Saturday, January 29, 2011


If ever there was a Greek literary work deserving of translation into English, undoubtedly Vakina Panagiotidou’s first ever novel: “Triumph of Tragedy,” is such a work. In an age where the multi-cultural fabric of Australian society that has been taken for granted for so many decades is slowly unravelling, where fear and suspicion of the ‘other’ in the aftermath of the ‘global war on terror’ is more prevalent than ever before and the public can find in the terms ‘security’ justification for the exclusion and incarceration of the dispossessed who enter Australia in need of succour, Vakina Panagiotidou’s profoundly moving and holistic account of migrant life and acculturation in Australia is invaluable in recreating lasting awareness and sensitivity to the circumstances, perceptions and incongruities that form part of the migrant experience. I am honoured to have been entrusted with the English translation of the work, which shall be launched this year.
In particular, Panagiotidou expertly weaves a thoroughly engrossing narrative that faithfully re-creates the post-war migrant experience in Australia, the search for a home, employment and the indefatigable desire to improve oneself. Further, she focuses closely upon the particular conditions in her war-shattered home-country that precluded her, as well as hundreds of thousands of others, from remaining there. Her account is particularly sophisticated. Whereas the memoirs of many a Greek migrant allude simply to the stark poverty and misery of life in post-war Greece, Panagiotidou delves deep into the social fabric of its traumatised society, exposing the contradictions, hypocrisy and stagnation of a patriarchal society built so heavily upon privilege and vested interest, that it turned a vast section of its population into ‘misfits,’ who, deprived in practical terms of a livelihood, a possibility of marriage and of self-respect, had no other choice but to leave their homes and seek what we would deem to be basic human rights and living conditions, across the other side of the globe.
The need for respect and human dignity as a driving force for emigration is a topic Panagiotidou returns to again and again throughout the book. Too often, the migrant experience is considered in this country at least, to consist of migrants arriving on Australia’s shores in search of a better life, working hard and gradually attaining the lifestyle and financial ease that they so desired. Quite often, migrants themselves as well as their progeny, enmeshed in their own endeavours to secure their daily bread and by now well acclimatised to their environment through decades of integration, place undue emphasis upon the economic dimension of emigration, glossing over the psychological and emotional upheaval that it necessarily entails.
Yet just as the experience of emigration is incomprehensible without a consideration of its root causes, so too is an understanding of it superficial, unless its psychological and emotional effects are also considered. It is in this sphere that Panagiotidou especially excels herself. Her candid exposition into her travails provides the reader with an unparalleled both in clarity and intensity, insight into the turmoil, internal conflicts, doomed hopes, false expectations, despair and unexpected happiness arising from their arrival and settlement in Australia, making short shrift of the myth that all migrants had to do was to work hard in order to ‘make it.’ Panagiotidou, as heroine in her novel, battles denial, stress, euphoria, extreme depression, domestic violence, terminal illness and the loss of her child. She also experiences the indifference and sometimes, malice, of her migrant compatriots. This then is the unwritten, unspoken history of migration, one of immense anguish and upheaval and the ultimate triumph, is not surpassing such pain but adopting it as a part of one’s personal identity. This, then, is the justification behind the novel’s title.
What makes Panagiotidou’s exploration of the psychology of the migrant experience even the more so remarkable, is that it is not, as one would think, the result of years of study, reflection and re-assessment. The book was written at a time contemporaneous to the period it describes and this accounts not only for its impressionistic style but also its dramatic intensity and accuracy. Panagiotidou, through the use of simple, unaffected language, peppered with colloquialisms, immediately establishes a great intimacy with the reader, not only generously permitting them to become privy to her tortuous prevarications and sinuous internal monologues, which dominate the work, but also through direct addresses to them, to the extent where in a Freudian inversion, the alter-ego merges with the ego and it is uncertain who is speaking and we are, in consummate Brechtian fashion, unsure as to whether we are merely witnessing or rather partaking of the narrative ourselves.
Throughout the account, Panagiotidou does not shy away from being a vocal mouthpiece for social change, reform and self-improvement and her doing so in no way distorts the experience of character of the Greek migrant. Quite the opposite, it completes its faithful portrayal. For to have the dispossessed and downtrodden, possessed of little resources or education possess the foresight and the courage to uproot themselves from their native soil and try their future as grafts upon a foreign tree is an awe inspiring prospect. The social levelling that ensues from this experience is clearly enunciated by the iconoclastic Panagiotidou, who embarks on a succession of business ventures, some successful, others not so, stressing the equality between sexes and the sense of fraternity that is to be found within the Greek community of Australia. Indeed, Panagiotidou’s experience and thought process constitutes a chronicle of female emancipation, as she uncompromisingly casts off the fetters of the past and through her hard work and integrity, obtains the respect she so desperately seeks.
Panagiotidou’s candid chronicle of difficult personal relationships casts asunder stereotypes of traditional families within ethnic communities. Issues such as abuse, domestic violence and family dysfunction that are generally hushed up in recording the migrant story are here presented in all their heart-wrenching brutality, without mitigation or justification. For Panagiotidou, these are obstacles to be surpassed, but not without great emotional cost and isolation.
What is unsurpassable however, is the death of the author’s son. In many ways, it is the final capstone of tragedy in a life filled with adversity. It marks an appalling climax to the story, one which the author tells with heart-breaking sensitivity, despite the stark language she chooses to employ.
Ultimately, Panagiotidou’s chronicle concludes upon a despairing note. It appears that there is no rest for the wanderer. Her dreams of peace, success and family happiness are shattered. Of particular interest is the manner in which she records the fraternal bonds of mutual association and assistance that bound the youthful Greek community together slowly becoming eroded under the influence of financial ease and acculturation. There are many lessons to be learnt, especially for the latter generation, English-speaking scions of that community. While railing against the newfound materialism of that community, Panagiotidou paradoxically simultaneously laments her own inability to achieve a similar state of affluence, despite her most strenuous efforts in that direction. One cannot avoid the suspicion by the end of the narrative, that the ideal of the equitable and congenial community she and others like her had so espoused was slowly transforming into one where money and privilege are the measure of its constituents.
Vakina Panagiotidou has a story to tell and it is of such profundity that it will provoke and move all readers. The release of the book in English is a brave and bold gesture, sure to challenge stereotypes of the migration story and the myths of migrants themselves.

First published in NKEE on Saturday 29 January 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Late last year, just before the Victorian State Election, I attended an evening at Parliament House, organized by the Australian Christian Lobby, whose aim was to ascertain the position of the two major parties on various issues of concern to diverse Christian denominations in Melbourne. One after the other, clerics and other representatives of these denominations rose to ask pertinent and perspicacious questions about complex matters ranging from Equal Opportunity Legislation, to Drug and Alcohol Abuse Policy, Medical Ethics, Asylum Seekers and Computer Game Ratings and Internet Censorship. These questions were of a sophisticated nature, displaying not only a masterly appreciation of the delicate nuances of policy and legislation that can give rise to a plethora of interpretations and presumably, applications on both a political and juridical level, but also, a deep understanding of the evolution of our modern multi-faceted and pluralistic Victorian society.
The church representatives present, seemed to wish not so much to propound and preach doctrine, as to probe and to clarify, to distinguish and to elucidate, and to enter into a genuine dialogue with their political leaders. I was particularly heartened by the presence of representatives of Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches, even if this was de facto, as junior partners.A church, embodying by its very nature, a set of convictions about the supernatural and existence itself, has in secular pluralistic societies, an invaluable role to play; its doctrines forming one of many commentaries and critiques on the nature and direction of that society.
The Orthodox Church, with an ancient unbroken presence in the lands that first adopted Christianity from the outset of that religion’s inception, obviously has, considering its venerable and unfathomably protean tradition in such spheres of life as spirituality, welfare, philosophy and ethics, much to contribute, offer and share with the discourse of modern complex communities, especially since it has been both a minority and state religion of empires as globalist and sophisticated as those of the Romans and the Ottomans, which offer interesting parallels to our own reality today.
It is to Australia’s loss that up until recently in its century-long history in this country, the Orthodox Church has not been able to engage in discourse with its host culture, to the full breadth and extent that its vast tradition permits. Instead, owing to the fact that the vast majority of its congregation and practitioners had little fluent English, it was effectively relegated to the status of a ‘ghetto church,’ by the mainstream: that is, a church that did not and could not engage with the broader community. Instead, it concerned itself largely with ministering to its members’ religious, but also cultural needs, given that the conditions of the long Ottoman occupation have historically rendered the Church the repository of ethnic consciousness – a significant social development. Our priests, struggling to find their feet in a new land while assisting their flock to also do the same were not in a position to offer any insights to a mainstream that for decades considered them its inferiors. Consequently, our Church has until recently, not been in a position to produce the ethicists and thinkers that, for example, the Roman Catholic and Anglican denominations have, nor has it been able to have anyone sit up and take notice at its unique world-view.
The isolation of the Orthodox Church as an ethnic ghetto institution in Australia is anomalous, flying in the face of its universal message. Thankfully, such isolation has decreased over time, largely as a result of the foundation of St Andrew’s Theological College in Sydney, enabling Australian-born members of the congregation to study Orthodox theology in their country of birth and to subsequently become priests, as well as a result of the arrival here of dynamic clerics, possessed of a brilliant academic background and fluency in the English language, such as our own Archbishop Stylianos and the charismatic Bishop Irinej of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Such prelates, apart from forming compendious repositories of the knowledge necessary to propagate and perpetuate the Faith in Australia, are also, because of their highly developed interpersonal skills, uniquely placed to engage with the mainstream and wrest from its political leaders, the requisite recognition of our Church as a significant stakeholder in Australian society.
To speak of continued isolation a century after the establishment of the Church in Australia is thus a testament to the prevailing social conditions that determine the level of integration of our community within the mainstream. However, considering that the second and third generation members of our community are overwhelmingly English speaking and are active in all facets or Australian life, the isolation of their belief system from mainstream Australia is no longer tenable.Recently, it was announced that Father Jacob, an archimandrite serving at the Oakleigh parish, will be elevated to the rank of titular bishop of Miletoupolis, a see once held by Archbishop Stylianos. Through his elevation, Father Jacob makes history, as he is the first ever Australian-born cleric to become an Orthodox bishop in Australia. Furthermore, given that he is a graduate of St Andrews Theological College, it is correct to say that he is a product of a uniquely Australian Orthodox environment. This is an achievement our entire community can feel proud of, though it is an achievement not without its more daunting aspects.
For it is to our Australian-born, fluently English speaking bishop that will fall a triple and particularly intricate task;
a) serving the ecclesiastical needs of ageing Greek speaking parishioners and their priests, who currently form the majority of active church-goers; – and balancing these with-
b) passing on the Orthodox traditions and doctrines to the latter, English speaking generations. This is a task fraught with difficulty, not only due to the fact that these generations are largely disengaged from Greek communal activity, whether cultural or religious and lack facility in the Greek language but also because unlike their forebears, who came from and recreated in their adopted country a culture that revolved, at least ideologically, around the church, tradition and nationalism, they live in a secular post-modern age, that challenges claims to objectivity and deconstructs every and all claimant to the ultimate truth and are thus, emancipated from the shackles of traditional social compliance, not as inclined to subscribe to the Church’s tenets;
c) ensuring that the Church engages with the mainstream in ways that ensure that it provides a meaningful and respected contribution to the discourse of Australian society. This includes broadening the base of the important and largely unsung welfare and social work that the Church has undertaken. It also means placing the Church at the helm of furthering study of our unique patristic and theological tradition – truly an unlimited resource. In attempting such undertakings, the bishop would have to tread a tenuous tightrope between retaining the historic Greek origins of the Church, without this precluding its development as an inclusive Australian Church, in which peoples of diverse background have a role to play. As a corollary, he will be compelled also to placate and direct both partisans whose conception of the Church is either more exclusive or inclusive.
Achieving all this and keeping the peace within our fractious community will be no mean feat indeed. Indeed, it is vital that in seeking to engage the disengaged, and granting the Church heightened relevance in a period of rapid social unravelling, an environment of harmony, support, mutual assistance and dare one say it, love, its actively maintained. Considering that as a community and a congregation we are at the crossroads of acculturation, how we engage with each other and plan for the future will determine the survival of the entities we have created and nurtured with so much effort. The state of that future, will most likely, be our new bishop’s legacy.
Ultimately, what reassures us in the face of the enormity of the challenges that lie ahead for the Orthodox Church in Australia is the solid foundation upon which it has been constructed. This is a Church that in its two thousand year old history has survived continuous persecution, schism and conflict. All these vicissitudes have taught it how to remain relevant and steadfast. Its hierarchs have acted as beacons and guardians of our people and faith and it is to this tradition of quiet perseverance and bold resistance that our new Australian-born bishop weds himself. In his task, he deserves the assistance of us all.


First published in NKEE on Saturday 22 January 2011

Saturday, January 15, 2011


“True, conscious honour is to feel no sin, he's armed without that's innocent within; be this thy screen, and this thy wall of brass."
Alexander Pope.

Greece has had in its history, three great walls. The first, were the Long Walls of Athens, so called as they provided a long, protective corridor down to Piraeus. They were a key element of Athenian strategy, since they provided the city with a constant link to the sea and prevented it from being besieged by land alone. These walls were constructed in the fifth century BC, after the original walls of Athens had been destroyed by the Persians during the occupations of Attica in 480 and 479 BC.
After the removal of the Persian forces subsequent to the battle of Plataea, the Athenians were free to reoccupy their land and begin rebuilding their city. Early in the process of rebuilding, construction was started on new walls around the city proper. This project drew opposition from the Spartans and their Peloponnesian allies, who had been alarmed by the recent increase in the power of Athens. Spartan envoys urged the Athenians not to go through with the construction, arguing that a walled Athens would be a useful base for an invading army, and that the defenses of the isthmus of Corinth would provide a sufficient shield against invaders. Despite these concerns the envoys did not strongly protest and did in fact give advice to the builders. The Athenians disregarded the arguments, fully aware that leaving their city unwalled would place them utterly at the mercy of the insidious Peloponnesians and Thucydides, in his account of these events, describes a series of complex machinations by the wily Themistocles by which he distracted and delayed the Spartans until the walls had been built up to such a height as to be defensible. In the early 450s BC, fighting began between Athens and various Peloponnesian allies of Sparta. In the midst of this fighting, Athens had begun construction of two more walls between 462 BC and 458 BC, one running from the city to the old port at Phalerum, the other to the newer port at Piraeus. These new walls, the Long Walls, ensured that Athens would never be cut off from supplies as long as she controlled the sea. Eventually, they were pulled down by the Spartans in 404 BC after Athens' defeat in the Peloponnesian Wars and rebuilt again, paradoxically with Persian support during the Corinthian War, only to be stormed and partly pulled down by the Roman Sulla, in the course of his sack of Athens during the Mithridatic Wars.
The Hexamilion, on the other hand stands at the end of a long series of attempts to fortify the Isthmus of Corinth stretching back to perhaps the Mycenaean period. Many of the Peloponnesian cities, including Sparta, as mentioned previously, wanted to pull back and fortify the Isthmus instead of making a stand at Thermopylae when Xerxes invaded in 480 BC, though as Herodotus comments, this would have been of limited value without control of the sea, and which, as the Diatribist opines, is indicative of selfish Hellenic parochialism at its most odious.
The actual Hexamilion Wall across the Ismthus was constructed in the period between 408 and 450, in the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II, during the time of the great barbarian incursions into the Roman Empire. The Wall included towers, sea bastions, and at minimum one fortress, containing two gates of which the northern gate functioned as the formal entrance to the Peloponnesus. The wall was constructed with a rubble and mortar core faced with squared stones. It is not certain how long it took to complete, but the importance given to the task is apparent from the scale of the construction; the Hexamilion is the largest archaeological structure in Greece. Every structure in the region was cannibalized for stone for the effort, either being incorporated into the wall directly, as was the temple of Poseidon at Ismthia, or being burned into lime, as was the sanctuary of Hera at Perahora. In 1415, the Byzantine emperor Manual II personally supervised repairs over a period of forty days, envisioning that the walls would be a last stand against the relentless Ottoman advance and indeedt he wall was breached by them in 1423. Despot of Morea Constantine Palaiologos restored the wall again in 1444, but the Turks breached it again in 1446. After the Ottoman conquest of the Peloponnese in 1460, the wall was abandoned. Nonetheless, it never succeeded in fulfilling the function for which it was constructed, unless it acted as a deterrent.
The third great walls of Hellenism are those of Constantinople. With numerous additions and modifications during their history, they were the last great fortification system of antiquity and one of the most complex and elaborate systems ever built. When well manned, the walls were almost impregnable for any medieval besieger, saving the city, and the Byzantine Empire with it, during sieges from various other nations for one thousand years. The advent of gunpowder siege cannons rendered the fortifications vulnerable, leading to the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans on 29 May 1453 after a prolonged siege.
The moral then, to any prospective Grecian wall builders is that eventually, they can and will be breached. Greek walls, built to exclude others, whether they be other Greeks, or other nations have never been able to exclude them or keep them out for very long. Indeed, the secret to the Greek people’s amazing survival given the extent of the vicissitudes of fate and concatenation of circumstances that have befallen it over its lengthy sojourn through history, has been its ability to absorb and assimilate external influences, adding further variety and vibrancy to its cultural discourse. To this effect, the nations that have found a home and haven in Greece are innumerable, from Thracians and Illyrians, to Celts, Romans and Goths, Bulgarians and other Slavs, to Albanians, Vlachs, Armenians and Turks. With the notable exception of those settled at the behest of conquering armies, most of these peoples were refugees, fleeing wars and catastrophe elsewhere.
Undoubtedly, the collapse of the Communist bloc and the upheavals of war in the Middle East and the Balkans has created a second ‘movement of peoples’ as vast in its complexity as that which caused the barbarians incursions into Europe and hastened the decline of the Roman Empire. Greece, owing to its geographical position, has borne the brunt of this movement, having being swamped with hundreds of thousands of refugees. Unlike the draconian in comparison Australian policies to such illegal border crossers, Greek policy is much more humane and compassionate, permitting refugees in practice, to live and work among Greeks, until such time as they are able to obtain a visa elsewhere – given that the majority of border crossers view Greece as a stepping stone to a better place and not a final destination. The benign treatment of these individuals can have unexpected results, turning them inadvertently into ambassadors for Greece’s good name. Here in Melbourne, there reside not a few citizens of Middle Eastern extraction, who sing Greece’s praises and of the generosity and compassion of its people, because in Greece, they found, albeit temporarily, a second home. A good many of these speak Greek quite well, and among them can even be found priests and bishops, fleeing persecution in their home countries.
The building of a wall along the border with Turkey in order to stem the flow of refugees and illegal immigrants represents a failure of the human spirit and of the inclusionist, global, European humanistic ideal. It is not enough to argue that cash-strapped Greece is at the end of its tether and cannot absorb further peoples, when its population density is so low. In fact, the Greek border is also the border of Europe, something that Western Europe has difficulty in comprehending and there exists no co-ordinated European policy of reception, absorption and processing of these poor, peripatetic peoples.
Where walls are erected, they signify a failure. The Chinese Great Wall failed to stop the incursion of the Mongols. The Berlin Wall ultimately failed in keeping a people apart. The Wall of Shame in the West Bank, turning Palestinian habitations into ghettoes, marks the failure of racial and religious discriminatory conceptions of statehood. The Greek Wall in turn, will not stem the tide of refugees forever, especially the significant amounts entering the country by sea.
Refugees and illegal immigrants must not be portrayed as barbarians at the gates, threatening Greek life as we know it. Greek society is more at risk of disruption by bourgeois, well-fed and spoiled anarchists than persecuted people who wanted to rebuild their shattered lives. Such refugees have seen terrible things in their home countries. Along their journey to freedom, they have endured terrible hardships and dangers, which have only stiffened their resolve to survive and enjoy a quiet life. The least one can do, is to co-ordinate a pan-European policy to receive them and help them on their way.
It was Mervyn Peake, author of the Gormenghast trilogy, an epic about a vast but crumbling self absorbed city and mouldering civilization that enjoyed total isolation from outside world, who perhaps provides the most apt simile with Europe today. And it is in his words that we may find the inspiration to assist people to find their freedom and ourselves to retain our humanity: “Each day I live in a glass room unless I break it with the thrusting of my senses and pass through the splintered walls to the great landscape.”
First published in NKEE on 15 January 2011

Saturday, January 08, 2011


"Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia." E Doctorow

The nativity of Diatribe, which is relevant only in that this year finds this column attaining the venerable age of ten years, had its origin in its predecessor, the NUGAS column, that once graced the pages of this august publication. In those days, Greek-Australian youth were enjoying the tail end of what appears to have been the swang-song of intensely 'Hellenic' organised activity - the Baraki scene. Lonsdale and Russel Streets undulated to the hybrid Greco-Arabic rhythms of Giorgos Alkaios et al and NUGAS publications were festooned with pictures of revellers seeking a mate, and entreaties for the unconverted to attend the next Greek night.
My criticism of NUGAS and the Baraki scene in general was that the blind, unquestioning adoration exhibited towards 'Hellenism,' by youthful and fervent born again Hellenes seemed to be based only on the fact that their permissive, laissez faire leisure activities more closely resembled those of their host culture and that their understanding of their cultural background was at best superficial. When I became somewhat more vocal in communicating my observations, I found myself writing the NUGAS column, for, as one leading NUGAS aficionado put it, if I were part of NUGAS, I would not be able to criticise it.
The main thrust of the NUGAS column therefore was twofold. Primarily, it was to convince the community that NUGAS was not just an outlet for recreation and procreation, but could have something to say about the formulation of a distinctive Greek-Australian identity. Further, I felt that it could provide born again Hellenes with interesting and unknown snippets of information about Greek culture and history, proving that Hellenism was not just about baraki, souvlaki and Sfakianaki, but was incredibly deep, fascinating, with a remarkable global reach.
Diatribe, the NUGAS column's successor, was intended to continue in the same vein. However, a chance encounter with the then newly appointed editor, Argyris Argyropoulos caused a slight deviation in focus. Over coffee, he related the story of an old man who lived in Footscray and became something of a local 'character' in the area. "Why don't you look out for characters like these?" he suggested. "A whole way of life is changing, vanishing without us even realising it." Various character descriptions have peopled the Diatribe since that time, especially those of good friends, such as Theodoros Tsonis and Spiros Stamoulis, to whom, I have through the Diatribe, have had to say goodbye.
Ten years on, a great deal has changed in our community. A decade ago, Modern Greek was being offered for study at most of the tertiary institutions of Melbourne and we were proud of the founding of EKEME as a Greek research centre. If anything we were merely lamenting the imminent demise of Hellenic studies at Melbourne University. Nowadays, considering that less than three hundred students in Victoria undertake the study of Modern Greek at VCE level, mourning the collapse of Modern Greek at the tertiary level appears to be pointless. What is instructive however, is the fact that the so-called Greek community found itself unable to rouse itself and mobilise in order to forestall or prevent such a collapse. It was, and in many respects still is, content to labour under the delusion that ours is a large, powerful, organic and important community. Diatribe was prescient enough to perceive this struthocamilic approach to the future back then and ask pertinent questions as to where we are headed.
Truly, the Greek community has changed greatly in a decade. Firstly, the sidelining of NUGAS, the sorry fate of most second generation Greek-Australians who sought to assume the reins of power in our brotherhoods or clubs and the blatant manipulation of the youth by master puppeteers in other clubs, who rely upon the illusion that they run those clubs for the benefit of the youth - but in the process alienate both youth and elderly members is indicative of the vast chasm separating the 'organised' first generation from the disinterested and non-participating latter generations. Again, as in the case of Modern Greek studies, despite the disintegration of most of our clubs, the fact that our youth take no active part in them and that SAE, the imaginary co-ordinating body that gave them sort of relevance as pawns on a larger chessboard of manouveuring and manipulation has also collapsed, we still tend to see ourselves as a strong, organisation rich community. Nonetheless, one of the most fascinating consequences of this demise is the remarkable coalescing of such forces around a new, revitalised GOCMV. Are we witnessing a process whereby the fractious pluralism that has hitherto characterised our organised community will merge into a monolithic bloc with the GOCMV as its pole? Only time will tell. Certainly we are witnessing the beginnings of the resolution of the ecclesiastical difficulties that have plagued our community for generations. It will also be interesting to see how this resolution will impact upon the community in general. Diatribe has always been most interested in the way the Orthodox Church has influenced and continues to influence Greek culture.
As Diatribe is written on the margins of the Hellenic world, it is particularly interested in areas that have been marginally affected by Greek culture or which preserve a remnant of a Greek presence. Articles that seek to shed some light on the most obscure and unlikely crevices of such history are a delight to research. More delightful are the responses from diverse readers throughout the world, as these assuage the Diatribist's anguish over a perceived narrowness of focus and parochialism in the Diatribe. Over the Christmas break for example, I received three notable letters from readers around the world. The first, from a reader in India, touching upon a Diatribe about the Greco-Indian kingdom, asks whether the great Indian King Chandragupta had Greek roots and posits that the Gupta Empire gave its name to the gyftoi, in Greece. The second, from the Zappeion Girl's School in Constantinople, referring to Diatribes about the forgotten Greeks of that city, advises of its existence and requests assistance. We will return to the School this year and explore the irony of history that permits a school, founded by the Epirote benefactor Zappas, at a time when Constantinople was at the epicentre of the Greek world, to now be relegated to its margins, and from there, appeal to an equally marginal group. The third letter, from a Turkish journalist, touched upon a past Diatribe on Karamanlidika, the form of Turkish spoken by Christian in Cappadocia and sought linguistic assistance with a novel he is writing about these people. It is wonderful that Diatribes of this nature can put others in a train of inquiry that can cause them to celebrate the commonality of our cultures.
Over the years, Diatribe has not shied away from asking questions not only about our national issues, but the way in which we seek to promote them or understand them. Diatribe has attempted to pierce the veil of nationalism and understand why such issues are important, as well as to draw attention to the plight of such beleaguered groups as the Greeks of Northern Epirus. On the whole, responses from readers of ethnic groups that find themselves on the 'opposing side' in these issues, are a great deal more polite than those by Greeks disputing various political points.
Diatribe has also enjoyed interviewing and describing various interesting personages pertaining to matters Greek, including the Patriarch of Jerusalem, two missionary bishops of Madagascar, the former king of Greece, Constantine and even members of the Vinozhito Party, who espouse a 'Macedonian' ethnicity. Copies of relevant Diatribes can therefore be found in places as diverse as the former King's official website and the Serbian Ministry of Kosovo. Further, whereas in years previous, Diatribe was the preserve of the second generation, I find more and more first generation readers relating to the themes the Diatribe examines, despite the labyrinthine density of the English in purports to employ.
Throughout the course of the decade, the Diatribe has shifted, changed, morphed and mutated. Neither it, or the Diatribist are the same entities as they were when they embarked upon this enterprise, for it is within the very vibrant and complex nature of the community and the culture it addresses, that one must backtrack, assess, re-assess and scratch one's head at its abysmal depth and inexhaustible inspiration. Despite changes in opinion, expression and approach that are corollary after all to coming of age, one common thread lies through all the Diatribes, from their inception to the present: an immense love for the people that they engage.
Given that there is still much more to be said, examined, dissected and ridiculed, the Diatribe, in wishing you a happy new year, thanks you, gentle reader and especially you, oh august editor, for your patience and forbearance. Καλή Χρονιά.


First published in NKEE on 8 January 2011