National jubilations have never helped bring the country’s history any closer to its martyrized truth, nor have they ever reinforced morale. This is the kind of gratuitous speech that enhances our self-awareness as much as the costly military parades that supposedly provide a basis for the country’s national pride.
Lo and behold, that self-respect and self-confidence need this kind of ceremonial activity, which, besides, was put into motion after WWII, not so much in view of uniting the country and its people, but rather to emphasize its division into winners and losers, patriots and traitors.
Talk of country and patriotism abounds these days, but it is of the divisive kind, as opposed to unifying. The roles of patriots, on the one hand, and of the compliant and even the treacherous, on the other, are shared out depending on the interlocutor’s taste. This is done in an arbitrary, self-vindicating fashion. You’d think there is only one single way for one to love and try to serve their country. You’d think there is some kind of monopoly on patriotism, allowing those who have it to declare anyone who believes that real history never stems from chatty and syrupy jubilations and dull ceremonial messages to be suspicious and a pariah.
No doubt the 19th-century general and politician Ioannis Makriyiannis’s use of “we” echoed throughout the country on Tuesday. So what? How many will adhere to the plural when everything surrounding us is sending out completely different messages regarding the importance of individualism? Whatever the country managed to construct collectively in the post-junta period is now under attack, slandered, broken or collapsing. Society would have become fragmented had numerous sources of solidarity not been developed spontaneously across Greece.
The monopoly of loving one’s country – not an exclusively Greek phenomenon – is being claimed quite aggressively by the far right, as a herald of fierce isolationist, anti-European sentiment and the kind of chauvinism which unavoidably emits racism. The Greek far right is not a single entity. Part of it co-governed a few years ago for “national reasons.” Another is currently savoring a portion of power through politicians who believe that a party changeover purified them after their stint in bigotry, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. A third portion, the strongest, toughest and militarily organized, is divided between those members who are currently behind bars and those who remain free.
This last version, the shamelessly pro-Nazi far right, tried over the last few years to monopolize patriotism to the point of operating (given that it was allowed) as a paramilitary force. No doubt certain of its members tried to come across as the heroes of the new Greek War of Independence on Tuesday. They have always tried to rewrite history and they remain impostors.