Monday, August 29, 2005


Proving Fallmerayer wrong for the umpteenth time, it cannot be denied that modern Greeks are descended of the ancients. This can be proven not only linguistically but anthropologically as well. The Greek perception of justice in the popular consciousness for example, has not progressed much since the days of Socrates, when it was expected that with a fervent belief in the justice of one's case, one would stand up and speak the truth before one's peers, confident that the truth would move them and award him justice. The Apology then, as immortalized by Plato's recording or construction of Socrates' own, is well entrenched in the Greek psyche and I see this in my law practice every day, especially amongst first generation migrants who cannot identify the Anglo-Saxon legal system of this country as a system of arbitration as carefully defined and adversarial as the rules of a cricket game, but rather, believe that if afforded the opportunity, they would stand up before the judge, «θα τα πω όλα στο δικαστή,» who will immediately identify the justice of their case and award an appropriate remedy. Even when such persons are victorious, they come away from the law courts mystified at the fact that their desire to emulate the great ancient forensic lawyer Lysias and declaim to their heart's content was pipped at the post when their barrister's over was over, and the opposing barrister called in to try to demolish the stumps of their argument.
Something similarly Lysianic occurs in our treatment of our own ethnic issues. In our belief, we are the victims of foreign indifference and the evil slander of our enemies. If only we could sit down with the leaders of the world for five minutes and present them the true facts, or as one recently formed ethnic-issue body calls it, the "Hellenic Truth." This will disabuse them of their illusions and like the Anglo-Saxon judge above, will move them to finally, after so many years of heartache, award our people their just desserts. This type of philosophy was the driving force behind the Greek government publishing books in the English language about the Macedonian issue in the early nineties. One of these has made its way into my local library. Predictably enough, it has never been borrowed.
The fact of the matter is that Realpolitik is eternal and political and financial expediency are the yardstick by which success in international affairs has always been measured. Of course the powers that be understand our arguments about such issues as the Macedonian Issue and the Cyprus Issue. Proof of this is the fact that from time to time, they have supported Greece's stance on them. However honour, truth or justice do not come into the equation. It was the same Britons who encouraged Greece to occupy Smyrna in 1919 that stood idly by in 1922 and refused to save the lives of thousands of Greek refugees from being massacred by the Kemalist army and even poured boiling water over the sides of their ships to prevent them swimming to safety. Today, the same powers that condemned the Turkish invasion of Cyprus advocate a legitimization of the Turkish occupation of the island and send its senators to pay visits there.
As Socrates, whose apology meant nothing in the face of Athenian vested interest and corruption could tell you, justice is a relative commodity. Foreign powers will only intervene to impose 'justice' when they have an interest to do so. A comparison of the speed in which the USA moved to free Kuwait from the invading Iraqi forces, compared to the thirty-one years of foot-dragging inactivity that represents any progress in the Cyprus Issue is a case in point. Another is the recent revelation that the speaker of the American Senate, Dennis Hastert may have accepted bribes by Turkish officials in order to obtain his vote against the Armenian Genocide Resolution and also secure his support of the Turkish position on Cyprus. Even if this proved untrue, it cannot be disputed that not a few states including Turkey do offer better and more tangible incentives to World Powers for adopting their positions, than a barrage of facts and a few hysterical appeals to nobility, justice and Hellenic Truth.
Greeks who wonder why Turkish foreign policy is so successful ought to consider that Turkey now occupies the geographical area known as Asia Minor, which once formed the heartland of the Byzantine Empire and to some extent is an heir to its cultural legacy, especially when it comes to administration. Byzantines running as they were, a multi-ethnic and multi-religious empire surrounded by enemies, soon disabused themselves of the parochial Lysian illusion that truth or justice was at all significant to their neighbours, proving simultaneously that there is absolutely no such thing as the 'Byzantine truth.' Instead, they decided to appeal to the baser instincts of their neighbours’ natures, developing an intricate diplomatic policy predicated upon bribing officials in neighbouring states to promote pro-Byzantine policies, making payments to enemies to keep them at bay, inviting members of royal families to live and be educated in Byzantium so that when they finally returned to their homes they would be friendly towards Byzantium and infused with its culture.
Perhaps the greatest exponent of this policy was the scholarly Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitos, who wrote a remarkable treatise for his son known as De Administrando Imperio (though it originally bore the affectionate title "Προς τον ίδιον υιόν Ρωμανόν" or “To my son Romanos”). This was a manual setting out how to run the Empire. It described in intricate detail both the enemies and friends of Byzantium while also providing valuable information as to the customs of various nations. It reads like a snapshot of foreign policy in time. One major theme of the work is the idea that various enemies can be manipulated or bribed to fight each other, rather than use imperial resources to wage war against them. Simply put, this work is an early "How to subvert your enemies and influence people" handbook. That this policy was not without some results can be proven by the fact that Byzanitum was able to last, in some shape or form for another five hundred years after its compilation and arguably only entered its terminal decline, after the gold ran out.
Given then that a culture of individualism pervades the current world and it should taken as a given that no one will go out of their way for you without this being to their benefit, there is nothing intrinsically wrong in providing someone with an incentive to view things from your point of view. After all, the presence of some gold or silver in one's hand has been proven to stimulate the flow of chi to the brain and result in clarity of thought. Further, if the most pious Byzantine Emperors sought fit to make use of such expedients to ensure the ascendancy of their Empire, what is wrong in us following suit. Slavish imitation of ancient and out moded ways of thinking can only lead to unhappiness. Look at the Spartans at Thermopylae for instance. Had they not been so stubborn and provided the Persians with the paltry bribe of earth and water demanded of them, they would have lived happy and full lives and the world would have been saved from a particularly depressing Cavafy poem and the nauseating syncretism of the Hellenistic era. Further, did not Australia act similarly in 'assisting' the Nauru government to keep asylum seekers on that island?
All this then should be taken into account when we assess our modus operandi for dealing with the latest assualt upon our ethnic pride and justice - the suggestion that the illegal and criminal occupation regime in the north of Cyprus will be permitted to participate in the Commonwealth Games under its own flag, masquerading as the so-called "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus." For it is obvious that patriotic appeals to justice, lengthy expositions of facts or protest marches that are shrugged off by the mainstream as further instances of the failure of multiculturalism to ensure a homogenous and cohesive community are ineffective. How then to ensure that the heinous legitimisation of the illegal occupier does not occur? How about a souvlaki-night at the Greek Consul's house or free tickets for every MP to a South Melbourne match? We could even get every president of every Greek and Cypriot organisation to invite every MP to dinner. The only problem there of course will be that there will not be enough MP's to go around. We could even do a Porphyrogenitos and whip off a backhand, inverse bribe in the form of a mass-boycott of the Comonwealth Games… that is, if we consider ourselves as a community at all capable of unified action.
Seriously though, do we really need to resort to such base tactics in order to achieve justice? After all, this is the land of the 'fair-go' and the Australian government has traditionally been extremely sympathetic and accomodating with regards to the Cyprus issue. Infused with the Whitlamist Truth of the Matter, it will never betray us in this way. And if it does, well then we shall just have to march down to Parliament House and explain the history to them again and again and again……

First published in NKEE on 29 August 2005

Monday, August 22, 2005


"Now watch what you say or they'll be calling you a radical,
Liberal, fanatical, criminal.
Won't you sign up your name, we'd like to feel you're
Acceptable, respectable, presentable, a vegetable!"

The problem many words have, to the great delight of such deconstructionists as Jacques Derrida though not anyone else, is that they start off signifying one thing and finally end up meaning another. Take the word idiot for example. In the original Greek, an idiotis was an individual. As an English loanword, it signifies a buffoon. The word liberal has undergone a similar transformation in connotation. Originally as the above Supertramps' lyrics connote, to be liberal is to be "not subject to the common prejudices or conventions," to be "favourable to social liberty, social reform and the removal of economic constraints," to be "willing to respect and accept behaviour or opinions different from one’s own" and further as a quantitative adjective, to be liberal is to "give freely, more than is necessary or usual." Of course this word is derived from the Latin liber, meaning free man, which is a concept that underlies most of its derivatives, the most famous of these being liberty, which along with life and the pursuit of happiness in all of its multifarious forms, is a mainstay of what up until recently, was known as the 'Free World," the only vestiges of which now lie solely in the yard of that purveyor of fine automobiles, Jefferson Ford, 'the greatest car dealer in the Free World.'
To be Liberal in politics traditionally signified achieving greater freedom for individuals and the British Liberal Party under Gladstone tried to achieve this through a slow, gradual process of social reform that culminated in the granting of home rule to Ireland compared to Lloyd George’s radicalism, though both had as their cardinal tenet the free development of all forces that would prevent any group or class from dominating a community. To this day a multitude of conservative hate-sites in the land of liberty, America, vent their spleen at the antics of bleeding-heart, pluralist and thoroughly race-traitorous liberals whose lack of rigidity threatens the cultural hegemony of that superpower's ruling class.
By contrast, the word liberal in Australia shares the same fate as the word idiotis. Whereas in the rest of the world the word connotes a freer, more radical viewpoint, hence a liberal education being one concerned with broadening general knowledge and experience, in this country, at least in the political sense, a Liberal is seen as a conservative, even though in Britain, a Liberal is the opposite of a Conservative, or at least would be, if the British Liberal Party had not entered a terminal decline…
Confused? One is even more confused when one considers that it was during the reign of archconservative Liberal leader, PM and muse of the current PM, Sir Robert Menzies that the great social upheaval that was the mass-migration of Southern Europeans to our antipodean shores began, challenging the until then crystallised perception of them as Anglo-Saxon, given that the original owners until then did not really count as humans. Sir Bob also did some other uncharacteristically liberal things like introduce affirmative action into the Liberal Party, something which is incompatible with the notion of that Party being conservative unless one considers that as Sir Bob was wont to be "British to the boot-straps.” He was in that case a Liberal strictly in its British sense. Notwithstanding this however, Sir Bob was a man of his times and though freedom of speech and political association were and still are paid lip-service to as important constituents of liberal democracy, his reaction against those who would subvert it was ultra-conservative, for instance holding a referendum for the banning of the now defunct Australian Communist Party, considering that the only way to convert people over to the ways of the Free World was to deny them certain freedoms. (By the way, communists always hated liberals as much as conservatives did, the former for not veering enough to the left and the latter for their adherence to a no right turn policy. It was thus that the cul-de-sac was invented.) Again it is a paradox for our times that a conservative Liberal Party under the visionary Malcolm Fraser should have embarked upon a liberal attempt at a tremendous reconstruction of common perceptions of Australian society, in the form of multiculturalism, though this is in keeping with Menzies' British doctrine, and viewed from this angle, its coming full circle and final deconstruction in these reactionary times is even the more so, proving that undefinable Derrida right after all.
The antics of the Victorian Young Liberals recently are a case in point. If one considers that the key feature of a liberal democracy is that elected representatives holding the decision power are moderated by a constitution that emphasizes protecting individual liberties and the rights of minorities in society, then the name liberal does not seem apply to them, unless by the term 'Young Liberals' we signify to a group of people who have a lot of growing up to do before they become 'Big' Liberals.
Indeed one struggles to find what if anything is liberal in the motion recently passed by the Young Liberals calling for “the Australian government to train undercover agents to kidnap or kill those responsible for the Bali bombing.” If my reading of history is correct, even the incendiary of the German Reichstag in 1933, Marinus van der Lubbe was granted the semblance of due process, something which if these infantile liberals knew their British history as well as their founding father Sir Bob did, has been the mainstay of the Westminster democratic system since the demise of Charles I, a monarch whose head was confiscated by Cromwellian proto-Liberals. This is where the term Liberal veres further right of the conservative lane to which it has been directed and surreptiously shoots off along the fascist sliplane.
One would think that these naughty little Liberals in trying to befuddle any sense of meaning in the term liberal were deliberately playing a prank on us or at least telling a post-modern fable. There is no other way that their motion condemning comments and actions made by Liberal MP Petro Georgiou on the Howard Government’s policy on mandatory detention can be explained. This is especially so given that Petro Georgiou was the main architect of PM Fraser’s multicultural policy and further, considering that pluralism is a traditional tenet of liberalism, this is downright disturbing.
Even more disturbing is these neophyte Liberal’s disapprobation of affirmative action within the Party, “including but not limited to, gender specific positions within the Liberal Party.” Though this was one of the foundation principals of Sir Bob, the founder of the Liberal Party in the late 1940’s, and was also interstingly enough insituted in America by none other than archconservative Nixon himself, the idea of ensuring that women are adequately represented in the political sphere is well… too liberal. Is there not a more appropriate place for them? Interestingly enough it was archconservative Nixon who instituted affirmative action in America along with Watergate.
Sadly, it appears that in abandoning such founding principles as have been the mainstay not only of the Liberal Party but of Australias’ progress throughout the past fifty years, the Young Liberals are whimsically looking back to a society that no longer exists: racially exclusive and dominated totally by males. In order to do so they would have to travel back in time at least sixty years, before the advent of Sir Bob’s Ming dynasty, though their advocacy of brutal totalitarian approaches for dealing with internal threats is totally without precendent and unaustralian as it is unliberal.
In Chinese, the word Ming means bright and the years from our own ‘Ming’ right up until recently have been the brightest and most enlightened in Australias’ political history. After the fall of the Ming however, came the Qing, the barbaric Manchu dynasty that while paying lip-service to Ming culture, held its subjects in thralldom. Ever so slowly, the Liberal Party and indeed the Young Liberals are becoming about as liberal as the People’s Democratic Republics of yesteryear were popular or democratic. No truly liberal government would try for example to abrogate for itself what is in the popular conscience at least, the most clear display of parliamentary democracy at work: Question Time, while to have the role of women in any political entity questioned in any way in the twenty-first century, is simply heinous. Even more so heinous is to have a 'Liberal' MP such as Sophie Panopoulos of migrant background adoicate the deportation of an Australian minority on the grounds that it is a threat and does not assimilate.
It is hoped that this crisis of identity within the Liberal Party results in a reassessment and readherence to liberal principles. Alternatively, those who reject these should hve the courage to name themselves after what they really are, for identification by all and the consigning of Derrida to the dustbin of inanity. We leave the Young Liberals with a few last words of wisdom from Supertramp: “Won´t you please, please tell me what we´ve learned/ I know it sounds absurd/But please tell me who I am.” Or better still, with some Mayakovsky: “No heavy boots please! /Tell the firemen to go gently/ when the heart's on fire."

First published in NKEE on 22 August 2005

Monday, August 15, 2005


The recent elections in Albania were treated with foreboding by the Greeks of Northern Epirus, especially given that all polls gave the notorious Dr Sali Berisha a clear lead. Sali Berisha, the leader of the Democratic Party was Prime Minister during the infamous pyramid scandal of 1997 that wiped out the life savings of a much of the population/ His term in office was also characterized by anti-Greek sentiment, stemming from the bi-polarity of Albania, divided as it is, culturally and linguistically into north and south. The southerners, Tosks by race are generally left-leaning and culturally close to Greece, while several hundred of thousand of them are also Orthodox Christians. They form the core support of the Socialist party which until recently, most Greeks have supported or at least sympathized with. The north, the heartland of Berisha country is conservative, anti-Greek and for the most part anti-Orthodox, as it is feared that the Orthodox Church within Albania is nothing but a front for Greek irredentist designs there.
Indeed, as Prime Minister, Sali Berisha presided over one of the worst periods of Graeco-Albanian relations. In 1991, Greek shops were attacked in the Northern Epirot town of Agioi Saranda while in 1994, Sali Berisha proposed an amendment to the Albanian Constitution, requiring that all heads of religious groups be Albanian born. This was a direct attack on the Orthodox Church, whose hierarchs were all Greek-born and it was only because of Archbishop Anastasios' stellar efforts in assisting in the reconstruction of Albania that this racist and thoroughly divisive amendment was voted down. Nonetheless, this had already been preceded by further attacks on the Greek minority. In the spring of 1993, an ethnic Greek Orthodox priest, Archimandrite Chrysostomos Maidonis was expelled from Albania for allegedly taking part in subversive, anti-Albanian activities. He was accused by Berisha of abusing his ministry by preaching separatism and enosis among the Greek minority. In widespread unrest in the Greek villages, local leaders were arrested and there were well-attested accounts of human rights violations in the area, including the sentencing of the mayor of Dervitsiani, the heartland of Northern Epirus, to six months in prison for raising the Greek flag on Greece’s national day. This was followed by a noticeable expansion of surveillance of the minority by the reformed secret police in the minority areas, as well as a revival of the population movement controls that originated under the Communist regime.
Dr Sali Berisha then has not traditionally enjoyed much popularity among the Greeks of Northern Epirus and this can be evidenced by the fact that the Greek minority led the protests and the civic unrest that ensued as a result of the pyramid banking scandals. Some of the strongest oppositional activity focused in the most densely Greek-populated areas. Allegations of Greek involvement in the leadership of the uprising were made by the Berisha government, and the popular unrest led to early elections and the return of the Socialist government to power in June 1997.
Since that time, the Northern Epirot's political representation on the Albanian political scene has been bi-fold. Since 1992 and at the insistence of the Socialists, the Greek political party OMONIA has been barred from participating in elections on the grounds that it is a party based on race and thus illegal. Following strong protests by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Council of Europe, the United States, and other powerful international actors, this decision was reversed. However, OMONIA now participates in the political process under the name of the Party of Human Rights, a party that encompasses a multitude of minority races and cultures but still predominantly represents the interests of Greeks and Vlachs with a Greek consciousness. While in 1992 this party won seven seats in the 140-seat Assembly, in the penultimate elections, this has shrunk to 4, owing to Socialist domination of the Party's traditional constituency and a climate of intimidation as we shall see further. It is interesting to note that despite the predictions of eminent Albania-watchers such as James Pettifer and despite the tensions and animosity felt towards this Party by all sides of Albanian politics, OMONOIA, under the guise of the Human Rights Party has been able to form a coalition with the socialists and control two key ministries over the past five years.
The Socialist Party, being the reinvented Communist Party also enjoys great support among the Northern Epirots, despite the fact that it generally works against Greek interests and tries to subvert expressions of Greek ethnicity wherever it can. It is generally supporters by Greeks who collaborated with the criminal totalitarian Hoxha regime. Thus it is commonly acknowledged that the stabbings and intimidation of Greek voters during the municipal elections at Cheimarra were organized by the Socialist Party so as to inhibit OMONOIA's victory there and intimidation by Tosks and their Greek collaborators is the order of the day.
In the most recent elections, the ethnic Greek Socialist member for Argyrokastro, Pandeli Tavo organized posses of Tosks to beat up known OMONOIA supporters and to bribe the adherence of others. Characteristic of why Greeks as a whole can never unite in order to be a persuasive force is the following incident: The top student of Dervitsiani High School introduced the OMONOIA candidate for Argyrokastro, Spyros Xerras at his campaign launch. The very next day, the principal of her school, a known supporter of the Socialist Party, the unspeakable Mr. Malioukis, refused to permit her to sit for her final exams. It was only when he exacted a promise from her that she would attend all of Pandeli Tavo's campaign rallies and introduce him at one of these, that he finally relented. It appears too that this descendant of Ephialtes is not alone in betraying the interests of his countrymen for a few crumbs of self-interest from the table of Albanian repression. Indeed given the mania the Socialists seem to exhibit in attempting to extirpate the last vestige of OMONOIA from its heartland in Northern Epirus, it is no small wonder that this party has not only survived but valiantly 'gone to bed with the Devil' in order to defend the rights of the Greeks of Northern Epirus, rights which especially with regards to schooling and religion, are still heavily compromised.
It comes as a surprise and it really is a testament to the devotion and patriotism of OMONOIA and its supporters despite the climate of intimidation and harassment that exists against them, that they have been able to secure 4.2% of the overall vote in the recent elections and elect three members to the Parliament, Vangelis Doules, the leader of the Human Rights Party and a close personal friend, P. Siolis, and finally, in a triumph for the region of Cheimarra, whose Hellenic character has constantly been denied by all Albanian political parties, their own candidate,. Sp. Petsis, though it is whispered that already these latter two have been approached by the Socialists…..
It is also a paradox that the Human Rights Party finds itself in coalition with its traditional open enemy, the Democratic Party led by Dr Sali Berisha, and again holds two ministries. Though relations between Greece and Albania have generally improved since the heady days of the early nineties and though OMONOIA has de facto dropped from its political platform the quest for autonomy of the ethnically Greek areas of Albania along the principals of the Corfu Protocol of 1914, the Greek minority's experience of the populist Berisha has left a bitter taste in its mouth and it views its future with fear. The coalition with the Socialists has proven that being in government grants no immunity against persecution and it can only be foreseen that the hapless Northern Epirots' woes will increase. It is never easy to be a buffer or a wedge between competing interests and yet that is exactly where the Northern Epirots find themselves. In Northern Epirus, they are surrounded by hostile Socialist Tosks and their Greek quisling apparachiks, as well as by innately hostile Muslim Democratic Party supporters along the border villages of Chameria. On top of that, their Party finds itself in coalition with its sworn enemy. Talk about Balkanisation. It can only be hoped that for once, the Greek government will act effectively to obtain international protection for the hapless minority it has consistently neglected and that finally, its woes will cease.
First published in NKEE on 15 August 2005

Monday, August 08, 2005


In 1995, when Francis Fukuyama, reviewing the end of the Cold War and the downfall of communism optimistically proclaimed that we had reached the 'end of history,' he should have known better. Had he delved eleven years earlier, to 1984 or at least to George Orwell's book of the same name, his confidence in the triumph of capitalism and the downfall of clashing ideologies would have been severely curtailed.
For indeed we live in Orwellian times and lately one can be forgiven for dipping into '1984' again and again, astounded at the immense prophetic gifts of its author. If in 1984 Oceania is at war with Eastasia and Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, in our day, the Western World is at war with terrorists and has always been at war with terrorists. For the purposes of the current new world order, the fact that the Western World did aid such enemies as Saddam Hussein's regime and various warlords in Afghanistan against 'eternal' enemies' is as irrelevant as Winston Smith's vague recollection that until recently Oceania had been at war with Eurasia and not Eastasia at all.
Sadly it appears that immense efforts at 'doublethink' are required in order to conveniently forget this and various other inconsistencies. Further, not practicing 'doublethink' in today's terror stricken society is foolhardy, as Melbourne Sheikh Muhammad Omran found out when his thoughtless comments about Osama Bin Laden, (who if he wore glasses, which he wouldn't given that they are a decadent western invention for the subversion of the world, would be spookily reminiscent of Goldstein, the arch-enemy and prince of darkness in the Orwellian world of 1984,) were castigated by the Prime Minister and in recent media reports. While I happen to agree with the Prime Minister and the vast majority of public opinion that the Sheikh's comments were thoroughly reprehensible, it is interesting to note how a pluralistic society which at least for the past fifteen years has purported to prove the triumph of post-modernism, where objectivity is scorned as a fallacy, absolutes are non-existent and anything goes meets certain challenges by immediately casting aside laissez-faire ambiguity and returning to an unashamedly positivist position, assuming Animal Farm-like dichotomy: 'West good, Osama bad,’ and rightly so. To think otherwise is thoughtcrime.
Of greater concern are recent comments by politicians of both major parties to the extent that Muslim religious leaders must do more to condemn terrorism to their faithful. While no one disagrees that terrorism should be abjured by all, all of a sudden it seems that the Muslim community of Australia and its religious leaders are branded suspects of thoughtcrime and agents of the Enemy. It is unprecedented for a government in democratic fair-go Australia to intervene in the religious affairs of any denomination and by calling upon religious leaders to 'co-operate' with it, the government is in danger of seeming to imply that Muslim leaders have not co-operated in the past and are potential fifth-columnists. Though to their credit the government and recently Kim Beazley took great pains to point out that the majority of Muslims do abjure terrorism, try telling that to the xenophobic hoi polloi who have never reconciled themselves to pluralistic multicultural Australia in the first place.
This is unhealthy or to use the Orwellian newspeak, doubleplusungood. If it was the government's intention to reconcile the very few potentially wayward extremists that may exist here, what in effect it is in danger of doing, is victimizing and polarizing Muslim Australians while also isolating them from the mainstream, hindering their reception of those values we are so keen to impart to them. The insensitivity and ignorance displayed by the media in this regard is blatant. To refer to Muslims as a community is as nonsensical as to talk about Orthodox Christians as one. In both cases, adherents of these faiths come from a diverse number of countries, with varying traditions and social conditions. In the case of 'Muslims' they adhere not only to various sects but also schools of Koranic interpretation, some more literal than others. To date, manifestations of 'Muslim extremism' capable of disrupting public order have been painfully few. Yet when one particular journalist in a shocked voice told his viewers on a popular current affairs program a few weeks ago that within five years or so, 1 in 5 inhabitants of Europe will be Muslim and that he did not feel comfortable standing in a Muslim area of France, alluding vaguely to Muslims constituting a threatening, if not criminal element, his comments were irrelevant to the presence of Muslims in Australia. One also questions why he the proceeded to overstate Australia's Muslim population at 500,000 when the 2001 Census calculates this as 281,578. Nor was his gratuitous shock-horror at various radical Muslim clerics visiting Melbourne and encouraging young Australians not to attend university and to chastise their wives at all edifying. I had no idea that domestic violence was restricted in this country to the Muslim community or that the repulsive opinions of a zealous radical American Muslim convert advocates some repulsive ideas, are necessarily be shared by Muslim Australians. Had I been living in Middle Australia, with little or no experience of Muslims, such a report would have led me to believe that Australian Muslims are backward and a threat to Australia. It is lamentable that the spectre of the Yellow Peril has turned Middle Eastern. There is no guarantee that another ethnic minority will be similarly treated by the media in the future.
Not so long ago, a certain fish and chip shop owner from Ipswich stood before the Australian parliament and advised us that we are in danger of being swamped by Asians. Apparently, they are 'not like us.' Most of us laughed and dismissed her ludicrous claims. Now that the conduct of responsible media may have the effect of suggesting the same thing about Muslim Australians, no one is laughing. After all we are at war against terror instigated by Muslim extremists and the recent bombings have made us all very afraid. It is the mark of a mature multicultural community that it can lend, not force its collective identity upon all of its members, regardless of faith or place of origin, especially in times of crisis. All Australians need to feel that they have a legitimate and valuable place within society and if we are to avoid the social, racial and religious conflicts that have so far absented themselves from the 'lucky country' we should abstain from hysterically calling their loyalty into question or holding them morally responsible for strife not of their own making.
A far-sighted multicultural policy would perceive that the current hysteria created against Muslim Australians does nothing to reassure other Australian ethnic and religious minorities that their place in Australian society is assured, or that their turn will not be next. Will we in the future see our own Bishop castigated as a terrorist for commenting on the Greek Revolution or compelled to 'co-operate' with government policy of the day? Will we have our religious leaders cowed and too afraid to speak out on social issues without a firman from the Porte? Indeed, given that Muslims have been migrating to this country in significant numbers for the past thirty years without any problems or social dislocation, will world vicissitudes eventually prescribe a demonisation of our own community for whatever reason? Rather than have Big Brother solely watch the movements and words of clerics, why not have him convince us that he loves us by encouraging his worship by all of his children?
The only way to guarantee that it will not be our turn is toensure that we continue to remain loyal to the values of the Western,capitalist, secular, liberal, democratic Westminster type, wherewe all pay lip service to pluralism, freedom, multiculturalism but in all reality we all continue to obey the elitist and monopolistic, financiallydriven economy at the service of the military industrial complex,utilising the party political marketing machines to create the democratic illusion.In the meanwhile, consumerism / media are there as additional tools formind numbing the masses into compliance and mutually beneficial collusion.
In Orwell's 1984, there is a horrific scene where people come together for the Two Minute Hate, an organized ceremony of hatred for their Enemy. In the peak of hysteria, they are capable of anything, screaming and hurling abuse, relenting only to the reassuring chant of a mantra comprised of Big Brother's initials. Let us be wary that we Oceanians do not institute our own hysterical Two Minute Hate and in the process, become so lost in our hatred for Goldstein and his Eurasian or Eastasian hordes, that we forget to switch on our telescreens and watch… Big Brother.

First published in NKEE on 8 August 2005

Monday, August 01, 2005


When I reached the age of eighteen, having cursorily consumed various Greek history texts and delved somewhat (at least as much as the perspicacity of an eighteen year old permits) into the writings of our compatriot sages, I arrived at the following conclusion: That there is a marked difference between the Semitic and the Greek worlds. While the Semitic mindset deal in absolutes: "Though shalt not kill" or "The Lord your God is One," the Greek mindset is more subtle and flexible. It inquires, speculates and questions, the writings of the greatest philosophers attesting to this.
It was only much later, when I began to delve into Greek community affairs, scrutinized the Greek-language section of this august publication at length and had the opportunity to observe the Hellene, in all of its various manifestations at length that I discovered that I, like most of my compatriots, was in fact suffering from a bi-polar disorder of identity, one which, I hasten to add, manages to enmesh me still, within its insidious, tentacle-like grip.
The ancient Greek historians set a precedent for absolutist self-identification that has haunted us ever since. For us, there always has been and most likely always will be a 'them' and an 'us,' whether thid be racial or ideological. The main aim of Herodotus' history was to explain why it came about that there is a 'them' and an 'us' and why this polarization into Greeks and those whose language to the untuned Hellenic ear sounds like an urgent request for direction to the latest liquor outlet, (hence 'bar-bar') necessarily erupted into conflict, in the form of the Persian Wars. Thucydides, arguably a greater literary talent, took great pains to geographically delimit the boundaries of 'them' and 'us' to the extent that by leaving out certain northern regions, he along with Demosthenes years later, has provided tools to a new batch of 'them' on our northern borders to 'prove' that 'us' or at least a large part of 'us' is actually 'them.' At any rate, if any historical event proves the Greek consciousness' tendency or rather delight in bi-polarity, his would invariably have to be the Peloponnesian Wars, where 'them' and 'us' changed sides with dizzying frequency. Ostracism, where 'them' are forcibly removed from 'us' because, well, we don't like 'them', as practiced in democratic Athens is another case in point.
In fact, it took an immense visionary, in the form of Alexander the Great to attempt to dissolve this conception of the Hellenic world, though again through bi-polar means. Essentially, what Alexander the Great did, was to attempt to dissolve the distinction between 'them' and 'us' by making them all 'his.' This sadly did not work, and it is interesting that while his generals accused him of behaving like 'them' during his life, later apologists for his saunter across Asia generally view him in the context of bring the gifts of 'our' 'civilisation' to 'them.' Except for the Syriacs, and especially Bar Hebraeus in his 'History of the World', we still have not received a thank you from the Semitic recipients of our great 'gifts'.
Proving that Greek bi-polar disorder is genetic rather than environmental is the singular fact that an empire more ridden with bi-polarity than the Byzantine cannot be found. The distinction between 'them' and 'us' here could fluctuate day by day, encompassing Goths, Gepids, Vandals, Saracens, Alans, Huns, Franks, Bulgarians and Turks from without the borders as 'them' and depending on the persuasion of the ruling faction at the time, Nestorians, Sabellians, Monophysites, Chalcedonians, Macedonianists, Paulicians, Iconoclasts, Iconodules or really just anyone that got in the way, within the borders of its God-protected domain as 'them' as well. It is an interesting that the polarization between 'them' and 'us' could even be applied posthumously. In one of the earliest examples of historic revisionism, the erstwhile 'orthodox' (ie. of 'us') Theodore of Mopsouestia and Theodoret of Cyrus were deemed to be heretical Nestorians (ie. 'them') hundreds of years after their death while in the case of the Chalcedonians and Monophysites, both of whom call themselves orthodox, it is downright confusing for the layperson to determine the identity of 'them' and 'us' with any hope of clarity. Similarly, imagine the plight of the poor Byzantine Greek of 1204, trying to determine who 'them' and 'us' actually is, when all of the Despot of Epirus, the Emperor of Trapezus, the Emperor of Nicaea and the Frankish Emperor of Constantinople claimed the sole overlordship of the Roman Empire.
The concept of 'them' and 'us' was rendered more simply but was all prevalent in Ottoman Greece. 'Them' for many years were the Muslims and 'us' the downtrodden Christians. Towards the turn of the twentieth century however, 'them' could be renascent nationalist Bulgarians, Serbs, Albanians, atheists, intellectuals, freedom fighters, demoticists or purists.
Free Greece on the other hand, has a whole period of its history named 'National Polarisation' being the division of that country into monarchist and nationalist zones by Venizelos durig the first world war, proving how intrinsic bi-polarity is to the fabric of Modern Greek society. As for the latter half of the century, including the Civil War, which played itself out in various forms right up until the restoration of democracy in 1975 and some would argue is still extant within first generation migrants in Australia today, the conclusion that no Greek thought can exist without being extracted and expunged through the sieve of bi-polarity, seems as absolute as the concept itself. In the Civil War, 'them' being one's brother, cousin or friend could be denounced, tortured and murdered because he did not share the same ideology as 'us.' Of course all of 'them' were traitors and all of 'us' were patriots.
It should be proud that we here in the Antipodes (yet another semantically bi-polar word) lovingly retain this historical attribute. The first 'them' and 'us' was the distinction between Greeks and Australians and we asserted the superiority of our culture, at least to ourselves, in private, with Herodotean fervour. The next 'them' and 'us' came in the form of one's regional background. The battle of good against evil them commenced as organizations sharing the same regional background split up like amoeba and multiplied exponentially into a myriad of like minded clones, distinguished only by the appellation of 'them' and of course 'us.' Couple this with the 'then' and 'us' bi-polarities of Communist v fascist, Labor v liberal, Greek Communities v Church, Greek traditions v Assimilation, President v would-be president and one can easily perceive the state of polarized paranoia in which our community festers.
In our community, everything has a label and everything or everyone is either an enemy or a friend. When meeting someone involved in community affairs for the first time, the usual questions that are asked (always behind their backs) are as follows: 'What is his agenda? Is he one of 'us'? Is he pro-Church, anti-Church, Communist, northern or southern Greek, and will he tow the line?' In our community, petty civil wars are played out daily and denunciations similar in form to those that were all the rage during the Civil War, are the order of the day. In our community, he who shares not the same persuasion as myself, is my enemy. For example, recently I was interviewed by a Greek Community station about my trip to Jerusalem. At the conclusion of that interview, an elderly gentleman who has never met me, telephoned the interviewer and advised him that it is dangerous to expose his listeners to the sound of my voice as apparently, I am a freemason. The almost Byzantine web of intrigue that surrounds most active members of the community and indeed those who take part in community debates from time to time is so complex as to use the words of Gorky's grandmother, as a piece of lace crocheted by a blind woman. But then again, what would a communist, atheist, ultra-Orthodox, fascist freemason know?
Paranoia and the desire to classify people as 'them' or 'us' is at least a palliative. In being so obsessed in how the various invisible 'powers' of light and darkness fight each other, undermine each other and divide their minions into 'them' or 'us' we are able to maintain the illusion that our community is so vital as to have so many active, if not polarized interests and organizations. In reality, as always, most of these poles and differences are illusory, constructed only to feed the egos and delusions of power by an insignificant though highly malevolent few. The same goes not only for internal politics but debates about ideas as well. Though we are essentially one community, we seem to strive towards dividing it further. As geographical origins slowly become irrelevant as their memory fades, the old form of Herodotean division is enjoying a likely renaissance- that of the syncretic picking and choosing the elements which comprise one's own individual conception of Hellenism and using these to castigate, ridicule and exclude 'them' who do not share these. The irony of our people still striving to define themselves by excluding others some two and a half thousand years after the demise of Herodotus should not be lost on us.
In Rabbinical scholarship, the word pilpul has been coined to describe scholarly debate about trivial and useless issues that are of no benefit to anyone. If any one community can aspire to the appellation of pilpulist, is surely is ours. Let the pilpulists beware however in their quest for scholarly excellence in the trivial and their thirst to prove to be the most Hellenic, that the final bi-polarisation of our community results solely in the plastification of 'them' - a mass of assimilated and neglected ex-Greeks and the final demise of the ubiquitous 'us.'

First published in NKEE on 1 August 2005