About the Greek Soul - And the European One

About fairness, love and justice

There is this fisherman from Samos Island. Over the weeks and months he pulled 4000 refugees from the sea. A fisherman of souls. A fisherman for life. A man who did what he felt he needed to do. 

Nine unemployed Greek women. Together they cook for refugees. For the stranded ones. Meals for 240.000 people over the time. Meals for the ones that have no home anymore. Other than themselves. Nine women who don't have money but who know where to return to in the evenings. Who think that they are still better off than the fleeing ones. 

And the mayors. The ones from villages and towns and even cities. The one that wrote welcome letters in Arabian language. "When you give hatred you will receive hatred. When you give fear you will receive fear. When you give love you will receive love." That was his comment. And the one that assembled the whole village around him and set up a refugee camp for 2000 in a gym within two hours. 

And of course the thousands of portions of food every day that volunteers provide for refugees. And of course articles in papers that call it a duty to help the helpless. And of course "we still are so much better off than they are". 

And of course no demonstrations to stop the flood, the incessant stream of foreigners coming into the country. And of course no burning refugee camps. No hatred. No allegations. No protests. Not even complaints that "they exploit us". No comments about the "strain on our own poor country". No discussion of "how we could stop all that". 

That is the Greek soul. The wide and open soul. The loving soul. The helpful soul. The soul that thinks of others and puts them first. The soul that doesn't think of itself as the vulnerable one. The soul that smiles at you and invites you into its home. 

And you, Europeans, what do you have to offer to those who help the helpless? You, Germans what do you contribute to a country that helps the homeless and is still not even able to maintain its own needs? What do you offer to the country that gets flooded with people in need? What do you offer to the fleeing ones? 

Pressure. To make them comply. 
Fire. To show them that they are nowhere and never safe. 
Polemics. To make them feel unwelcome in a rich and affluent world. 
Pegidia. To express your worries about foreign infiltration.
Law and order. To show them how the clock ticks. 

And you Mr Schäuble, what do you have to offer to the ones that help the helpless? 
Tax hikes. Pressure. Condescending words of superiority. Your party calls itself Christian. Do you remember the message from long ago?  Do you know what it means to be a Christian?  Do you believe in humanity? 

Think twice. All of you. 
Think of them. 
And help them. 
Just help them.

Political Poetry

Alexa commented on one of my recent pictures on Flickr saying it was ’political poetry’. The picture showed some sheep wool entangled in a metal fence. This image reminded her of the situation of political refugees in Europe. 

I had to admit that neither taking the picture nor processing had triggered in me any political consideration nor a single thought of refugees and their fate in the current exodus from Syria and other countries. But after reading Alexa’s comment I had to think of political implications of art generally and photography in particular.

Does ’innocent art’ exist? Can we create a picture that reflects just what we see without any further consideration and thoughts of other environments and a meaning that our art might have in these environments? Or are we even obliged to think further when we create art? Is depicting ’innocent reality’ ok when every piece of art could have multiple layers of meaning that allude to current political, environmental or other problems? Do we have a responsibility to ’go further’?

All these questions have been asked extensively before. And they have never been answered. And this is simply because every artist defines his vision, his perception of the meaning of art in a very unique and subjective way. There is not one way of defining the obligations and duties of art.

To me Alexa’s question came as a surprise. And she caught me in a situation where I am in transition between one world I became used to and a new and very different world that I am going to be immersed in in the future.

I spent the last seven years in New Zealand. NZ is a country far away from all crisis epicenters of the world. But New Zealanders still have have an awareness of the events that happen in the rest of the world. However whatever happens some ten thousand kilometers away from them does not affect Kiwis that much. So the direct impact of all these events is quite low.

On the other hand have I spent several weeks in Greece over the last year. And in Greece you feel and perceive ’crisis’ in a very direct and unmitigated way. Refugees stream into and through the country in scores. And politically and financially Greece has been in dire straights for at least five years. As a political being I have been aware of all the events and their meaning for the people of Greece in recent years.

And then I produce ’innocent art’. And somebody makes me aware of the possible political meaning of my art. So what? Does that come as a shock to me? As a hint to change my attitude? I actually don’t think so. I can and we all can produce our art according to our personal feelings and needs and to our political and artistic inventiveness.

I think in the future I will be more aware of what meaning my pictures can have. And I know that the refugee crisis requires political art.  It is utterly unacceptable what is happening to people that seek shelter in Europe from unbearable conditions in their home countries. They become victims of political interests. And as artists and human beings we need to raise our voice.

Alexa Alyssa Aufmkolk's Flickr Stream