Monday, August 30, 2004


It didn't take long for the negative criticism to re-emerge did it? Foiled on all sides as to Greece's capacity to hold the Olympic Games, criticism of Greece and Greeks continues. Interestingly enough, such criticism is directed almost entirely from the Anglo-Saxon world. While European and Asian media wax lyrical about the classiness and symbolism of the opening ceremony, the general consensus among the Australian rags is that the Athens ceremony was admittedly technologically superior, but of course "not as good as Sydney."
Anglo journalists display an unholy glee as they point to the empty seats in such riveting sports as rowing or ping-pong. Australian journalists dismiss the feast of the Assumption of Panayia as a reason for Athens being empty and a low attendance at the Games. "They are on holidays, so they should be able to attend." There is no reason why the Greeks should not share Australia's monopthalmic, secular and cultureless society.
Yet criticism has shifted ever so slightly but in an ever more so sinister fashion from the Games themselves to the Greeks. It has become fashionable to denigrate Greeks wholesale as anyone who listens to commercial radio in Melbourne would discover. Celebrities possessed with the mighty intellectual clout that only Blair of Big Brother fame can muster comment that Greeks are persons who ride donkeys and hit their steed's posteriors with olive branches and the entire morning Melbourne traffic jam is enveloped in throes of laughter. Recently, a commentator on ABC's 'Lateline' sneered that Ilias Iliadis, the Greek Judo gold medallist had 'shaved since he was six.' Even the hapless denizens of the 3AW morning show, in their attempt to complement Greece, reveal exactly what they think of us, commenting that they can't understand how the Greeks here own little corner businesses when they went to a vast modern shopping center in Athens, that was actually clean. That is to say nothing of FOX FM's 'Bit Fat Greek Olympics' where demented 'ethnics are paid to say "Oh my God that car is fully sick vre,' in order to raise an Aussie laugh. Fully sick indeed.
Ten years ago, such comments were taboo. Everyone played lip service to multi-culturalism and only a few ultra-right wing conservatives on the margin of society railed at what they saw to be the extent that political correctness had pervaded Australian life. One could have been forgiven for believing that we were truly a melting-pot, where ethnic boundaries were unimportant. How radical our about face has been.
Commencing with the Howard government's refusal to publicly reject the racist slurs of Hansonism and moving on to the demonisation of refugees and other foreigners that was the Tampa incident, Australian society has gradually and imperceptively become insular, desperately seeking to assume one identity and extremely fearful of the 'other.' Welcome to mono-cultural Australia, the real Australia, hiding under years and reams of leftist, heart-on-one's sleeve Whitlamist Labor party policy directives, and now emerging triumphantly to regain its hunting ground and relegate those remaining 'wogs' who retain their culture unassimilated to the margins of scorn or at best indifference.
From television shows like Kingswood Country, to Graham Kennedy's World Tonight, to Acropolis Now and beyond, the message is received loud and clear: 'Wogs' are only acceptable when they are figures of fun, held up to the public scorn. Wogs cannot be accepted in their own right, unless they fit a certain negative stereotype. No wonder then that the Italians on Home and Away are cast as Mafiosi. That is what Australia wants them to be.
There have always been warning signs mind you. My classmates back in High School could not understand why we spoke Greek. They could understand that our parents spoke Greek because they had been born 'over there.' But we had been born here and that meant that we were Australians. This entailed 'speaking Australian' and 'acting Australian.' These kids were not hostile. They had just been brought up to believe that ethnic cultures were inferior and in true Anglo style, that the Anglo-Australian culture was so superior, that all should adopt it. They genuinely could not understand why we could not see that what we were doing, in speaking Greek in the playground, was un-Australian, or why we would persist in maintaining Greek traditions when we could partake in the glory of 'acting Australian'.
Still we were brought up differently. The racism we have had to deal with is not that overt racism which our parent experienced in past decades. A combination of brute force, determination, outward assimilation and ambition have seen the Greeks of Australia propel themselves to the highest echelons of Australian society. Yet still, a century on, we are an illegitimate presence, struggling to cope with a latent racism that is re-emerging, struggling to cope with the realization that despite the rhetoric, inherent prejudice never went away.
Dr Karl Kruzsenicki, famous in Australia for his re-popularisation of all things scientific recently appeared on the Denton show and spoke about what it was like to be an 'ethnic' boy going up in Australia in the fifties and sixties. He spoke of being accosted for speaking a foreign language (his parents spoke six) and as a result, rejecting his parents' polyglot, multicultural family background, to the extent where he could not communicate with them anymore. Many of our parents, mine included, have been the recipients of similar injunctions by 'well-meaning' Anglo-Australians.
No, we haven't really progressed. September 11, the Bali bombings and cynical governments who milk such occurrences to their full political yield have seen that in the new xenophobic Australia, there is no more room for grass-roots Multiculturalism, beyond the policy launch, or indeed for diversity. For where if not in a fear of strangers, an arrogant dismissal of other cultures and Bushian confidence in 'Our Way' as the only way does the ability of Australians to slander and poke fun at a minority Australian group with impunity come from?
Karl Kruzsenicki was admonished for speaking a foreign tongue in the sixties. Now, a modern cautionary tale. It is the new millennium, the era of progress and tolerance and my baby cousin, a toddler, is jabbering away happily in Greek to her grandmother as she picks her up from kindergarten. Suddenly, she is accosted by a very angry kindergarten teacher who tells the toddler in nasal, 'I could have been a teacher' tones that "we speak English in Australia." Now that child, a babe in arms, has not spoken Greek ever since. Welcome to the new Australia.


published in NKEE on 30 August 2004

Monday, August 23, 2004


And the coveted Diatribe runner-up trophy for invective Diatribes goes to His Excellency the President of the Hellenic Republic, Mr Kostis Stephanopoulos. You gotta love the Prez. Who else would invite all of the stuffy heads of the International Olympic Committee to luncheon and instead of being gracious, diplomatic and deceitful as European protocol prescribes, launch into a heated tirade, admonishing the IOC for their disparaging comments about Greece’s capacity to host the Olympic Games for so many years and fuelling countless similar articles hostile to Greece in the world press? Well done I say, for it is common knowledge within Hellenic tradition that one should never insult one’s hosts. Whole wars have been fought over this for Samaranch’s sake. Look at Troy, for instance.
The Diatribe’s runner-up trophy for triumphant Diatribes however goes to none other than Yianna Angelopoulou-Daskalaki, the feisty and redoubtable organiser of the Olympic Games. Hindered at almost every turn by an inept PASOK government, removed from her post by the same ineptitude and reinstated once it was found that there was no one else capable enough to organise the Games, Yianna’s speech at the Opening Ceremony was a giant “I told you so,” not only to Jacques Rogge, the head of the IOC and one of those doubting Thomas’s who mused aloud that it was perhaps a mistake to have awarded the Games to Greece. It was an “I told you so,” to a Greek people who had adopted a cynical and lackadaisical attitude to the Olympics, not believing in their own strengths or spirit, an “I told you so,” to a people who since Euro 2004 are increasingly proud of themselves and aware that they can achieve anything. Either that or Yianna’s “It told you so,” was meant as an “I told you I can make you do whatever I want,” in which case we should all tremble before this iron lady whose designer clothes and over large mouth strike fear into the hearts of the lazy. Maybe she should take over the Ministry of Employment next. These Games though, could safely be said to have been her achievement and it is both moving and interesting that such a scion of an illustrious family continues the tradition of wealthy Greek families of donating and being benefactors of the ethnos. Yianna did not say much. But that she was there, showcasing the triumph of the collective and individual will spoke louder than words ever will.
However, the Diatribe’s champion trophy for subtle, splendid and needs no explanation Diatribes will undoubtedly have to be awarded to the Athens Opening Ceremony. Witnessing 4000 years of the Hellenic contribution to the world was a profound and moving experience. These Games were not about partying, carnivals or ideological battles between nations jostling for temporal power or recognition. In fact the opening ceremony was Spartan, deceptively simple and yet, totally Olympic. It is interesting that the Ceremony commenced with the famous poem by Seferis where he wakes up with a marble bust in his arms and does not know what to do with it. Symbolic of how an illustrious past can become a burden in the present, the ceremony unfolded into a subtle diatribe of dealing with such a past on two levels.
The first was a diatribe directed towards the Greek people and in a sense it took up where Seferis left off. As millennia of Greek tradition uncovered itself, floated throughout the aether or marched past the Greek people to the acclamation of the rest of the world, the message was simple but clear: tradition and history does not have to be a burden given a discursive and celebratory, all-inclusive approach. Seferis’ heavy relic of an ancient petrified past becomes weightless. No longer a dead and stagnant corpse, it becomes pregnant with energy, splitting open to reveal a veritable Babushka doll of endless relevance and comfort to the whole of mankind. If Greek civilisation is burden, then the fact that at the Opening Ceremony the whole world claims it as its own, lightens the load considerably. This level of Diatribe also provides a driving force that negates the ‘dead-weight’ of civilisation that so plagued Seferis, that of Eros, God of Love. For it is Love, whether that be love of knowledge, love of one’s brother, love of the beautiful or love of Life and Love itself that was the driving force of Greek civilisation. And as long as the Greek love affair with simply existing continues, no petrification of Life can ever take place.
The second level of Diatribe was directed towards the entire world and consisted of two sub-levels. The first sub-level was an educative discourse. The world was given to understand the length, diversity and complexity of Greek civilisation, including that of the Minoans, the Mycenaeans, the Geometrical Period, the Classical and Hellenistic Age. Of particular and remarkable importance was the colourful presentation of Byzantine history, a part of our history much maligned or at best dismissed by the western world, as a dialectic of the fight between good and evil, a dialectic which is of particular relevance to these Orwellian times. The national costumes of all parts of the Greek world, including the Pontus, the rembetes and the bouzoukia all melded together to give the viewer a crash course in Greek history.
However, it was much more than that. The tastefully and artfully created fragile paper-boat of hope, conveying the innocence of youth across the lake of destiny, the existence of Eros, of lovers and other lithe, lissome figures, the splitting of the megaliths to reveal human beauty, the sprouting of the immortal Olive Tree, the references to the Greek mythic creation of the Galaxy, the search for knowledge and understanding that culminated in the laser Double-Helix, the indelible blueprint that unites humanity served to bring the Games back to their original spirit: Not just that of showcasing one’s culture or proving that your Olympic Games are better than someone else’s, but a paean to the human existence and a heartfelt prayer that the brotherhood of all mankind is not an unattainable goal. In this respect, the ceremony was typically Hellenic. Sparse, and simple, yet oh so complicated.
The second sub-level of Diatribe addressed to the world was best expressed by Yianna: “This is the new Greece.” Indeed, replicating Ozymandias, king of kings in the famous Victorian poem, Yianna and indeed the whole of Greece calls upon the mighty to “look upon our works and despair.” For Greece the underdog, the country that until so recently formed the butt of so many jokes and which Australian journalists in their manic quest to preserve Sydney’s appellation as the “best Games ever,” from the incompetent, has become the majestic, the nation that is worthy of respect. Once again, the whole world pays homage to Greece, remembering that it is the nation that has given the world so much and has sought so little in return. It is a message that is as effective as no other.
It is a most auspicious time to be Greek. As Kaklamanakis mounted the dais to light the typically Greek in its ambiguity Olympic column/torch/pipe/candle, a beacon of fire was kindled. That beacon of fire is but a son of that original light that emanated from Olympia and Athens, from Dodoni and Delphi, from Ephesus and Philadelphia, Miletus and Trapezous, Constantinople and Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria, Sicily and Samos, Mt Athos and Souli, Calabria and Apulia, Marseilles and Barcelona, the Crimea and Cyrene and all other areas of the Greek world. It is a light that once more pierces the veil of corporate self-interest and political discord at these Olympic Games. And it is a light that though so long ago kindled, will never be diminished.

published in NKEE on 23 August 2004

Monday, August 16, 2004


Associate Professor Roger Scott, God bless him was the only academic in the classics department of Melbourne University who took pity on my inability to give my ancient Greek an Erasmian pronunciation, oh so many years ago. Erasmian pronunciation for those of you who have not been subjected to it, is the theory that ancient Greek letters had a single phonetic value, which over the years was lost and changed by the modern Greeks. Σπεύδω βραδέως for example, is pronounced speoudo bradeoos, that is by everyone, except me thanks to Roger Scott, who permitted me when in his class, to retain the modern Greek pronunciation.
Quite apart from the gratitude a lazy student feels towards an indulgent teacher, the enthusiasm Roger Scott feels for the classical world and in particular the world of Greece, is infectious. A graduate of Melbourne and Cambridge Universities, his encyclopaedic knowledge of all aspects of the Greek world, especially ancient and Byzantine is astounding and over the past decades he has tirelessly imparted this knowledge to thousands of eager students, who leave his lessons inspired and endlessly arguing as to the exact medical nature of the plague that hit Athens during the Peloponnesian War or the subtleties of the third declension of optative verbs in Attic Greek.
Yet Roger Scott has also been a pioneer of research into the history and society of the early Byzantine Empire, a field of study which in Australia, is still in its relative infancy. He is a former Associate Dean of the Arts Faculty and the immediate past president of the Australian Association for Byzantine Studies. His research on Byzantine Chronicles saw many of his students (among them some Greek) working on translations and arguing about source texts that ultimately result in various periods of the Byzantine world springing to life for us today in startling clarity. His studies and translations of the chronicles of John Malalas and John Skylitzes are a significant and excellent contribution to the international field of Byzantine Studies and his valuable contacts with eminent Byzantine scholars throughout the world ensures that Australia is not left out of the loop but provides fresh and valuable contributions to the field. In this, Roger Scott remains as passionate as ever through his mantle of almost Victorian genteelness. I remember being gently rebuked in the subtle, tactful manner that only Roger Scott can assume, for facetiously daring to call Cyril Mango’s latest publication, Byzantium, a coffee table book. Denigrate a Byzantine Scholar to his fellow at your own peril.
In this respect, Roger Scott assumes an importance to the Greek community way out of proportion to our awareness of his endeavours. One of the most common complaints against our community at large is its intense introspectivity and ghetto-outlook. We complain that mainstream Australia fails to understand the Greek-Australian or his culture, yet we (a) only promote those aspects of our culture that we understand or appeal to certain factions of our fractious community or (b) keep such “approved” cultural manifestations to ourselves. Roger Scott however, quite divorced from any considerations of nationalism or politics, has through the sheer love of his chosen field of study, done a considerably better job than our community of promoting awareness of our past in the mainstream.
He thus deserves our especial thanks, as an unsung hero and friend of the Greek community. I remember attending a conference in 1995 at Melbourne University on Byzantine Macedonia, a conference of the Association of Byzantine Studies, where Roger Scott was giving a lecture. Behind me, in hushed tones, a lady turned to her partner and whispered in awe: «Πώς ξέρει τόσα πολλά αυτός ο ξένοςγια μας;» This is hitting the nail on the head exactly. The pursuit of knowledge, whether that be through the avenue of Greek history or otherwise is open to all and it honours us as a community to have such a distinguished scholar showcase our brilliant past to the wider Australian community. His presence has also inspired the academics of Greek origin in our community to follow suit and he has been both a friend and guide to them in their pursuit of Greek studies on the tertiary level.
The fourteenth conference of the Australian Association of Byzantine Studies, held at Melbourne University between 12-15 August was aptly in honour of this great man of letters, Roger Scott, who is now retiring from academic life. Always a philhellene, and with a sound understanding of the ways of the modern Greek, Roger Scott is one of those few academics who can trace the continuity of the ancient, medieval and modern Greek and really understand why the modern Greek is the way he is. When he speaks, his observations are a mirror to us of thousands of years of Greek society and as such he is a most valuable member of our community. He will continue in his lifelong passion in retirement as a research fellow.
Few Greeks ever favour Greek-related events with their presence unless they are under the ‘banner’ of one community organization or another, as was proved spectacularly at last year’s conference on the Fall of Constantinople, leaving those that would promote Greek culture to the mainstream alone and cut-off from the Greek community. This is of concern, considering that few Greeks have the inclination to promote aspects of Hellenism within wider academic circles. A great man of Greek letters retires after giving his life to the study of Greek history, among other things, relatively unknown by a community who is in no position to understand the vast contribution he has made to their lives. But for the unassuming and superlatively polite and self-effacing Assoc. Prof. Roger Scott that is entirely fitting.


published in NKEE on 16 August 2004

Monday, August 09, 2004


Perusing the Sunday newspapers last week, I chanced across an interesting snippet in the Herald Sun (1 August 2004) concerning increased co-operation between Christian Churches. Allow me to quote verbatim:
“The Catholic Church and major Protestant denominations have signed a landmark pact to share pews, pray together, recognize each other’s rituals and even share clergy.
Under a “covenant of co-operation,” signed after eight years of negotiations, 15 of the nation’s biggest churches will finally recognize each other’s baptisms and ministries. The sweeping ecumenical pact, signed during the fifth national forum of the National Council of Churches brings together Catholic, Anglican, Uniting, Lutheran, Churches of Christ, Quakers, Salvation Army, Congregationalist Churches and seven Orthodox Churches.
Four Orthodox bodies declined to sign the pact. Church leaders yesterday hailed it as a world-first step in bringing Christian communities closer together..”
Now let’s do a little language analysis. It is noteworthy that the article begins stating that it is the Catholic Church that has signed the “landmark” (ie. important) agreement with major (ie. important) Protestant denominations. This statement is clearly wrong and is contradicted by the statement later on, that Orthodox Churches are also party to the deal. One can only assume that the article writer, writing for a predominantly Anglo-Celtic audience, unconsciously adopts such a condescending and fallacious approach because in the wider Australian sphere, the ‘foreign’ churches, are seen as of marginal importance.
Interesting too is the juxtaposition of the words “four Orthodox bodies declined to sign the pact,” in the midst of statement by other Church leaders highlighting the pact as a major breakthrough. The implication here is clear. No prize for guessing who we point the finger of party pooper at. The way the piece is phrased thus seems unconsciously to exclude ‘non-mainstream’ (to the wider Australian community) churches from importance or prominence, while somehow suggesting that Orthodox bodies are less conciliatory or friendly than others.
Issues of greater interest arise when one actually reads the text of the National Council of Churches Covenanting Document. What comes to light from a perusal of the text is in fact that the article, in so far as it purports to report on the Covenant, is incorrect. The covenant is in six parts and raises various pledges of co-operation to which interested member churches of the NCCA ascribe to. Not all Churches have signed every covenant, while others are signed by all member Churches.
To take the assertions of the Herald Sun however, it is untrue that the Catholic Church and the Protestant denominations have agreed to share clergy. Dimension Five of the Covenant, representing an agreement to work towards the goal of sharing with each other a mutually recognized and ordained ministry is signed solely by Protestant Churches. It is however true that all fifteen member Churches have agreed to “join in common prayer with one another, intercede and care for one another and explore with one another…Christian convictions.” It appears however to be misleading to state that an agreement exists between Protestant Churches and the Catholic Church to “share pews.” Dimension Two of the Covenant on the Shared Use of Physical Resources, such as buildings, is signed also by the Assyrian Orthodox Church of the East, the Coptic Orthodox Church as well as the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia. One cannot fathom why this important ‘ethnic’ snippet of information was overlooked.
The Herald Sun then goes on to say that all fifteen Churches will finally recognize each other’s baptism and ministries. Again, this is misleading. Dimension Four of the Covenant is in two parts. The first part deals with the common recognition of the sacrament of baptism. This part of the covenant is not signed by ALL of the fifteen member churches. It is only signed by nine, of which four call themselves Orthodox and being the Antiochian Orthodox Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church and the Romanian Orthodox Church. The second part of this Dimension, dealing with an invitation to members of each other’s Churches to share the Eucharist is signed only by two Churches of the Protestant tradition.
Finally we come to the greatest (and grossest) manifestation of misinformation, the claim that “four Orthodox bodies declined to sign the pact.” This is totally wrong. There are seven members of the NCCA who ascribe in some form to an Orthodox tradition, of which the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, the Antiochian Orthodox Church and the Romanian Orthodox Church are prominent members. Other member Churches claiming an Orthodox tradition are the Assyrian Orthodox Church of the East, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church. All these Churches have appended their signature to some, though not all of the Dimensions of the Covenant. The same applies to the Roman Catholic Church, which also appended its signature selectively to the Dimensions it agreed with. Granted, other Orthodox Churches do exist in Australia but they are not members of the NCCA, so the article-writer’s claim is mystifying. It would have been more accurate to state that those other orthodox Churches are not (or do not want to be, as the case may be) members and thus not entitled to sign.
It is interesting how a three-paragraphed article can give rise to a half-page diatribe. Yet incomplete reporting of this nature serves not to applaud but to marginalize the efforts of a Christian Community, which seeks to view itself all-inclusively and embrace all traditions in a climate of Christian love and understanding. It also trivializes the large extent of the Orthodox Christian contribution to the welfare of Australia as well as to the world ecumenical movement, of which it is a pioneer. Granted the covenant is complex document, yet it is an important one that deserves to be reported with greater clarity for it marks a momentous event: the change of perspective from small isolated ‘sects’ in Australia, to a desire for the re-establishment of the One Holy and Apostolic Church that forms the keystone of our Creed.
The Orthodox Christian Church does not need apologists. It represents a two-thousand year old tradition that arose from the very soil that Christ trod on. It is however, worthy of respect and it is indeed sad that while the Christian Churches of this country do afford it the respect it is due and have established a close and warm working relationship with it, our so-called ‘pluralist’ and multi-cultural’ society struggles to free itself from its traditional Catholic-Protestant dichotomy and embrace all religious traditions as Australian. In the meantime, as all Churches continue their work is silence, let us pray for clarity of thought, fruitful discussion and a truly all-inclusive Australia.


published in NKEE on 9 August 2004

Monday, August 02, 2004


Finally you have arrived, skirting the sinuous, wet and solidified black pathways of the Styx. You almost miss the grand portals of your destination. They too are black and inconspicuous, self-effacingly belittling any notion that the journey whose termination point is here, has been of absolutely any significance. There are new rules now and you had better forget anything you had ever known before.
As you approach, faint semiquavers of an unearthly and infernal music startle your ears with their harshness. Disconcerted, you walk on and then, step back breathlessly. For before your very eyes emerges the thrice (and well) bodied Cerberus, covered in grizzly, matted air as black as the smell of the burning pitch which suddenly assails your nostrils. These Cerberoi are fire breathers and they bare their yellow, nicotine-stained teeth as they snarl, all the while breathing fire and brimstone upon you from their cavernous nostrils as they strut their digitally enhanced chests at the level of your chin. You wave them aside as you point to the skeletal old Charon, dressed in leather pants and black t-shirt in the corner, inconspicuously counting moneys behind a counter. You have paid your obol already.
Attempt then the tortuous climb into the realm of Hades. As you mount the blood-red carpeted stairs, the screams of the damned become louder and more intense. You shrug them off and climb on. At the head of the stairs and left, lie the Elysian Fields. Here pleasures of all sorts can purchased, as if a shower of nectar can erase in one draught, a lifetime of suffering. Rumours of other pleasures that can also be bought are whispered into your ears by the lotus-eating denizens of the domain: Magic powders that can perform miracles, flesh that can obey your every command. These are but rumours, privileges that can be found if only one knows where to look and suddenly the Elysian fields are the black wastelands of the fields of Tartarus, lit only by multi-coloured spotlights, a place where the guilty are damned to the perpetual search for privileges that cannot be gained. Yet the obol-rich dwellers of the Elysian fields are most fortunate compared to their cousins actually in Tartarus. After imbibing enough of the nectar-juice of the lotus, they can no longer hear the screaming of the damned….
You leave the fields of pleasure and take your place at a Tartarian bench. You look around and notice that no one speaks. All look dead ahead at the misty figure undulating in the centre, under the cruel, mocking lights of the disco ball, separating the prism of all existences into their constituent primary colours. Is the secret to life so simple? And yet it must be, for the dead here wear jackets of such hues, turquoise and yellow, that you begin to think that you are back in the nineties. You try to speak and shrink back into your seat, defeated. The screaming of the damned is too loud for you to ever be heard and the pale, ashen faces of the dead next to you stare straight into space, condemned forever to pin their hopes on the steely semibreves of the hellishly immaculate-coiffured screamers in the centre of the great room.
This room is full of Persephones. Some are young and beautiful, others old and bulging at the seams. All are ashen, all have coveted too many pomegranates, the sin of their desire for companionship now stains their blood painted lips. Like automatons, they get up onto the tables and dance; their faces contorted into a strange, lifeless smile as they undulate their behinds. These are the thrice damned. It is their lot, like Prometheus to return to the same place night after night in search of a love they will never find, in clothes that will never suit them, condemned forever to wiggle their posteriors at the same speed regardless of the rhythm of the music thrown in their faces.
And at last, there is Tantalus. He who supped too much, who wanted too much, condemned to watch Persephone night after night dance on his table, his passion only able to be expressed by the Cerberus smoke escaping from his nostrils as he twirls his worry beads and strokes the leather jacket he bought from the Victoria Market ten years ago. He too is condemned to an aeon of everlasting damnation, consigned to an unquenchable thirst to slake his animal passions, a thirst that no flesh subservient and no nectar can ever assuage. His pockets bulge with obols and he too smiles the smile of the dead as he plays perfect host to his companions. The tinned sentiments hurled out of screaming mouths by the infernal bards pour further vinegar upon his wounds. For here he is, with all his obols lusting after every Persephone in the room, lusting after the admiration of all, looking up at the disco ball and seeing all his insignificance parted into the colours of the spectrum. True happiness will always elude him and his passions will roast within him like Ixion on his burning wheel. He sighs as he continues his sacrificial feast of burnt meat.
Only one person was ever able to ascend to Hades and come back to tell the tale: Orpheus, the master songster, in search of his beloved Eurydice. Yet he looked back to soon and she was lost. Here she is still, pelting out nineties’ tunes that no one can remember and whose lyrics don’t make sense as she winks at the obolly endowed who drool at her uncovered midriff. Years on, Eurydice still looks damn sexy in jeans and a sparkly top. There are no Orpheic songs here. Instead the singers bombard their dead audience with mocking parodies of what they wished their lives to have been or what others had told them they should feel. To add insult to injury and so that the dead will not complain, the music is at such a decibel level that their auditory nerves are forever damaged. They sit on, staring at performers pelting out dithyrambs they can no longer discern, powerless to stop themselves. And you sit on, wondering whether this Balkan Baroque spectacle had already been prophesised in “Let’s Go Greek Entaxi’ of the mid-eighties and whether as a result, Harry Michaels, quite apart from being a visionary, was also a prophet. Your eardrums shattered, you sit on, as your girlfriend reaches toward you and you glimpse the inane sentiments of the Hadean songs in her smoky eyes. You sit on as you fill your glass with yet another cup of lotus-nectar, look about you and smile in case the Cerberoi are watching and catch you out not pretending to be happy at the bouzoukia. And you pray for the resurrection of the dead and the remission of your sins, real, but most of all, imagined.


published in NKEE on 2 August 2004