Multiculturalism in Greece by Kostas Karaiskos
From: "Israel Shamir" Date: Thu Jul 1, 2004 10:47 am
Subject: Multiculturalism in Greece by Kostas Karaiskos
Here is an interesting talk by our friend Kostas Karaiskos, the editor of the Greek newspaper Antifonitis. It was given at the Kiev Conference I wrote to you about.
Multiculturalism in Greece
Multiculturalism is the last ideological trend that has been imported in Greece from the West. In my spiritually colonialised and politically occupied country, there is such a (bad) tradition of about two centuries. It was the 90s when this well known type of intellectual – importer started propagandizing the supposed enrichment of our democracy with multiculturalism. The contradiction that has been developed about the ideological assumptions and the consequences alike, especially in Greek case, has an extra aspect and a global interest. Results in Greece will not be only about the cohesion or the integrity of my country, but it will also refer to the contemporary man’s meaning of life. The meaning that has been formed under the influence of eternal Greek spirit, core of man’s heritage.
Which is the reality in Greece today? Beyond 95% resident population is of Greek origin, Greek-speaking and they belong to Orthodox Church. It is the outcome of mass population transfers between Balkan neighbours after wars, under violent or not circumstances. During an unavoidable historical process, Hellenism residing in Odessa, Alexandria, Constantinople or Vienna ceased to exist. The poor return was the high national purity of the metropolitan state.
This absolutely clear situation begun to change after 1989. Hundreds of thousands immigrants entered the country, that is on the borderline from the East of poverty to the West of welfare, a nearby capitalist country for them. Albanians, Polish, Russians, Pakistanis, Bulgarians, Chinese, Nigerians, Kurds and other distressed people with their unintended presence created the political environment for the application of multicultural ideas in practice. Propaganda machine started working: «We are now a country with different cultures, languages, religions, traditions... How can we speak about Greek state, about prevailing religion, about Greek-orthodox values in public education? Shouldn’t we care about others’ right in difference and diversity, shouldn’t we procure for the protection of their cultural distinctiveness?»
This touching, humanistic approach of the immigrants by the multi-culti intellectuals, which reaches even to distort the obvious reality – about increase of unemployment and criminality – in order to fight racial stereotypes and potential phenomena of xenophobia, is easily proved hypocritical. Firstly, it is connected with economic interests: the reduction of the production cost, the wage freeze, the illegal labour, the dissolution of the syndicates, all these created a big wealth for some members of upper classes in Greece. Secondly, the examples they use usually come from countries either formed by immigrants - that is to say non nation states – or ex colonial empires who receive today waves of immigrants from their previous colonies, although even there the contradiction remains strong. Which can be the relation of new, Greek state with Canada, Australia, Holland or Britain? Additionally, what kind of capabilities does this state have, so that it can be a melting pot or a place of coexistence for different ethnic or cultural communities? And last but not least it is the attitude of the very same people against the political refugees in Greece. Their outrageous indifference for politically active foreigners who came to our country as implorers is absolutely typical. They don’t create economy, they don’t intend to stay for ever, you cannot take advantage of them. On the contrary, they create bilateral problems, they disturb the placidity of our consumers and they do not accept their ethnic cleansing: Internationalists or not, they remain Kurds, Turks or Palestinians to the disappointment of the cosmopolitans.
Beyond these, globally known, elements, criticism in Greece has one more interesting dimension, which is referred to the factor «language». The etymological transparency of Greek language, which we have the honour to speak, offers an additional protection against obsessions, propaganda and myths. It brings out the oxymoron which is presented to us as the future of contemporary democracy. It has to be either multiculturalism or society. In western world the word «society», coming from the latin «societas», calls up financial interests and needs, that is to say a particular hierarchy of priorities in organizing human life. But in Greek language the word «κοινωνία» calls up the community (κοινότητα), the Agora, the Ecclesia, the political life. Our language here – as in so many other places as well – keeps inside it another perception of life, another civilization. This civilization was rescued during the medieval years in social-centric – Sir Steven Runciman said «socialistic» – Byzantium, even during Ottoman times through Greek communities. These are the major problems that professor Yannaras has comprehensively dealt with in his unique lifework. So, when people of different cultural origin meet each other in the same place, they can form society, but they cannot form «κοινωνία». Common cultural characteristics are required not as a procrustean demand but in the spirit of our traditional, democratic «about». This multiplicity, against all purities and all dogmatisms, which is permitted by Greek «λόγος», has been brought out by another heretic Greek intellectual, professor Zuraris.
Another paradigm for the shield of Greek language is the loathsome nationalism. Although in Latin linguistic heritage it is obviously connected with the fact of birth (nation), in Greek language the homologous word is «εθνικισμός», coming from homeric word «έθνος», that is to say «έθος – ήθος». What we have here is the absolute priority of the cultural criterion, the most essential identity of human. It is noteworthy that the stronger cultural element, religion, was forming human communities not only in Byzantium and in Ottoman Empire – with the system of millet – but even in free Greek state. Faith in Christ was the Greek identity in Revolution times and the same religious criteria determined the mutual population transfer between Greece and Turkey one century afterwards. All these above are not trying to describe something out of the known, miserable conditions of human societies. I just want to note another way of reading reality, another culture, unfortunately darkened and forgotten by the very natural descendants of its creators.
In this frame of general decline the multicultiralists do not hesitate to undermine old or ancient Greek values and individuals. They don’t want us just to accept the «Other» besides us, but – with the help of relativism – to lose every confidence from our past: Heroes of Greek Revolution, historical facts, intellectuals of modern Greece (like Seferis, Elytis, Kavafis) are discredited. There must be left no ground under our feet. Ancient Athens means slavery, Great Alexander means imperialism, Constantinople means obscurantism. Works like Black Athena of Martin Bernal defame the origins of ancient world from the afrocentric point of view or with politically correct fictions. In Greek universities, institutes, conferences, the only you can hear is about «constructing identities», «ethnic stereotypes», etc. Every difference, every diversity, everything that could disorganize a collective sense is used against «nationalism» – «chauvinism» – «racism». Exactly as every democrat in Cold War times was suspicious for being communist, today every patriot is ranked among Far-right and neo-nazis. Whoever is not with us, is against us, due to well known western approaches.
We believe that Greek vision of life, as it has been expressed in Minoan or Theran frescos, in Parthenon or in Agia Sofia, in democratic institutions and spiritual production of thousands of years, is not a matter of 10.000.000 Greek-speaking people. It is what really added another sapiens in contemporary situation of humanity. Even if Pushkin, Hoelderlin, Byron and Hugo were too idealists as they approached Greek paradigm, this does not mean that it can be equated with nomadic or Neolithic civilizations. After all it is absolutely hypocritical, since what embellishes human life today all over the world is democracy, music, theatre, architecture, athletics, philosophy, poetry. Greece.
Let us ... give thanks for our common Hellenic paideia, through which we became civilized and did not remain the wild beast-like creatures we once were. We younger peoples only ceased to be barbarous and wild when we came into contact with Hellenic civilization. It is this defining incident in the history of European man that unites us all. (Dr. Frederico Sagredo, Professor of Classics, President of the Basque Hellenic Society of Spain)