‘Back to the roots’ again

Tradition is neither a single and absolute entity nor are all «roots» strong and fertile. When we invoke the past, we are not invoking its «authenticity» (which is usually indiscernible) but its interpretative and ideological elements in order to give it new form. Interpretations that claim to be unerring or divinely inspired are nothing but a manipulation of an accomplished fact, since they are an attempt to rearrange the past and fit it into a particular theory devoid of historical accuracy. The old adage referring to the «Greek Christian spirit» (which is now part of history, thus subject to study and not blind worship) does not mean the same today as it did in the 19th century, when it became established as a doctrine, or during the 1967-74 military dictatorship. So it is not reasonable to invoke it (as Archbishop Christodoulos has done) and to ignore its earlier «applications,» its very history. Similarly, it is not reasonable to talk about «Greek Christian culture» without taking into consideration the «Greek Christian» horror of the dictatorship, no matter what one was doing at that time. This latest call for a «return to roots» tends to ignore the present, with all its vital contradictions, and to do it less than justice. Idealized fervor about one’s roots (selectively of course, and not all of them) is accompanied by a denial of the here and now (of the «branches» referred to by President Costis Stephanopoulos) and a lack of recognition of what really happened. On Independence Day in March, the archbishop urged us to put flags out on our balconies «because here in Greece we believe in God and country and we will not give them up.» The flags went up, not in March but in summer for Greece’s soccer victory in the Euro 2004, another national idol, and not because «God is a Greek.»