Buy This Issue
The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 08 July 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 8 JULY 2017 23 OPINION among them when they meet each other. There is no «Χαβαγιού λαβ; Γκουντ;» or even a «Χάλαου» to be offered. Instead, in the month of July Greek Melbournians of a certain age greet each other anxiously with the question: «Καλά, ακόμα εδώ είσαι;» «Δεν έφυγες ακόμη;» «Τι περιμένεις;» They then regale each other with stories of the woe of unremitting exile: So and so couldn't leave because at the last minute they discovered they had a heart condition, someone else couldn't leave because the money they had earmarked for their travel had to be transformed into an emergency loan for their children, someone else had a death in the family . . . they shake their heads sadly and intone in unison, both in consolation and pious hope: «Δεν πειράζει...Του χρόνου πια, του χρόνου . . .» Such customs do not pass the second generation by, except that it is those who have left us who continue to taunt us, via social media, posting impossibly impeccably constructed scenes of luxurious languor amidst deep blue seas and pebbled beaches, or photographs of wellness centres purveying "Ancient Greek Massage" captioned thusly: "OMG. Santorini is to DIE for. I can't believe you're not here." Here the customary response in this instance, is an optional choice between: "You deserve it koukla/koukle" or, "OMG. Zileuw bad." I once considered forging a new custom by posting by way of response, a photograph of me standing in line at my grandmother's local IKA in Pallene, waiting to collect her pension but she has now migrated to places celestial and eternal and all my thoughts of flight are now invariably connected with an understanding that I no longer have a home to go to. I thus execrate and excoriate Santorini and all its ersatz connotations, massages and mud-masks included, out of the vilest of motives: sour grapes. from the ranter slowly while muttering: «καλά τρελάθηκε τελείως.» Come July, the morning frost broods upon the roof tiles of Melbournian homes like a burgeoning tax debt. In the great meeting places of the Greeks, our compatriots are thin on the ground. During this month, Greek Melbournians dispense with their usual greeting customs. There is no «Γεια σας,» or «τι κάνετε;» to be heard Come September, and the organised Greek community emerges from its hibernation, as all of its presidents return one by one to resume control of their organisations' affairs, for perish the thought that these could run independently of their leaders' will. The coffee and cake shops, the clubhouses and the nightclubs of Greek Melbourne are brimming with life again. Asked how they fared in the motherland, the elderly shake their heads and launch into de- tailed analyses of all the bureaucratic faults of the state of Greece, the degeneration in the moral fibre of its citizens, and most notably, the absence of a ‘system.’ They also seem to be bemused by modern Greek summer holiday customs, whereby modern Greeks, while on vacation, dispense with ordinary greetings and instead ask each other: «Πόσα μπάνια έκανες φέτος;», attaching special significance to the exact amount of times one has immersed themselves within the briny waters of the Aegean. But most of all, they rail against what they perceive to be a lack of reciprocity in hospitality. As one elderly returnee once remarked to me: «Τι να πεις γιαυτούς τους αχαΐρευτους; Όταν έρχονται εδώ τους μπαμπακίζουμε, (this is a Greek Australian verb that denotes the act of barbequeing) τους «δώνουμε ξερά καρπιά» κι αυτοί το μόνο που μας ρωτάνε είναι: «΄Ηρθες; Πότε φεύγεις;» Άχρηστοι άνθρωποι οι έλληνες.» Of course, the fact that said gentleman was attempting for the fifth time to obtain what he believed to be an equitable division of his family's agricultural property, may account for the somewhat chilly reception he may have received. Scathing assessment of Greece and Greeks notwithstanding, the aforementioned gentleman's ire invariably begins to wane towards the end of the Australian summer, (at which time he is secretly researching the cost of tickets to Greece) to be completely dissipated at the coming of autumn at which time he, like so many others of his ilk, develops vacation negativity amnesia and having once more been lured by the call of the homeland, and attends his local travel agent to once more enact his escape from his exile. From this moment on, until the month of June, it is customary for him to greet all those that he meets with these words: «Τό 'κλεισα το «τικέτο». Σε τρεις μήνες φεύγω.» This then is the month of the Greek Melbournians as antipodean migratory birds, flying north for the winter. Whether we remain in exile awaiting our winter of discontent to be made glorious summer, or not, one thing is certain. Our antipodean hypostasis, is one of constant physical and mental travel between our place of abode and our place of origin. And each voyage, is one of return. Best wishes on this wonderful journey, as you build your new lives together! My Big Fat Greek Week NIKOS FOTAKIS • Wait; wasn't Sakis Rouvas already married to Katia Zygouli? • Your guess is as good as mine. • Apparently not; hence, the glorious wedding ceremony, which resulted in Greek media being flooded with photos of the happy couple, the popstar and the model, surrounded by their cherubic spawn (all four of them) and bookended by their best man, oil and media oligarch Vardis Vardinogiannis, and his wife, Marianna, Greece's beacon of philanthropy. • The last observation was meant as a joke, but the truth is that, due to her work for children with cancer alone, Ms Marianna (as she is known) would be eligible for the position of 'life-time parallel Minister of Health'. • As for Sakis, given that in the past years he has gone from popstar to casual interpreter of Mikis Theodorakis, to also casual actor of ancient drama, to political activist campaigning against the government in the 2015 referendum, he might as well run for politics. • Stranger things have happened. • For instance, a hate-spewing, racist, homophobic, anti-Semite, nationalist rising to one of the highest ranks in politics. • Such is the case of Dimitris Kammenos, MP of 'Independent Greeks', the far-right party which is part of the coalition-inpower, who was appointed by Greek parliament as one of the deputy Speakers of the House. • Quick civics lesson. The hierarchy in Greek politics goes like this: President of the Republic (position held by Prokopis Pavlopoulos, a constitutional law proffessor and former Nea Dimokratia minister), Prime Minister (our boy Alexis Tsipras) and Speaker of the House of Representatives (Tsipras' comrade, Nikos Voutsis). • Even in a parliament consisting of 300 largely incompetent MPs, a lot of them outright corrupt - and quite a few Nazi thugs under criminal investigation - Kammenos remains one of the least qualified for the job. • But who cares? • It's summer in Greece. • And there are so many much more important issues. • Such as the Survivor final, attracting a viewership of 78.7 per cent. • Which probably says everything that one should want to know about Greece. • But no, there is more. • The same week that commercial free-toair TV was eating Survivor dust, the public broadcaster, not viewed by anyone, but documentary junkies and arthouse moviebuffs (a deplorable minority, that is), unveiled a monument situated in the open space in front of its headquarters. It's a sculpture, dedicated to the memory of the people who lost their lives after the abrupt closing of the company in 2013. • It was an authoritarian move from the Samaras government, which aimed to strike a blow to the Union of ERT employees, who were on a long strike. It was also a way for the government to get rid of a few thousand public servants, as per the wishes of the country's creditors. • It all backfired. And it continues to backfire in every direction possible. • When the head of the broadcaster - songwriter Dionisis Tsaknis - unveiled the scupture, created by internationally acclaimed sculptor Kiriakos Rokkos, he was confronted by former MP (voted first with the far-right Independent Greeks and subsequently with the far-left Syriza), Rachel Makri, who was one of the politicians fighting for the ERT to reopen. She accused him of exploiting the struggles of the workers, in pretty much the same way that Syriza betrayed its voters, conceding to the lenders’ demands. • She was met with fierce reaction by the ERT chairman, furiously shouthing at her to ‘shut up’. When she finally did and left, along with her children and the flowers she was carrying, he went on with his emotional speech. • As far as political debate goes, this was as Greek as it can get. • Especially considering that it coincided with the two year anniversary of the terribly worded referendum which was in fact let's be honest - about whether Greeks want to remain in the Eurozone, or go back to the drachma (or any other currency, for that matter). • Greece has yet to recover from the toxic polarisation of the time. • Nor from the capital controls which were implemented at the time. • And those who won the referendum by a sweeping 61.3 per cent, still can't fathom how they in turn lost, when their decision was disregarded by the same PM who asked them to vote against the creditor's wishes, only to fully surrender to them and implement even harsher austerity measures. • Survivor and other reality TV shows are a joke compared to this reality. • As for the other issue of debate, whether the people whose lives were ruined by austerity and unemployment, stress taking a toll on their health, their mental state, let's not get into it at the moment. • It's not for us to decide whether the former ERT employees who lost their jobs and then suffered strokes, heart attacks, aggressive cancers - or depression leading to suicide - should be commemorated as casualties of the memorandum. • Let's leave this decision for Sakis Rouvas, once he becomes prime minister.
01 July 2017
15 July 2017