“If your age could understand, children,
Full many counsels I could give.”
Greek tragedies play out like no others, as if to remind us of the work of their ancient masters. As there once was a plague in Sophocles’ Thebes, there is now a plague upon the Greek economy.
One proposal to address the current economic problems – easing restrictions on coastal development – is eerily reminiscent of one of those early tragedies, Oedipus Rex, about the king who kills his father, sleeps with his mother and then prefers to blind himself than see what he has wrought.
“Aye, and a flood of ills thou guessest not
Shall be set upon thyself and thy children…”
This coastal development proposal, now in the Greek legislature, would do four things:
- Lift all restrictions on beach concessions and sunbeds.
It will be a free for all. If one concessionaire doesn’t occupy an entire beach, another one will move in. This virtually ensures a ‘carpeting effect’ where every beach will soon be covered with lounges, bars and trinket shops. Walking space, sunning space, indeed, any space will be in short supply.
- Facilitate commercial construction on beaches.
Once the current restrictions are lifted, applications for permanent constructions are certain to increase dramatically (pun intended), in part to simply occupy beach space before another does. This streamlines the process for getting those applications approved, hastening the ‘carpeting effect.’
- Allow businesses to pay fines to legalize illegal development.
Illegal constructions are rampant on some islands. This portion of the proposal not only rewards those previously illegal developments by legalizing them, but encourages future illegal/legal developments.
- Ban the right of public access to the beaches.
Without a way to get to the beach, the path to it may become the most valuable asset. The astute will find a way to ‘block’ the beaches and either charge the public admission or the businesses on the beach a fee to let potential customers in.
“O Man, beware, and look toward the end of things that be,
The last of sights, the last of days… “
Many of us who treasure this immemorial country — its history, its culture, its majesty, its people – feel compelled to speak out. Even if Greece is not our homeland, we have been touched by that country in such a way that there is a part of it within us, and we feel an obligation to voice our concerns, if only that.
“What were mine eyes to me,
When naught to be seen was good?”
For decades the sire of the wonder and ways of Greece, the Aegean Sea, has been dying, the lush and lively bottom slowly browning into an underwater desert. This is a tragedy, but many of us fear that the death of the father sea may be only the start.
For the consequences of this proposal would be that anything that touches the sea – the islands and coasts and beaches – will be desecrated, and that any and all of the virginal shoreline will be defiled.
This is a palpable fear for those who love Greece, who love the sea and the islands. And should this proposal become law, the day may come when, like Sophocles’ tragic hero-king, many of us will prefer to remove our sight than behold what has become.
Here’s one xenos among many hoping that the shoreline can be saved.
All quotes above are from Oedipus Rex by Sophocles.
You can sign a petition to stop this proposed legislation here: Change.org.
My novel, which is set on an unspoiled Greek fishing island facing the challenges of modernity and economic hardship, is available here: The Last Island.