Archive for June, 2015

The Greek Debt

June 17, 2015
In Hydra 1969

In Hydra in 1969 with Dougal, Janice, Nikos, and unknown.

In 1969, a few months after graduating from high school, I flew to Europe, where I spent several months exploring by thumb and by train. Of all the countries I traveled through, my favorite by far was Greece. It was a beautiful land with its own distinct culture. The old Mediterranean peasant world still had a strong presence, which made a big impression on me. The Greeks in general were extraordinarily friendly, openly curious about people from other countries, and generous. One day, at an outdoor market I asked a farmer if I could buy an orange. He seemed puzzled and asked, “One kilo?” “No, one orange,” I said. He frowned and shook his head. No, he wasn’t going to sell me just one orange. He gave it to me. One of the special aspects of Greece, especially Crete, was the sense of timelessness—by which I mean I had little awareness of being in a particular historical era. Visually, everything was distinct. As Henry Miller said of Crete in The Colossus of Maroussi, “You see everything in its uniqueness—a man sitting under a tree: a donkey climbing a path near a mountain: a ship in a harbor in a sea of turquoise: a table on a terrace beneath a cloud.” I’d already begun my lifelong loathing of modernity—the tawdry commercialism, superficial relationships, the hustle—and I loved Greece for the slow pace of life and its beauty. Living life was more important than business. (It’s pitiful that people who believe life should be beautiful are regarded now as romantics. It’s a symptom of how lost we’ve become.)

In 2007 I returned to Greece to do research for my book Street Song. I wasn’t expecting it to be the same, but the degree of change was startling. Everything that I loved about Greece was gone. It had lost that special sense of timelessness. Greece had become a resort for wealthy northern Europeans and Americans. And the Greeks themselves had become sullen. All they wanted was your money. It took me a few days to figure out exactly what had happened: globalization. Greece was now just an outpost on the international corporate circuit. One day I tried to talk to a Greek about it, and he blew me off. He was gruff and uncommunicative. I finally did talk to a Greek about it,  a man who owned a laundromat and spoke English. He agreed with me—very passionately—that something had gone very wrong in Greece. All anybody did was work and work, and they were all unhappy about it. They all believed that they had no choice. Much of their work consisted in serving the fat Germans who lounged about on the beaches and treated them like serfs.

There is a lot of anger directed at Greece in the Western World because of the new government’s threat to default on its debt. A tremendous amount of pressure is being put on them to stay the course of austerity and to open the doors wider to those who have no interest in Greece other than to rape and pillage. I, for one, hope they can resist. If it means default, then bless them. The insane, pointless workaholism of the Germans and Americans goes against the character of the Greeks—against the character of human beings, really. We are not designed to live this way and we’re heading for a nervous breakdown.

America, Germany, and England as well as some other countries have declared to the rest of the world that globalization is the only way to go, that every country must be part of it or it won’t survive. No one is given a choice. The global economy is very clearly a great evil to me. It’s tawdry and shallow. We’ve gone far beyond any level of comfort that we actually need, and yet we’re still not satisfied. Our levels of anger and frustration grow continually because materialism can never satisfy. Something is going to bring the whole thing down one day. I think of the bankers as drug dealers. They try to get you hooked and then send in their enforcers if you don’t pay up. It’s probably too much to hope that a default by Greece would begin the unraveling, but it would be most appropriate if it did. The Western World’s enshrinement of rationality and logic began in Greece, and it is rationality and logic that have led us to the horrific level of materialism that we live by today. If Greece can begin the process of the collapse of that system—which must collapse for the world to survive—it will be one of those beautifully ironic moments that history sometimes serves up.

I Did It

June 10, 2015

I’m now on Facebook. I don’t really know how it works yet. I don’t suppose I’m difficult to find. And I need all the friends I can get…

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009816636254

Progress Report #98

June 10, 2015

Recently, I was bitching about having to crank out an outline for a submission package to publishers—an absolute necessity when trying to secure a book contract. I finally finished today, 48 chapters (most of them are short). Although I still dislike this assembly line approach to creativity, it turns out that I’m quite happy with the results. You can’t say everything, and the effort did help me decide what has to go. Plus my themes are more clear to me now. My next loathsome task is, I suppose, to start a Facebook page, which I really don’t want to do, but it’s mandatory nowadays. Will you be my friend?

Progress Report #97

June 1, 2015

It’s about time for another progress report on my book Street Song. My last report was in February, and at the time I was starting work on the material my agent needs to shop the book around to potential publishers. I’m still working on that. It’s my least favorite aspect of writing a book. It feels like little more than a song and dance routine. You have to put aside the real work and become a huckster for awhile. Publishers want to know what your book is about, of course. They want an outline, a synopsis, who your audience will be, and so on. That, in and of itself, is not unreasonable. But what has evolved is an assembly line approach, and creativity doesn’t work that way. The book will change in the act of writing. I won’t say I haven’t gotten any benefit from working up the outline, but it often feels unreal. In any case, I’m close to the end of the process. I hope to have it done by the end of June.

People often suggest I try self-publishing—it’s so easy to do now, it’s the future, and blah, blah, blah. I’ve known several people who have gone that route and it has frustrated all of them. One of the big issues is distribution—getting an awareness of your book out there. Publishers can do this more easily than individuals. And I do want to make a living at my work—not a killing, but a living. The only way to create awareness of your book when self-publishing is by going out and calling attention to yourself every chance you get. It’s an ego show, it’s ugly, and I don’t like it. Piracy is another problem.

In summation: I am getting there. Once I have a contract, I see myself rolling fairly quickly to the end. I see the story clearly, see how to tell it, and so on. All I need is to have the fetters removed and to receive my inspiration.