I’m thinking about the people in Greece today, full of admiration for their brave vote. Either a yes or no wouldn’t have meant an easy time, but voting oxi brings few certainties except the knowledge that you’ve voted for what you truly value.
I read a bit of Foucalt at art college and through the years. One of his books, ‘Fearless Speech’ explores the roots of democracy and the Greek word associated with that ancient movement – parrhesia – meaning ‘fearless speech’. Nowadays we call it freedom of speech, but its original meaning was more specifically about ordinary people having the freedom to speak without fear of punishment. It was understood that the cities and rural landscapes were managed at grass roots level by ordinary people, the least rich. Therefore when they spoke it came from knowledge of life and of making their societies work for the majority; they spoke for the many, not the few. The ancient Greeks saw this as the antidote to elitist corruption…
I’m not even going to say that well-worn phrase!
I feel more than interested in what happens to Greece as I lived there in my late teens for a year. I was quite an adventurous soul and had met an interesting Greek man on holiday who asked if I’d like to stay there. Every parent’s worst nightmare probably! But I didn’t, as many predicted, get pregnant! I’m not saying it was always easy adapting to a rural island culture out of tourist season, but the experience stayed with me for life, creatively and politically. I have very fond memories of the Greek people I came to know and love, their endless generosity, great humour and community spirit.
The thing I missed most when I returned, apart from the people and the sun (I’ve never really re-adapted to UK weather – rain is lashing on to my window as I type!) was the food, and walking in the mountains. I bought a horse while there, but couldn’t ride it as it wasn’t trained for amateurs such as myself! But I’d take it for walks up the mountains valleys.
Greece in spring is a revelation; it begins in February with the heavy rains, then the valleys are transformed from barren ochre grass and dry river-beds to lush green valleys filled with swaying crocuses alongside gushing clear waterfalls. I’d walk up the hills with my horse, through the tall eucalyptus trees and further up amongst ancient gnarled olive trees, she’d trot along beside me then wait patiently while I collected armfuls of crocuses.
It says a lot for the people of Paros that they never treated me as though I was mad – I mean, who takes their horse for a walk all the way up a mountain without actually getting on it?!
I’m wishing the lovely people of Greece all the very best in these coming days and years and I know where I’ll be going on holiday this year, if my exhibition goes well 🙂
Demonstrating with Syriza Scotland in Edinburgh last Saturday..