Monday, April 24, 2006


In all sincerity, I am beginning to tread the tortuous line that leads to political insanity and the main symptom is that I find myself empathizing with and partially understanding Pol Pot and Chairman Mao. You will all recall of course that Pol Pot was that unsavoury gentleman whose particular stamp on the world was inventing a brand of communism that held that since cities were dens of bourgeois vice and reaction, the only solution was to deport their populations into the countryside for re-education. Similarly, Chairman Mao, leader of the most populous country in the world, theorized that bourgeois or mutant tendencies of the proletariat could be purged through 're-education through labour.' In both cases, this meant that puny city-dwellers were let loose upon a countryside that could not sustain them and permitted to slowly work and starve themselves to death. Before the august reader throws down the Diatribe in horror, let it be said that it is only the purging and re-education of the puny that is in my deluded state appealing, not the actual process of extirpation, which is messy and I am told, not sanctioned by any union whatsoever.
Instead, the gentle reader is invited to learn the course for such a mental malaise which is none other than the annual ANT1 beauty pageant, featuring the flower of Hellenic womanhood under such ultra-hellenic neo-Byzantine court titles as Μις Σταρ Ελλάς and, my personal favourite (the title that is, not the category) Μις Γιανγκ, apparently named so, as the Greek word for young has been legislated out of the official Hellenic dictionary, by uniform regulation of the E.U.
My bile and indignation at chancing across an event of such puerile and excremental stature could only increase when considering the fact that beauty pageants rest on venerable historical precedent and rather than being a decadent symbol of belated western acculturation, they are rather, an expression of pure Hellenism, thus rendering my pedantry and Puritanism not only annoying but downright unhellenic.
For what else that a beauty pageant could that little episode by the river Scamander in Asia Minor, where the shepherd Paris was commanded by Eris, famous and controversial Olympian gossip-show host, to provide an apple to the 'fairest' of the three goddesses Athena, Aphrodite and Hera be précised as? It is an early pilot-run, written by Homer, for ANT1. And what was the result? A bloody war over some other irrelevant beauty queen when the wily owner of the Olympian network promised Paris a prize that actually belonged to another TV station. If Odysseus was alive he would be….. and indeed come to think of it, the only redeeming feature of the whole story is that the gender dialectic was permitted to come full circle and that the Olympians were able to stage a male beauty pageant on the island of Ithaca, with the reluctant Penelope as adjudicator, drawing on proceedings as interminably the ANT1's episodes of "Love," in a constant search for good ratings, until Odysseus was able to outmacho them all and win the prize. Similarly, my thesis, that beauty pageants are elitist and thus undemocratic was exploded when it was explained to be that in actual fact, STAR HELLAS (isn't that the name of another Greek television channel?) is a most democratic pursuit, given that hundreds of nubile young women compete and are gradually ostracized from the competition in Athenian fashion, until the victor is left. Interestingly enough, given that the ostracism is conducted by the Greek public who has to pay exorbitant amounts of euro in sms and phone charges in order to vote, there is valid orthographical argument to suggest that the pageant be homophonously re-spelt as "Καλληστεία." In my mind at any rate, the only decent democratic bloke to have dabbled in beauty pageants was King Thespios, who rather than have only one of his daughters crowned consort of demi-god Heracles, threw caution to the winds and permitted him to have all fifty, thus granting our plummeting birth-rate a new lease of life.
Despite the introduction of a new faith that celebrated eternal life more than worldly life and was not too generous on the flesh either, Hellenic attachment to beauty pageants remained. While Byzantine emperors busied themselves with variously fighting or propagating heresies, sleeping with their nieces and blinding their children, their mothers often found the time to organize beauty pageants. In this case, the term beauty queen was particularly apt, as the winning contestant would become Empress of Byzantium. Take for example the bizarre beauty contest conducted by Emperor Theophilus' mum. She had the most beautiful and educated girls of Byzantium line up before him and had them await his discernment as he decided whom to give a golden apple to. Resting his eyes upon one Kassiane and about to give the apple to her, he remarked that: "all evil came from women." Kassiane retorted by reminding the emperor that from women also came good things. Through Mary, the Mother of God, the gates of Eden had once again opened. Stupid girl. The correct response was "World Peace," a giggle and a toss of the hair. As a result, Kassiane lost the competition, though she did found a monastery, become its abbess and write some of the most passionate and beautiful religious poetry to have ever been written in the Greek language. It proves that poetry doesn't get you far in this world, especially if you want to be a princess.
Seeing all those blank-faced girls walking up and down the ANT1 stage dressed in what would have to be the demise of the Greek fashion industry was quite nauseous for me. Quite apart from the fact that I have a Freudian fear of Barbie-doll look-alikes ever since having nightmares upon seeing the movie Mannequin way back in 1987, I struggled to fathom what interest a largely homogenous and plastic grouping of females judged solely upon millimetre differences in looks could evoke, unless of course my hypothesis that Minos Kyriakou, ANT1 chief and pageant-holder extraordinaire is actually Darth Sidious and has created a vast new clone army of fembots with which he shall take over the world, unless stopped by the powers of an anachronistic little man with glasses ("Diatribe baby yeah!) is proved correct. Interestingly enough, the vast majority of these girls lack tertiary education though some have by their own admission taken courses of study in such Hellenic subjects as "αντβερτάιζινγκ" and "μαρκετίνγκ." Perhaps the curse of Babel is wearing off after all.
While in civilized countries, vocal opposition to the objectification of women has largely seen the demise in popularity of beauty pageants, Greece seems to revel in an objectification of women that has its roots deep in our ancient and narcissistic past. Like a teenager that obtains its license for the first time and dizzy with its newfound freedom promptly crashes into a tree, Greek society has celebrated its emancipation from village and customary taboos by indulging in bestial and sleazy denigration of its female citizens. A prime example is some old fart's injunction to one of the Fame Story 2 girls that though she is a pretty girl, she must now learn how to become a "γυναικάρα," and the unacceptable display of under the legal age girls in their swimsuits before the salacious eyes of Greek pensioners and unemployed buffoons sitting at home while their wives or mothers cook them dinner or wash their clothes. Μις Γιανγκ must be renamed Μις Φαρ Του Γιανγκ - πήγαινε σπίτι και φέρε μου τον κηδεμόνα σου and such ogling must stop, especially in a country where it is acceptable to attempt to 'impose' oneself upon girls and where girls are taught to accept the predatory nature of their male counterparts' advances with a sigh of resignation and determinism.
Take them all, Kyriakou, his inane hostesses, in fact the entire Greek nation out in the countryside for re-education! Expose them to the letters column of this newspaper, the rantings and ravings of its columnists and through constant belabouring and lecturing, purge the stereotype and the banality from their superior souls! Feed their fundamental cognitive orifices with the enema of political correctness and when they emerge from the purgatory of purification clean and forged anew, let us see what further game shows we can pillage from the US. Man that Kalomoira is hot, in a juvenile, a schoolgirlish kind of way… you know what I mean…. Πω πω κάτι ποδάρες!!

First published in NKEE on 24 April 2006.