Archive for April, 2009

Rot – Part 22

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

If Greeks loved their children, would they—just to describe a few things I’ve seen with my own eyes—let them ride, helmetless, on motorbikes sandwiched between baba and mama, on roads designed for mules in the countryside, or, in a city, flying along in the wrong direction on a one-way street? Would they put their children on their laps as they’re driving their cars (passing those motorbikes with sandwiched children on them on single-lane roads)? Would they give their 11-year-olds their own motorbikes to drive, up and down mountains, in towns, in front of police officers, who apparently see nothing out of the ordinary (let alone illegal) in 11-year-olds riding around on μηχανάκια? And would they let these same 11-year-olds and 10-year-olds and nine-year-olds and even six-year-olds play until well past the most liberal definition of a child’s bedtime, often eleven o’clock at night, sometimes even midnight? (Yesterday morning, I saw a woman—a mother, I assumed—with a baby that couldn’t have been older than six months getting into the back of a chauffeur-driven Mercedes SUV with an older woman, probably the child’s grandmother. As the younger woman was settling in—and the tinted windows were going up, presumably so the air conditioning could be turned on, even though it was beautifully balmy—I couldn’t help but notice that there was no baby seat attached to the backseat, and that she was simply holding the baby in her arms. I felt sorry for the child. Although s/he’d probably survive the car ride, s/he’d undoubtedly never survive her/his parents.)

And, I wonder, if Greeks really loved their children, would they give them puppies as Christmas gifts that end up as abandoned dogs in the parks or on the side of urban highways by the following Easter because little Takês or Litsa can’t be bothered to care for the animal, which, if not doomed to life as a stray becomes the exclusive ward of the Filipino maid or houseboy? (I’ve come to the conclusion that if it weren’t for Filipinos, the Greek bourgeoisie could hardly manage to wipe its collective ass.) Would they teach their children that the environment is, at best, an abstraction and, in reality, an impediment to “development”—invariably one’s own “upgrading” or “expansion” of inherited property? What’s the point to a beach, after all, without any discos or bars on it? Besides, while burning forests might be a (temporarily) sad sight, they quickly regenerate themselves with sprouting μεζονέτες.

Two Sundays ago—March 22, World Water Day—my friend, Giôrgos, asked me if I knew who the top two per-capita “consumers” (that is, by definition, wasters) of water in the world were. When it comes to the egotistical and grotesque dissipation of the planet’s resources, we all learned a long time ago that nobody beats the US (although, of course, it’s much easier for us Americans to scapegoat the Chinese and Indians). So, I responded with an assured “United States” for most profligate nation. That’s easy, Giôrgos shot back, but who’s number two? I knew where this was going. Greece? I answered, tentatively. That’s right, Giôrgos affirmed. And, while I believed him, I couldn’t believe it, that fact—yet another indication of the country’s blithe corruption by every measure of civic consciousness.

According to the Dutch NGO, Water Footprint Network, the per-capita American consumption of water is 2,483 cubic meters per year; Greece’s is 2,389. The world average is 1,243, virtually half the amount of water consumed by Greeks. Following are some other national data, as standards of comparison.

In Greece’s own neighborhood, Albania consumes 1,228 cubic meters; Bulgaria, 1,395; Turkey, 1,615; and Romania, 1,734. (It is noteworthy, however, that Cyprus—that is, the Greek part of Cyprus—is also one of the top ten worst offenders in the world, wasting 2,208 cubic meters per year per person. Is there a Greek gene programmed for social idiocy and destruction?) If we take the major countries of western Europe, the Netherlands consumes 1,223 cubic meters per capita (less than the global average); the UK, 1,245 (just a pinch more, but an indication that, on the environment at least, there is no Anglo-Saxon unity with the US); Germany, 1,545; and France, a relatively high 1,875. But even France’s consumption—which is obviously affected by the most celebrated and sought-after agricultural production in the world—is 27 percent below that of Greece. Meanwhile, in Scandinavia, each Dane consumes 1,440 cubic meters per year; each Norwegian, 1,467; each Swede, 1,621; and each Finn, 1727.

Oh, and what about those wastrels, China and India, who have the temerity to try and catch up with the West and provide their citizens with the same standards of living that New Yorkers, Londoners, and Parisians take for granted, and, in so doing, are allegedly causing massive environmental damage that the oh-so-environmentally-pure-and-conscientious West is trying to ameliorate? India’s per-capita, per-annum consumption of water is 980 cubic meters—roughly two and a half times below American and Greek consumption—while China’s evil, communistic exploitation of nature amounts to 702 cubic meters of water per year for every Chinese: almost three and a half times less American-Greek consumption. (Even the most economically developed nation in Asia, Japan, consumes about seven percent less than the global average, at 1,153 cubic meters per capita.) As Gandhi famously retorted when asked what he thought of Western civilization: good idea.

(To be continued)