OPINION

Letters to the Editor

Uncivilized Culture Ministry staff I have just read a small piece on the new transfers of public servants from one area to another… Over 17 percent of all workers in Greece work for the government and an extremely large number of them obtained their jobs due to political patronage as has been much discussed on previous occasions. Relatives, friends and neighbors of politicians keen to ensure favors and to help themselves toward their own re-elections regardless of whether or not the positions filled were needed. Certainly the Ministry of Culture is a brilliant and glaring example that has tourists laughing and crying at the same time. Their museum and sacred site staff are the laziest, most useless in the entire Hellenic world. There are so many of them by world standards that at times it appears as if there are more such staff than there are tourists. I am a Hellene, proud of our rich heritage and what we owe to our ancestors. But I am not happy to travel to historical sites and to see these public servants sitting on their large rear ends reading novels, talking on their cell phones or chatting away with fellow staff or even walking away to have a few smokes, and then to be nasty to tourists. «Don’t stand there.» «Don’t touch.» «Don’t talk.» «Put your shoes back on.» But there is never ever any advice or information on the history and culture, the magnificence and the magesty of the site where they work. Never any support or encouragement to tourism, an industry which represents 17 percent of the economy but if better managed one that would deliver far, far more. I could go on but my point is this – these lazy useless people would struggle to pass a performance review. The government is right and should be encouraged, not attacked, when the future of the nation is at stake. ANGE KENOS / Melbourne, Australia Renzo Piano’s architecture of happiness Thanks to the editors for publishing «Designing a ‘community’ for Faliro Delta,» about the plans for the Niarchos Cultural Center. Maria Katsounaki’s fine interview with Renzo Piano, honorary FAIA, appeared December 12 and 30 in the Greek and English editions of the newspaper and ended a bleak year with a blaze of positive energy. The Italian architect makes a compelling argument for a design that stimulates our functioning as heirs of a cultural treasure. The center will be no repository of venerated artifacts, but a dynamic site that interacts with its users. Responding to the challenge, I have incorporated a condensed, paraphrased summary of the printed interview as an afterword to my novel «On the Way,» which will be published early this year by Iktinos press (www.e-iktinos.com), as «Kath Odon.» A dream conversation between a fictional architect and the designer of the Pompidou Center is the focus of one segment of the story. My apologies for liberties taken, but so they must be, as the Genovese maestro would likely concur. His Faliro project reminds us that culture is the vital breath of our humanity. It’s a privilege to be granted a vision of our Athens jolting back to life with an infusion of the oxygen of imagination and beauty. YANI COUNELIS / Kifissia Investigating financial crime I am now totally convinced Greek politicians are without shame, totally arrogant and think all the Greek people are idiots. In October, I read in Kathimerini that former PASOK minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos, who had been ousted from the Socialist party over corruption allegations and was being investigated for financial fraud and property misdealings, then said his home was broken into and that a number of files containing financial and political documents were taken from his house along with a small amount of money… Can you believe this guy? Does this ex-PASOK minister actually think the people believe this nonsense? Where is the Greek justice system? Where is [Prime Minister and PASOK party leader] George Papandreou to call for an investigation into his friend Akis’s taxes? And where did Akis get the money to buy a 2-million-euro mansion across the road from the Acropolis? Where are the Greek newspapers like Kathimerini to start investigating these disgraceful people and rid the Greek political system of these incredibly corrupt and morally bankrupt politicians? PAUL JOHNSTON / UCLA Economics Dept The crisis is making Greeks more German I read Mr Pantelis Boukalas’s commentary titled «The cost of no holidays» [December 28, 2010]. I can understand Mr Boukalas’s desire to put a human face on the struggles that Greece is going through. However, I don’t think that fewer people vacationing at the «in» holiday spots is a way to evoke sympathy. What he seems to be lamenting is lost privilege, not increased hardship. Like the recent interviews published in e-Kathimerini acknowledge, Greece (and Greeks) was living beyond its means. They threw around euros like they were drachmas. In the past, if you had gone to any kiosk in Athens, you’d find a bucket under the counter where cast off coins were dumped, burdened by the spare change in their pockets. I’ve seen such things. My sister and I grew up in Canada, of Greek immigrants. She moved back to Greece and has opened a small business in Filiatra, in Messinia. Her husband, before the crisis hit, would never deign to bring his lunch to work. He would always go and buy himself a 2-euro coffee and a tiropita. Now he makes his lunch at home and brings it to work. And at the end of the month he has an extra 150 euros in his pocket. This is not a sign of lost rights, or hardship, as Mr Boukalas laments. It is a sign of prudence and fiscal responsibility. There is nothing wrong with making your own cheese or getting your olive oil from your ancestral village. My sister sees a change in Greeks since the crisis. They are more prudent, they are more frugal – one might say more German. Or perhaps more like the Greeks of the diaspora. This is long overdue in the eyes of many diaspora Greeks, such as I. NIKOS KANELLOPOULOS / Ottawa, Canada