Sunday, November 17, 2013

Greek Cleavages

A quick weekend trip to Athens has brought to the limelight many of the traits/characteristics of what it is to be a Greek today. Political and ideological polarization undoubtedly prevails to the point that national symbols such as the flag and the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the uprising at the Athens Polytechnic have become instruments of partisan design. Witnessing a small gathering of Golden Dawn stalwarts in front of Parliament on a Friday afternoon (15 November) made me reflexively cringe. More troubling was their taking for their own use of the national flag as an instrument for their protest; in a way soiling it for the rest of us proud citizens of a proud nation. 

This past weekend also marked the honoring of the 24 fallen of the Polytechnic uprising of 14-17 November 1973 that culminated in the eventual fall of the military junta and the return to democracy in Greece in 1974. The annual pilgrimage to the site and the accompanying music by Theodorakis and Loizos and the voices of Farantouri, Kalogiannis, and Bithikotsis among others is chilling...a necessary reminder of what we take for granted today. Yet even this event that shaped a nation has become usurped by the Left that wants to constantly remind those that do not vote for it or support it that democracy exists in Greece only because the Left exists. A cursory reading of social and other media these days is telling of the deep chasm that is being cultivated in the battle for appropriation of national, historical and defining benchmarks. The perfunctory annual protest that converged upon the American Embassy is a manifestation of trite ideological arguments that make no sense today....yet plans are probably underway to continue with it for the next forty years.

On the other hand, I would like to think that there is another Greece out there as well such as the one I witnessed at the World Cup qualifier between Greece and Romania on Friday night when over 30,000 of us urged on as one our team waving our national colours...no Golden Dawn symbols, no Left ideological morality lessons...simply football and many goals.

This is all bittersweet especially in these times of political, social, economic, and moral distress where instead of rallying cries we have those laced with discrimination, partiality, prejudice, bias, sectarianism, and bigotry. The release on Saturday night of the ideological proclamation by a left wing terrorist group justifying the recent cold blooded murder of two members of Golden Dawn in retaliation for the murder of a left wing rapper by the neo nazi group exemplifies the deep cleavage that is Greece today, feeding on its insides. The atmosphere at the football game suggests that unity is possible ...but logic unfortunately seems to have its limits.

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