The Road to The Brink – Part 2
“When an elephant is in trouble, even a frog will kick him.” Hindi proverb
When I left you last week I was starting to explain some of the factors that led me to write The Brink. Here’s some more of the genesis of my novel.
As I mentioned in last week’s blog, I lived in the neighbourhood in Athens in 2012, I describe in my novel.
I saw refugees and Roma from various countries on the streets of Athens and what struck me was the attitude of Greeks towards them. Some wanted to help and did so. Others saw the refugees as a threat to their already fragile country. You’ll recall that Greece was in its fourth year of recession by 2012.
The economy was shrinking further, unemployment was in the double-digit zone and young Greeks in particular had few opportunities. This was also the time when I saw the rise of the far right Nazi party, Golden Dawn (Chrysí Avgí) and attacks by this group’s followers on foreigners and the later murder of the Greek anti-fascist rapper, Pavlos Fyssas. I wondered what had happened to filoxenía (Greek for hospitality). The Greeks are famous for it. In 1989, among all the countries in Europe, Greece was awarded the Eurobarometer (a set of public opinion surveys completed for the European Commission) award as the country most tolerant and welcoming to migrants.
I kept asking myself what had happened. What had changed? I also wondered how I would feel if I were in a refugee’s shoes. What would I do? I was an immigrant to Canada myself, when my family left Egypt because the government of the day was nationalizing foreign businesses in an attempt to get rid of Europeans and other foreigners. We were not persecuted or threatened, but my father saw the writing on the wall and applied for immigration to Canada. We did come on a boat into Pier 21. But we weren’t mistreated and my parents felt, with few exceptions, that Canadian immigration authorities treated us in a respectful way. No people smugglers involved, no dangerous, life-threatening crossings.