John Dolan just wrote an excellent article on his latest travels and travails. Seems that, because of recent refugee and immigrant paranoia on the part of its leaders, he and his wife were forced out of the Republic of Macedonia for three months to its far more prosperous neighbor, Greece (and yes, Macedonia is a very, very poor place if Greece, among the poorest of the EU members, is richer by far). Greece has also been blocking Macedonia’s entry to the EU, and would like Macedonia to change its name, for the understandable reason that Greece suspects Macedonia would like to eventually expand its borders to encompass those of the old Kingdom of Macedonia, which means that all of what is now northern Greece would get swallowed up by Macedonia. However, Macedonia is so poor right now that it’s hard to imagine it having the wherewithal to act on such nationalistic dreams during the lifetimes of anyone currently living. Furthermore, paranoid officialdom aside, its people are friendly and hospitable and decent, per Dolan’s account.
Therefore, it’s not surprising to see him write, towards the tail end of his latest account, the following:
I’d like to end, for balance, with some sketches of suffering I saw among the Greek people. But I didn’t. They might be happening all around us right now; after all, I grew up in a miserably scared, penniless family that somehow managed to pass for average, so I know it can happen. All I know is that when we crossed the border from Macedonia to Greece, it was very clear we were passing from a genuinely poor country to one that seemed almost as wealthy as Italy. And one that has played a rather sleazy role in keeping Macedonia, the poorer country, out in the cold.
I’ve seen real suffering, real privation in Kurdish refugee camps for southern Iraqi Shia, in Timorese slums, in Kuwait Bedu shanty towns, and I’m pretty sure that, at least in this part of Greece that kind of suffering doesn’t exist. And yet everyone is extremely interested in Greece and were generally not very interested in anything I wrote about those places.
I’ve been trying to figure out why the problems of this reasonably well-off country have gripped so many of the progressives I know, while those of much more desperate and heroic places like Kurdistan seem to leave them cold. Part of it seems to be desperation for a leftist party that’s free of any taint of revolutionary violence. So you can cheer for Syriza, but not the YPG/PKK or Sinn Fein, both parties with far more noble and hard-won histories than Syriza’s. I find that odd, because I have no problem with revolutionary violence, and didn’t think most leftists did either. It seems they do, but maybe I’m too nearsighted an ant to get the big picture.
And that, I guess, is the lesson here, the one that applies to all genuine ant’s-eye view stories: An ant can’t see much.
Actually, most US lefties have problems with violence of any sort, unless it’s the stupid kind practiced by “black bloc” idiots, half of whom seem to be frat boys masquerading as lefty radicals but who really just want the chance to break a few windows and loot storefronts. A long experience of seeing the US going to war for the wrong things and the wrong entities has made the US left embrace pacifism and reject armed and organized combat as a solution for anything. It’s even got to the point where confronting Hitler is falsely attacked by a growing number of pacifists as unneccessary and counterproductive.