In the Wake of Virtue

Maladaptive morality is a luxury good. I’m tempted at times to purchase advertising on Kim Kardashian’s vagina so that millions will see that message. It’s a pillar of the Kakistocracy canon. And sometimes it manifests itself with such weight that simple people are crushed beneath.

I wish it were possible to more widely convey that in terms of self-sacrificing universalism, everyone wants to do good. But the only ones able to afford it are those who have done well. Wealth is the airbag when virtue strikes reality. Those without this buffer are certain to suffer. And remorseless nature couldn’t be more indifferent about cries to the contrary.

This story from Lesbos, Greece is as desperate an illustration as one could ever hope to not see. The decent common people of this island once resided in an enviable idyll, carving out livings from tourists and the sea. That is until a year ago when the sea disgorged something quite a bit less sustaining.

Greek Villagers Rescued Migrants. Now They Are the Ones Suffering.

As one of the landfalls in Greece that is closest to Turkey, Skala Sikaminias, with its 100 residents, fast became ground zero for the (migration) crisis, the first stop in Europe for people trying to reach Germany in a desperate bid to start new lives.
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“I’d be in the middle of the sea, and I would see 50 boats zigzagging toward me,” Mr. Valamios said, gazing across the narrow channel. “I would speed toward them, and they would throw their children into my boat to be saved.”

It’s been ages since I tossed my children into a stranger’s boat while invading a foreign country. Though Mr. Valamios did what he thought was good. And now his rectitude has struck the embankment.

The village is nearly empty of tourists this year…Business at the island’s hotels and tavernas has slumped around 80 percent…

Mr. Valamios used to supplement his income as a fisherman by working five months of the year at Myrivilis’ Mulberry taverna…This year, he was asked to work just one month amid a dearth of customers. Nearly 1,000 Greeks in the area have lost seasonal employment.

If it’s any consolation to destitute Greeks, last year’s itinerant baby-tossers aren’t working in Germany either.

And islanders seem mystified by the fact of both.

Among the villagers, there is a sense of incomprehension. When the refugee crisis started in earnest, many were thrust into the role of good Samaritans. With endless generosity, they banded together to rescue thousands of Syrians, Afghans and other migrants in peril, months before humanitarian aid groups and European governments arrived to help.

“The whole village is proud of what we did,” said Theano Laoumis, who helps run the To Kyma taverna. On the taverna’s beach, refugee dinghies had landed in an unceasing stream. “You didn’t know who to save first, there were so many people. But we did save them. It was only natural. That should bring good publicity, not bad.”

A sense of incomprehension…That should bring good publicity, not bad. It’s incomprehensible how often should becomes sidetracked when we don’t nudge him in our direction.

The drop in business has hit Lesbos as Greece has struggled to emerge from a lengthy economic crisis. Some are bitter that the refugee tide has added to their woes.

“I don’t want them to come back,” said Nikos Katakouzinos, a fisherman. “They’ve done enough harm to the village and to the island.”

Other Greek interviewees expressed pride in their humanitarian sacrifice, as they simultaneously begged for the return of tourists. I suppose reconciling those competing sentiments would have been too grueling an exercise.

And rather than a renunciation of generosity, the point of this piece is to highlight the necessity of prioritizing it. This necessity being a thing that doesn’t evaporate when unacknowledged.

Men have obvious outward-expanding circles of loyalty and obligation. To our children, families, friends, neighbors, communities, nation, foreigners, and eventually the sentient cloud vapors of Neptune. Given enough time and social friction all can be expected to make claims on our finite resources. Though no one can supply them all while remaining viable himself. So we prioritize. If asked, I would even suggest prioritizing your own people and loved ones over hordes of those who despise them.

This is something a few Greeks still aren’t quite prepared to do.

As summer ebbs, the village is still struggling to return to normal. The healing seems a long time coming.

“We have to be ready,” Mr. Valamios said. “If it happens again, everyone will do the exact same thing: We will help.”

Eventually you will help yourself into a Chinese museum exhibit. And that should be the lowest priority of all.


12 thoughts on “In the Wake of Virtue

  1. Too much of a good thing can be bad for you and so it seems that a high enough quantity of Virtue has deleterious effects on one’s survival instincts.

    • The word “virtue” has its etymological root in the Latin “vir”: man.Think virility. Good old Seneca equated perfect virtue with perfect prudence, watering down the concept a bit. It’s been downhill ever since, although prudence combined with common sense and survival instincts (synonyms for prudence as far as I’m concerned) works for me. It seems the good people of Lesbos think otherwise, more’s the pity for them.

      • Given the root of the word and the spirit of it’s concept, perhaps it’s not the guiding hand of virtue that informs Mr. Valamios’ actions but rather sheer stupidity.

  2. Pingback: In the Wake of Virtue | Reaction Times

  3. “We have to be ready,” Mr. Valamios said. “If it happens again, everyone will do the exact same thing: We will help.” – spoken like a true helot.

  4. I worked with a Greek woman. Her parents were pretty much communists and she could only see the refugees as poor people who needed help no matter how much it hurt Greece. She didn’t understand my objections as America was SO RICH. I told her, you need to help them see Allah and start helping them with live ammunition. Needless to say lunch wasn’t very pleasant that day. Europe and the US need to militarize our borders. Mimicking the DMZ is a good option.

    • Funny, I’ve noticed the same reactions from Greeks I know. The logic and reason of their ancestors has given way to infantile emotional thinking today.
      It’s unsurprising that a people used to gratuitous handouts from more productive EU countries would rally to save human detritus and then lament the cost of their virtue and demand that other people/countries do something to help them!

      • “The logic and reason of their ancestors has given way to infantile emotional thinking today.”
        Moslems overran them in the 14th century, and stayed for an extended visit (about 4 centuries). That never happens without shitting in the gene pool. Other people conquered them too (slavs, serbs, franks, among others). This stock is quite unlike the greek with logic and reason.

  5. “If asked, I would even suggest prioritizing your own people and loved ones over hordes of those who despise them.”

    Outrageous! Next you’ll be advocating locking your front door, or building a wall! Racist walls! Racist borders! Racist door locks!

  6. What a bunch of fucking idiots. If they get beheaded by ululating kebabs the survivors can turn their mummified heads into a new tourist attraction.

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