There has been continued turmoil, struggle and a seeming cycle of loss for the Greek people since the financial meltdown. Many believe there is no end in sight. There are still many who view these events as an opportunity to learn, create a new way of living and refocus on the simpler ways to enjoy life. It is these people who seek a cultural shift, a throwback to a more traditional way of Greek life. One that is no more then two generations ago and one that is still in the memories of those who survived through one of the roughest periods in Greece's contemporary history post World War II.
It is these individuals who strive to create a better and more sustainable world, many through personal struggle. They make a choice to see the best of their country and the potential for its way of life, by creating strong local communities built through personal relationships. They choose to believe in a world where a healthy local community is your strongest support network and a tool to build a better life and Greece to live in.
It is these beliefs which are much to celebrate, while one looks forward to the further road to travel. A reason to explore Greece and experience the current transformations in its society and not only for its ancient history, gorgeous Grecian island and countless architectural wonders of past civilizations
Long road to travel.
Flickr Creative Commons photo courtesy of Alan Henderson.
Much To Celebrate, Far To Travel
The Greeks have been rising to the occasion in many ways as they did during the post WWII years and civil war. Despite often dire outlooks, shortages of basic living necessities and skeptical pessimism towards the government and cultural institutions, Greece has seen notable cultural shifts in the cracks of their social fabric. These small fissures contain many new models for social institutions. Institutions that are focused on the equitable needs of the individuals in the communities that live, work and play there.
Some of these social institutions are community run activity centers where gaggles of unemployed youth congregate to socialize and plan for the future of their communities. They plan community seed exchanges, sustainable urban farms and the planned use of shared public lands and spaces that create an equitable and well balanced society.
Recent years have seen a rebirth or rekindling of old Greek costumes and ways of life. Yet these youth who dare to look towards a brighter future are aware that there is a long road of change ahead filled with progress and set backs. They have learned to focus on the small to grow big, to create a movement that is centered around the hearth of the home and sense of community.
Growing Into Small
Not all great things start out small. Although it is through a focus on the simple that the most obvious solutions can arise. Re-localizing and simply, sometimes elegantly de-globalizing (in as much as possible) can open up space for new ways of living and community driven social institutions.
These new social institutions have risen in the form of producer/ consumer cooperatives, much like the Mondragon Corporation in the Basque region of Spain. Sustainable Ecological communities have been on the rise in urban centers and in the rural Greek countryside.
New systems of trade and barter have sprung up, notably the TEM alternative currency, which in its best example of a functional model in the city of Volos has some 1300 participants in the system
Village of Santorini in Greece.
Flickr Creative Commons photo courtesy of ethanlindsey.
Moving Back Home
These changes in Greek society have also led to shifts in demographics. Jobless rates are still at historical highs and the youth have felt the greatest impact of this changed economy. With less prospects to find work in the cities and urban centers many of Greece's youth have either
went abroad or moved back to the rural towns which they were raised in to find a new way of life and hope for building a future.
For those youth who choose to stay in Greece, the answer to the question why has not been the same. For many it is a matter of convenience. It takes an adventurous spirit and strong demeanor to leave ones country, way of life and family to seek out employment. For others this choice was one of conscious.
Market in Greece.
Flickr Creative Commons photo courtesy of darkensiva.
A conscious that didn't allow them to leave their country when it needed them most. For them this was an opportunity to build something new, stay close to family and steer the direction of their local communities and the future path of Greece. Many took these opportunities to start small shops or set up stalls in local markets selling homemade products from their small family run farm or local producers. Some choose to join alternative communities that focus on sustainability and use alternative currencies alongside the Euro to sell their products.
Whichever path these youth choose, the shifting demographics of their return to the rural villages they were raised in will transform Greece over the next few generations.
This is a new reality and way of life for the Greek people, the youth in particular. A separate way of life that is different then many grew up with. This way of life may not be as unfamiliar to older generations of Greeks, but still a far off memory. Wether it is just a temporary bridge till the smoke clears and Greece stabilizes or the start of a new model and structure for their society is yet to be seen.
Will the luxurious hotels along the Greece beaches be replaced by sustainable eco resorts? Will the all inclusive resorts, cut off from their surrounding communities, be replaced by a new model of localized tourism? A model where the traveler, immersed in the local customs and culture alongside the populace, absorbs the daily life of the community's inhabitants?
Perhaps you need to visit and experience Greece's changes for yourself.
*This post brought to you by Monarch Airlines.