OPINION

Live your myth in Greece

The world knows the Greeks for their ancient heritage, a couple of colorful tycoons, the 2004 Olympics and the beautiful Greek landscape (much of which keeps being burned). Lately, though, Greece has also become famous for the violent demonstrations that shook Athens exactly a year ago and for its economic woes. So we’re famous for today’s achievements, too. At a time when global tourism is down, we have to find ways to exploit this unexpected publicity, to profit from catastrophe, to tame the wild river that threatens to drown us and draw energy from it. Greece’s tourism development has been based mainly on exploiting its physical beauty and history. Today, though, other countries are cheaper and fewer tourists really care about ancient Greek civilization. So, to exploit today’s headlines and analyses, we must adopt a clever marketing campaign. We have to present Greece not as a museum in decline but as an exciting gateway to the future. Instead of dreaming about how we could create theme parks in which civil servants dressed in white cloaks would recite Homer and Pindar among the ruins of Olympia, we could prepare a scintillating interactive experience for every daring tourist. With a little organization, we could offer a Disneyland of Dysfunction. Whoever wants to replicate the adventures of Odysseus can buy a package in which he or she will be crammed with countless others onto a makeshift dinghy and try to sneak into Greece from Asia Minor. Those who are caught will spend an indeterminate amount of time in an overcrowded hellhole of a «reception center» before being disgorged suddenly in the center of Athens, without papers and without any form of assistance. This journey may last as long as Odysseus’, with countless adventures and an unpredictable end. It should be worth every cent of the 5,000 or so euros that smugglers get for each soul. Other visitors – mainly angry youths – will be fitted out with hoods, stones and Molotov cocktails before joining the ranks of local anti-establishment groups. This package is expected to be very successful, as this is one of the few areas where Greeks enjoy international respect for their experience and know-how. «Graduates» will be awarded special degrees in the shape of looted police shields. Sadomasochists will be recruited by our riot police squads, where they will beat citizens and be beaten in turn. The truly masochistic will pay a small fortune to buy a shop that will be burned down whenever there is a riot, will be devoid of customers during each daily demonstration and will be plundered by all kinds of taxes and protection rackets. This package may seem to be too much trouble but the pleasure that our visitors will feel when they return home, will make each euro they spent well worth it. For our conservative visitors, such as families (who are the majority), we will offer the package for «Citizens and Legal Immigrants.» This all-inclusive deal, in addition to exorbitantly expensive food and lodging, will include the Daily Decathlon: a motorbike slalom through moving traffic; being stuck in car, taxi or bus during an endless traffic jam when late for work; downhill skating on Kolonaki’s sidewalks; steeplechase on any Athenian sidewalk; visiting a hospital; trying to do the paperwork to be released from a hospital; paying a bill at a tax office, post office or bank; a relay race with kids between schools, music classes and soccer practice; parking anywhere within 5 miles of your destination; trying to make sense of the news on television and surviving on a paltry salary or pension as costs keep rising. These are just a few idle thoughts that require further study. They are aimed not only at making Greece a crash course for anyone who wants to deal with his fear of chaos but also at providing foreigners with the opportunity of becoming like Sisyphus, stepping into our shoes to push rocks uphill every day – so that we can win the money and the respect that we lack.