Cretans - Sociopolitical Organization

Crete is an integral part of the administrative structure of the Hellenic republic. The four prefectures ( nomi ) are divided into districts ( eparkhies ), in which communities ( kinotites ) each comprise a single village with smaller residential units occasionally attached; larger units are called demes ( dhimi ).

Social Organization. Household autonomy is strong. Patrigroups, at various levels, engage in feuding and raiding in the Milopotamos district. Patronage is endemic, with powerful political leaders protecting those who engage in such activities. An egalitarian social ethos does not prevent the emergence of extremely strong local patrigroups; in Sfalda (southwestern Crete), the sharp discrimination between upper ( kalosiri ) and lower ( kakosiri ) shepherds is based on wealth and social reputation. In the highland villages, most pastoralists affect to despise full-time agriculturalists as unmanly, although there is an increasing perception that sheepherding is a rough life that lacks the economic and social advantages of an educated existence. Civil-service jobs are much coveted. Urban merchants engage in patronage based on mutual advantage with village suppliers, but the encroachment of nonlocal entrepreneurs is gradually undercutting this system. A cosmopolitan urban "aristocracy" has largely yielded to new wealth from land speculation and tourism. Lower clergy often serve in their home villages. Cretan policemen, who comprise a high percentage of the Greek force, are largely drawn from the rural population but may not serve in their home communities.

Political Organization. The kinotites (communities) have some autonomy in day-to-day government, with elected mayors and councils. In an increasing proportion of villages, the voting follows national party lines, although agnatic loyalties remain fierce in the western and central mountain Communities and kinship, spiritual kinship, and neighborhood ties continue to influence choices elsewhere. Village councils are responsible for purely local road building and municipal improvement; other services, including major roads, electricity, water, and health and police services are furnished by the state, which is also responsible for tax collection and market regulation. The village priest often mediates in disputes; in general, mediation by intimates is preferred to police intervention. Law courts are located in district and prefecture capitals, and they often seem more concerned with drawing conflict away from its original locus and reaching an acceptable settlement than with precise attributions of guilt.

Social Control. Gossip is a powerful factor, reinforced by the power of envy symbolized by the evil eye. Public ridicule is rare but effective; the fear of feuding is also a strong deterrent.

Conflict. Many rural Cretan men carry knives and often also guns, but they avoid quarreling except where others—including women—can be expected to exercise restraint. Most quarrels arise from bride theft, animal raiding, politics, or insults against manhood, household, and patrigroup; married women may echo their husbands' quarrels among themselves. Feuding is endemic, and in extreme cases only a Marriage alliance can stop it. Men who do not avenge the slaying of close agnates are despised. The police usually attempt to intervene using the traditional idiom of reconciliation ( sasmos ) wherever possible, in order to obtain longer-lasting (Because socially sanctioned) results.

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