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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 22 September 2018
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 22 SEPTEMBER 2018 25 OPINION The cast of Star Wogs: The Ethnics Strike Back. Moscow and Constantinople clash over Ukrainian autocephaly The Ecumenical Patriarchate calls for the merge of three ‘schismatic’ churches in Ukraine, something that will also affect Sydney’s St Savvas - and relations with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia EVANGELOS NICOLAIDIS parodied, ultimately, the Star Wogs make them hold their own. Sometimes, we need to look backwards, in order to go forward. Interestingly, the Star Wogs transcend conceptions of gender, by having male players play female parts and Mary Coustas performs an intriguing portrayal of an emerging Greek 'type', the 'grave kamaki' - widowers who visit their wives' graves in order to elicit sympathy and more, from grieving widows. Again, what is significant about these sketches is their total disinterest in engaging pre-conceived mainstream notions of ethnic comedy. This is us, playing just for us, on terms that only we largely understand and within parameters that we create for ourselves, a palpable 'strike' against the dictatorship of the conventional. COMEDY DRIVEN BY TRAUMA AND RACISM Interspersed between the sketches are what profess to be personal autobiographical monologues by Nick Giannopoulos and Mary Coustas. As is the case with most of the skits in their show, they look back upon a world that has now largely been lost: growing up in migrant communities in the inner suburbs, losing that social cohesion when migrating once more, into the culturally alien outer suburbs and most importantly, enduring racism. There is palpable pain in their voices, as they relate incidents of prejudice. One gets the feeling that there is a trauma here that has not yet healed, even after decades of comedy and this is the primary reason that drives their comedy, explaining why there is need to return to the same tropes again and again. Given that the Comedy Theatre is packed night after night with an elated audience whose average age is between 35-60, causing the edifice to rumble with laughter, it is evident that this trauma, or at least its memory, is shared by a significant section of the community and simultaneously with the hilarity, a good deal of healing and passing on of tradition is taking place, although this process is never finally completed. An impassioned speech by 'wog' icon Effie, who despite her being alluded to as a "dumb slut" by the ABC's Late Show, continues to personify (if one looks beyond the surface) in her complex contradictory character traits, neuroses, obsession with virginity and being adored, a complete deconstruction of the feminist paradigm and gender relations within traditional migrant communities, along with a truly ingenious appearance by Pauline Hanson as she has never been seen before, serve to drive the message home. The Star Wogs comedy has not changed, because the societal causes that engendered it in the first place have not changed either. Instead, intolerance, bigotry, societal polarisation, gender and racial inequality still manifest themselves within our national discourse, in ways similar to those extant in the 80’s. By cleverly layering and juxtaposing inter-ethnic insults, the Star Wogs suggest how such racism can be in- ternalised and reproduced among ethnic sub-cultures, once ethnic groups are considered assimilated and acceptable by their mainstream arbiters. As long as these systemic faults within our society endure, the Star Wogs' well known but no less profound satire, "striking back" as it has done for decades, will not only remain relevant, but perennial. I counted at least 20 expressions created by the Star Wogs that have subconsciously been absorbed into my vocabulary over the decades. The migrant world they and I grew up in has changed. Its mores, attitudes and aspirations have broken down and morphed into elements entirely different. The Star Wogs do not claim that the characters they portray reflect the multi-faceted reality of life in ethnic Australia. They merely point to one stylised aspect of them. New comedians must emerge to deconstruct and poke fun at what has emerged from the process of acculturation. But in the meantime, we can rely on their patriarchs, the celestial and exalted Star Wogs to constantly shine from up high, upon the direction whence we came, reminding us of the brilliance but also the burdens of our forebears, prompting us to consider why we are the way we are, lest in the Lethe of modernity, we forget. They compel us, having been made comfortable in our own identity, largely by their work, to understand that each culture has its own inner note and lend us their ears, so we can hear and appreciate their infinite number of melodies. Ukraine's pressing ecclesiastical issue has provoked a fierce rift between the Orthodox churches of Russia and Constantinople, with the powerful Patriarchate of Moscow warning the Ecumenical Patriarchate that the latter's decision to grant Ukraine's Orthodox Christians autocephaly, or self-governing status, by way of a patriarchal decree known in Greek as a 'tomos', has the potential to undermine the unity of the Orthodox Church and even create a new schism. Relations between Mos- cow and Constantinople began to sour last April, when the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced, through an official communiqué, that it had accepted a request from Ukrainian religious and political authorities, including president Petro Poroshenko, seeking its initiative in addressing Ukraine's decades-long ecclesiastical problem, according to which three separate Orthodox churches are active in the country. Of these, only one enjoys recognition among the world's established Orthodox churches, and this is none other than Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which claims a significant number of Ukraine's Christian faithful. According to recent reports, the tomos is in its final stages and concerns the establishment of a single, self-governing Orthodox church in Ukraine to which all the country's Orthodox Christians will belong, just like in other Orthodox-majority coun- tries. Yet for this new church to form, the other two of the three existing churches, the so-called Kiev Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, will have to merge, something Moscow will never accept, given it considers these two churches schismatic and hostile towards the Russian church. Thus, any recognition from Constantinople, and subsequently from the other Greek-speaking churches, will be viewed by Moscow as an unmerited gift to Ukraine's unrepentant schismatics, who since 1992 have clashed with the Russian church and spread division among Ukrainian Orthodox Christians. Despite Moscow's warning regarding the emergence of a new schism between the Greek-speaking churches, on the one hand, and the Slavic-speaking and so-called Russophile churches (Patriarchates of Antioch and Georgia), on the other, the Ecumenical Patriarchate appears determined to satisfy the request of the Ukrainians by year's end. Indeed, several days ago, just one week after the visit of a small Russian delegation headed by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow to Istanbul, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced the appointment of two bishops, Daniel of Pamphilon and Hilarion of Edmonton, both serving Ukrainian Orthodox communities in North America under the jurisdiction of Constantinople, as its exarchs (or representatives) in Ukraine, assigned with the task of examining the ecclesiastical situation there in order to determine the timing of the impending patriarchal decision's implementation. Should they succeed in establishing a new, autocephalous church, it is expected that the current canonical church in Ukraine dependent on Moscow will be relegated to a mere dependency of the Russian church, effectively curbing Russia's influence in its neighbour's ecclesiastical affairs. One last point worth noting is that a change of the ecclesiastical status quo in Ukraine is likely to have an impact on the Greek church in Australia. The parish of St Savvas of Kalymnos in Sydney, established only a few years ago, claims to be under the jurisdiction of the schismatic Kiev Patriarchate. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia does not recognise the church of St Savvas, as its parish priest was defrocked by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 2001. If, however, in the coming months an autocephalous church is declared in Ukraine recognised by Constantinople (which the Archdiocese answers to) and absorbing the Kiev Patriarchate, then St Savvas in Sydney will technically have the right to consider itself canonical and on equal footing with the churches of Australia's other recognised Orthodox jurisdictions, including the Greek Archdiocese. This is something that without doubt will create a major problem for the Archdiocese, for it cannot recognise the existence of a canonical Greek-speaking parish in Australia not under its spiritual authority.
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