The first thing I learned in Ioannina, the main city of Epiros, from a fellow Epiriot, was “we are not Greeks, we are locals”. The Greece, as he eloquently reasoned, is a concept of Western historiography, which put all things Greek under one label. While there are many; Atticans, Epiriots, Macedonians, and so on…
And perhaps it is true, I am thinking now, seeing how good are (non)Greeks in networking. In Poland, for example, every group which has some success in any area, takes it as a title to ask others to join. Greeks, apparently, know it is in vain. They consistently say about setting example and making their structures replicable in other areas – but no imperial approach. I like them more and more.
We left our story, when your unbelievably lucky explorer, saved from the danger of being kidnapped, castrated (easy come easy go) and sold to Morocco, entered the gates of Antiviosi squat, anarchist enclave, apparently run by a group of young Greek ladies.
All (whole 5 hours) night I was having nightmares about driving an anarchist campaign bus through Russia – nothing really happened, just the bone-deep feeling of weirdness. The dawn, however, saw me in good shape – much better than expected.
I was appointed with K., the founder of a very interesting local educational initiative, and also knowledgeable in ‘alternative’ environments here. After having a nice chat about his ventures, which I would locate somewhere between academical “Young Turks”, a hackerspace and P2P-oriented lab, next morning we made some footage about the P2Plab and then we had a walk, followed by a marvellous traditional lunch at ‘The Casserole’.
And – probably typically – the walk’s theme was corruption. Especially local.
Over the time I am more and more convinced, that the corruption is a construct, which comes with alienation of loyalty. Let’s see two examples:
- I am a story teller. I travel, meet people, learn their stories and retell them. This is my life – this is how I make living, too. No division between “private” and “official” part. I have no loyalty other than to myself, and to my audience. If my stories are good, I prosper. If not – I starve. No place for corruption whatsoever. I simply decide, which stories will be told and how, to make my audience happy – and generous.
- But let’s assume, I am an officially licensed, state-employed story teller. I am moderately paid by the state, and as long as I am loyal, I will never starve, even if my stories are rubbish. Thus, enter corruption. There is always a difference between the state and local expectations. And – if I get ‘additional motivation’ – I may bend my primary loyalty and get corrupted to tell some stories my employer would not accept.
So, the bottom line is: the more divided loyalty, the more corruption. Certainly inspiring, to the point of asking question: If the ruling power is distant and detached from local community, will the corruption be wrong?
I also heard two stories about building a major road. One in Poland, one in Greece.
In Poland, a major transit road was to be built around a district town. As soon as the project was accepted, it appeared that some ‘well informed’ people have already bought (cheaply) land along the route. Then, when the road was to be built, they resold it to the local authorities with substantial profit. Money flew from local budget (and EU funds) and disappeared somewhere – Swiss bank accounts or stock exchange, who knows? So did the people.
The Greek story was different. The road was built or rather upgraded in certain area and similarily, people who knew people bought cheap land there. But instead of selling it later and flee, they built there hotels, tavernas and whatnot – and they stayed there. Corruption? Indeed, but what a different result for a local community.
I think corruption is highly devastating if actors are alienated. Like vultures – they come, they get, they leave. No difference between them and global financials – just in the legal aspect. But if actors are local, their profit stays in the community and works for it this way or another. To me it makes a difference. What do you think?
The name “Antiviosi” means “antibiotics” and apparently people there (S. said they are not a collective yet – after 5 years!) are trying to apply some treatment to the social tissue of Ioannina. They deal with various issues, like migrants, objectors, the poor, alternative culture and education. They are purely urban community and not trying to become sustainable. They are social contributors – working, whoever has job, to keep the community going. One of conditions of my stay there was not to disclose internal details, thus the full story will not be written here. Enough to say, I hope to return there for some longer time and help them in their work – it’s worth it.
They call it ‘Steki’ and I was told it means “the place”. Anarchist social centre being open in the middle of Ioannina. They are not squatters, they pay the rent to the city. Thanks to it, they can be much more open and outgoing. I spent an evening there, telling stories from the past of Poland – Solidarność, the Martial Law and so on – to the group of highly interested youngsters. I also learned some Greek stories, like the one I mention in the beginnig.
Athens, it’s a different country…
Ioannina was a good warm-up. Friendly place and people, great point to put my feet on the ground and gather my wits before heading Athens. With a bit of thrill, I must say, as Epiriots fed me with horrible stories about Athens being haunted by gangs, shotouts, terrible drugs and general chaos. “Athens, it’s a different country” one told me. So, next morning I felt really heroic, boarding bus 16 in the direction of University, to start my Athens-bound hitch-hiking…