Monday, September 05, 2005


Devoted Diatribe readers would remember that last November, I was requested by the Victorian branch of the "Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee" to meet with them and conduct an interview of two visiting members of the 'Rainbow-Vinozhito Party,' a political group existing within Greece that purports to represent the interests of those citizens of Greece who consider themselves to be "ethnically Macedonian."
Shortly after the publication of that interview, I was contacted by a member of the "Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee," who politely pointed out that the two gentlemen in question had read the transcript of the interview and did not believe that it represented a true and accurate recording of their answers to my questions. The member then pointed out that while he did not understand Greek, he had no doubt that Parisis and Voskopoulos, the subjects of the interview, would never have answered some of the questions in the way that I portrayed them as doing so. This member also had the courtesy to read me some comments about my conducting the interview that were to be published in the ethnic press. He also agreed to withdraw some of those that verged upon the defamatory, for which I thank him.
There was much I did not agree with in the content of Voskopoulos' and Parisis' answers. To me, they came across as arrogant and superior, attempting to out-manouvre and out-argue any 'opponents' or opposing points of view by name-calling and dismissive comments. As such, towards the end of the interview, after having been told by them several times that I was a petty nationalist with no knowledge of history except that force-fed down my throat by Greek propaganda and that Greeks like me cannot deal with strangers or minorities, I began to feel increasingly uncomfortable. At the very end, when Voskopoulos started speaking to me in Albanian, stating that all Greeks who come from Epirus are really Albanians, I felt downright insulted, especially given that for the past two or so hours both gentlemen were telling me that everyone has a right to 'self-identification,' and that no other person should impose an identity or restrict one from another. This I assume, does not apply in my case, for these members of Vinozhito were quick to impose upon me the identity of an ignorant, bigoted, close-minded Albanian. Meanwhile, the youthful members of the AMHRC sat back and gazed adoringly at who without a doubt they considered to be their heroes. It was lucky for them that my interview was conducted in Greek and that they did not hear Parisis sarcastically refer to their community as 'socially retarded.' He seemed to be of the opinion that both the Greek community and the community he was visiting was, to use the original term he used "πρωτόγονοι" or 'primitive.' The members of the AMHRC still have trouble believing that their heroes could have intoned such heinous syllables. Further backtracks included Parisis and Voskopoulos' denial that they want the language that they call 'Macedonian' taught in all schools where the idiom is spoken. This is despite the fact that we spent over half an hour discussing this point alone, with Parisis and Voskopoulos jumping from positions so diverse as making the idiom compulsory for all students in areas where it is spoken, regardless of whether they want to or not, to teaching it only to those who wish to learn it, and then reverting to the repetitive rhetoric of respect for diversity and my own need to divest myself of the nationalist blinkers that I apparently wear, with the dexterity of a Mexican flea. Indeed, I gained the distinct impression from the way both vascillated from one position to the other under questioning, even to the point of disagreeing with each other, that they had no firm position on certain subjects and were making it up as they went along. Of course, this was accompanied by jeers and taunts that it was my own dark Greek upbringing that inhibited my capacity to understand them, and not any inconsistencies in their answers. A chief characteristic of this attitude was when Parisis told me: "You display no flexibility in your views" and Voskopoulos added: "This is also evident in the type of questions you've been asking us. We didn't expect any others from a Greek. You always ask the same questions." I consciously edited out most of the sarcastic, racist taunts and thoroughly unpleassant statements made by them for the sake of brevity and conciseness and also so as to not offend my hosts unduly. In hindsight, even if had presented their responses in the malevolent and incoherent manner in which they were provided to me, I doubt that their adherents would have believed that their 'heores' could be so coarse. Bloody Greek propagandists.
I had forgotten about last year's interview and indeed the Rainbow Party altogether, along with its interesting San Francisco connotations, until a few weeks ago when I chanced to enter Vinozhito's website and read an old press release castigating former President Stephanopoulos' 'nationalistic' stance on certain issues. Quite apart from alleging that there is an 'Orthodox Axis' bent on Balkan Domination, the Vinozhito press release stated as follows: "He …..stat[ed] that he is from Patras, but….is also from… "the two most occupied Greek Territories of Northern Epirus and Cyprus" … we must comment on his expansionist statements against two sovereign states: Albania and Cyprus. According to…Stephanopoulos Southern Albania, or Northern Epirus as he refers to it, and Cyprus are occupied Greek territories? In that case why doesn't he outline how they should be liberated?"
Now I don’t know about you, but I understand this vitriolic piece of commentary to infer that in fact Cyprus is not at all occupied and that further it does not have a Greek character (culturally of course). Given that it is well documented by UN resolutions among other things that the Republic of Cyprus was invaded by Turkish troops in 1974 and that a considerable slice of that territory has been occupied by Turkish troops ever since, it is easy to draw the inference that Vinozhito is claiming that Cyprus does not have a Greek character and that further, the Turkish soldiers are not occupying Cyprus but some other entity, possibly the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus?
This reminded me of previous Vinozhito postings and my question to Parisis and Voskopoulos last November: You refer in your website, to the "Greek President of Southern Cyprus." Do you have a position on the Cyprus issue?" The response, by Parisis, was as follows: "You are wrong. We have no position on Cyprus. That reference was made by people whose views we host on our website because they are of interest. In Greece, the Cyprus issue is usually seen from only one viewpoint."
Busted big time guys. Evidently Vinozhito does have a postion on Cyprus and who knows on what else besides, despite the protestations of its leaders. But then again maybe my thought process is scarred by my own nationalistic Helleno-fascist imperialist upbringing. The unsubstantiated rumours that agents of Vinozhito were here in Australia recently, raising money from the local community in order for them to buy a local Florinian radio station thus justifiably stirred the concern of our own Macedonian community which is concerned at this 'party's' propensity to actively campaign against the interests of Greece on issues that do not concern it as well as it self-righteous proclamations that Greece persecutes its minorities. The mere existence of these people proves otherwise and that our own Consul-General received them at the Consulate proves otherwise. Thankfully, most bilingual voters in Florina, where Vinozhito purports to be active, are able to see past the smoke and bluster and realising that a reactionary party that appears to have no firm policies or activites and instead seems to promote ethnic hatred and social attrition and goes out of its way to embarrass the Greek state does not serve their interests, shun it altogether.
In contrast to Greece's benign toleration of Vinozhito, underlying a deep comitment to democracy, it is the government at Skopje that denies its clerics freedom of religion by imprisoning those who adhere to the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate instead of the schismatic from the point of view of the Oecumenical Patriarchate and its sister churches, so-called "Macedonian Orthodox Church." We leave you then, with the sad news that the Melbourne University Institute of Orthodox Studies, in its misguided quest to promote harmony among the sister Orthodox Churches, has seen fit to invite Fr Jovan Takovski PhD, a member of the "Macedonian Orthodox Church" to give its students a lecture. Let us hope that its students of Greek extraction find the courage to point out a few things to its directors and that those charged by the whole of the Greek community with the vigilance of the issue, maintain that vigil for all of us.

First published in NKEE on 5 September 2005