Greek for foreigners

“Greeks bear an uncanny resemblance to cats. However tricky a situation they find themselves in, they always manage to land on their feet,» a former ambassador said of Greeks in an off-the-record conversation with Greek and foreign journalists weeks ago. Any upbeat comment at that time was a jarring note to the overall mood. Foreign press reports on the Athens Olympics preparations were most often accompanied by Greek words that have made their way into the West without losing any of their ominous content – words such as «chaos» or «catastrophe.» Let’s hope that the foreign visitors of this grand celebration will get a chance to rediscover the genuine meaning of various other Greek words that have been distorted over the centuries. For example, those visiting the main Olympic stadium’s «Agora» should not be misled: One can only hope that Olympic officials were not inspired by the various souvenir shops but by the tradition of a city that deeply valued its ancient Agora, a forum where Athenians exchanged ideas and a sanctuary of democracy – the political system where rulers are meant to obey citizens and not the other way round. Let’s hope that the Games’ Pharaonic dimension will not obstruct visitors from witnessing the Greek sense of «metron,» or moderation. That is, the philosophers’ moderation as the compromise between two evils and, above all, as the cornerstone of a free society which does not revolve around the power of the hegemon or the wealth of the «choregoi,» or sponsors, but round the social man – the man who even made his gods imperfect and «human,» for he realized that the hubris of those who portray themselves as the Absolute Good is a lightning rod for Nemesis.

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