Monday, November 02, 2009


The iconic Melbourne suburb of Brunswick, was named after the hapless Caroline of Brunswick, or rather, Braunschweig, a German city notable for housing the offices of the German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Investigation. Caroline was selected to be King George IV's wife by his mistress, who confided in the Duke of Wellington that she deliberately chose a woman "of indelicate manners, indifferent character and not very inviting appearance, from a hope that disgust with a wife would secure constancy to a mistress." If so, she chose well. On meeting his future wife for the first time, George called for a glass of brandy. He was evidently disappointed for at his wedding ceremony, George was drunk. He regarded Caroline as unattractive and unhygienic, and his correspondence reveals that the couple only had sexual intercourse three times: twice the first night of the marriage, and once the second night. He wrote, "it required no small [effort] to conquer my aversion and overcome the disgust of her person."
Caroline was to eventually find out that her husband has already married a certain Maria Fitzherbvert in secret, and indeed Geroge made out a new will in which he left all his property to "Maria Fitzherbert, my wife", while to Caroline he left one shilling. Eventually, after seeking unsuccessfully to divorce her, George persuaded the Bishops of the Church of England to remove her name from the liturgy, insitgated the "Deligate Investigation" in which Caroline was accused of lesbianism and promiscuity, restricted her access to her daughter and after demolishing her reputation, hounded her out of England and into exile. Jane Austin wrote of Caroline: "Poor woman, I shall support her as long as I can, because she is a Woman and because I hate her Husband." While she was in Italy, her only dsaughter, the Princess Charlotte died, something she learned from the Pope, as her husband refused to inform her. Upon her subsequent return to England, George compelled the government to introduce the Pains and Penalties Bill 1820, to strip Caroline of the title of queen consort and dissolve her marriage. Being denied, at bayonet point, entry as Queen into her husband's Coronation Ceremony, Caroline fell ill and died in 1821. She was buried in her native Brunswick in a tomb bearing the inscription "Here lies Caroline, the Injured Queen of England."
In 1841, Thomas Wilkinson bought land in what is now the City of Moreland. Being patriotic, he marked out two streets:Victoria Street (after Queen Victoria) and Albert Street (after her husband Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha). Wilkinson had been an active campaigner for the rights of Caroline of Brunswick thus named his estate Brunswick in her honour. When the area's first post office opened in 1846 it took on the name of Wilkinson's estate thus establishing the name of the whole area.
If anyone thus deserves a statue, it is Queen Caroline, a symbol of spurned, mistreated and long-suffering wives anywhere. Given that a whole suburb was named after her, it is meet that a colossal statue be erected in her municipality, in her honour. Instead, what do we get? A $35,000 statue of King Leonidas, to be erected in the mysteriously named Sparta Place. This has justifiably angered local residents and business-owners who are not Greek. These non-Greek voters postulate that environmentally sustainable gardens planted in this long, dark and rather obscure alleyway would be of more benefit than a bronze statue of a wog movie-star who if you have the movie "Meet the Spartans" as your guide, was crushed by Xerxes after he morphed into a Transformer. Come to think of it, would it not be a most excellent idea to erect a statue to his wife, Carmen Electra instead? I refer to the segment in the fil where she is gyrating most dextrously before the elders in order to secure a relief force for her husband. But I digress...
Of course, statues of wogs are unacceptable in Brunswick. If we pop up statues to wog heroes in places where reffos have been allowed to live, then very soon they will think that they own the place. Now the Mayor of Moreland, Lambros Tapinos may argue that Leonidas is significant because his actions in holding a pass against a myriad of Persians saved the world for democracy, but in actual fact a) Leonidas lost, so effectively we would be putting up a statue to a loser, b) he was the king of the first fascist regime, so we would be putting up a statue to a Nazi and c) he was a wog.
This third point is significant vis a vis inter-wog social tentsions. What if the Persians of Brunwick get offended and go on an anti-Greek pogrom? What if they ask to set up a statue of Xerxes as well? After all, in a post-modern world, revisionist historians could plausibly postulate that all Xerxes was trying to do was to provide the barbarous and marginal Greeks with the benefits of Eastern civilization, under the auspices of the largest and most stable monarchy of the times. Indeed, what if certain other ethnic groups decide that the Spartans were not Greek but Slavonic and begin to venerate Leonidas as their one true god? Very soon these Slav-Spartans will be setting up their own statues of Leonidas, and appropriating for themselves the Lamda asymbol on his shield. In consequence, we would have to impose an economic blockade on the Peloponnese and organise protest marches in the city. And indeed, what if the Egyptians decide that they wish to erect a statue of Ibrahim Pasha, mastermind of the planned Peloponnesian genocide during the 1821 Revolution? After all, he was in fact Greek and a distinguished administrator. That won't be fun will it? No, best to keep all these wog-problems back in the countries from which they came. We are all in the lucky country now.
It is typical of these lackadaisical Lacedaemonians that they should seek to create so much inter-ethnic strife and imperil the cohesive social fabric of the City of Moreland. As Cavafy points out, they were the only Greeks who refused to accompany Alexander into the East. The way they carry on, one would think that no other Greeks exist in the region. And yet, the Cretans, not so far down the road, have soberly erected a statue of the great political leader Eleutherios Venizelos on their own grounds. Simple, inoffensive and tasteful. (Try telling them otherwise.) Furthermore, just two streets away from the Pallaconians, one can find Pansamian House, home to the descendants of Pythagoras. Now if anyone deserves a statue, it is he. For it was Pythagoras that invented the right angle and did really groovy things with the hypotenuse, before claiming that he heard the cry of his dead friend in the bark of a dog. If Mayor Tapinos wants to do something good for humanity, he should name some prestigious corner of his realm Pythagoras Place and erect a statue to a person who has benefited all of humanity. After all, we could have survived without Thermopylae. What would we have done without the right angle? History would still be going in circles.
The Anglo-Saxon common law principal of private property allows that one can do what they will, with their own land. Driving through Brunswick the other day, I was fascinated to see a dummy in a shop window, dressed up as a Turkish soldier. When it comes to public property however, the situation is different. The opponents of the plan to erect Leonidas' statue are either Australian or of ethnic background. To erect a statue of a foreign hero in a public place seems ludicrous as it denies the legitimacy of the ruling group's hold over this land. Similarly, to persons of other ethnic backgrounds, the erection of a statue to a Greek gives the Greeks a primacy over other ethnic groups, this is unacceptable in a society that affords all those ethnic groups the opportunity to reside here a level playing field as long as they are subservient to the ruling group's conception of government and ownership.
Ultimately, Leonidas' statue achieves nothing for us other than to make Greeks, who love having their culture exposed more than maintaining it (much harder), proud. It also has exposed undercurrents of community bias that we have always to exist and created unnecessary resentment. Had the prime movers of this initiative been Anglo-Saxons laconophiles who wished to pay respect to the Greek community and an outstanding historical figure, then we should justifiably be proud. However, when it is we who make such endeavours, then what are we really doing? I believe the Greek is «ευλογούμε τα γένια μας.» Do we really need such superficial honours? Would it not be far better if the thousands of silent, selfless citizens of Greek background who laboured so hard to make Australia a better place were honoured with a monument to their valiant efforts instead?
Nonetheless, as a non-Lacedaemonian Greek, I can't help but relish the erection of the statue, but with one pre-condition: That when you press its belly button, it growls: "Madness? No this is Sparta!" and kicks detractors down the pit of death. Μολών Λαβέ.


First published in NKEE on 2 November 2009