Day 159-LXXXV, Εράτεινη.
Day 160-LXXXVI, Εράτεινη.
Eratini, April 15
When things are bad, it’s very easy for them to get even worse. This whole story of liberty, equality, brotherhood, and our tribe being a big happy family, isn’t always true.
Yesterday was a prime example of this. Alcohol, theft, racism and violence were among the day’s protagonists. Our march was the spitting image of society, and so at least for a moment we all ceased to be revolutionaries.
We arrived here tired and anxious. Tired not of four consecutive days of marching, but of five months of connivance with the same people. And anxious because by now the end is in sight. In twenty days we will be in Athens, and for many people the question ‘what after Athens?’ is frightening.
I don’t really like our days off. They break the rhythm, and often there isn’t much to do. Personally I have enough things to do for a lifetime, between reading books, watching movies, listening to music, writing stories, designing games and simply daydreaming. But it’s hard for me make a complete mind switch from the march to other pursuits.
On top of that I can’t help being influenced by the low morale in the group and the bad weather – storms and frequent showers. For me and for all of us our day off became an off day. It was really bad. Out of boredom I just plugged in and played Civilization. As great Pericles of the Delian League I spent hours and hours trying to exterminate the Native Americans. Afterwards, I felt worse than before.
During the evening things started to degenerate. People here have been very kind to us. A local restaurant brought dinner for all, and five liters of tsipouro. The food is always most welcome, but the locals really shouldn’t bring us large quantities of alcohol.
I’m starting to worry about it, because the alcohol problem is becoming structural. And every time it gets worse.
Things were ignited by a case of theft. Over a hundred euros have disappeared from our treasury. And some of us didn’t hesitate to accuse one of our Algerian newcomers on the basis of circumstantial evidence. No-one had any real proof, but late at night things turned really ugly. The love-peace-freedom banner was torn down and trampled upon. What had started as a soothing jam session became a western style saloon fight.
This morning, comrade Ali reappeared at breakfast. “I am here because I have a clean conscience. I will continue this march.”
There was no other choice today but to stay here, to sacrifice one of our two days of margin remaining, and to hold an internal assembly.
The assembly was moderated by the Old Man, for the first time I can remember. After the last alcohol explosion in Chrisovergi he had kept his silence for ten days, observing. Now he returned to claim his place in the group. He did an excellent job as a moderator.
I was asked to do the French-Spanish translation instead of comrade Max, and I accepted reluctantly. I don’t speak either language perfectly and I’m always very keen on my freedom to leave the assembly whenever I’m fed up with it.
But it was worth it. We all faced our personal and collective weaknesses, we spoke about them, we apologised, we made peace and we will try to finish this march in style.
Today is Easter sunday in Greece. Yesterday, some of us went to church at midnight, just before the great fight. I was there as well.
I’m not a religious person. I can’t stand religious institutions of any kind, because I don’t think that any religious institution has ever made this world a better place. But I had had my share of tsipouro, and I thought ‘what the hell, let’s take a look. In the end, for many people, Jesus was the greatest revolutionary who ever lived, if ever he lived.’
So there we were, holding our candles like the Greeks, listening devotedly to the chants in the midst of a seemingly chaotic service. Mimo was among us, and Max later said that he had witnessed a miracle.
Mimo is a very amiable person, but the combination of a closed space and alcohol can make him go wild. It had happened before in occupied social centers of Emilia Romagna. We risked to disrupt the entire service and to be chased out of the village by a mad crowd armed with forks and torches.
It didn’t happen. Instead, Mimo was enchanted by the community spirit. As a kid he went to a coranic school, but here in the colourful church of Eratini he blended in perfectly, he lit his candle, he lined up with the Greeks to kiss the Bible, and he walked off.
I liked the ritual, it was very participative, with chants instead of sermons. I didn’t understand anything of it, so my mind wandered off, thinking of St. Paul’s missionary voyages to Greece.
Admittedly I don’t like St. Paul. To me he doesn’t appear to be an enlightened prophet searching for some kind of heavenly truth. Before his miraculous conversion on the road to Damascus he used to be the most fervent persecutor of christians. And afterwards he came to spread the faith with the same zeal with which he used to fight it.
Above all, Paul was a marketing genius and as such he is considered to be the true founder of christianity. Without his missionary efforts in Asia Minor, Greece and Rome, the name of Jesus of Nazareth would never have survived until today.
So it’s mainly thanks to St. Paul if we are here to celebrate the resurrection. And despite everything I can’t help but think of the famous passage from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.
“If I could speak all the languages of people and angels, but I don’t have love, I’m nothing more than a resounding gong. If I would have the gift of prophecy, and I could solve all mysteries, possess all knowledge, have a faith that can move the mountains, but I don’t have love, I am nothing. If I gave all my possessions to the poor, and my body to the flames, but I don’t have love, it wouldn’t serve any purpose.
Love is patient, love is kind. Love doesn’t envy, love doesn’t brag. Love is neither rude, nor selfish, nor irritable, nor resentful.
Love doesn’t rejoice with evil, it finds comfort in truth. It bears all, it hopes all, it believes all, it endures everything.
Love never ends.
All the prophecies, all the languages, all the knowledge, they will cease. (…)
But these three things will remain.
Faith, hope and love.
The greatest of these is love.”