Thursday, June 14, 2012

Remembering Greece's multicultural heritage

My last post was a bit depressing I must admit. But as I have said before Greece is an addict and has to hit rock bottom so it can admit it has a problem. Once it has admitted its problem, then and only then can it begin to tackle the problems that brought it to this juncture.

Which is why, with everything I see around me I will not let things get me down, and most Greeks (except Unionists and Civil servants) are getting on their feet and are willing to work things over again to make things better... I think these lyrics best sum it up.

"If we have come to the world then we have to live
If our life is poison so we have to drink it
After falling again and again in our troubles we will keep doing it till we get it right"

These lyrics come from the movie Mother India.

My reason for selecting these lyrics of course lies in the fact that I am a sneaky bastard and I wanted to segue onto another subject - racism / nationalism in Greece.

A lot has been said about the Nazi party Golden Dawn which entered parliament in the last election and looks set to enter again. Many are pointing to this as evidence of a rise in racism in Greece. The sad fact is that they don't have a monopoly on this.

The communists (KKE party) in a recent argument said the only difference between Hitler's treatment of the Jews and Stalin's treatment of them is that Stalin was justified in his actions.

People are spreading a fear campaign against SYRIZA - which does have a platform of giving rights/shelter/protection/treating foreigners like human beings for migrants - saying that if they win all the Indian and Pakistani migrants will get Greek citizenship and Greece will change its colour.
At the same time people in SYRIZA blame the crisis on the Jews and its leader Tsipras openly discusses with former New Democracy MP and musician Mikis Theodorakis over the cause of the crisis. Theodorakis has not been shy to say that Jews "are at the root of evil." Or claim that American Jews are behind the crisis.

PASOK included Pirros Dimas - Olympic Athlete born in Albania - at the head of its election ticket. The smear campaign is that if they are elected they will make Albanians Greeks!
At the same time however former PM George Papandreau blames the crisis on those bankers who control the world (you know who they are). His speech writer, Yiannis Varoufakis has been cautioned in Australia for his anti-semitism and also blames the crisis and those people who control the world's economy.

New Democracy, well it just associates itself with former dictators, torturers (Just like the communist party funny enough) and shelters former LAOS parter members - LAOS used to be the acceptable face of the NAZI party. But since racism is on the rise - lets go with the original.

That said... that said I have to remember that it wasn't always like this. Greece, unlike other countries in Europe during WW2 openly opposed Nazi policy towards the Jews. I remember listening to Mark Mazower talk on the subject and reading from his book Inside Hitler's Greece and me finding out that Greeks helped so many Jews from the Nazis that the Allies actually put a quota on how many could leave. Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens along with the Police chief of Athens and the Mayor of Pireaus saved the lives of many Jews in Athens. The Bishop of Zakynthos apparently even sent a letter to his fellow art student, Adolf Hitler and asked him to spare the lives of the Jews on his island. Whatever the truth, no Germans were sent to round up anyone on the island.

Greece, soon after it gained its independence was also one of the first states to give Jewish people equality under the law.

And as for the current fear of Indians and the whole sub-continent in general (Papandreau said that if things continue we would become Indians - apparently he didn't mean it as a compliment. ie that Greece would become a major international player, a BRIC nation, largest democracy, fantastic cricket team, prolific movie studios, and the centre of so many industries I don't have the space to include), well there was a time when everyone in Greece waited eagerly for the next Bollywood film. Musicians would run out and make their own versions of the songs.
In fact so many of Greece's favourite songs have their roots in Bollywood cinema. Songs I thought of as quintessentially Greek are in fact Indian. My father's favourite movies were westerns and Bollywood, in fact they still are. They didn't fear India or Indians back then. It was a place of wealth and wonders, beautiful girls like Mandubhala - a place whose peoples shared the same experiences - throwing of the yoke of imperialism and creating a country from scratch, just like the Greeks from Ottoman rule. A place where, as in all stories, despite the poverty and all the bad things around them, the guy gets the girl - and of course the Bollywood twist is that the country is somehow left better off.

When I see the difference between now and then it confuses me, causes me shame and breaks my heart. But also gives me hope that returning to that state of being welcoming to foreign cultures and people is not that difficult - after all we did it before and we can do it again.

And so I will close on this heart wrenching song -Καρδια μου καημενη - My Poor Heart... sung by Stratos Dionysiou. The Greek version of Duniya Mein Hum Aaye Hain song - Mother India I showed earlier.

PS. The Madhubala song is also a copy of the song Aa Jao Tadapte Hain Armaan - from the movie Awara shown in the link earlier.


Anonymous said...

The effects of the choices on May 17 will unveil the wishes of the Greeks.

If the Greeks have chosen the right or the wrong party on that day to govern Greece for them will be shown by that party, after June 17.

If Syriza wins, a party will govern Greece with hardly any experience in governing, in hardly doing more than endless talking and thinking and changing the mind and talking, and promising.

The truth of the daily reality will have to be faced by everybody and I do not believe that Syriza can bear all the tasks, responsibilities and details there are in a so complex country as Greece is, with so many different characters and personalities, so many different traditions between the far south till the far north, and east and west, inclucing all the islands. In fact it is already impossible to unite all these differences.

To embrace imigrants from abroad: well, if they can help to rebuild Greece by bringing in some important brilliant ideas and the will to work for free, not to eat, to live outside in the fields, then it could be good.

The Greeks do not have an easy future now, how will it have a real future with even more people?

It is a chaos, and first the chaos has to be solved.

Who this job can do?
Not anybody from Syriza! Greece needs some politicians who are hard workers, not in the office only, but also in the reality outside the government, known with how it works, so, my vote goes to
Venizelos, and I give him the permission to search for true and powerful, reliable companions.

What you write about Mikis Theodorakis: I do not know how and where he got the information to make a statement like that. I would not dare, unless I had all the proof and I would show it, publish the proof!
I am the blogownerm of TheodorakisFriends, and though I not always agree with Mikis Theodorakis, I will continue with informing people about his work, his music, his view on life and politics.

zoek72 said...

Theodorakisfriends, while I respect your opinion, why would anyone offer 'brilliant ideas' yet work for free? Give me a break. Until ALL party officials, reps and gofers agree to change the status quo, Greece will only fall further in dire straits because the pensioners and private sector will be expected to pick up the bill.

Anonymous said...

@zoek72 Why somebody should offer Greece brilliant ideas and work for free? The answer is: Greece, as a beautiful wonderful amazing country with citizens who are suffering, and in a huge need for human help. Why should NEW, coming in people, be payed while Greece does not have one penny left for its own people? There IS nothing in the wallet. Nothing.
But again: Greece is worth it to work for, as a volunteer, to help the country out of its disaster.

Mikis Theodorakis said: Greece is my religion.
Georgos Papandreou spoke similar words.
It is that attitude, that inner connection, so deep, that this should be the C.V of each single politician before they are allowed to join the elections. Gail Holst Wagner wrote also a very interesting article on the crisis and the coming elections in Greece: "It's time to be a democrat"

Wishing all Greeks for next Sunday a wise decision.
To vote for the one who can guide the people through the first heavy difficult painful years after June 17, 2012.

It is a task similar with what Moses did.

Imam Siddique said...

Namastey & As Salaam Aleikum. Thank you for this post. The song is a classic and an artistic reflection of our collective consciousness as a nation that went from strength to strength, from Unity in Diversity to Unity in Adversity.

Xena Copilova said...

Dear Vassili - Mike,

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Would you be interested in reviewing our walking tours in Athens or posting a "Look for reviewers" announcement for us in your blog? We offer reward to people who send us feedback. The reviewers will receive gift codes for our iOS walking tours apps. Each gift code is good for a free walking tour iPhone app download, normally priced at US$4.99. We have walking tour apps covering all major cities in the world.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Xena Copilova

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Greeks are multicultural, but unfortunatelly most of them don't like it, they preffer monocultural. Anyway Greeks are so positive and sympatic that it's hard to not like them ;)


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Joe Pinzone
Casting Producer
P: 212-231-7716
Skype: Joefromnyc

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