WE THE SEAMEN, PROLOGUE
17 NOVEMBER, SAILING ON THE SHIP "SAN DENIS"
At the time, Greece was under a dictatorship and everyone who supported the regime acted in a fascist manner while, everyone who was against it or a communist, acted in a revolutionary manner. The neighbouhoods and alleys of Piraeus were full of illegal immigrants and crime was rife to a large degree. The Junta on the one hand fought savagely against the people in favour of the Greek and Christian ideals, underground and hidden from sight, the same fascists and their supporters, without being answerable to any laws, reigned over the gangs of thieves and illegals.
The lawlessness that prevailed ashore to a certain extent, also existed on board the ships, only worse. The seamen had no real love and respect for each other, habitually hypocrites. Behind closed doors, nasty and undermining words were uttered, and words were twisted in order to cause problems and vendettas. And, among all, were the snitches. Captains and second officers usually had their own guy who informed them on everything about everyone. They approached their colleagues in a friend like manner, but their ultimate goal was to extract Information.
My brain could not comprehend this situation and wondered why, indeed, didn’t the opposite happen, in other words, why didn’t we all endure the hardships of the endless days of great loneliness and hard work in the middle of inclement weather conditions with love for one another. I brought to mind and compared other situations of forced human concentration and found that the same happened everywhere. The army, prison, on board ships, places where people unknown to each other, with no links such as familial relationship or friendship between them yet, they always treated each other badly. Nastiness is inherent and runs in the blood of most people, it spontaneously comes out towards others. It is in the character and nature of humans and, if allowed free reign within the subconscious animalistic instincts of man, without the control effected by principles and laws, such nastiness would spread and bring utter catastrophe.
So, the human and animal instincts are the same and lead the individual to seek nourishment and reproduction, the only distinction being that humans are tortured by the ability to reason.
These animalistic instincts sometimes led some bad seamen to vulgarity and shameful deeds. To satisfy their subconscious nastiness and their unnatural sexual needs, they bothered the younger crew members and, in particular, the “first timers”. As older soldiers in the army bullied the new recruits and called them “fish”, the same happened in ships, but to a greater degree, and to such point that most youngsters could not take it anymore and were forced to abandon the profession of seaman. The word “fish”, used to describe young soldiers, is very characteristic and means to compare the young soldiers with the new seamen who, until becoming seasoned seamen, looked like fish out of the water as their survival was doubtful.
Some of the older crew members had no moral scruples and inhibitions, and with audacity and vulgarity intensely bullied the youngsters, especially if they were handsome and well built. Some capitulated to their appetites out of fear or to gain their “protection”, while those who withstood and did not surrender did so with difficulty, fighting off the immense pressure that was placed upon them.
Those who could not take it, abandoned ship at the next port, angered and disgusted by life on board the ships.
This hard coexistence of new recruits with men deprived of relationships with the opposite sex, on voyages that sometimes lasted many days, rendered them vulnerable to their sexual drive as deprivation caused them to seek homosexual encounters. Many times, those who had the pervasion within them, when given the opportunity, carried out lawless and depraved acts that caused their victims immeasurable despair, and ruined their souls and personality.
These situations, as well as the dangers of the profession, forced many to abandon life on the sea. There is an ancient saying, stemming from all these dangers that exist in every aspect of a seaman’s life; any seaman who withstands life on the sea for three years has made the sea his mother, destiny and lover.
CONTRABAND: The Bosporus
But I never took the big decision and remained a land dweller forever. The years passed, but I cannot forget the sea, I stand on the beach, gaze at the horizon and wonder whether I regret not sailing again, but I have no answer. The only thing I know is that the Sea is a song, an experience, a mother, our destiny and our lover. Those who love her and stay away from her miss her lullabies and her immense love.