Lessons for us from Greece during Covid

“There Is Nothing More Important to the Greek Family Than Our Oldest Members” – How Filial Piety Saved Greece. A lesson for Australia
Having responded effectively to the pandemic, Greece is already feeling somewhat back to normal.

This story from The Ageist by Crispin Baynes

Greece is a magical place that takes you in like nowhere else. The people, the islands, the water, the food, and the hospitality. She just keeps on giving. But it’s even more than that. It’s a way of thinking. Being Greek evolves around togetherness, sharing, celebrating, being outdoors and not following any rules! Athens’ own charm is her beautiful, unpredictable chaos that can lead you deep into the night.

So how on Earth did they successfully manage a national pandemic lockdown?

Greece Has Navigated the Pandemic Better Than Most

It’s no secret that Greece has navigated the COVID-19 pandemic better than most. In fact, to date they’ve only had 192 deaths nationally, and the Arcadia region, where we live, hasn’t seen a single case.

We recently flew in from New York on EU passports to join our family in the Peloponnese. My wife, Margarita, is Greek and we’re here often. After a mandatory COVID-19 test for us and our 19-month-old on arrival at the airport, we self-quarantined until we knew our tests were negative. I remember thinking, “Wow, they’ve really got their sh*t together.”

Greece feels relatively normal now and the sense of openness is wonderful. Since arriving I’ve been talking with people to see how they are feeling and what their take is on the past few months. It seems that there wasn’t a silver bullet, rather a lot of early, common-sense decisions backed by solid governance, consistent, reliable communication from medical experts, and then some old-world values.

There’s a powerful ancient Greek word “Philotimo” that’s yet to have a direct translation — it’s considered to be the highest virtue of honor and “doing good” in all things. Nobody’s perfect but the fact that their leadership has displayed Philotimo at a critical time has certainly helped.

The Greeks Took Precautions to Protect Their Elders

However, the aspect of the Greeks’ success in all this that I admire the most is their deep sense of filial piety (aka elder respect). The, largely respected, Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, led an early national campaign and said: “We’ve been through tough times before and have always prevailed together. I know that there is nothing more important to my family and the Greek family than our oldest members. What we can learn from our neighbors in Italy is if we don’t all isolate and take every precaution immediately, the potential overburden of our healthcare system will put our oldest and most vulnerable precious assets at the greatest risk.” With that simple, succinct appeal to the national core value and psyche, more or less everyone complied.

Greece Is a Blue Zone

Greece (Ikaria) is a well documented Blue Zone. In addition to diet and natural movement, it’s the sense of purpose (Ikigai), involvement, and community respect that keeps us happier and healthier for longer. People are more afraid of becoming irrelevant than they are of dying. In traditional Greek culture and community, you feel like you are part of something bigger right until the end. At a time of change when a lot of us are re-evaluating what’s really important, perhaps some of the answers lie in coming up with new ways of doing time-honored things. Stay Wylde.

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Comments 1

  1. Excellent piece pulling together some key themes. A model for all of society but especially those who value Blue Zones, shorthand for places where life is healthy, active, social and long.

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