Building Education for the Commons
Several months ago I came to Greece. I came here because I had help start a school, The Global Center for Advanced Studies (GCAS) determined to offer courses with the best theorists and activists in the world debt free (and eventually free). GCAS’ mission is to empower people who are economically marginalized and to create a community devoted to the idea of bringing theory and action together for all people. I had just finished teaching a course at Colorado College on Nietzsche when some Greek professor friends encouraged me to come to Greece to open a GCAS center in Athens. What follows are some of my observations:
1- Hospitality: I have truly never experienced hospitality like this. The Greek way of life is, in fact, LIFE itself. They live, they are alive and they embrace life’s tragic and ecstatic moments which are embodied in their music, dance, philosophies, food and cafe conversations. They are not afraid to live. This can be seen in great contrast to the general mentality of living in the United States where people play life on the more cautious side. People tend to be closed up behind the walls of their homes sheltering themselves from the unknown, the neighbor, even their friends.
Just listen to this, very moving Greek music
2- Difficult Times: Greece, as you should know, is facing the edge of an historic moment. In the next 90 days their world, history and future most likely will dramatically change. Will they leave the Euro-Zone? There are plans in place: Plan B, Plan C and other contingent plans within each. There is a feeling of “brace-yourself” here and yet, to continue on under the dictatorship of the finance capital that corrupt politicians (looking out for themselves and not the Greek people) folded to, will continue to undermine their culture and their dignity.
3- Solidarity: People take relationships very seriously; indeed they are the most important thing in Greek life. Although I am a foreigner, I feel a close comradery to people who believe in democracy and in living life to its fullest. They aren’t out to screw you over, they are here to fight for a better world. At least this has been my experience with folks with whom I have been organizing.
4- Intellectual: The Greeks take ideas seriously. Ideas here are not convenient conversation pieces you share over a cup of coffee, but are a way by which life is guided and shaped. Their ideas too aren’t about making money but about making the world a better more just place for all people.
5- Anti-capitalistic: Greece’s very mind-set (as a whole), its geography and so forth inherently resists a corporate mentality so pervasive in the United States. Their food actually taste like food and not like bland cardboard. I feel like my tastebuds have come to life here.
6- Excitement: despite the grave evils that have beset the Greek people via Neoliberalism’s attempt to sell their country out, there is a feeling that something great is ready to happen. This could easily backfire but there is a sense that something worth living for, (LIFE itself) is in their hands.
7- Media: Observing the rise of Syriza here has been one of the most significant experiences of my life. And yet, as the western media, especially in the United States, conveyed these events it became even more clear to me that the media’s agenda in the US is to present Greece in stereotypical terms. The gap between what is happening here and how it’s presented in the US is so big that they are not even talking about Greece but the “idea” of Greece that the elite media wants to communicate. This is disheartening.
As GCAS gets ready to open up our center here in Athens, I am excited and I know that anyone will be welcomed who side with freedom, equality and solidarity. We are looking forward to our world-conference, “Democracy Rising” in July!
Creston Davis, Founding Director of GCAS