As the 200th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence approaches, the Greeks are not hewing a calm course through the family of nations but are once again in a state of upheaval and division.
This plague is the cause of many ills – bankruptcies, wars, civil strife – but, at the same time, may just be why this small, ancient nation is tough enough to have survived. Today that the whole world is upset, it is imperative that the Greeks’ survival instincts conquer the self-destructive seduction of division.
On the 196th anniversary of the war of liberation, we are once again at a great crossroads, divided into opposing camps, not only with regard to our own time but over the past, as well. We continually confirm William Faulkner’s declaration that “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” And so, for some Greeks, even the March 25 commemorations are fake.
“It is a lie that Germanos, the Bishop of Patra, was the first to raise the flag of Revolution in 1821. When Papaflessas met with Germanos to tell him that all was ready for the Revolution, the bishop cursed him as a fraud.
The flag was raised in Patra by the popular leader Panayotis Karatzas, who was murdered by the Turkish-appointed leaders of Patra,” the PAME teachers’ union, which belongs to the Communist Party, wrote in a letter to school pupils this week. “The Revolution of 1821 was not only a war against Ottoman despotism,” it explained, but also aimed at setting up “a new, for that time, economic system” – capitalism.
The rivalry between revolutionaries and establishment figures, between local heroes and “lackeys of foreign interests” are standard features of Greek politics, with the Left and the Right exchanging roles and expropriating each other’s language with astonishing ease.
Monumental confirmation of the supremacy of such thinking was the statement of a government minister this week after a court found that all defendants in a controversial land swap deal between the state and the Vatopedi Monastery were innocent.
“Local and foreign interests, pimps of tangled interests, lackeys and catamites of the news media try every means possible to neutralize popular leaders. This happened with [conservative Prime Minister] Costas Karamanlis, this is happening today with [Prime Minister] Alexis Tsipras,” he declared.
Left and Right, today and yesterday, rebels and ministers, all become one in the scenario where a few “real Greeks” battle foreign enemies and their “lackeys.”
From the civil strife during the War of Independence, which nearly cost the Greeks their freedom, to current division between “fans of the memorandum” and self-proclaimed “patriots,” which undermines efforts to get the economy on its feet, we are trapped in roles and plots that are irrelevant to Greeks today. We have grown accustomed to disaster because it is so frequent.
This does not make defeats less painful, nor does it allow us to build on our successes. And it does not help us stand firm in today’s world.
Let us consider our responsibility for Greece’s course over the next 200 years. Just as we remember the heroes of 1821, others will remember us and our actions. What will they think?