SYRIZA AND THE GREEK FASCISTS
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I had been telling UK friends, as recently as yesterday, that Kythnos folk, being relatively cosseted islanders, didn’t get too excited about the elections won by Syriza. Then I talked to a pleasant home-grown lady of about 75, who had lived in Canada many years and speaks good English. She was vigorously pro-Syriza, and like me, disliked the flagrantly racist way the Greeks had been written off as incorrigible idlers incapable of getting their monetary act together. All this because of too much olive oil, retsina, and rocket-powered ouzo. The truth is everyone on Kythnos and everywhere else in Greece, has at least two jobs, and works seven days a week, so to hell with them and their substanceless Eurofantasy. Later I talked about Syriza to a very bright, very skinny, very bearded architect with an office in the port. About 50, he is a real island lover, a devotee of Cycladean eesikhia and of Greek Orthodox spirituality. He buys a coffee in the Paradisos every day, and a litre of water to wash it down. He also washes it down with about ten roll-ups, meanwhile chinwagging with his considerable number of pals. Being a very spiritual, very Orthodox man, he is classically apolitical and described the Greek mentality as always waiting for the next good thing and always being disappointed. The Canadian lady had put it otherwise. Tsipras the young leader might not realise his dream, but at least he was the only one formulating any kind of hope as opposed to bitter aka poisonous freebooting monetary medicine. He talked about giving back some dignity to Greeks, and it was a bloody long time since anyone had ever talked about that.
There was a bit of TV watching and acidulous commentary in the Glaros, but no excited bawling and shouting either for or against. Certainly nothing like the terrifying arguments over a tavli game, where they always look set to disembowel each other, and damn the paltry consequences, life sentence in an Athens clink included. The first time I heard a tavli row, I felt seriously worried, as the voices rose in ever higher circles of incandescent rage and indignation. I looked to the owner Chrisoula who just yawned and shook her head, as if to say the boys, the boys, they have to make themselves like ruffled peacocks squawking away over an idiotic backgammon game! True enough, ten seconds later, all was calm and pacific as the Aegean Ocean in August. One indicator of the truce was they were amiably hooting at some sarcasm offered by a man called Manolis from a village close to Igoumenitsa on the mainland. Manolis aged 50 always sits at a remote table and always has his head buried in a newspaper or magazine or book. His notion of social interaction is to offer some withering irony or juicy insult from his distant perch, and then await the howls of hectic laughter. He is very funny as he is so very bitter. I believe he was once married, but if he was I imagine him always sitting remotely from his wife on all occasions and hurling some mordant sarcasm at her in lieu of tender caresses and mollifying peck-peck endearments. I can’t see him ever going to marriage counselling, or if he did it would be 100 yards from the earnest female counsellor and the aeronautic insults at her too, for her damn impudence in asking him personal questions about his filthy temper and his considered attitude to tender amatory foreplay, malaka, malaka (wanker, fucking wanker!)
I have never been, but Igoumenitsa is supposed to be one of the most boring towns of Greece, as well as a hub of international transport. Manolis’s provenance means that his Greek is a sort of shotgun village dialect crossed with late 14th century Mandarin Chinese. I understand one word in three, and you’ve guessed it, every third word is malaka or malakya (wankerdom). The reason I mention Manolis at length, is that the island’s most prodigious gossip told me that Mano is in the Xrisi Avgi or Golden Dawn Fascists. Like all Kostas’s stories it is truly excellent five-star calumniation, but unfortunately like all those highly enjoyable 700 page novels in the 1980s, we have this thing called an Unreliable Narrator. What I love about Kostas is, he tells me I am a gossip not him, and then without drawing breath points at some innocent female soul aged 77 ambling arthritically past, and sighs, she is a sex maniac with five simultaneous boyfriends! He to the left there with the ugly face had sex with his… and ten blood relatives follow… as Kostas has a prodigious memory as well as three PhDs in Advanced and Fearless Vilification from Thessaloniki, Marburg and Zurich universities respectively. No, no, his job is simply a highly bureaucratic one, in a small and shambling office in Loutra, that gives him access to eye-opening personal details of absolutely everyone on the island. Instead of watching his back and any moderately offensive weapon that might just finish him off at dead of night, he democratically badmouths absolutely everyone on a strictly hoovering, all-inclusive fair’s, fair, now, principle (I was about to chuck in ‘eclectic’ and ‘catholic’ as part of the adjectival mix, but thought dammit, for once I will pay serious homage to Flann O’Brien and his Catechism of Cliche).
So no, I don’t think sour and sniping Manolis is a paid up Fascist, because even if he had once been, in say the impressively average 3.5 IQ Igoumenitsa chapter, he’d have sat 100 yards from all his fellow jackbooting savants, hurling brilliant splenetic sonnets at them, and telling them to take off their smelly boots and read a fucking book for a change. The only other evidence Kostas could adduce, was that Mano openly said he didn’t like the many island Albanians. Well, pardon me Kostas old boy, but it is par for the course to badmouth Kythnos Albanians, you yourself included. Kostas will then pout with disappointment, and slyly dodge the accusation by accusing another well-known Glaros drinker of being a Golden Dawner, on the grounds that as fervent Greek Orthodox he thinks it only fair to hate all Muslims. Kostas chuckles derisively, then points out that the same bigot really loves all the local Albanians, and is sunnily ignorant of the fact that half of Albania is Muslim. His best back-slapping mate is probably called Mehmet, but as Greeks always christen all male Albanians with Greek names, the bigot thinks his late hours yakk yakk buddy is actually called Panagiottis. Why, the imbecile probably even thinks that Panagiottis is an echt Albanian name. Finally, Kostas provides the amusing epilogue to all of this with his famous panoptic assertion.
“This island is a fucking open mental hospital...”
Ha ha, yes yes. It sounds very good, very final and very judicious, but alas there is absolutely nowhere in the world where that isn’t true. New York, Mogadishu, Carlisle, Oxford, Baghdad, Shanghai, Moreton-in-the Marsh, Wyre Piddle, s’Hertogenbosch, Tegucigalpa? Find me anywhere in the world where that amusing condemnation is not blindingly true, and I will willingly consume my skoufos, my Greek woolly hat…
Apropos which, the Greek saying, Apo pou kratei skoufo sou? , meaning ‘Where does your woolly hat come from?’ does not mean what it says literally. It is a veiled and pleasing and highly nuanced obliquity, that means:
What kind of a person are you really?
No comment needed. However and unbelievably, the Golden Dawn newspaper is for sale in the port bookshop here. It has that ugly Fascist logo next to the title, and as there are about four copies, there must be at least four Goldies somewhere on the island. My evidence for thinking Manolis is not a Goldie, is that I’ve never seen him perusing that paper, and he is always reading something in the Glaros, and never does anything else but read, aside from flinging copious airborne insults. The journals he does read, look weighty non-pictorial ones to me, and in addition I have often seen him reading novels and works of non-fiction. Would a totalitarian Golden Dawner from suburban Igoumebloodynitsa, read literary novels and sometimes make approving reference to Kazantzakis, as if to confirm he has at times read the great Cretan author? Kiss my incredulous Kythno-Cumbrian arse is all I can say to that. In addition Manolis feeds and shelters no less than twenty Kythnos cats, and although he regularly calls them his malakas, he never sits anything like 100 disdainful yards from them. Believe me, he is no Goldie Fascist with a philofeline CV such as that….
Anyway only yesterday my old Preston pal, Alan Dent, editor of the remarkable Penniless Press, French translator, poet, polymathic brainbox, and last of the great uncompromising autodidacts, emailed me re Syriza’s victory. So, rather late in the day, I was able to tell him about the varieties of Kythnos interest, strong, mild, and supremely indifferent. He pointed out the corresponding derision these days from the UK media, where ‘hard left’ is their favourite and completely autopilot term of moralising abuse. I couldn’t agree more. Someone like Tsipras has a vision of social justice and of allowing his countryfolk not to be strangled by Euro-austerity imposed as a religious (read absolutely and flagrantly irreligious) and brutally medicinal principle. My mind harked back a fair way, to when Neil Kinnock the Labour Party leader was trying to win votes by making saccharine election films where he was laughingly and far from charismatically paddling in the Welsh sea, exactly like a very low budget Galaxy advert. The only thing missing being the beautiful white horse, who I believe was paid nothing not even oats, for his appearance, and the long-haired handsome Amazon woman riding it. At the time, the great English TV dramatist Dennis Potter justly excoriated this supreme bit of emetic vulgarity, as precisely where British socialism was going. To talk about it crawling cowardly up its own arse would be flattering, as after all the arse is a very useful object and the anus is likewise absolutely indispensable. Try like Voltaire’s Cunegonde being minus a full backside, and you will see how far you get…regardless of the ambient ridicule.
Various UK Tory MPs with premature Alzheimers cum paranoid schizophrenia, will frothingly tell you the BBC is riddled with the demonic presence of the hard left. If only, mate, is all I can say to that one. One of the great ironies of 30, 40 and 50 years ago, was the only really tough and fearless exploratory documentary slots, World In Action and John Pilger, were screened on the commercial capitalist ITV, not on bloody old pinko BBC, haha. The first one, interestingly, was screened in prime time at half past eight on a Monday night, when a great many sinners, British and international, were roundly shitting themselves at having their sins about to be exposed to searing scrutiny. Personally I find today’s BBC Panorama would not offend a Daily Mail or Telegraph reader, and in fact some of their programmes are made by journalists who write for the latter. One was about exposing that terrifying robotic mannikin ‘socialist’ Tony Blair, the Palestinian/ West Bank consultant-supremo, who as a peacebroker and a passionate fighter for the tortured underdog, would make a good central heating plumber. Contrarily he is wonderful at sitting as quiet as a mouse on mega-business director boards, and a maestro at public speaking where he charges sums that would feed a West Bank street, not a family, for six months.
One of the reasons I got out of the UK in 2013, was that I could not stand its set-in-aspic, totally atrophied, wholly reactionary and stultifyingly unperceptive and myopic media. Listening to the BBC Radio 4 news programme Today, never failed to make me want to throw up. The only interviewing technique the unamiable buffoons who run that show understand, is the provocative take-the-opposite stance, let’s play the devil’s advocate, and try and drive the Westminster eejit mad by the monotony of our rhetorical baiting. It was first begun by Robin Day on the old Panorama and has been swallowed wholesale by all these derivative newsdesk prepubertal adolescents, who all fancy themselves as latter day Ed Murrows. Even the matey and youthful Channel 4 tyros are afflicted by the same rhetorical tic, so that even Krishna and Kathy both fancy themselves as lance-tilting Sir Robins. The mother of a friend of mine somewhere around 1960 once confided to me apropos her loquacious 9 year-old son, ‘He could talk the robin off a starch box’…and both of the perky Channel 4 News adolescents should take a cautionary note there. The one real moral and ethical and principled brain in the whole sorry outfit of UK news coverage, whether TV, radio, print or website, is that handsome white-haired gentleman of late middle years, Jon Snow, the boss of C4 news. He has a huge brain, a huge sense of humorous nuance, and, vitally, an understated but highly intelligent awareness of the stereoscopic complexity of all things economical, sociological, anthropological and political. He is a million miles away from that envious nagging adolescent of a news thug caricature, Radio 4’s John Humphrey. Humphrey who likes to do Panorama slots about detestable benefit cheats, reaches his natural level in his black jacket and black tie and black shirt as saturnine smileless TV Mastermind interrogator, where in terms of speed of verbal delivery he tries to outdo the freakish superbrain contestants answering 20 questions on their special subjects, of either Dorset Flora or Vedanta or Ouspensky or Leg and Nylon fetishism as understood by the 1947-1948 Deputy Editor of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica.
As for the current Labour grotesques, not one of them is capable of sustained intelligent eloquence, by which I mean not fucking one. That is why the always prodigiously voluble Tory hobbledehoys, who know that they are unabashed moral detritus, and don’t give a damn, that is why they run rings round stammering, stuttering juveniles like Ed Miliband and, why make the no longer funny gag?, Ed Balls. They are not only stammerers, they lack all authentic visceral feelings and authentic visceral passions. And of course if you don’t feel, and you have no passions, you end up a mannikin moral gangster by default. Thus when the Tories decided to make it a quasi-criminal offence to be either mentally handicapped or physically disabled, and told the sorry, embarrassing inadequates, they would have to be medically assessed from now on for their gargantuan and outrageous benefits, guess what? Did Balls and Miliband, did, I ask you in all Kythniot Cycladean innocence, did old stammering Millyballs and old stuttering Millyband, kick up any malodorous shite about it?
Hardly, squire. They took a shallow breath, and queued up to be even horribler than the Tories. After 10 years on benefits, it was roundly mooted had roundly mooted Millyband and Millybollicks, any of these so-called quadriplegic cripples and mute depressives… why not Euthanasia, Youth and Accidie, simple as that? That’ll show them that we mean business.
Or at least that’s what was rumoured on a massively popular, nay a truly virally trending right wing blog run by… dammit, dammit, forgotten his name.