Sunday Romp With … “The Professors”

Blue Skies

It had been my intention—and still is—to rest and enjoy the clear skies and warmth of Athens today.  But, alas, a rift appeared before me, not long after I had awoken, and I was left with the problem of how to leap across it, and be on my way.  I splashed my face—not once, but thrice—with cold water to wash the grogginess of sleep from my face, and was moderately successful. The solution, however, of how to bridge that rift still eludes me, which is why I am here, instead of there, outside, where I wanted to be, burdened instead with the weight of a country I love, its hardships.

Popular Theme: Let’s All Trash Greece, Why Don’t We?

Greece has never enjoyed as much recognition as she does this very hour.  Cannot remember when so much media has ever focused its Klieg lights on Greece for such length as now. Ignored for decades by the United States—ever since Greece dissolved its military presence on its soil, I think—no one paid much attention of Greece, besides its beauty as an economical, tourist destination.  Could be that Greece was better off then, instead of now.  Indeed better before its alliance with the EU— Because those Klieg lights shed an unforgiving and harsh glare on its complexion, and threaten to compromise its beauty.

These days my mailbox is flooded with notifications of articles on Greece and its economic woes, chiseled fingerprints pointed at her—child extraordinaire—of global financial disaster, and whatever else suits your fancy.  And while the search for solutions is filled with uncertainty, dubious motives, and self-interest, on the part of those who claim they want to help Greece recover her beauty, there are those whose motives stem from genuine concern, and who lay beside her, provide comfort, while she recovers from this emotional disaster—and not how they might line their pockets with silver, because of the crises. But, these are only a handful of people, whose motives approach near the suggestion and possibility of honorable intentions.  Rare—

The Curious Role of Organizations

The opportunity for organizations to flex their muscle is ripe.  But unfortunately, at this stage—the opportunity, I mean—looks more like a beggar in search of a mouth than anything else.  And there are plenty of organizations of Hellenic origin, filled with plenty of talent, and brains.  But in case you didn’t know it, Greeks are a peculiar bunch, fond of oratory, coffee and cigarettes, and appendages to their names (especially those in the Diaspora, who have taken their Hellenic roots, and, transplanted them on other soils around the world) identifying their degree of social affluence.

Furthermore, just in case you didn’t know, but what the Greeks know about themselves…  And freely acknowledge their culpability and amuse themselves by this particular insight—an inside joke, really—

Didn’t you know?  Everyone wants to be the boss!  But no one wants to do anything.

But let’s put the joke aside for now and look at the vast implications implied there.

Scattered

Possessing pools of talent means nothing if you cannot whip yourself into shape and make a worthwhile contribution, every now and then.  If each organization wants to preserve its discreet identity and flavor, well, it will then be almost impossible to manifest a sense of cohesion and accomplish much, besides promoting yourself in the public eye, for the mere gratification of your ego.  And many of these organizations, whatever their noble intentions may have been when they formed, have since evolved into Houses of Worship, where tags like PhD and MD, are the gods they pay tribute to.

However, once in a while, an organization comes along, whose intentions while modest, possesses a broad scope and difficult task—  And that is to unite Hellenes of the Diaspora (not as easy as it sounds) and provide a forum for their voice.  Indeed, there is one such organization, founded in the Spring of 1996, whose goal was precisely that.  What is unique about this organization is…  Its structure and technological savvy.

Hellenic Electronic Center a.k.a HEC

I had a chance to interview the founders of HEC, Thanos Voudouris and Evangelos Rigos, extensively last summer.  However that is not the subject of this section.  Rather I wish to extract a few insights about what I saw there, during my brief excursion in that domain, the impressions left.

The roots of HEC are firmly attached to the foundation of the Internet and exists principally in the domain of cyberspace.  It was there Thanos Voudouris sought to establish safe passage for Hellenic thought, culture and history.  Trained in the science of computers, he envisioned a portal where Hellenes and Philhellenes could gather and interact with one another, despite the vast physical distances that separated them.

A chance encounter with a New Yorker at the time, Evangelos Rigos, led to the formation of a solid association where visions were shared and developed, and which continues to flourish to this day.  Together these two men managed to build a portal that attracted the notice of Hellenes who were eager to share their adventures of migration, and Hellenism, and the numbers of the organization began to swell.  Today the organization has a roster of 39,000 subscribers, and an impressive—and exclusive—portal for Hellenic academicians, which has over 5,000 members.  Also impressive is its capability to reach far larger numbers of people through the unique skeleton and muscle of Technology.

Having said that, however, it is equally important to mention that the bulk of the labor essentially throttles in the hands of a minuscule number of volunteers who devote plenty of hours and labor to keep this vast machine spinning, and, on—  Furthermore, the services they offer as Host to other Hellenic organizations for a modest fee, allows these other organizations to distribute their messages across the globe.

The fact of the matter is…

HEC operates on a shoestring budget—one that would make any advertising executive blush—mostly, pennies.  That’s right.  Pennies.

Yet its motives are not to be a machine that consumes or produces money, like so many other organizations, even though it could surely use some of that stuff—

It’s motives are instead humble—to preserve the history of Hellenism, monitor and address misconceptions and misrepresentations by Media about Hellenism, current events, and ensure the actual rather than perceived history of Greece reaches the public domain and consciousness.

Not an easy task

In addition, HEC exists as a non-partisan organization, meaning its mission is to advance and adhere to rigors of Balance, above all, and thus does not accept money from any political institutions—including the Greek government, which had approached them at one point, curious about this mechanism—while simultaneously hosting organizations whose scope may infringe on the political domain.

But as the principal host of other organizations, whose mission may involve sensitive issues and diplomacy and social maneuvering, the turret of HEC is as neutral as is humanly possible.  Furthermore, non-partisan does not mean non-political, because the crafting of history, for example, is often a subjective matter of taste and preferences, and therefore corrections to the record will usually ping the political fever of an epoch.

… Which brings us back to the moment …  Meaning— Now. Today.

Psychic Babble

Blah, Blah, Blah. Sometimes that’s how the dialogue about Greece today sounds to me.  And by the end of the day, I suffer spells of dizziness from the implosion of ideas, competing for space, in the canal of my ear.  However, as it is my job to search and probe and classify the particulars of the human psyche, I often emerge from the abyss with scarcely a thought about diplomacy or political correctness.  And the ink that spills from my pen is—more often, than not— Brutal.

The Professors

From the start, and from a limited vantage point, there was something that irked me about The Professors.  It may have been the sense of exclusivity I found so cloying…  Not sure now.  Maybe it was that image of Ivory Towers which repelled me so…  Don’t know.  Or perhaps even a sense of inferiority on my part, since I had no fancy appendages to my name…  Entirely possible.

Eventually, however, after mulling over my prejudices and confusion…

I figured it out!

Deposited in this HEC forum which only grants The Professors the right to speak, and ferociously guarded from outsiders, who although not allowed to speak are granted privilege to observe and read what The Professors have to say, is an almost impermeable community.  And the opportunity to vandalize this community is less than 1%, precisely because of the technical prowess of its host.  And although I was granted the right to peek into the community, I soon found myself bored by this adventure, which forced me to the outskirts of the action therein.

Still this brief glimpse allowed me to draw my own conclusions about The Professors.

Deeply Ingrained Social Habits

No question about it.  They are a brilliant bunch.  Experts in fields of economic and social importance, among many others.  Yet, the picture that gradually emerged was less than flattering.  (That’s what I am told.)  For these professors do not occupy Ivory Towers.  No sirree.  Not in the least!  Instead their favorite stomping ground is the beloved place—especially by men—known as the Kafenio.  The Kafenio, for those of you who don’t know, is where men have congregated for centuries, smoked their cigarettes, sipped Turkish coffee from demitasse cups, and played with their worry beads, while waxing philosophical.

Furthermore, the Kafenio—unlike the forum—has a history of being highly democratic, for the most part.  Indeed, no man is excluded.  And one will discover that even from the most unlettered person there profound thoughts emerge from the haze of cigarette smoke and aroma of coffee.  For philosophy is part of the DNA of the people who spring from its soil, and does not depend on higher schooling or education to make its presence felt.  It’s simply there.  In the blood of every Greek man and woman.

However, the Kafenio has never been a source of financial profit.  Nor I might add, does the Kafenio show interest in exploring that possibility. It exists because it needs to exist.  Its purpose—besides coffee—is to serve fresh platters of ideals, insights, bereft of worldly ambition.  Not much money there, you know.

Still, one can never tell what exactly these ideals will produce.  Perhaps great things begin there…  But sometimes leaving the Kafenio—so engaging is its function—is difficult, to say the least, and to this day, you will see on any given night small, smoke-filled rooms on the streets of Athens into the wee hours of night.

The Leap

And so, I find myself asking…

What are The Professors doing there?

Highly educated creatures such as these surely have something to offer—especially when the Motherland is bleeding—in their laps!—shamelessly leaning on the generosity of their host—besides drinking coffee, and strumming their worry beads.


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