Sunday, 28 February 2010

Heil… measures!

I liked this image and headline from today's Eleftherotypia – Heil… measures! – which neatly sums up Greece's deteriorating relationship with our German rulers, who want Greeks to know how cold the sea is and what it feels like to be drowning before allowing them onto the life-raft, i.e. Greece will have to implement more German-inspired austerity measures before Berlin agrees to financial support that will prevent Greece defaulting on its debt and being declared bankrupt.

In a way, I find this spat with the Germans edifying, particularly since it has made apparent German racism and what northern Europeans really think about Greeks, who for too long have been living under the illusion that Europe is just one big happy family based on solidarity and mutual respect. Greeks believed their own tourist propaganda about everyone loving Greece and the Greeks, but at least now they know that contempt between nations and peoples is the normal state of affairs and that to survive and prosper a country must have a healthy disdain and mistrust for its neighbours and those who it does business with. Our forefathers divided the world into Greeks and barbarians – this was the case in Byzantium as well as in the classical period – and modern Greeks would do well to do the same.

As for former foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos' correct view (see video below) that the Germans have no moral authority to lecture anyone, and particularly Greece, on stealing, cheating and so on; again the furore his comments have caused – a furore I don't think Pangalos, who seemed to make the remarks more in jest than anger, intended – may prove beneficial since they have at least had the effect of making Greeks consider their history, made them realise that they do have a history, which tells them a great deal about who they are and what they should become.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Once were Greeks

The other day I got chatting to a guy from Lecce (Ἀλήσιον) in south-east Italy, who, when I pointed out to him meant he was from the Greek part of that country, told me that, indeed, his grandfather spoke Griko, the Greek dialect of Kato Italia. I didn't press the guy on whether he knew Griko or considered himself Greek, but my impression was that he didn't speak Griko and saw himself as Italian. A pity. The Greeks in Italy are few and far between and constantly diminishing in numbers, and it is just as sad to see the demise of these Greeks and this part of Hellenism as it is to see Hellenism routed in Constantinople, Pontos, Asia Minor and so on. Anyway, Stavros at My Greek Odyssey has a good piece on the Greeks of Italy, I've uploaded in Radio Akritas some very emotive Griko songs and below is Cavafy's poems Poseidonians, which has meaning not only for the Greeks of Italy but for all Greeks in the diaspora.

These are the songs in Radio Akritas:

1. Άντρα μου πάει;
2. Ώρια Μου Ροντινέdda;

3. Καληνύφτα; and

4. Νανούρισμα – Ταχτάρισμα.

The first song is sung by Haris Alexiou, while the others are by Eleni and Souzana Vougioukli. I first heard the sisters on the Nostos blog; Nostos has good taste in Greek and Middle Eastern music. The sisters' album, containing these and other songs, can be downloaded from here – if you don't mind downloading music for free and depriving the sisters of much-needed income – and the password is: evrenselmuzik. The video above is of the sisters performing songs from Epiros and Thrace.

[We behave like] the Poseidonians in the
Tyrrhenian Gulf, who although of Greek
origin, became barbarized as Tyrrhenians
or Romans and changed their speech and
the customs of their ancestors. But they
observe one Greek festival even to this
day; during this they gather together and
call up from memory their ancient names
and customs, and then, lamenting loudly
to each other and weeping, they go away.

Athenaios, Deipnosophistai, Book 14, 31A (632)

The Poseidonians forgot the Greek language
after so many centuries of mingling
with Tyrrhenians, Latins, and other foreigners.
The only thing surviving from their ancestors
was a Greek festival, with beautiful rites,
with lyres and flutes, contests and wreaths.
And it was their habit toward the festival’s end
to tell each other about their ancient customs
and once again to speak Greek names
that only a few of them still recognized.
And so their festival always had a melancholy ending
because they remembered that they too were Greeks,
they too once upon a time were citizens of Magna Graecia;
and how low they’d fallen now, what they’d become,
living and speaking like barbarians,
cut off so disastrously from the Greek way of life.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Statistics and immigrants

I heard a couple of things on BBC World Service Radio this morning that attracted my attention.

First, there was an interview with Dr Emmanuel Kontopirakis, the former secretary general of Greece's National Statistical Office, who, in typical Greek fashion, denied all responsibility for the inaccurate economic data Greece had been presenting to the EU for years and which has so damaged the country's credibility in the eyes of its 'partners'. Listen to interview below in MP3 player.

(There was a similar 'not me, guv' interview given last week, again on the BBC, by Giorgos Alogoskoufis, who was Greece's finance minister from 2004 to 2009 – see here).

Second, there was a report from Israel on how that country's government is cracking down on illegal immigrants and is even deporting children born in Israel to foreign mothers, children who speak no language other than Hebrew and claim Israel is their home. The Israeli government is worried that the flood of non-Jewish immigrants to Israel will damage that county's national cohesion and social fabric. Greece, of course, has recently decided on the opposite course of action and is planning to grant Greek citizenship to children born to foreign mothers, even if they are illegal immigrants. (For more on Israel's policy on illegal immigrants, read

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Papandreou tells BBC: 'The answer is to give away more of Greece's sovereignty'

Here's Greece's PM Giorgos Papandreou being interviewed today on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show about the economic crisis affecting the country. Naturally, the questioning reflects Britain's concerns and, in particular, its hope that the Eurozone project will unravel.

A point worth stressing is that Papandreou affirms Greece's commitment to a deeper political union among EU member-states, i.e. Greek elites continue to believe that Greece's future will best be secured by the continued shedding of its sovereignty. Fair enough. If that's what they think. But it did cross my mind, 10 years ago, when Kostas Simitis was desperately trying to get Greece into the Eurozone, that what's going on here is that Greece's political elite has lost faith in its ability to manage the Greek economy and wants the Germans to do it for them. And so it has come to pass. The Germans are threatening to take charge of the Greek economy and, of course, have no interest in what's right for Greece and Greek society and are entirely motivated by what is best for Germany and the German economy.

Thus, what appears to Papandreou as Europeans 'pooling' sovereignty to others comes across as Greece 'conceding' sovereignty.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Evidence points to Turks in Tassos grave theft

Just a quick update on the theft of Tassos Papadopoulos' corpse from his grave in early December. (See my previous post on the story here). Last week, police were saying the most likely motive for the outrage was ransom, and that the fact that no demands had yet been made to the family should not be regarded as negating this scenario since in similar cases in Europe the culprits had often waited up to a year to make known their blackmail.

However, tonight's RIK TV news reported that the police were now almost certain that the gypsum the graverobbers used to cover their tracks at the site of the crime was of a particular kind that is only found in one place in Cyprus – the Pentadaktylos mountains in the Turkish-occupied part of the island. From the start, I have stated my suspicion that the Turks had the means, motives and mentality to perform such a perverse and despicable crime and now the evidence seems to be pointing in that direction too.