Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Greek crisis reveals a nation crushed by ancient history

by Adam LeBor


July 7, 2015

Sitting at the café of the Technopolis cultural centre in downtown Athens, cigarillo in hand, Antonis Kafetzopoulos, one of Greece's best-known actors, gives a quick digested history of Greece's travails. "Greece is a failed state and has been since our independence in the 1830s. We have not managed to build the kind of state we wanted. France had a revolution and an Enlightenment. But we didn't follow that model. We always tried to compromise between the old Ottoman establishment and modern Europe," he explains through a haze of blue smoke.

In the struggle between modernism and myth, the latter triumphed. "Our narrative focused on national values and our ancient history, rather than the state. That is partly because we were not a homogenous nation then," he says.

"So every time we try to make reforms, the new authorities find that the previous ones left the situation untouched. One reason nothing seems to work in Greece is that we have so many layers of the old system under any new rules."

The Technopolis at least, does work. With its raw brick walls, post-industrial chic, large open spaces and buzzing atmosphere, the Technopolis could fit in anywhere from Brooklyn to Berlin. A former municipal gas works, the site has been converted into a cultural centre and imaginative museum that transports visitors back to its 19th-century heyday. A hub for music, dance, theatre and performing arts, it has helped revitalise the city's Gazi neighbourhood.


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