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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 21 March 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 21 MARCH 2015 27 OPINION Revolution prominent French abolitionist Abbe Gregoire, who was a firm supporter of the Haitian republic and remained in contact with some Haitian leaders, would most likely have played a role in disseminating knowledge of the Haitian Revolution to Greek nationalists and intellectuals. Thus, the idea of reaching out to the Haitians probably originated within the Greek diasporic community. The letter sent to Haiti received a response by no less a personage than the president of Haiti himself, Jean Pierre Boyer, who on 15 January 1822 wrote to the great man of letters and "teacher of the Greek nation" Adamatios Korais, expressing sympathy with the Greek cause and recognising the Greek people's right to freedom and self-determination. In the letter, Boyer mentioned that he viewed both Haiti and Greece as similar in their long history of op- LETTERS The (unconventional) Good Greek Girl Our readers took to our Facebook page to leave their comments of praise for public servant and author Maria Katsonis, whose new book and recent interview bravely told what it was like living in a Greek family while going through depression and the angst of coming out. Here's what you had to say: Katerina Touloupis: What an amazing woman she is. It is good that she never gave up hope considering how hard her life was. Looking forward to reading her book. May she have a happy life that she deserves. Well done Maria. Eleni Blacky: Great story, the sad thing is the Greek stigma will always be there. I work in one of Melbourne’s largest prisons as a senior mental health clinician and I see all sorts of people's mental issues. Theodora Fittje: As a mother seeing her teenage son suffer the dark depths of depression, it is so uplifting pression from others, from imperialism, both European and Ottoman. According to President Boyer: "Such a beautiful and just case and, most importantly, the first successes which have accompanied it, cannot leave Haitians indifferent, for we, like the Hellenes, were for a long time subjected to a dishonorable slavery and finally, with our own chains, broke the head of tyranny." In addition, Boyer's letter addresses the theme of slavery in relation to imperial or colonial rule as well as several allusions to classical Greek history and culture, such as referring to the Greek nationalists as "descendants of Leonidas". Though expressing much sympathy, Boyer goes on to explain that owing to the Haitian's parlous finances, Haitian troops or cash could not be sent to Greece. Interestingly, Boyer also attributes the recent integration of Haiti and the Span- ish-speaking former Spanish colony to the east, now known as the Dominican Republic, as another drain on the Haitian budget because "the revolution which triumphs on the eastern portion of our island is creating a new obstacle in carrying out our aim; in fact, this portion, which was incorporated into the republic I preside over, is in extreme poverty and thus justifies immense expenditures of our budget". It is worthwhile observing at this point that revolutionary Haiti, like its neighbour Cuba over a century and a half later, was devoted to exporting its revolution, its first president, Petion, lending support to South American liberator Bolivar and the liberators of Venezuela and Colombia, and we could possibly view Boyer's letter in this context: as an attempt to at least claim some sort of moral ‘ownership’ over the Greek revolution, in the hope of the future estab- lishment mutually beneficial ties. Some historians claim that Boyer did send Adamantios Korais 25 tons of Haitian coffee that could be sold and the proceeds used to purchase weapons, but not enough evidence exists to support this or the other claim that one hundred Haitian volunteers set off to fight in the Greek Revolution. Allegedly, their ship was boarded by pirates somewhere in the Mediterranean and these fighters purportedly never reached their destination. Nevertheless, Boyer's letter is widely believed to be the first official recognition of Greek independence and sovereignty, to be followed in succession by the recognition of Great Britain and that other republic that was founded after a war of independence, the United States. Boyer's reference in his letter to democracy, Greek triumphs against the Persians, and revolutionary idealism accord with the founding myths of the Greek State which is why even today, it resonates with those Greeks who have read it. Indeed, what is even more fitting is the fact that this self-same Boyer who waxed so lyrically about democracy, the classical past, freedom and equality presided over a country where corruption and venality became the norm and it is this dichotomy, between founding myth and actual reality both in Greece and Haiti, that seems to arouse the sensitivities of Caribbean writers today. Were the Greek and Haitian revolutions actually betrayed, or do we take a Trotskyist approach and declare that the revolution is eternal and thus, having no end, is still a work in progress? Either way, Boyer's letter provides a unique insight into the prevailing aspirations and myths upon which two states were supposedly emancipated and founded. Just how true to those ideals those countries developed is a question that an increasing number of its respective citizens are now asking. In this, the final word, belongs to Jean Charles: "Greece in the Mediterranean, like Haiti in the Caribbean, needs to start creating a new generation of citizens who accept the concept that duty is the reverse side of privilege. The nation will move forward when each citizen does his part, in paying taxes, in volunteering for the common good, and forsaking the vain desire of spending what you do not have. It was Abraham Lincoln who promoted the notion that a nation is the aggregate sum of moral citizens working for the common good, providing individual satisfaction for each one." Long live the Revolution. *Dean Kalimniou is a Melbourne solicitor and freelance journalist. Email your letter to: firstname.lastname@example.org The Neos Kosmos Facebook page and Twitter page give our readers a great way to interact with Greeks of the diaspora and those in Greece. Check out our Facebook page at facebook.com/ neoskosmos to let us know what you think by posting some of your own comments and feedback. FIND US ON - FACEBOOK.COM/NEOSKOSMOS FOLLOW US AT - TWITTER.COM/NEOSKOSMOS and supportive to have honest writers like Maria throwing much needed light onto mental health. Angela Grigoriadis: It's about time a Greek comes out and talks about mental illness. I too have had an extremely hard life living and breathing with the suffering of mental illness. Greeks think that it's just going to go away as long as you’re medicated. Natasha Mason: I could never understand why physical illnesses were always 'hidden' amongst some of my extended family (both here and in Greece) until it was absolutely obvious to the wider family (i.e. they were dying). Not only is community and family support integral for physical illness, but of course for those with mental illnesses ... as they often soon turn into physical ones. Have Your Say LAST WEEK’S QUESTION: Does Greece have the right to ask for war reparations from Germany 60 years after the end of WWII? 92 % YES 8 % NO THIS WEEK’S QUESTION: As talks resume between the Eurogroup and Greece, who should back down first? Eurogroup/Greece Vote online now. Go to neoskosmos.com Published by Ethnic Publications Pty Ltd (ABN: 13005 255 087) of 169 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn, Victoria 3122. Printed by Rural Press Printing, Ballarat. 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Editor-in-Chief: Sotiris Hatzimanolis Graphic Design: Peter Kelidis Fotis Petsinis Dora Kitinas-Gogos Christopher Gogos Journalists: Proof Reader: Maja Jovic, Helen Velissaris, Michael Sweet, Nelly Skoufatoglou, Anastasia Tsirtsakis, Alexandra Manatakis, Nikos Fotakis, Billy Cotsis, Theodora Maios Angela Costanzo Please note that the submission of a letter does not guarantee that it will be published. We reserve the right to edit your letter for clarity, grammar, spelling and style. Letters that use inappropriate language will not be published. All letters published will include the author’s name and location. Comments posted on Neos Kosmos’website, facebook and twitter pages can also be included for submission at the editors’ discretion and will be edited accordingly.
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