During these melancholy days of insecurity and growing violence, I had the good fortune last Tuesday to find myself among people who gave me the hope that we may just make it. Looking at their achievements, knowing the obstacles they faced, hearing their words — brief yet full of wisdom, radiating the colors of life — I asked myself again: How did it come about that this country, so full of talented people, has fallen so low? At the same time, I felt that we can succeed with such people and we can rebuild our society on more stable ground.
I was at a ceremony organized by Gastronomos, Kathimerini?s monthly food supplement, to award producers and organizations that have made Greece proud with their agricultural products and foodstuffs. These are the people who stand firm on Greek ground, who appreciate what they have found and have dedicated themselves to improving it. Knowing the obstacles faced by every enterprise in this country, we know that those who have reached the point where their labors can be appreciated by the domestic and foreign market are special people. Finding and awarding them does not simply encourage them, but it also allows us to stand next to them for a while, to measure ourselves by their standard, to learn about them, about ourselves, about Greece.
This is always useful, but today it is imperative to look at those who have succeeded. The cheesemakers, the farmers, stockbreeders, fish and poultry farmers, the olive oil producers, the merchants and many others whom Gastronomos has ?discovered? and honored are people who have taken personal risks, who have fought against the dominant mediocrity, who have battled the obstacles set up by an indifferent and disorganized state. Each one is the antithesis of the ?public life? that we partake in, of useless, raging political disputes and lazy journalism.
Each award winner has made difficult personal choices, fought his or her battles, and — with hard labor and much love — persisted, so that they can give us something good. We know, though, that they are like virtuosos in an orchestra that has neither conductor nor score nor program. They are the essence, the spirit of this land with its rich tradition and demanding present. They are the people who are not afraid of hard work, who know that no one will help them, who make it their purpose not only to survive but to create.