Alexis Papachelas ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

We need the diaspora

COMMENT

TAGS: Community, Society

Hellenism has never been restricted within the borders of Greece and whenever the country has made an important achievement in recent history, it has been with the support of its diaspora. Today, however, there seems to be a great divide between us living in this crumbling country and the rest of the world’s Greeks. They can’t understand us and we can’t understand them.

To Greeks who have done well in the United States, in Australia and in other parts of the world, Greece is one big paradox, a blessed country that has failed to tap into the gifts of its very creative people. All of those who took a leap of faith and considered investing have some horror story to tell. They know that there is acumen here and also what Greeks can achieve when they are extroverted and ambitious, but when they try to do business here, all they hear is that everything is impossible.

Greeks aboard are also starting to lose their cultural and emotional ties with the country. Studies show, for example, that Greek parish churches in the US perform less that 10 baptisms a year on average. The absence of a strong religious leadership has weakened the diaspora’s religious bonds. If the next archbishop of America is not someone who can inspire the people and get them mobilized, then integration will swallow up what remains of traditional bonds.

We also need community leaders who will bring second- and third-generation Greeks abroad closer to their roots. In the case of the US, this would be the only way to ensure the survival of a strong Greek lobby that does not limit its activities to photo-ops at the annual Greek Independence Day parade. There are plenty of patriots out there – both famous and low-profile – who sense this need and want to make a contribution. Instead of finding ways to draw them in, Athens’s only line of approach is: Come and invest.

The diaspora could be of enormous help to Greece right now. Esteemed academics and professionals from so many different backgrounds could act as mentors to people here who want to make a difference. We could use an injection of positive energy and a practical vision.

Convincing Greeks outside the country to get involved is not the problem, however busy they may be, because they are still drawn to the homeland even though it is doing practically everything its power to be unattractive.

The problem is how they can get a people raised with the notion that they are superior to everyone else to understand that they too could be thriving – just like Greeks abroad – if this country’s institutions and laws worked, and if common sense were allowed to prevail over bravado, cockiness and never-ending waffle.

Online