Diamantis, Apostolos. 2007. “Homo Sapiens: Monoi me tis stahtes” (Homo Sapiens: Alone with the Ashes). E of Eleftherotypia, Sunday, September 2,.
Two cartoons by Giannis Kalaitzis, both published in the daily Eleutherotypia after the fire at Párnetha (the fires in the region of ancient Olympia had not yet happened) rest precisely on this management of modern Greek history. One portrays the minister of the environment, George Souflias, as the wolf who has become shepherd, facing the wrath of the rest of the animals: sheep, birds, turtles. The background announces the owners of the national forest, which in the cartoon is called “Ethnikophron Forest of Párnetha,” various small settlement cooperatives that claim ownership: the settlement of junto-royalists, of dosilogoi, of hafiédes, of the paramilitaries, of the paraecclesiastical circles. A sheep asks the wolf: “Why are you not removing the settlers who own the villas?” “Because they are a protected species,” responds the wolf.
The anger, outrage, sense of helplessness, is palpable in all. Analyses, commentaries, the primacy of experience all mingle with invocations of history in an attempt to understand what is incomprehensible: How could, in the course of roughly eighty days, one-tenth of the country be burnt to charred remnants? The reporter Apostolos Diamantis, writing for the Sunday supplement of Eleutherotypia, dedicates his piece, a chronicle of his travel to ancient Olympia at the time of the fire, to the memory of ancestors: ancestors, without an article, definite, indefinite, possessive or not. Just ancestors. As he is approaching the area he thinks: “Nothing bad can happen to me here. Here I am protected by ancestors. By history… Moreas is in no need of anything; the old psyches protect him.” But he finally concedes: “Only, our fathers have no water hoses, they cannot fly a CanadAir [fire fighting airplanes]. They have long been dead” (Diamantis 2007).
How can anyone, even polemically and provocatively, pronounce history dead in the celebratory spirit in which it has been done, say by Francis Fukuyama? Where is it that history cannot be found, that it is absent from the ways in which we constantly make and remake ourselves? Is there a possibility for making ourselves understood by the world outside of history? The answers to these questions have been, tentatively and hesitantly, given in the pages you have just read. There is no hopeful conclusion here, just the painful realization of what the human is and how s/he makes a world that surrounds and envelopes everything. The last words go to a firefighter who was injured in the fire at Pentéle:
And I will not forget to still call myself ánthropos and owe nature a big apology for all the destruction that my species has caused it.
My question is: Will the villas that you are going to build have any meaning when there is not going to be anything green around you? When the air will smell of ashes and burn your lungs? How the hell will you, up there, and we, down here, be able to breathe at all? How can I expect that a state [krátos] with rigged elections and prefabricated parties would create a better future out of the ashes that have filled my lungs…
Philippopoulos 2007. The Philippopoulos letter circulated by e-mail throughout Greece on August 28, 2007. I am using it here as it appeared in the Sunday Eleutherotypia.
A cartoon commenting on the role played by land speculation in the forest fires of 2007. The civil war is in the background on various levels.