Tuesday, June 21, 2011

From Athens, First Evening

The true significance of this boat trip, of this flotilla, in conjunction with other world events is coming into focus, having met the passengers, having met the organizers who have worked on making this project come true for some ten months now.  Having met people with a very broad scope of knowledge and understanding.  It fits, as it turns out, into an extremely complex tapestry of world events, becoming a player even where it didn't think itself to be, significant in ways that transcend even its original very significant mission.

The Arab Spring.  Beyond the revolutions and the uprisings in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Baharain, in Yemen, in Lybia, in Syria, there is the profound impact that it has had on how the population of the Middle East and North Africa views itself, and it has had a profound impact on how the world views that population. 

The spread of the Arab Spring.  A brush fire having far exceeded the boundaries of the Arab world.  And now in Greece.  Greece on the verge of an uprising, with massive daily demonstrations against the US, against the EU, against its own government.  Strikes in Greece.  General strike tomorrow, a dock strike on Friday...

Israel.  Frantically, for months now, pressuring every single mediteranean country to block the flotilla.  Having succeeded in Turkey, the next target is the Greek government.  The Greek government that may not survive the week, will it succomb to Israeli pressure against the background of massive popular unrest, against the background of massive demonstrations accusing the Greek government of being American stooges?  And wouldn't succombing to Israeli pressure become the ultimate proof to of their complicity?

"I don't think people in the US know what is going on here," the blond, well-dressed Greek woman said to us, in front of the Greek Parliament at Syntagma Square, at 11pm.  "I brought my 9 year old son here with me the other day, and we stood here until three o'clock in the morning, because I think he should know.  Tell them about us.  Don't forget."

"The slogans," the young man answers my question, "that one there says, 'I am going crazy because you cut off salaries and you cut off pensions and  medical benefits but you still haven't cut your own throats.'  That one, it awards Papandereu the badge of 'Goldman Sachs employee of the month'".  The one over the bridge, I can read: "You take the debts, we will take Solidarity: REVOLUTION".  They were all going to stay there, at least 30,000 of them, I would say, through midnight, preventing parlamentrians from getting through for a crucial midnight vote.  The vote, alas, was held, and Papandreou did win, slim margin as it was...


And in the middle of this, the ten boats of the flotilla, the beseiged population of Gaza, the occupation of Palestine, the 50 or so of us on the Audacity of Hope, now attempting to put faces and names and stories together, our personal stories, our personal voyages to this point, our shared voyage beyond this point, I think I have been near history before.  I am not sure I quite got to put a finger in, though, until now.

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