Ariel Castro needed to rewrite Greek history?

As we walked through central Vienna, I pointed to one of the windows:

“You know”, I explained to an interlocutor who probably knew better than me, “when Greece was formed as a modern country in 1828, the people living in those buildings had several centuries of experience of living in a city with other people.”

I stopped by a water fountain which looked two or three hundred years old:

“This fountain has survived upheaval and waves of military events here.  But the people around it found ways to agree despite their differences.  In Greece we would probably have destroyed it from some internal bickering.”

I have no idea where you start in order to get over trauma like being held in a basement and raped for many years.  But I assume that coming to terms with all that you missed out during those years of captivity is a big part of it.   At the start of the economic crisis I used psychological terms to help readers understand the denial symptoms expressed in Greek society.     Now I want to point out a huge problem in our national narrative.

Most Greeks are taught a pretty twisted version of history.  Ancient Greek wonders, mainly Athenian, a little bit of a vague Byzantine history and then… a huge gap.    Like prisoners of some Ottoman Ariel Castro, like a rape victim that doesn’t want to talk about it, 400 years are ignored.  During that time the West took off, shook away the obsession with Aristotle and other Greeks and set the stage for the modern world.

Greece got out of its prison in 1828.   A country of shepherds and people of little means, were suddenly called upon to become a modern Western country.   Athens was little more than a village.   Which grew way too quickly with absolutely no associated experience of how to live in a city.  Yet we cling to fantasies that are a bit like Superman rushing into a telephone booth to change into a super identity.   As if we can instantly turn ourselves into a world leading power based on some magic fairy dust that the location or the DNA of Ancient Athenians have bestowed upon us.

We need to face the facts.  To openly express our regret that we missed out on the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution.   We need to cry over all the stuff we missed.    Retrace the steps we didn’t make with the rest of Europe.   I often get accused by nationalists of being a “Greek basher” because I systematically try to get Greeks to let go of their obsession with Ancient Greek wisdom.  Maybe if I reposition it as a “rediscovery of the wonders of Europe” it will work better.

Elsewhere in this blog I pinpointed the mistake that European leaders have systematically made in “selling” the European idea to their citizens.  Maybe the whole of the Continent and not just Greece could benefit from revisiting those great moments in European history as it led the world for many centuries since the Middle Ages.

Rewriting history is good.  It can be fun.  And – if you get it right – it is a cathartic  experience for all involved.  Not as in catharsis  of Ancient Greek tragedy.  Get over it  I said!

Business Technology

MotoX heralds a very quiet revolution

People talk about Google being increasingly being a “hardware company” but they are missing the point.  It’s not about fancy gadgets, not about whether the Nexus has a better screen than an iPhone and definately not about the MotoX stealing market share.  It’s not even about Google knowing the next worldwide development through some fancy algorythm which crunches all our searches, emails and map data.

It’s about processing power.

No, not the CPU or GPU processing power.   Intel would be all over that, guessing when the CPU will be X times more powerful and all that. No, it’s about Google knowing how much stuff Google can process.   Today.   The feature of the MotoX that gave them away was voice recognition.

Do you use Instant Upload or the iCloud to store pictures?  It is wonderful technology, just humming away in the background.  Yet after all this time using it, if you ask me “what were you doing on the 7th of October two years ago?” I can now tell you.  Because my phone has by all chances uploaded a picture from that day.  It might have been the kids, or a funny sign, or the fridge I promised to move for a friend for reference (to see if it will fit through the door) but chances are, I have a picture from that date that will help me remember.

I have long held that our smartphones should constantly record what we are talking about.  It would be legal (as long as it only recorded your own voice) and it would be damn useful.  Imagine using the speed of Google instant search to find when you said what.   That conversation your girlfriend is talking about, accusing you of supporting fascism.   Now you can get the transcript!   That interesting chat with a professor.   You have your half of the talk, you can figure out the rest.   And of course…business meeting notes.  All automatically, silently recorded by your MotoX.

Can’t wait for it to happen.  If they haven’t patented it already, there you go, my gift to the human race for today.

The point is that only Google will know when Google can make this happen.  They own the cloud, in terms of pushing the boundaries.   They are now on the forefront of applied internet connections and speed issues.   With YouTube they have worked the data streaming issues to the bone.   Not on a theoretical level.  On the level of stuff you can use today, with your current connection.  They have millions of smartphone users to experiment with.  They are also on the forefront of supplying massive computing power to us all from their data centers.    So I can write away with all these theories and ideas but …

…only Google can decide when it will become a real product.


Do the stripes in our flag make it look fat?


Since the start of this economic crisis, Greece has struggled with its international image.  Journalists trying to fathom where to start in the coverage of the story, most obviously need help in understanding how to handle issues such as:

1. We love it when you emphasize the rustic, Zorba the Greek image of our country!  Lay it on.  Don’t shoot any report from Greece without showing some Greek coffee,  part of an ancient monument, old men in a taverna looking at the camera as if they are all retarded, or twenty year old archive footage from a horrible beach full of drunk Northern Europeans.

2. It really helps when you choose people to interview that can’t really speak English.  Might be cheaper to just hire an English actor to put on a fake “Stavros” accent.  Oh, and dress him like a waiter to, your audience will relate to it much better.

3. Always, always, pick an angle that shows chaos in the background.  If there is a demonstration with just 30 people outside Parliament, yep, you guessed it, pick a close angle, shake the camera around and make us all sick as if we are watching “Saving Private Ryan”.

4. If the demonstration was over in half an hour, no worries, for the next 1-2 days just show old footage of street riots anywhere in the world and get a journalist to speak over it from a bad telephone connection.

Now, the above four points might confuse you in practise, so here are four more to make you feel less guilty:

1. Yes, no matter what you write, some Greek will hate you.   Get used to it.  Truth is that even Greeks struggle with the idea but it seems to be the way it goes over here since Ancient times.

2. When a Greek disagrees, yes, be sure he will tell you about it.  You could see it as a great traffic generator for your news organization’s website, but over time it gets tiring.  Use sparingly.

3. When one Greek disagrees with your article or news item, be sure that some other Greek will immediately disagree with the first Greek.  They will proceed to argue amongst themselves.  Leave them to it or they will instantly gang up against you.

4. Don’t bother trying to word things carefully.  It doesn’t help.  Also useless is any attempt to contact sources and get them on your side before publication.  Depending on the situation in Greece, they are liable to make a 180 degree turn overnight.

You may think all this conflicting advice  is like walking a tightrope.  You are wrong.   We understand media better than most countries.  This is the birthplace of tragedy.  All stories are by definition as crazy as you want them.   You want soap-opera material?  Prime minister marrying a flight attendant OK?  A bit thin on the sex scandals lately, but 3-4 families in control of everything is usually enough like next year’s PBS series on the mafia to do the trick I think.

So stop complaining.  The food is good, the weather is great and we just keep producing great media events.  You don’t even need to work that hard; you can always take even minor developments and set them against our permanent structural problems to blow them up enough to submit something to your boss before heading to the beach…