The 1st January 2003 was not only the beginning of a new year, but also the start of the new administration - the "nea dimotiki arhi" - for the island of Paros. Our Municipal Council was sworn in and took office and many of the citizens of Paros went to the Town Hall on New Year's Day to offer their best wishes to the new Mayor, Giannis Rangoussis, and to his Council. If anyone is interested in seeing a video of the blessing and the inauguration, as well as to follow the first meeting of the Council, contact Georgos Karatzas at Studio Achilleas in Paroikia (below the Pandrossos Hotel).
At a meeting with Giannis Rangoussis later in January, I mentioned to him a number of suggestions we have received from the foreign community to help us to become more involved and have a better understanding of the issues that affect our daily lives here on Paros. I explained to him the reasons that some of you have given me as to why you did not register to vote last October and what would have to change for you to do so in time for the next elections.
Amongst other suggestions, Giannis has agreed that if you have specific questions to ask the local administration, you can send these to us at Paros Life and we will forward them to him for an answer. We can then publish both your letters and his replies, providing an opportunity for us to get to know our Mayor better and for him to speak directly to our community. Obviously he has a pretty busy schedule in front of him these days, so the extent of his capacity to answer will depend on the number of letters involved - but we have agreed to see how it goes and to re-examine this procedure for feasibility later in the year. In the meantime, please write or email your questions to us so that we can begin the process of dialogue and show Giannis in what particular areas we are interested.
We also discussed a number of other ideas to facilitate integration of the foreign community and as we get further news on their progress, we will keep you informed. One idea already put forward (thank you, Maria Court) has been to have a liaison person speaking Greek as well as other languages available at the Town Hall to assist foreigners. In this respect we are looking for volunteers who would be willing to give a few hours each week to help out.
Contact us at Paros Life (22840-42092) if you would like to be a part of this team and we will pass your names on to the Municipality to organize a schedule.
We are very happy to welcome Giannis and his Council to their new positions and look forward to actively participating in any way we can in the future of our island.
Finally, a word about our article last November with the election results. A few readers interpreted this article as being insulting and sarcastic about the election process. We apologize, of course, for any offense that was taken, but assure you that none was meant - it is not in the philosophy of this publication to insult or to deliberately offend anyone.
This does, however, serve to illustrate rather well the sometimes huge cultural differences that exist in any multi-cultural society. Not only in the style of humour (an ironic tone is very typical of British humour, but is not usually appreciated by Germans and is even considered rude in Greece), but in concepts such as democracy which have very different nuances of meaning depending on our country of origin. Perhaps those of us who have lived all our lives in countries where democracy has not, in our lifetime, been under any kind of threat, take the idea somewhat for granted. In Britain, for example, elections usually also involve fringe groups such as the "Raving Loony Party", the "Bring a Bottle Party", and even a man who changed his name by deed poll to Margaret Thatcher once in order to confuse the voters! Whereas in Greece, anyone over the age of thirty has lived under a military junta and has an awareness in living memory of those who died to restore democracy after seven years of a brutal dictatorship.
We need always to keep in mind that these are the type of cultural differences we face in our community on Paros and remember that although tolerance of these differences is a constant challenge to all of us, there are many rewards to be gained from seeking to understand and incorporate others' points of view; one of the reasons, after all, why many of us are here in the first place and - of course - a basic principle of democracy.
Note from Lornie Caplan:
My article about the elections last November was not intended to insult or ridicule either the people or the system. Quite the contrary, I am totally in admiration and envy of a people whose attitude to politics is still "We can change things for the better", rather than the "Why bother - they are all as bad as each other?" with which I grew up. If I poked fun at anything it was my own apathy and that of the electorate in my country of birth. I hope that before the next elections I will have been able to absorb the local enthusiasm and write from among the celebrants on the front line rather than huddling in the trenches. I loved Vassilis Aspiotis' music and have bought his Mia Ahtida Apo Fos CD. The fact that what I wrote has caused some controversy has been a lesson to me that even among those who speak excellent English, misunderstandings can occur in the cultural differences of humour.