Chapter 6 “Tourism Edging out the Greek Gods!”
The Island of The Greek Gods was the island of Samos in, of course, Greece and was in the Eastern Aegean some 20 kilometres from the Turkish Coast. Aside from some pirate attacks it had largely been a peaceful island and its inhabitants carried on with life as they had done for centuries. The Greek Gods had an enormous track of land up in the pine forested hills disguising themselves, when necessary, as monks of a strange and obscure order. And the locals left them alone to continue making their brandy.
This serene scenario dissolved beginning in the 1960’s with hordes of Athenian tourists discovering the ancient ruins of Samos and its many pristine beaches, Samos offered cheap wine and sun for the increasingly large influx of Northern European tourist particularly the Dutch and the Germans. As the tourist industry began to flourish so did inequalities of wealth for those who had invested in the tourist business and those that failed to do so. It was common for some of the more aggressive developers to buy land from local farmers near beaches and then in a few months develop the land into a tourist resort or sell the land at a handsome price. Even simple items that had been in family’s kitchens and living rooms such as icons and copper pots were purchased by savvy merchants who resold them as antiques in Western Europe and North America. This tourist culture was poisoning both the people and the land transforming this once placid agricultural community into a Tivoli.
The Gods were not impressed with this New Civilization and its increasingly profit motive hectic pace. Their quiet island was becoming a boomtown. Not even the constant threat of Turkish invasion could scare the tourists away. Drunken tourists stumbled about at all hours of the night and early morning. The locals endured it with a forced smile as many of them were dependent on the tourist trade for a living. Public criticisms of the naughty tourists were rare as polite behaviour ensured a flow of money.
The Gods were being literally pushed out of their land. At first they thought of fighting back and opening up their own businesses. Aphrodite ran a beauty salon; Zeus purchased a hotel and Dionysus a liquor store. The once great rulers of civilization were demoted to the degrading ranks of petite bourgeoisie. The Gods could not compete with the large multinationals who had pushed into the island. Dionysus suffered a nervous breakdown when his liquor business slipped into bankruptcy as mega discount supermarket chains from France and Germany with stores on the island undercut his prices. Well at least for a time he had his own vineyard near the monastery but unfortunately a group of conventioneers from the Whinekol Chemical Company GMBH had trampled down all the vines during one of their alcohol-soaked picnics. For Dionysus wine was a way of life and increasing beer consumption was putting an end to that way of life.
If matters were not progressing well for Dionysus they were also deteriorating for Aphrodite whose beauty salon had initially done well with her quaint if not ancient hair styling receiving much praise for their creativity but as the new Samos airport had opened it was attracting a lower class tourist with package deals. Fat German patrons insulted her and her staff for their antiquated cuts and styling. Tips dried up along with dwindling business.
Herme’s bar and disco once the only game in town was now being shunned by tourists in favour of the new Refines Disco furnished with all the latest furniture from Paris and an extremely expensive German sound system.
Business failures amongst the Gods had increased. Dinner time had always been the time for insightful philosophical discussion in a peaceful and respectful fashion. That had been replaced by increasing alcohol consumption, arguments and even food fights. It reached a point that Zeus feared violence. One evening he called an assembly to discuss the nature of their situation including whether to remain on the island or move to a new more tranquil location. Some of the Gods attended the meeting with their suitcases packed. After reaching the podium Zeus spoke, “Good evening one and all. We are assembled to discuss an important and pressing matter. Should we remain in Samos and bear the pressures of the New Civilization or shall we remove ourselves to a quieter and more dignified location? The New Civilization seems to have frustrated our ability to control world civilization. This tourist influx has shattered our last refuge. The situation can only worsen. Every summer the crowds increase and the rudeness and uncivility as well. I heard yesterday from a contact at the Greek Ministry of Tourism a promotional campaign will be launched in the United States of America that will highlight the island. This island will soon become a living hell and I can no longer tolerate these rude tourists and greedy grasping local businessmen. By the looks on your faces I think you agree with me. And we thought we had helped eradicate barbarity amongst the mortals!
In the beginning it was fun as we catered to an educated and respectful group of tourists. However the construction of the new airport has brought in lower class lager louts disrupting the peaceful life of the people unleashing a never-ending stream of greed. Imagine, even us Gods, struggling to make it financially with failing businesses. I am impatient acting as a hotel manager slavishly grovelling at the feet of these tourists and having my staff clean up their nightly vomit stinking of cheap Retsina. These mortals should be grovelling at OUR feet! Who in Hades do they think they are. I propose a vote on whether we leave and if in favour of the move I have a location in mind.”
As fate would have it Attis excitedly stormed into the room shouting we are done! A vote became not if but where do the Gods go.