Medea – Painting by Bernard Safran
Poetry Dispatch No. 272 | March 8, 2009
Hatto Fischer/ MOTHER’S DAY IN GREECE
an essay and a poem in tribute to the spirit of Mother in the world at large
Editor’ Note: Hatto Fischer, who lives in Athens, is a writer, poet, educator, philosopher, political scientist, humanist, etc. with credentials that include Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, the London School of Economics, and further studies on philosophy at the Philosophical Seminar in Heidelberg.
Among other appointments, he served as advisor for the Green party at the European Parliament to the Committee of Culture, Media, Sports, Education and Youth and also produced a study on the potential of Internet Radio to further the European Debate. He is also a coordinator of the Non-Profit Urban Society POIEIN KAI PRATTEIN—“to create is to do”. I’ll stop right here—which is where many of us as artists and writers come in. A perfect pause…to reflect upon the human condition as Hatto spends his life pursuing, doing. As both his essay and poem below explore and remind us what it takes to build a world that ‘mothers’–and sustains us. —Norbert Blei
Mother’s Day in Greece, March 8th
Certain days conjoin different strands of meaning, so as well mother’s day to be celebrated in Greece March 8th. It so happened that we discussed yesterday with Tamar Fortgang, actress and theatre producer from Los Angeles, why she wishes to use the cave of Pentenli by Athens for staging the Ancient Theatrical play of Medea this coming September?
Medea entails a horrific theme but some people begin to admit slowly, that it is no longer just an ancient theme. They admit that it has become a modern phenomenon as well. That question resonates in Greece around these times all the more after a fifteen year old boy was shot by a policeman on Dec. 6th 2008. There followed an outburst of anger. Not only students, but the entire society took to the streets to express their anger at the current state of affairs marked by scandals and the gap between the rich and poor growing ever more.
This eruption here in Greece took many by surprise. Generally it was accepted that such riots could erupt in the suburbs of Paris, but not in Greece. Here it did not take place in the suburbs, but turned against modern forms of consumption and a way of life no longer sustainable and yet prevailing in the very centre of the city. Amazing to all has been the strength and consistency the movement has shown since Dec. 6th. One key explanation can be given for that: the fear of mothers for the lives of their children.
That fear became a force. At first they hesitated, but then they joined the demonstrations. At times, they would take the smaller children to safety before the police would close in and start to fire tear gas. This fear is well founded. No violence can ever be innocent. Like a green snake creeping through the streets of modern cities and through the places where everyone is discussing the events, it is always ready to bite again.
Radicalization means just that, namely to let actions speak before words. No parent is immune against the fear that their own children can easily fall astray and turn to violence as form of expression. First there can fly stones against windows of luxury cars or banks, but then it can go further especially when a rock hits a passer-by. That has not happened so far but the fear has not receded. As a matter of fact other forms of violence have dominated in the news e.g. a policeman was shot at, a grenade thrown towards a group of immigrants meeting in a room but luckily fell back onto the pavement before exploding and just yesterday a man lost both his legs after his car exploded since someone had transformed it into a booby trap.
So to see mothers on Saturday, one day before mother day, amidst an action aiming to convert a parking lot into a park by bringing olive and lemon trees to those who are tearing up the pavement and planting trees, it is possible to say mothers have left the cave.
They are facing together with their children through a positive action a world bombarded by negative images of advertisement for more cars to consume still more space. This is why the question which the Greek youth raised at the funeral of that boy shot is so crucial for understanding the currents prevailing in Athens before mother’s day being celebrated on Sunday March 8th.
The youth asked in their farewell letter to that boy being buried: Where are you parents and artists? Why do you not protect us? The mothers have responded, but not so sure is as of yet the response by the artists.
So why take Medea into a cave? With that question in mind, the poem about ‘caves of truth’ came about without yet linking it to Plato’s cave analogy, in order to give tribute to those courageous mothers facing with their children openly questions of an uncertain future. —Hatto Fischer
Caves of Truth
Curled up are my eyes
In cave like tautologies
Made up of black and white images
Left behind by women whose screams
Historians neither heeded nor heard
When they recorded how all fled
The city in the hour of death.
As Christa Wolf writes,
All women had to flee for their lives
Once Troja crumbled;
they sought refuge in caves
where for lack of any other testimony
They scratched onto walls
Their pains and screams.
Thus this evidence remained
Hidden deep inside the earth
Not even seen by hawkish eyes
Scanning man’s history over time.
There is a double meaning
In any uttered sound of pain
When marked by timelessness
And an air of defiance of all winds
Even though a cave amounts to be
A purgatory of love when left all alone,
All women without a chance of dialogue.
Since then, in the heat of the day,
The nocturne at angles with the sun
Left eyes blinded by the impact of not light
But by these forgotten beauties once reflected upon
By what was written on these walls.
When standing face to face with horrific truths
The earth takes on contours
Like river beds filled with blood
Flowing past imaginary witnesses
Watching how the river finds with time the open sea
And whatever wind can take out boats even further
Than distant shores still to be seen
When adrift, no longer sure, if a harbor
Or just a bell calls people home,
Back to the city they came from and belong to
In order to be left in peace, the tranquility of the night
Safeguarding the sleep of all of them: women, children
And the men no longer needing weapons
To keep away others from livable truths.
Hatto Fischer 7.3.2009