THE DEMISE OF THE GREEK VILLAGE

25/01/2017

The transition was drastic. So swift and sweeping it was, that it took merely one generation, before it even aged, to witness the death of a world that had been smoothly unraveling for over three millennia and the establishment of that which killed it.

The said generation is that of the postwar Greek baby boomers, a breed of an affluent era, born in the 50s and 60s. The majority of these sons and daughters of Hellas was either born in some village of the country or often visited uncles, aunts and grandparents that resided in a village that even electricity had not reached yet. They were the last to experience the biorhythms of a world interwoven with pastoral and agricultural timelessness, a world that sustained the ramifications of Hellenism with all the wisdom and imagination that had wrought warriors, language and legends.

"Do not approach the springs at night, little one, for the Nereids will take your voice away," a grandfather would caution his grandchild, even if the former had never read Hesiod's references to the daughters of Nereus, or the Naiads, water nymphs that dwelled in springs and rivers. Ancient wisdom and traditions had flowed down to him naturally over the millennia and were intertwined with his daily existence.

The murmur of water that flowed in the ditches towards the fields, the children's playing hide-and-seek in the groves and the trunks of ancient olive trees, the swaying flame of the clay oil lanterns that illuminated the rooms of stone-built homes, the wake up of the rooster and the legends of wild nature are sounds and images that the very generation that experienced them was to deprive their children of.

If this nostalgic reminiscence of a human society that toiled and laboured for its bread and butter, wresting a living against the elements of nature, comes on as overly romantic, on appraisal of the current order of things one can enumerate what has been lost along with the toil and labour. Electricity, paved roads, concrete and the plastic that eventually reached the village did alleviate the workload from the villager, but also collected their toll on the human spirit and psyche. Electricity brought on the mass media that homogenized language, thought and created needs until then nonexistent; the paved roads brought politicians who promised villagers job security for their children in the public sector in cities in exchange for votes and emptied the province of its youth; concrete brought on easy building solutions and totally altered the harmony of the traditional stone-adorned human imprint on the natural environment, whilst plastic pipes ridded the peasant of his manual digging to irrigate his fields and at the same time swallowed up the soothing murmur of running water and, with it, all the flowing legacy of traditions.

Some time later came the subsidies for the producers. And while the coverage of basic needs once moderated a villager's intervention in the environment, whole forests were uprooted or burned for the planting of subsidized monocultures or the overgrazing of subsidized goats and sheep.

Politics and Nature? What a mismatch!

GREEK VILLAGER

You've cast down your spade and abandoned it;

along with your soul, it's forsaken.

Your sweat is no longer libation

to soil, your body to strengthen.

In the square lies the stump of a poplar tree.

Devoid of its leaves is the concrete

that you've poured so generously over it,

to cover the soil that wrought it.

The slope of the mountain deforested,

You've stripped it of all the old legends.

The wood nymphs have mourned it, abandoned it,

but Artemis will have her vengeance!

Serpents of plastic their length uncoil

to suckle on springs in the mountains.

They've also devoured the Naiads,

who dwelled there and danced in their fountains.

Serenity lay in your olive groves,

whose venerable trees you've uprooted.

Their time-engraved trunks are now firewood.

Your link to the past has been looted.

You've moved to rectangular dwellings,

deserting your homes of tradition.

Encompassed in structures of concrete,

what dreams perchance come to fruition?

Deservedly sit you and contemplate

your ravaging feats on the rustic

that breed your inertia and indolence.

How becoming your frame looks on plastic!

Panagiotis Terpandros Zachariou