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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 09 November 2019
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 9 NOVEMBER 2019 23 OPINION «και με έναν πόνο», rendered as: "And with one pain," will elicit looks of mystified indignation. Similarly, wishing a pregnant feminist: "Good Freedom" or "Happy Liberation," («καλή λευτεριά»), a most singular event I have borne witness to, is not advisable, no matter how culturally sensitive she is, unless you are able dexterously to turn the discourse to a discussion of Mao's revolutionary tactics. For some reason this linguistic conundrum, has crossed the semantic divide, into our own community. Funerals are a case in point. At any given funeral these days, there will invariably someone who will come to wish the deceased's relatives, "Life to you." Turning to the assembled mourners, they will address them by wishing "Life to us." («Ζωή σε μας/ζωή σε σας»). At one particular funeral, the attempt to preserve the Greek second person plural, indistinguishable in English, led to the rendering "Life to youse." Similarly, at one of my uncle's funerals, one of the attendees solemnly wished me: "Life to your words." At first, I took this as an observation as to the deadness of my prose and it was only upon reflection that I understood this to be a valiant attempt to render: «Ζωή σε λόγου σας», into the English. Some of the more philosophical have been heard to comment: "He has left us years." («μας άφησε χρόνους»), while sipping coffee in their relatives hitherto disused σαλόνι, while the more religiously minded will cluck "Memory eternal" («Αιωνία η μνήμη»), and may even venture a tentative, "May the soil that covers him be not so heavy," («ας είναι ελαφρύ το χώμα που τον σκεπάζει») spoken at a funeral of a friend's father, before a massive granite sepulchre. Some phrases that sound innocuous in Greek, assume interesting connotations in English. "May God forgive her" («Θεός σχωρέσ' την»), implies that the deceased was of dubious moral fibre, having possibly committed a crime of a magnitude beyond the capability of mortal man to grant absolution, while the unspeakable vile hybrid "May God αναπαύσει him" and the bereaved who respond "Same to you" are considered by local linguistic purists, the desolation of abomination as spoken of by Daniel the Prophet. As we have been in this land for a while now and include within our inner sanctum members of the erstwhile periphery, there is always a performance element to our rites of passage. Proving that the linguistic phenomena explored herein are not limited just to the Australian born, there is an increasing tendency among first generation Greek-Australians with limited facility in English, to translate their laments, for the benefit of non-Greek συμπέθεροι, γαμπροί and νύφες present in the audience. At a recent funeral, a bereaved widow who lamented in a heartbreaking wail, in broken English: "o black jockey where you take it him?" («πού τον πας μαύρε καβαλάρη»), was enjoined by her son to calm herself, she broke away from him, screeching: "No, let me cry my husband," (όχι, άσε με να κλάψω τον άντρα μου), followed by a spine tingling howl: "what now will I happen, the black widow?" («τι θα απογίνω τώρα η μαύρη χήρα;») arguably because subtitles were not included in the funeral package. In times recent it appears that our tendency to create English calques is seeping into the next generation of Greek-Australian migrants. I recently bore witness to one of those migrants, who had just become an Australian citizen receive the following benediction from one of her peers: "Good citizen," corresponding to the Greek «καλός πολίτης», offered to young Greeks upon their discharge from military service. As for the creation of calques in the opposite direction, from English into Greek, «μη μετράς τις κότες σου πριν κάνουνε hatch,» is a perennial and surprisingly often used Greek-Australian favourite. I myself am not immune from the process. Some years ago running to my car to avoid a paring fine, I found a sneering parking inspector preening himself before my vehicle. As I approached him, he began to issue a ticket. Incensed, I shouted spontaneously: "Hey, why are you writing me?" a literal translation of the Greek «Γιατί με γράφεις». Looking up, he burst out laughing, for he too was Greek. Granted, he cancelled the ticket, but for reasons known only to Fate herself, I keep on running into him everywhere and he never fails to remind me of the glibness of my expressions, and expressing the desire to hear some more. As for that prospect, I say: "Good wines," («καλά κρασιά»). Who speaks for the diaspora Greeks? Regional Syllogoi and other representations to help us feel a sense of community ALEXANDER BILLINIS Greeks are a very individualistic lot. We often quarrel, and tend not to like others speaking for us. Having said that, for centuries Greeks have had to create organisations to foster community, educational, and religious cohesiveness, whether during the years of the Ottoman Empire, or before and since in the diaspora. As individualistic as we Greeks are, we are all oriented to some degree towards institutions. This is both natural and a good thing, yet in does require a bit of scrutiny. Do our organisations speak for us, or for themselves? It's time to ask the question. We are a global and globalised tribe, with an ancestral centre of gravity in the Greek and Asia Minor peninsulas. Most of us are Orthodox Christian, and as such the church, as ever, is a key reference point for us and our Hierarchs do play a role in our lives. The church, however, is not designed to be representative and indeed may not reflect normative opinion for everyone in the Greek diaspora. As such, while I am personally an adherent of Greek Orthodoxy, I do not think that the church speaks for the diaspora. To speak for us, I believe, requires a representative process, which the church is not designed to accommodate. For many of us, particularly our parents or grandparents, there were the regional origin syllogoi centred around one's ancestral region (Crete, Macedonia, Pontus, etc) which do a great job in preserving ties to the region, fostering local traditions and pride, but are We need an organisation, or series of organisations, that will connect the Diaspora to each other, as well as to the motherland. “ less important in an era of intermarriage where ties to a Greek heritage may be hard enough to preserve. Here, I am speaking as a GreekAmerican, it may be that in Australia these organisations still have a longevity, but eventually the issue will be the same. There are also any number of professional, cultural, intellectual organisations again with a limited scope and a questionable shelf-life, but these too should be fostered to bring individuals together and to build a wider awareness of Hellenism both within the community and without. Again, the degree to which they are widely representative is an open question. We also have various Hellenic advocacy organisations, in the United States often as not based in Washington, D.C., who claim to speak for Greeks here. However, these organisations generally respond to their funders, donors, or membership, who do not necessarily represent a wide spectrum of Greek America, and often they are compensated by the Greek or Cypriot governments for advocacy. It is hard to suggest that they represent us. Yet they often do suggest just that. A small membership of a few hundred or a clique of donors does not representation make. It is also questionable the degree to which such organisations are "in touch" with the realities of Greece, or with the widely dispersed, diverse diaspora they claim to represent. They may be, but we ought to see evidence of this and some sort of performance indicators. In the United States, we do have the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), a lodge type order with chapters all across the US and nearly 100 years of history and gravitas. AHEPA emphasised American citizenship and Greek heritage; in World War Two the organisation raised more war bonds than any other single entity. This organisation could, potentially, up its game and be truly representative. Their growing youth arm, the Sons of Pericles/Maids of Athena, is doing excellent work in empowering youth—another area neglected by and large by our ethnic organisations. AHEPA has the history, infrastructure and gravitas, and AHEPA does have European/ Greek, Canadian, and Australian chapters. The AHEPA model, if internationalised, might be a flexible yet credible representative of the Greek Diaspora. I suggest that we do need something, perhaps less formal and infrastructural than AHEPA, taking into account our diversity and wide geographies. We need an organisation, or series of organisations, that will connect the Diaspora to each other, as well as to the motherland. A participative series of fora where ideas can be shared, decisions made, and people empowered. A model that have a sense of history to inspire us, but with the means to take us forward and empower us to ensure that we are not a historical footnote. Perhaps we all speak for Diaspora Greeks, and we need a model to empower us to speak individually and collectively. As a mosaic, individuals but coordinated, we do well. In art as in life. It's time to talk about this. Events both in the motherland and in our own countries demand it. Alexander Billinis is an instructor and graduate student at Clemson University. His thesis concerns the history of the Greek merchant marine. His book, ‘Hidden Mosaics: an Aegean tale’, is available on Amazon. Neos Kosmos welcomes Letters to the Editor and opinion pieces. The views and opinions expressed in these are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the publisher. We reserve the right to edit contributions. All letters must be accompanied by the contact details of the authors. Send these to email@example.com. au or mail them to PO Box 6068, Hawthorn West, Victoria 3122.
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