Are we done with myths? It’s something to think about after the universal farewell to composer Mikis Theodorakis.
The answer is “probably yes.” Because history plays mysterious games and just when it seems to be moving in a straight line, it can take a strange turn that leads to new myths.
In Greece, it was the Left that had created and propagated most myths, sweeping along the liveliest part of the academic and artistic worlds. The Greek Civil War and the military dictatorship that followed gave the Left absolute hegemony. It created idols and slogans. And, of course, it was very capable at deconstructing the paradigms and protagonists of the political center and the Right. The Left had the passion, the sense of an unfulfilled dream; it was driven by bitterness and the unimaginable suffering of the losers and tugged at Greeks’ heartstrings.
The center and the Right have never been able to compete with the Left in the arena of myth- and symbol-building. Especially after the restoration of democracy, the center was crushed by the onslaught of leftwing populism and left to play the role of wildcard, one time leaning left and the other right.
As for the Right, it was besieged, as was logical, by guilt and a lack of confidence. Or, as the late prime minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis often said, “as if he had the soul of a goldfinch.” In fact, a part of it was confused and even borrowed myths and ideologies from the Left in order to survive.
Theodorakis was Greece’s last enduring myth because he emerged from the millstones and contradictions of modern Greek history, from events that we are unlikely to experience again: a world war, a civil war, a dictatorship. He had universal appeal because everyone could choose which “Mikis” they agreed with – the one involved in the events of December 1944 or the one who protested the “Macedonia” name deal. There never was and never could be a “veto” on mythology. His passion and love for Romiosini [Greekness] resonated with everyone.
But such myths are now finished. We are living in an age of demystification throughout the West, when statues and ideals are being torn down with fury. The Left came to power, perhaps with a significant time delay that allowed it to create its own mythology. It compromised, it was judged, it convinced some, it disappointed others. What is Left and what is Right, the history of the two and the history between them, is of little concern today, especially for the younger generations.
This is not necessarily a good thing, quite the opposite in fact. Because while the exploitation of history may seem outdated, ignorance of it leads to unhealthy myths and ultimately to the age of monsters.