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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 21 January 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 21 JANUARY 2017 25 OPINION Greek deputy foreign minister Terence Quick. dure and they were eventually completely Romanised. It is in this context that Greek deputy foreign minister Terence Quick’s recent controversial comments to Greek Americans in Tarpon Springs should be understood. At a recent gathering, he expressed his disappointment at the fact that all of his hosts were using English instead of Greek, despite the fact that the aim of the gathering was to seek the Greek government’s aid for Greek to be taught in schools in the region. “The Greek language should be a powerful reference point for the Greek diaspora, as is Orthodoxy. Here in the US we have now reached the fourth and fifth generation, and Greek is fading. If you, the parents, and grandparents do not support the Greek language in your own gatherings, then Greek will be extinguished …. So, despite all the previous Greeks who spoke in English, I will speak in Greek, which is the mother of all languages.” There is a certain irony in a person by the name of Quick chiding expatriates for not speaking Greek and exhorting them to do so. It goes without saying that Quick’s own ethnic background would challenge many Greek Australians’ conception of what it is to be Greek. Quick’s contention, that it is ridiculous to seek assistance from a beleaguered Greek state for Greek language education while at the same time displaying a non-commitment to the perpetuation of that language and its relevance within a multicultural society by not using it in diasporan social contexts, seems logical and could equally be applied in Australia as well, where, though much lip service is paid to the importance of maintaining the language as an ideology, daily practice indicates other priorities. Quite possibly, the mere act of seeking Greek language education when one is not prepared to use the language should be seen as yet another Poseidonian ritual. However, as a representative of the Metropolis, Terence Quick’s placement of the Greek language at the centre of his conception of the Greek identity seems to suggest that what is Greek is truly in the eye or the consciousness of the beholder, or stakeholder for that matter. His revealing comments seem to suggest that we are entering a Meta-Greek era, an era where, given the increased distance and time spent away from the motherland, our experiences, priorities and attitudes towards our mother culture have diverged to such an extent that old constituent elements are being discarded and new identities formed that bear marked differences to the culture that spawned our original cringe. For example, among various Greek Australian subcultures, such as the Pontian or Cretan, it is arguable that dancing has taken centre stage as the key component of ancestral identity. In inclusive multicultural societies where a multiplicity of social realties exist concurrently but in reality the Anglo-Saxon one predominates, ethnic languages have proven to be the casualties of such identity reformation, coming as this does, off the back of postmodern cultural relativism. It will be interesting to see to what extent the anglophone Greek identity which has already emerged will be considered as ‘Greek’ by the denizens of the motherland, not known for their inclusive outlook, for a number of factors, language and geography chiefly among them, already preclude such an acceptance. It will be fascinating to gauge as to whether or not such an identity assumes the form of a watered down, de-Hellenised Greekness that is the penultimate state to total assimilation or can actually articulate the Greek Australian experience plausibly down the generations and be the jumping off point for an entirely unique identity in its own right. Rather than pontificating to the Poseidonians about their parlance, thus cutting them to the Quick, Terence Quick would do well to study the social and psychological conditions in which language loss came about in the first place. Further, if global Hellenism, a concept that the Greek state has propagated, is to be plausible, it has to be sufficiently broad and sophisticated as to encapsulate the multifaceted fabric of the societies in which it has arisen and respectful of the people whose daily lives are its constituent elements. It is a coalescing of historical processes that cannot be driven by the Greek state alone. Such a task requires a little less grandstanding and a good deal more introspection and collaboration, for in this game, that of maintain and developing unique Greek identities, there are no quick fixes. Winter is coming My big fat Greek week NIKOS FOTAKIS • Few things can epitomise the plight that Greece is in at the moment than the image of the Acropolis covered in snow. The photo circulated in most media around the world as an example of eerie beauty, but it is hard to overlook the semantics. The symbol of the Athenian democracy, buried in snow, in a Games-of-Thrones-like turn of events, offers a commentary on the state of the country and its democracy. • Another haunting image, also related to the current weather conditions in the country, made sure that 2017 set off on the wrong foot in Greece; it is the image of the refugee camps, also deep in snow, their inhabitants dealing with the extreme cold in tents that are obviously unable to keep them warm and safe. • Immigration Minister Yannis Mouzalas tried to put the blame on the array of non-government organisations that are operating in the refugee entry points, stating that the government managed to effectively address 70 per cent of the needs, with much less resources than the NGOs have received and asked the European Commissioner of Immigration, Dimitris Avramopoulos to further investigate the way that NGOs use their funding. • Other parts of the Greek population are struggling with extreme weather conditions, not least among them the farmers and livestock breeders, who are about to hold the quasi-regular annual demonstrations at the Thessaly lowlands. Their union leadership has called for the blockage of the national road with tractors to begin on 23 January, but not many are willing to do so, facing the cold and adverse weather. The Greek government is trying to take advantage of this temporary setback, announcing a potential repeal of the property tax on livestock breeding premises, as well as the consumer tax on wine. This might prove to be too little, too late. The farmers have not much to lose, at this stage, and they are spurred by the support of the Nazi Golden Dawn party, which is making much noise recently. • On Tuesday, a group of Golden Dawn members, led by the Nazi party MP, Giannis Lagos (who is already facing criminal charges for other incidents of violence) held a ‘parent’ demonstration outside of the Neo Ikonio Primary School in Perama, assaulting parents and teachers, in an effort to prevent refugee and migrant children from attending classes. Once again, humanity, education and the Greek ideal of philoxeny became the victim in the hands of thugs pretending to protect the country’s purity. God forbid if one of them actually excels in academics or sport and end up becoming the next Giannis Antetokounmpo. • This was a violent contribution to an ongoing debate on what constitutes being Greek. Of course, the ancient Greek rhetorician Isocrates had ended this debate centuries ago, proclaiming “the title of Hellene a badge of education rather than of common descent”. Isocrates and the other ancient Greek thinkers and orators are absent of the public discourse in Greece, at the moment, most notably so in the place where their legacy is more needed; in the Greek parliament, which is forever overrun by noise and accusations. • This time, the debate was on whether the country will be able to complete the bailout review that will allow it to head back to the markets by the end of 2018, as PM Alexis Tsipras affirmed, echoing his predecessor’s similar promise a few years ago. The PM then went on accusing the opposition leader, Kiriakos Mitsotakis, stating that his plan, if he comes to power, is to further slash wages and pensions, sell out assets and impose austerity measures and neo-liberal policies to an already struggling and frail population, completely dismantling any fragment of the welfare state still standing. • Outside the parliament, the government engaged in another heated debate, this time with the IMF’s representative Poul Thomsen, who suggesting that it would take Greece 21 years to return unemployment to pre-crisis levels. Dismissing his comment as another example of IMF’s wrong predictions, the government continued campaigning for the exclusion of the IMF from the next phase of the bailout plan, something to which the creditors (led by Germany) are openly opposed. • The major political parties can debate on the presence of IMF issue, but they have both failed to come up with a plan to face unemployment. The only segment good news on that sector came when the bailout plan for the supermarket chain Marinopoulos was announced, securing the jobs of the failed company’s employees. Other than that, the plan includes a 50 per cent private debt relief and a 250 installments plan for the company’s debt to the state. The government had little to do with bailing out the supermarket chain. On the contrary, it seems that it has a lot to do with the salvation of one of the leading media companies, DOL. Facing bankruptcy, the publishing house (which prints the iconic centre-left daily Ta Nea and the Sunday centre-right To Vima) was about to close, when its head, Stavros Psicharis, appointed as CEO one of the company’s former editorial director, who in turn became a SYRIZA MP, Vassilis Moulopoulos. The veteran journalist is supposed to lead the company through hard times and try to secure its finances, but the move was seen as a government plan to take control of two dissenting newspapers. So yes, the Greek ‘leftist’ government has so far failed to pursue any leftist policy, continuing on privatisations and other neo-liberal reforms, but it is now appointing directors to news companies. It doesn’t make much sense, but then, not much Greek news does.
14 January 2017
28 January 2017