Wednesday, 26 March 2008

More Makriyiannis

I’m not quite done with 1821 and the Greek War of Independence. Below is another excerpt from the memoirs of General Makriyiannis, recording the bitterness and resentment against foreign hypocrisy, foreign malevolence and foreign interference in the new Greek state. Greece, of course, is still fighting for its independence against the Turk and the so-called Europeans, in their manifold forms and guises.

‘And when God takes pity on these our people and wants to set them on their feet, everyone fights against them and would devour them and destroy them and wipe them out so that they might never be called Greeks. And what has this name of the Greeks done to you, you the noblemen of Europe, you the advanced, you the wealthy? All the foremost men of the ancient Greeks, the parents of all mankind, such as Plato, Socrates, Aristides, Themistocles, Leonidas, Thrasybulus, Demosthenes, and the rest, who were the fathers of mankind in general, struggled and laboured by day and night through their virtue, sincerity and their pure enthusiasm to enlighten mankind in general, and set it on the path of virtue and light and bravery and patriotism. All these great men of the world must have lived for so many centuries in some dark place in Hades and have wept and suffered torments for the many perils that this poor wretched country of theirs has undergone. When these perished, there perished too Greece, their country, and its name was wiped out. These men did not study to lay up some vain treasure of the day, they studied to enlighten the world with an eternal light. They clothed men with virtue, they stripped them of evil manners, such was their regard for mankind, and they became the teachers of the School of Truth. Their pupils, the Europeans, have wrought a change upon us, their descendants – a training in evil and corruption. Such is the virtue they possess, such is the light they give us. We, a handful of descendants of those ancient Greeks, without muskets or ammunition or any of the supplies of war, we tore off the mask of the ‘Grand Signor’, the Sultan, that mask which he kept on his face to scare you, the Great European. While you, the men of power, you the men of riches, you the men of light, you paid your poll-tax to him and called him Grand Signor, for you were afraid to call him Sultan. When the poor Greek, all unshod and unclothed, made war against him and killed more than four hundred thousand of his men, he had to fight against you, the Christian as well – with your counterplots and your deceit and guile and your supplies to the Turkish-held forts in the first years of the war. If you had not kept them in supplies, you the Europeans, you know how far we should have gone with the power that was then in us.’
(Makriyiannis: The Memoirs of General Makriyiannis, 1797-1864)

■ I’ve also made available in Radio Akritas three songs by Nikos Xylouris:
1. Barba Gianni Makrigianni, (lyrics by Nikos Gatsos);
2. Hilia Milia Kymata; and
3. Ntirlanda.

Xylouris has such a heroic voice that even if he were singing about what he had for breakfast you’d still want to grab your toufeki and hunt Turks.