Concrete Walls: The Future was not here yet.

Athens todayAncient Athens had rivers

Our parents’ generation in Greece had a lust for concrete. Property became the ultimate lifelong investment and status symbol. The Greeks invested everything they had in construction and property as the property prices skyrocketed 15-20 years before the recession to what is now known as the Greek property bubble. Furthermore they were allowed to build almost everywhere and anywhere they pleased as the shady construction laws and inexistent urban planning allowed them to be creative, often in total ignorance and disregard of the environment and their neighbors. In the history of the Modern Greece trees were cut down and rivers (which were considered sacred by ancient Greeks) were buried for the sake of development and prosperity.

It was as if their concrete lust could provide a lifelong stability and the heavy thick walls could protect them from all kinds of misfortunes and disasters. My parents built a house where heavy injections of concrete “would make sure that it can never be demolished”, as my father proudly announced to us. Twenty years after and struggling to get a decent internet connection through the thick “anti-seismic” walls I wonder why we insisted to build a medieval fortress. True, twenty years ago the fear of an impending earthquake or even a fatal meteorite coming from space was more real that the heavy property tax of today. The latter was a scenario completely and utterly unthinkable.

People believed that things should be forever, eternal and inherited by descendents that would cherish them for…, well, forever. The same idea of eternity dominated all aspects of the Modern Greek life. Jobs in the public sector were idealized as the ultimate career opportunity that would keep you employed no matter what. A false sense of stability that came after two ugly world wars, a civil war and a military junta gave people the hope that “We are there, the drama is over.” In short, that the Future is Here.

Apparently this security was false. The older generation can now acknowledge the fact that there was a naive positivity and false sense of prosperity. Trying to “downsize”, rebuild or remodel is not a job to do overnight.

Closing, I want to remember my grandfather who died when I was six. My grandfather who had seen the hard face of life fighting in two wars (against the Germans and the Greek Civil War that followed) was reluctant to buy or own property. My grandmother had to beg him for years to buy a house and in the end after many years of marriage he had to do her the favor, go to the bank, get a loan and buy an apartment for her. The reason for his reluctance was that he believed that property was a form of slavery and he wanted no such attachments that came with debts to the bank. During his time people must have thought he was irrational and that his family was unfortunate.

Nowadays we, grandchildren and children, think about his life views and decide that grandpa was a very forward looking man and that he also possessed a sense of detachment that would be rare in the years to come.

But in his detachment I can now get a glimpse of our globalized, “refined” revolutionary, but still distant future.

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