Tuesday, September 01, 2009

PARADIGM OF EPITHEMUS


Last week, I was asked to speak at the dual launch of the NUGAS National Magazine, entitled Epimetheus and its Victorian counterpart, Paradigm. Both these magazines are beautifully presented, with thought-provoking content matched for fervour only by the enthusiasm of their editorial committee. Their launch took place at the Hellenic Museum, and its holding was a source of some pride for me, as an ex-NUGAS member. Entering the hallowed halls of the venue, I pontificated in jocular fashion as follows:
“I am advised and verily believe that some of you have expressed profound reservations as to my presence here today, so I am grateful for your indulgence. The pleasure of being here among you is indeed moderate, to say the least.
I'd like to preface my remarks this evening by quoting one of the NUGAS greats, the august Jack Miriklis, by establishing my credentials from the outset. I am a NUGAS life member and value this accomplishment, along with my possession of an i-pod full of Mongolian throat signing songs more than anything in the world.
I am dispassionately enthused at the publication of the new NUGAS national magazine which you described in your invite as "Epithemus." I am of the persuasion that in the coining of this title, NUGAS is creating linguistic history as this is a word that does not appear in any Greek dictionary I have had the inane curiosity to consult. The closest one comes to find an equivalent is the word «Επίθυμος» with an ypsilon, which means to dodder, or walk unsteadily. Now Ι don't know whether this expresses a subliminal deep-seated anxiety about the current direction or management of NUGAS, or rather, and I tend towards this latter explanation, an accurate description of NUGAS members faculties and physical capacity after an intense NUGAS night. Either way, its an interesting word.
"Epithemus," also onomatopoeically approaches the word "Epimetheus" which is the true title of the publication. You may remember from NUGAS mythology that the two sons of Iapetus, were Prometheus - forethought, depicted as wise and knowledgeable and Epimetheus, who was afterthought and considered foolish. What this tells us about NUGAS' corporate decision making I leave to your own imagination but I can say that afterthought and hindsight best describes the way NUGAS was run in my time. Epimetheus of course was married to Pandora, the archetypal bimbo of Greek mythology and I'm sure there is a lesson in that for all of us.
I come now to Paradigm, the Victorian affiliate magazine. Paradigm, of course, is a composite word formed from para- and the verb δείκνυμι "to show". In Greek it means an example, but in English it denotes a philosophical or theoretical framework of any kind - that is an ideology or world view. It is a publication close to my heart because I once wrote in it and you can still pick out bits and pieces of Greek words amidst all the clubber of the week photographs. It was writing on behalf of NUGAS, in the then NUGAS column in Neos Kosmos for three years, which finally morphed into the Diatribe column that the Greek community finally came to a shocking realisation: that not only do we have opinions, but also are articulate enough to express these in a coherent form - regardless of the fact that these happen to be my own.

Taking a stand in print I think, is one of the most important things an organisation like NUGAS can do. NUGAS is after all that funny thing- a historical aberration in the Greek community. The structure of our community is as follows: There are the senior brotherhoods, organised on the basis of region, and their kiddy affiliates, which are generally dependant upon them and mostly have no power or effect. NUGAS however, is different. It is an independent youth entity that stands above the petty inter-communal politics that has seen our community slowly disappear up its own fundamental orifice of fragmentation. I am proud to have attempted to uphold that independent tradition. After all, I am the author of a NUGAS policy, that if you believe the former SAE Youth president and his mindless masticating minions, supports Albanian criminals.
Two challenges face NUGAS into the future by virtue of its very nature. Because it arises from the Greek community but is not really of it - it risks the danger of becoming isolated and irrelevant and two, because we are after all second and third generation Greeks, and as such we are constantly compelled not only to identify and understand an identity given to us by our parents secondhand, but also to continuously reassess that identity in the ever changing Australian social fabric.
In this NUGAS has acquitted itself admirably so far, despite various hiccups. Maybe thinking that we can maintain the relevance of students identifying themselves as Greek down the generations may be seen as futile as Don Quixote tilting at windmills, but all of those who have been granted a glimpse of goings on at NUGAS conventions and have been scarred for life, know that anything is possible, no matter how horrendous and yet strangely fascinating.
You really can't appreciate how important is for there to be a Greek presence of university campuses. It is at the crucial university stage that people will associate with each other, perhaps fall in love, but invariably fornicate. And after all that is what brings in more NUGAS members does it not?
NUGAS affiliates in each campus provide a rallying point for socialisation. Acculturation of course is another issue but sincere and passionate efforts are being made. NUGAS, through the efforts of Mr Angelopoulos was instrumental in bringing back the study of the Greek language at Monash. Some people bring sexy back. Nugas now brings Modern Greek back. Congratulations Mr Angelopoulos, you are the new Justin Xylolimnis - that's Timberlake to the uninitiated.
Recently there was the excellent Latrobe bakesale and now NUGAS assisting Father Anthony Cagnoni, an English speaking Greek Orthodox priest from Agios Haralambos to establish chaplaincies in as many universities as possible. He is currently setting up at RMIT and will then set up at Latrobe. He is anxious to bless all members as they embark upon their final exams. This is a good thing. Before, NUGAS only had μέσον with Travlos [former NUGAS president]. Now, NUGAS has μέσον with God.

Groucho Marx once observed that he refused to join a club that would accept him as a member. I joined NUGAS in my first year of uni after seeing one NUGAS stalwart, Sasha Pete parade around Melbourne Uni draped in a Greek flag. I looked for that flag every lunchtime, because I knew that congregated around it, would be a bunch of like-minded, slightly demented people who have scarred me but also inspired me for life. You can take the boy out of NUGAS, but you can never take NUGAS out of the boy - no matter how strenuously Peter Travlos bends you over and tries.
Which brings me to my last point. We "alumni" love NUGAS. NUGAS represents a period in our lives where we faced an innumerable array of possibilities and choices. As you get older, successive doors of choice close slowly in your face. At that time, we believed that the world was our oyster and that we were pearls within it. We could do anything and most often, we did. It is up to you to make the NUGAS experience worthwhile and to enjoy it to its fullest extent. It unites people in the most uncanny of ways. And after you graduate, continue your commitment, whenever you can - it pays dividends in unexpected forms.
Finally in closing, apart from announcing that the former NUGAS national president is pregnant and that I'm the mother of his love-child, I want to pay tribute to the current NUGAS executive, except for those I can't stand.
I'd like to leave you now with the slogans that made the NUGAS experience so rich in meaning for our lives, in logical sequence:
-NUGAS is for lovers;
-Do it for NUGAS; and finally, quoting the great Sasha Pete,
-Sit on your eggs.”
NUGAS has come a long way. Proving the stereotype that it is at best, a mere nyfopazaro, I was titillated to learn that recently, dedicated NUGAS members visited elderly members of our community at a Greek aged care facility and read poems by Cavafy to them. They were enthralled, listening to stories by old but hale and vibrant residents, of old Alexandria, the Second World War and life in White Australia. In developing this level of maturity, NUGAS has definitely come of age. Εις ανώτερα λοιπόν, and may NUGAS long continue to serve as a focal point for Greek-Australian students and service their multifarious needs.

DEAN KALIMNIOU

First published in NKEE on 1 September 2009

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