High life

The Greece I once knew is now just a myth

Longing for the Athens of old, I seek casting and a playwright for today's grim drama

25 July 2015

9:00 AM

25 July 2015

9:00 AM

I think back to my Greek childhood and longing for the once cosiest and most romantic of cities overwhelms me. Actually it’s too painful to think back: all the blood spilled during the communist uprising, the beautiful neoclassical buildings destroyed by greed and lack of talent, the impeccable manners of the people that showed respect for the elderly, the church and the nation. They all went with the wind, that horrible sirocco from the south that has been used as an excuse for crimes of passion committed under its influence. This ache for a lost past is nothing new. Elsewhere and memory are most vivid in one’s mind, as are loss and the innocence of childhood. Mind you, the distilling process of memory can play tricks and is also extremely selective. The extreme poverty, the beggars, the sick without medical insurance, all these I’ve tucked away, just like the extreme poverty of the miners in Yorkshire during the turn of the last century did not dampen the spirits of house parties in stately homes of the region.

Holding the world at a remove should not become a permanent state of mind. In my case, Greece has become such a mess, removing its past helps. The biggest irony is the anger of the present bunch, brought up as hard-core Marxists while sustained by EU funds, and employed in worthless jobs invented for them by an omnipotent state. This bunch that are angry and at the helm right now bring Philoctetes to mind. Philoctetes was hardly mentioned in Homer, yet Euripides, Aeschylus and Sophocles wrote tragedies about him. There are incomplete versions of the plays by the two former, and only Sophocles’ drama, which presents Philoctetes in exile and does not have a typically tragic end — it actually ends almost in comedy — supplies us with what resembles our modern Greek politicians.

In brief, the demigod Heracles has himself burned on Mount Otea after being poisoned by Deianeira’s dress, and persuades Philoctetes to light the pyre. He rewards him by bequeathing him the bow given to him by Apollo, one that never misses its mark. Philoctetes joins the Greek leaders in the Trojan War, but is left behind on the island of Limnos suffering from a snakebite that makes him stink like hell. The Greeks go on without him and get bogged down for ten years, while losing their greatest hero-warrior, Achilles. (Believe it or not, I knew about the smelly one at a very early age, as my great uncle, prime minister, chief justice of the Supreme Court, and a great classicist in both German and Greek, had told me about him in the context of being clean in order to get on.)

The mysterious wound never heals. In the meantime, the Greeks kidnap the soothsayer of the Trojans who predicts they can never win until they have sent for Achilles’ son, Neoptolemus, and brought over Philoctetes and his bow. In one play, the wily Odysseus is dispatched to bring the stinky one and his bow to Troy, and ends up stealing it. In another, Odysseus is not recognised by the sick man in Limnos, but presents himself as yet another Greek warrior who had been wronged by the Greeks. The moral theme in both dramas is, like the theme of the wrath of Achilles, the conflict between the passions of the individual and the demands of duty to the common cause.

In Sophocles’ play, Neoptolemus seeks out Philoctetes in his wretched cave, where the sick one begs Achilles’ son to take him back to Greece. The youngster pretends to consent but as they are about to embark, his poisoned foot erupts and he implores the boy to throw him in the crater of a Limnos volcano. The boy refuses; he is, after all, honourable, but then Odysseus appears and demands he grab the bow and to hell with the smelly one. Again, the boy refuses, and Odysseus, always prudent, beats a retreat.

At the end, the son of Achilles and the Limnos patient are rescued by Heracles, who advises them to go to Troy and carry the day for the Greeks. All’s well that ends well, I suppose. Which brings me to the present. Philoctetes is obviously the present Greek state. Impoverished, humbled, abandoned by the rest of Europe, oppressed by hardship and chagrin. The Greeks fighting in Troy are obviously the meanies of the EU. They first played up to Phil because he possessed a bow and arrows that never missed. (A Europe without Greece is like Lady Thatcher without her handbag.) Odysseus has to be the Greek character, cunning but resourceful. (Lend us the money but we are not obliged to pay it back.) Neoptolemus is what used to be the Greek people — this according to the ancient dramatist Taki — brave, honest, fair and compassionate. The poisoned foot is the most obvious of all: the EU, and the stink being Jean-Claude Juncker and the rest of the bureaucrats.

What a pity the three great Greek tragedians are not around nowadays. What terrific subjects they have to investigate and dramatise. There is nothing more corrupt than the EU, nothing less democratic, and nothing more delusional and worthless than Greek political life. But perhaps Aristophanes would be best. Both sides, the Greek politicians and the EU tyrants, are comic figures and should be laughed at until they leave centre stage.

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Show comments
  • Sanctimony

    There is nothing more corrupt than the EU, nothing less democratic, and
    nothing more delusional and worthless than Greek political life….

    Summed it all up in a nutshell… two corrupt political monoliths causing the Greek people untold misery and damage…

    • chiefwhippet

      Oh I dunno. I think the Mafia is a good contender.

  • mrs 1234

    I feel the same way about London.

    • chiefwhippet

      I feel the same about Bath.

  • Bonkim

    Blame the corrupting embrace of the EU and Euro.

  • trace9

    Thowwy to myth Gweeth. (Thined, BBThee. ) Can barely comprehend a word they bloomin’ thay.. So – Don’t rejoice, we’ve been conquered, & it’ll be a Marathon to get back to where they thought they once belonged.. All uphill on Olympus, so don’t aim That high, & the Gods reside in Brussles now, too far from that wine-dark sea..

  • The problem is Jews.

    • Malus Pudor

      Tut, tut…

    • chiefwhippet

      The problem is racism.

  • Fritz123

    We believe in a lot of myths. The quality of German law.

  • My Gana

    Just venting. Marxists didn’t cause this mess!

  • jeffreylmcnabb

    ********Brelliant Quality Of performance tator… <..~~~.. Find Here

  • Jonathan explains it all

    This drivel is unfit for publication. Time to retire Taki.

  • richardlhartig

    ^^^^^Home incom source by spectator…. <..~~~.. Find Here

  • Greece is an uncivil nation
    with kangaroo justice, overcriminalization, brutal police, huge political
    corruption, persecution of dissident bloggers, huge bureaucracy, huge taxation,
    and 23% VAT. Freakish Graecokleptocrats
    use the kangaroo justice as a political tool to gag political opponents. The cybercrimes unit (CCU) of the Greek
    police is the most disgusting cybercriminal organization, stealing computers,
    jailing bloggers, and spreading huge lies to the media.

    Every year,
    Graecokleptocrats receive myriad bribes and kickbacks. Many trains bought from
    Germany do not fit the rails, but they were bought just to generate
    bribes! In 2009, investigators of the
    Munich Prosecution Department uncovered a corruption affair, in which MAN has
    given huge bribes to Greek politicians to get large orders for overpriced
    trolleys. A streetcar named desire! These trolleys with huge markups are named
    bribes! But Greek prosecutors have
    started investigating this scandal just in September of 2012! One of those investigated is Mariliza
    Xenogiannakopoulou, the minister who destroyed my life. Xenogiannakopoulou also served as general
    secretary of Pasok, the most corrupt political party on Earth!

    accuse the government of Greece for:

    me for five years

    my life

    my computer and files

    lies about me on all Greek media

    the kangaroo justice as a political tool

    my trial nine times

    me in jail without toilet and pillow for a night

    away my hypertension pills

    me urinate in a bottle

    me with handcuffs, fingerprints, and mug shots

    On October
    18, 2010, a gang of six brutal cops of the violent Greek CyberCrimes Unit
    (CCU), a real godzilla, supervised by a dishonest prosecutor, a pathologic
    liar, a disgusting rat, raided my home in Athens and stole my computer,
    software, files, documents, and personal data. The brutal policemen locked me
    in jail for a night, they humiliated me with handcuffs, fingerprints, mug shots,
    and lies, leaked false information to the media parrots, and the corrupt Greek
    government initiated sham court proceedings for a stack of freakish trumped-up
    defamation charges! There was neither pillow nor toilet facility in my jail
    cell. I had to urinate in a bottle! I, a
    seventy-years-old man with high blood pressure, was not allowed to keep my
    hypertension pills with me. There was neither toilet paper nor soap in the
    whole CCU jail.


    Big brother checks the internet

    For things you criticize

    To shut your mouth on the net

    To blow minds in the sky.

    Cops busted my home

    And stole my computer

    Hard disk on their comb

    blogger to the shooter.

    They threw me in jail

    For speaking my mind

    My words are out of jail

    Revolting as a kind.

    This jail is awful

    Without pillow alone

    Urinating in a bottle

    And the girl next cell begins to moan.

    Screaming in the dark of jail

    Guards pretending they are deaf

    She is a girl, she is frail

    She is missing her Jeff.

    I can smile at the old days

    I was a handsome then

    Those were real happy days

    Happy memory lives again.

    Lesmiserables in jail

    Kleptocrats out of jail

    This is hell on Earth

    It’s shame and pain.

    Time for a real revolt

    To bring a real change

    To bring the looting to a halt

    Kleptocrats should not escape.

    Kleptocrats must be laughing

    Premier must be happy

    This is stupid and disgusting

    Government has a party.

    Harmglads sleeping before dawn

    Silence cut with a cry

    Jailbird could be reborn

    Coming back to a happy life.

    My memory leads me

    Finding strength within

    People really love me

    A new life should begin.

    Waiting for the sunrise

    Thinking of a new life

    I mustn’t give in

    new day will begin.

    It’s been five
    years since the government of Greece stole my life, my computer, and my
    files. I have done absolutely nothing,
    and I am being persecuted by the Greek government without any real reason. My ordeal is against all rules of civil
    society and treaties that Greece has signed.
    Greece, a corrupt country without a functioning justice system, has gone
    bananas. Graecokleptocrats use the
    kangaroo justice as a political tool to gag political opponents. Graecokleptocrats think the laws exist to
    give them whatever they want! This is
    psoriasis of democracy, pure and simple.

    Xenogiannakopoulou, Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs, sued me, and she
    wouldn’t show up in court! As a result,
    my trial has been postponed nine times so far.
    Xenogiannakopoulou continues to destroy my life without reason
    whatsoever. I could understand her
    vengeance, if I did something wrong. But
    I did absolutely nothing, and vindictive Xenogiannakopoulou barks at the wrong
    tree. If this is not kangaroo justice, what is it? Has a harmglad sadist minister the right to
    destroy an innocent citizen in cold blood?
    For God’s sake what kind of harmjoy is this tragedy anyhow? Basil Venitis, venitis@gmail.com,

    email appeals to

    grammateia@justice.gov.gr, primeminister@primeminister.gr,
    ypourgos@justice.gov.gr, allusers@justice.gov.gr, a.tsipras@parliament.gr,
    at@syn.gr, ydragasakis@parliament.gr, info@primeminister.gr,
    pressoffice@primeminister.gr, gge@ggk.gr, info@nchr.gr, lawdep@ggk.gr,
    nikostrantas@ggk.gr, oiea@ggk.gr, olgagerovasili@gmail.com, allusers@parliament.gr

    Calling for the immediate stop of the persecution of Basil

    Stating that you believe these trumped-up defamation charges to
    be politically motivated and intended to prevent him exercising his right to
    freedom of expression against political corruption.

    Seeking assurances that the civil rights of Basil Venitis will
    always be respected.

    Please also ask Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou, marilxen@otenet.gr
    or marilxen@gmail.com, to drop charges.