It has been some time since I last wrote a blog. Part of it is due to simply being busy with leading the study a broad program here in Greece at the moment with 24 American students.
Yet, at the same time, I confess that it’s been hard to really know how to respond to the events taking place all around us.
We are in Athens at the moment. It is hot, although not as hot as in previous summers when the mercury reached 40 Celsius or 115 Fahrenheit.
It is presently in the low to mid 30s.
To the northwest of us, the conflict in Ukraine draws Europe and the United States closer to actual war against the Russians.
The downing of the Malaysian jet earlier this month set into motion a quickening pace of angst against the leaderships of Russian President Vladimir Putin and exposed his use of thugs in his efforts to whiplash the helpless Ukrainian government.
It is the kind of low-level fighting that can quickly get out of hand and it seems this is happening.
To the south of Athens, the nightmare deaths in Palestine and Israel continue unabated. East from that tortured land in Syria and Iraq, the extreme militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) consolidates its hold on vast swaths of formerly Iraqi and Syrian territory.
The world is no stranger to war and conflict, as this past century has shown, but we enter now a strange phase of permanent misery in areas that show no efforts to sustaining peace.
Here in Greece, I am stunned by both how the country has dealt with its devastating economic meltdown and yet somehow survived, but also by a myopia that prevents it from seeing darkening clouds.
It’s hard to face the truth sometimes, particularly when I have spent so much energy trying to be upbeat and optimistic in the face of harsh truth.
When Greece entered its economic depression in late 2009, it embarked on a road of both self-abnegation and self-cleansing.
It was forced to confront its ills built over decades, if not centuries, in a way that came close to being a civil war. Somehow, with the help of Europeans and Americans, in the form of the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund, Greece managed to squeeze through.
Five or so years later, its economy has stopped shrinking, tourists have returned in droves and there are fleeting signs of revival.
Our study group attended a performance of Verdi’s Otello at the Herodion Theater. It was packed. All levels of society attended. From the wealthy and the famous, to a gentleman who sat next to us that reaked of foul body odor.
Last night we dined with a member of Greek parliament from New Democracy. He warned us of impending doom as the political process is about to unravel.
He told us of his ND government not being able to handle the populism of Alexis Tsipras of SYRIZA who will no doubt form the next government where elections to be called.
Tsipras’s first act will be to rip up the memorandum that sustains Greece’s economic lifeline. How will the Europeans react to this?
Probably walk away from Greece and leave it to rot.
I ask myself if I am being pessimistic, yet the nightmare persists.
How do you explain life in such circumstances? And how do you live it? We smile, as we always do, trying to make the best of harsh reality, but at times it feels deceptive and false.
We play-act that all will simply get better when we know in our hearts that the world’s mad phase is nothing to sneeze at, nor play with.
We have to dig deep to find something meaningful at a time when meaning seems to have left the world. Drugs. Alcohol. Sex. These are not the way out of our curse.
But we can take some note of the suffering and try to heal it as best as we can. Not with escapist laughter but with hard work and determination.
That is the only way that the nightmare can end.