Conquering Kiev

What a relief: We’ve finally managed to clinch yet another prize that was missing from our collection. All the effort and money, the relentless promotional campaign by the state TV channels and the mobilization of ethnic Greeks abroad was not in vain. Helena Paparizou won the Eurovision Song Contest in Kiev, receiving an outpouring of praise from political and religious leaders. Inevitably we rehash the same old mantras: «Greece continues to write history;» «When Greeks are united, there is nothing they cannot accomplish;» «Culture is Greece’s heavy industry and its main export product.» The Cannes Film Festival award ceremony was on the same night. It seems sure, however, that few Greeks would take to the streets, blaring horns and waving flags, had a Greek director won the film festival. That’s all well and good. Besides, Paparizou’s winning the songfest did not quite send people out into the streets in ecstasy. Any comparison to the mass celebrations following the triumph of the national soccer team at the Euro 2004 in Portugal is unfortunate, to say the least. Hard as television crews tried to trace hordes of people celebrating in Athens or Thessaloniki, these were conspicuously absent. Besides, the majority cannot identify with a song whose lyrics mean little to those with only basic English. However, if the lyrics were translated into Greek, everyone would realize how shallow the romantic cliches really are, how inadequate they are to carry the burden conferred by the political and religious elite – that is, to «write history,» «export culture,» or «carry our flag forward.» A bit of lightness never did anyone any harm. That is, as long as it is not mistaken for seriousness.