COMMENT

Zeus doesn't live here anymore

By Pantelis Boukalas

It?s an acute problem, yet some of its facets are blanketed by interest or conviction. One of the reasons why immigration has topped the agenda once more is politics: The ruling parties know that a big chunk of economic growth over the previous years is owed to cheap, clandestine labor provided by the country?s immigrant population. Even many of the projects for the ?miraculous? 2004 Games -- deliberately left until the last moment so as to avoid tenders and make way for direct assignments -- were ready in time largely thanks to migrant labor.

Some people reaped the benefits of cheap labor and scaled the social ladder, scoffing at calls for them to pay taxes and benefits. Meanwhile, those who profited -- be they big land owners, contractors, livestock farmers or tour operators -- were also part of the social status quo, of the party system and of the clientelist state. In effect, the demand for legality, which the government (does that include the Democratic Left party?) now claims to be pursuing, was put on the back burner.

After all, who would look after our aging parents? Who would bring new life into our dying villages? Who would help boost the country?s demographics? Who would support the crumbling social security foundations?

We all know the answer but choose to sweep it under the carpet of our sensibilities and conscience, to instead focus on crime. We have different priorities now. The pace is set by fear -- real or cultivated. Golden Dawn, a party that includes a number of Hitler sympathizers, is now in Parliament after beating LAOS, the nationalist-light party.

But where has the cynicism sprung from? What kind of a sick mind came up with ?Xenios Zeus? as a codename for the migrant sweep operation? After all, Greece?s ancient mythology is filled with much more suitable names for such an operation: There?s Cerberus, the Hecatoncheires or Argus Panoptes. They were all, of course, trumped in the game of evil by the cyclops Polyphemus.

In Homer?s Odyssey, the Ithacans reach the land of the cyclops and Odysseus tries to woo Polyphemus by saying: ?O mighty one, respect the gods. We are your suppliants, and Zeus is the avenger of the suppliant and the stranger; he is the stranger?s friend and waits on worthy strangers.?

If Zeus only looked after the Greek cities, as some revisionists believe, Odysseus would have no right to ask the one-eyed giant to respect his god. Unless we assume that the brutal, xenophobe Polyphemus was Greek. Or was he?

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