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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 17 June 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 17 JUNE 2017 23 GREECE The Final Countdown revisited My Big Fat Greek Week NIKOS FOTAKIS • Sometimes, I envy other colleagues. Members of Colectividad Helenica dancing to Greek music in Chile • For instance, I'm envious of the way Christos Xanthakis begins one of his latest articles: "After they are done with their Sunday meal and they are relaxing on their couch, the average Greek man turns to the average Greek woman and says: "Tell me, darling, what are we going to fight about today?" Colectividad Helenica gathering • The journalist then goes on to offer his opinion on an incident involving the elderly politician Manolis Glezos and the former Speaker of Parliament, Zoe Konstandopoulou, as well as the German Ambassador and a memorial to the victims of the Nazis in Distomo. • But it doesn't matter. • What matters is that never a day passes in Greece without the people being divided on an issue and engage in heated arguments. • But this week was different. Greek dancing group of Colectividad Helenica • This was one of the rare occasions where all Greeks were united. • This doesn't happen very often. It usually takes either a tragedy to happen. Or a significant victory, one which can boost the collective morale. • This week, we had a little bit of both. Chileans of Greek descent. The hyphenated identity of Greek Americans or Greek Australians, even into later generations, is notably absent. Chile is quite nationalistic, and the Latin American culture, with roots in Spain, is less culturally distant from the Greek than the Anglo-Saxon cultures of North America and Australia. Further, North America and Australia are far more liberal and pluralistic societies, and the Greek communities there far larger, economically powerful, and more dynamically in contact with Greece. Moreover, the Catholic Church is particularly powerful in Chile, and the children of mixed marriages often drifted to Catholicism. The Greek experience in Chile and elsewhere in Latin America is very different from that in the large English-speaking countries of the diaspora. The communities are smaller and face greater assimilative pressures. The globalisation and digitisation of Hellenism in the internet era, where Greeks throughout the world can connect and get to know one another, together with the often improvised and valiant efforts of Greek embassies (as in Chile), offers these small communities their best hope of survival and participation in the global Greek diaspora. As members of the large Greek diasporas of North America and Australia, there is much we can do. It starts with getting to know these communities and their histories. The Greek community of Santiago, Chile spans across three generations • Tragedy ensued in the form of the 6.1 magnitude earthquake (the equivalent of 'three times the bomb in Hiroshima' according to the director of Research at the National Observatory of Athens) which devastated a village in Lesbos (an island already struggling with a series of problems, from the strains of the crisis, to the refugee intake). In the Grecia metro station in Chile, there is an elaborate homage to ancient Greek civilisation. The Réplicas del Friso del Partenón Griego (Replicas of the Frieze at the Greek Parthenon) is a series of 16 carvings in white cement • Greeks were solemnly united in their grief, seeing the village of Vrissa becoming a ghost town within hours and contemplating the futility of life and the fragile nature of all that we consider as stable, unshakeable foundations. • Of course, this last part, hs been the leitmotif of daily life in Greece for the past seven years, when all certainties have been slowly collapsing. • Faced with this reality, Greeks found themselves again united in nostalgia, for an era of national uplifting. Because this week marked the 30th anniversary of the legendary victory of the Greek national basketball team in the European Tournament of 1987. • The Greek public sphere is flooded with memories of people recounting where they were, with whom they were watching, the step-bystep victories which led to the stand-offs with the Yugoslavs (they were a thing, back then) and the Soviets (ditto), the heroism of the players, the old colour TV sets, the power pop soundtrack, the (not-so) hard rock anthem Final Countdown, still having a Pavlovian effect on all who were alive then. • The collective bliss. • We hadn't felt like that for ages, always being the underdog within the European Community. It was the first moment of national pride that came to the country, after the reinstatement of democracy 13 years earlier. • We rode on that wave for years; it led us to the Olympic medals in Barcelona, in Atlanta, in Sydney, and then to the other seminal moment of national pride, the exemplary Olympic Games of 2004, when we persuaded the world and ourselves that Greece was truly a developed country. • Of course, it went downhill from there. • But now, 30 years later, we're again united by our love and respect for these athletes that let the country dream and showed us that all possibilities are endless, that all roads are open. • Then the country woke up to discover that, in order to travel these roads, Greek drivers will be now requested to pay monthly registration fees for their vehicles, instead of annual ones. • And once again, we found something to fight about.
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