Wednesday, September 19, 2007

And Nothing Changes

In the end, when all is done, when all the fighting, all the struggling through grief and loss, when all the discovering of all the destruction brought about by a sick mixture of fate, negligence and criminal intent, what you find is a feeling.

A feeling so heavy, so strong that it smothers almost everything else.

Nothing changes. Nothing really, truly changes.

The Greeks re-elect in power those who locked up the hundreds of millions of Euros given them by the European Union so they could invest in the prevention of fires. The Greeks re-elect in power those who promised they’d sell off the beaches and beautiful coastlines of the land of the gods to the highest bidder. The Greeks re-elected to power those who bought off their votes by offering “relief money” to anyone who’d come to a bank and would promise they’d have suffered damages in the fires, without even requiring proof. What happened then is known: thousands of people rushed to the banks, many of whom were people who never suffered in the fires. People who greedily took that fake blood money and accepted that their votes were so coarsely bought by people who don’t vie a damn about anything other than their own, continued ascension to power.

And so it goes on. And so nothing changes. There will be no change in the laws to prevent avid property developers to feed on the ashes and the scorched land to build high buildings of concrete that will scar the land of the gods forever, oozing their tainted streams of tourists who will be al too happy to stomp on the remains of what was once beautiful and wild. Nobody in the re-elected majority will vote a law forbidding any building of hotels and other complexes upon sites which have been torched and often deliberately burnt to the ground for at least 10 years.

And the oh, so righteous Orthodox Church so benevolently lends its hand to the bereaved. Its priests gather in a semi-circle to receive the poor people who have lost everything. They get the Holy Church’s mighty help, there’s just a very, very small thing to do to earn that help: kneel, bow, and kiss the many-ringed fingers of those self-proclaimed speakers for the divine. And the charitable Church will hold out its hand to the many burnt down villages, and it will give to the people, but there is only one tiny little catch: they will give only to those who are worthy, to those who have sworn allegiance, they will select those worthy to receive on their willingness to bow to the Church and to do its bidding.

And yet people bow to this, people continue to accept being reduced to beggars, humiliated by an institution as corrupted and as greedy for its own power than the politicians it put in power. Perhaps you will smile if I tell you that, even as I write this, the newly re-elected government is sworn in power, not before the parliament, not before the people, but before the Orthodox Church. So backward is Greece. So tightly bound are the politicians with the Orthodox Church, that they are merely the puppets of priests, who send them voters after the Sunday preach. I hear this, I hear the beautiful songs, and my insides clench with revulsion. I feel like throwing up.

Perhaps one day the Greek people will finally lift up their heads and win free of the heavy, heavy fetters set on them by a Church so obsolete its teachings and precepts are antediluvian. Chained up by a Church who feels a need so strong to control every aspect of its “faithfuls” lives that it will frown and set shame on any who would dare marry before a secular authority before marrying before its priests. Shame and scorn on those bold and crazy enough to marry outside of a Church that will not tolerate anyone marrying before any other institution than it, the secular authorities like a mayor’s included.

And, finally, I get to what prompted me to write this piece even though I’m in Greece and I usually keep well away from the Internet: the last volume of Harry Potter. And here as well, when all is done, nothing truly changed: muggles are still muggles, lower lifeforms, gentle educated pets the wizards smile upon, protect from the knowledge of their presence with a veil of secrecy instead of taking the long, hard road of trying to find a way to live together. Even though the book contains one or two sentences explaining that muggles and wizards are both human, still the difference remain. Still people, normal people are not to be trusted, still normal people are to be protected, and “muggles’ rights” laws have to be passed, as if people were a threatened species of whales or dolphins.

And also, when all is done, when Severus Snape’s role is revealed, still Harry’s children taunt each other with the shame of entering Slytherin. Still they dread this “awful” possibility. Still, the author clings to a hierarchy of “valor” and “goodness” between the four Houses of Hogwarts. It spills out of every page where the students are gathered. That carefully established hierarchy remains in the words of the author herself, in the numbers of students from each House who decide to remain and fight the final battle against Voldemort beside Harry.

Griffyndor remains the one and only place to be. Godric Griffyndor’s shadier acts during his life aren’t explored. They’re barely hinted at, and then quickly forgotten since the one because of whom those doubts are brought about ends up “betraying” Harry.

I do not like this hierarchy of valor. I do not like these “casts” or “social classes” of sorts that Rowlings established and, as far as I can tell, upheld to the very end. All the characters of the other Houses will ever have been are shadows in the background, even during the last battle against Voldemort. All the wit, all the intelligence, all the courage and all the strength are and remain in Griffyndor. I would ask why, and I would ask why the three heroes all belong to the same House. My only hope is that we are supposed to think the way I’m thinking, and that what she pictures is nothing more than this sad truth of humanity: we never learn or, if we do, it takes us such a long, terribly long time.

Still, I would be lying if told you I didn’t enjoy the book. Harry irked me to the very end, but still I found myself wiping off the beginnings of tears when I closed down the book for good, and bid a final farewell to the universe of Hogwarts. I regret the useless deaths during the final confrontation, which really serve no true purpose, and could easily have been avoided. They felt like an overkill of tragedy to me. But I am not the author, and the author is god, so I guess I have to bow my head, and say thank you, for all the good times that the Harry Potter books brought me over the years, in spite of my being more than annoyed by Harry, from the 4th book to almost the end.

After all, how could I dislike a story which had Severus Snape in it?

Perhaps one day we will learn. Perhaps one day we will be able to rise above what we are. What choice have we but to hope this will happen?

And anyway, as many wiser people have said before me: it’s the journey that counts.

The quest. Not the unreachable goal.

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