelevant past, and emotional/historical pathos. It is a vortex with a downward moving energy that is increasing its power as Greece goes into its socio-economic crisis.

In this situation someone like Anna and other young people like her have no choice but to go abroad. Greece and her leaders have shown that they are not ready for enlightened progress to inform their ways of living and working together. They are not yet ready to let go of the past and grasp the future in any way that is possible. Greek leadership at any level has no idea how to grasp the future because they have rarely had a future to grasp beyond pathos and conflict, and subservience to a greater power who told them what to do.

One day these young people may wake up to find that Greece is calling them to help her. Until that time their best bet is to go abroad, make a living and a life for themselves, and wait to see if Greece will ever awaken from 2,000 years of history and pathos and call them to help her to grasp all their futures.

Philip Andrews

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