Monday, November 07, 2005


Hero of the people and leader of the ‘Third Great Greek Civilisation’ Ioannis Metaxas slumbered fitfully in his armchair that fateful morning of 28 October 1940. Despite the official rhetoric, things were going badly with his regime. His friends the Italians, intent just as he was on making the world safe against namby-pamby and superceded democracy were flexing their muscle, not in the direction of the few freedom-loving but faltering liberal regimes that were just ripe for the plucking, but to the few freedom-despising fascist regimes that once cowed under the hob-nailed caligae of the Roman legionaries. Despite Mussolini’s obsession with his recent onset of impotence, there was no real reason for the Italians to jealously sabotage and blow up the long, hard and full of seamen submarine named Elli, off the coast of Tinos. Nor did their excuse, that they were looking for weapons of mass destruction and God knows, so were Mussolini’s mistresses, wash with the Greek public. What weapons of mass destruction? Since the invention of Greek fire during the Byzantine Era, the inflammable liquid that poured through a tube, could set ships alight on water, the only Greek development in the sphere of warfare was skordalia, a bulbous colloid, that when passed through the corporeal tubes of human digestion, produces a gas with immense fumigative properties, intelligent enough to genetically identify and stop racially superior Nordic tribes dead in their tracks. Rumour had it that skordalia was harmless against the more inferior southern tribes, who had been inoculating themselves Mithridates style against such assaults upon their olfactory nerves and peptic systems for centuries.
Metaxas was worried, though he had hitherto used the threat of skordalia as an effective deterrent to foreign meddling with the interior workings of his wise and benevolent rule, under which Greece had prospered like never before. The trains ran on time, and all of Greece’s rocky outcrops and deserted islands suddenly found themselves bursting in population. It was said that under his fertile regime, even the cows had multiplied, though experts, most of them now on the isle of Giaros, attributed the increased presence of methane in the Greek atmosphere to the warm emanations of the great leader’s mouth. Like those emanations, only he knew how unstable, commercially useless and unviable skordalia was and it was only a matter of time before the rest of the world found out.
Across the Adriatic, Mussolini paced up and down his marbled study. His scientists had just unveiled to him the blueprint for the Greek secret weapon, extracted from under the fungus-infested tongue of a syphilitic Greek sailor who had become too friendly with the practitioners of comfort at a homonymous establishment in Italian-held Rhodes. If what they told him was true, those ingenious and pestilential Greeks had found the long sought-after secret of DNA, the geneticist’s equivalent of the philosopher’s stone. He looked closely at the electron microscopic photographs. There they were, the sub-gene chromosomes XO, shared solely by all racially pure Greeks who had retained their honour unsullied by the depredations of the Slavs and Catalans, or the lusty ravages of the Mongolian hordes of the East. Hitler in his mad ravings on racial purity over a game of ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ was right, after all.
As Cicciolino, the head scientist explained, the XO sub-gene was a particularly obnoxious strain that had evolved after 1054. Apparently, prior to that time, everyone in Europe shared the X sub-gene, signifying «Χριστιανός». However, after that time, the evil Greeks had lapsed into heresy, refused to mend their ways and submit to Roman superiority and the gene mutated, becoming Χριστιανο-Ορθόδοξο. They were not like us, he explained. They refused to accept their values and what is worse, they created a vast axis of evil spanning the Balkans wherein they sponsored anti-Roman acts, terrorizing the hearts of all lax Roman prelates with their pernicious anti-Western doctrines. This new evil gene mutation was entitled Orthodoxy and it was inimicably opposed to their enlightened way of life. Though the Romans had in 1204 invaded the Gulf of the Bosphorus and had taken the chief headquarters of the terrorists, Constantinople, the primate of heresy and arch-terrorist, a black-clad fanatic in a long beard known only as “the Patriarch” had escaped. Incontrovertible evidence existed that his operatives, known as the “korakia” were being harboured, aided and abetted by Metaxas’ evil and ungrateful regime on a rocky and isolated mountain that was called ‘Holy’ and that indeed the said regime’s policies were determined and validated by them. Apparently, at the instigation of the korakia, skordalia, a heinous Χριστιανορδόθοξο concoction designed originally to keep non-Orthodox away, had been injected with a particularly fanatical strand of the XO gene. As a result, when applied or even exposed to the environment, skordalia immediately isolates and protects the XO bearers, while enveloping simple X bearers in a cacophony of demented torment. Strains of this which the Italian scientists had managed to isolate, after great trials and tribulations, included slogans such as “we built Rome,” “we invented everything,” “we invented democracy and philosophy,” “we gave you the lights of our civilization” and other highly subversive compounds that when combined with the inert Italian ego, would spontaneously combust, thus placing in stark potentiality, the mass destruction of the entire Latin World. Even as they spoke, the korakia were pressuring Metaxas to order his subjects to record their genetic make-up on their identity cards, for ‘research purposes only.’
Mussolini sighed. Those pernicious korakes were a menace to world culture. Souvlaki joints where skordalia was substituted with tzatziki were now all the rage, driving god-fearing pizza parlour vendors into penury. They had to be stopped and God, or the Pope, being the next best thing to Him, had chosen him as His instrument of divine retribution. “Fire off a telegram to Metaxas,” he ordered his foreign minister. Tell him to give up the secret of XO and desist from the production of skordalia immediately. Tell him he must permit League of Nations officials to investigate all kitchens throughout the land. Otherwise, muster the troops. We are going in. This will be the grand-pappy of all battles and we shall win, for justice and the Italianate way must prevail. We shall render the world safe for pizza production once more.”
When Metaxas received the ultimatum, he was seated at his kitchen table, gazing at a bowl of trahana and wondering whether he could pass it off as a dangerous quicksand that when applied to a European government, would envelop it in a destructive quagmire of Byzantine infighting and factionalism. Staring blankly at the piece of paper in front of him, he toyed with the idea of permitting weapons inspectors to enter the country. Yet would that not constitute an admission all his attestations as to the imperial might of the Third Great Greek civilization, were merely hot air? Would that not cause stronger nations, convinced of the superiority of their world-view, more eager to abrogate his country’s independence? Yet if he did not let the mask fall, would that not cause Mussolini to invade anyway? Metaxas sighed in resignation, realizing that his skordalia policy had hit a cul-de-sac. He resolved to go to bed; after all, the morning was wiser than the evening and by that stage, maybe he could come up with another deterrent smoke screen, like the properties of fasolatha to split the atom when passed through the endocrine system. As he prepared for bed, he laughed that his fascist cousins across the Adriatic, so opposed to Orthodoxy, would covert its very essence. He picked up his pencil and noted across the telegram, three letters, O.X.I? (Ορθόδοξοι Χριστιανοί Ιταλοί;)
It was only in the late morning that he discovered that his maid, mistaking his annotation as a reply, had cabled it back to Rome and that the ‘liberation of Greece’ had begun. Mussolini did not find any XO skordalia, or fasolatha or other weapons of mass destruction. Nor did Metaxas survive the war long enough to explain the misunderstanding. Despite a stiff resistance, the Axis powers overwhelmed Greece, splitting her up into three separate spheres of influence. They plundered her resources, destroyed her infrastructure and wantonly disregarded the lives of her inhabitants. They killed, maimed and tortured indiscriminately and when the country emerged from the horror of its occupation, it did so ravaged and brutalized to the extent where civil war was a natural consequence. No doubt had the Axis won the war, their pretext of searching for weapons of mass skordalia would have sucked the country into oblivion. We can only be thankful that western democracy and the rule of law triumphed, while totalitarianism and armed aggression have been consigned to the infernal realms, permitting the culinary truth to finally be told. Kudos then to the brave meso-oriental falafel eaters and a caveat: Qui non intelligit aut discat taceat.

First published in NKEE on 7 November 2005