Monday, November 30, 2009


“It is when I sit in an AGM, listening to all the screaming and carrying on that goes on that I feel ashamed of being Greek.” First Generation Greek-Australian.
“I went to my first AGM the other day. Never again.” Second Generation Greek-Australian.

You wouldn’t know that bugger all students are choosing to study Modern Greek at VCE Level, their number declining rapidly over the past ten years. The media space devoted to yet another harbinger of our doom as a linguistic community is miniscule, and peppered with flimsy attempts to blame government policy, universities, anyone other than ourselves for this terminal decline.
The decline in student enrolments, is perhaps the most serious problem facing us as an entity today, for ethnic communities rely not so much upon shared racial characteristics to maintain cohesion, as they do upon a shared culture and language. Lose the language and you lose the main vehicle of cultural expression that underlies any attachment to an ethnic community. It may be argued, and in fact has been recently, in order to assuage our egos about our declining skills in the estranged mother tongue, that one does not have to speak the language in order to identify with the culture. However, if one can’t speak the language of that culture, then one will gradually become estranged from its thought processes and mores, to the extent where, communication with that culture and members of it will become impossible. As a consequence, identification with that culture will be gradually rendered impossible. The end result is assimilation, or in the best of cases, a Poseidonian identification with elements of a bygone culture that we merely re-enact, rather than live, and which we do not understand.
If you ask most of our community doyens however, the fact that marked and widespread language loss is occurring within the first generation’s life-time, does not seem to rate a concern. Instead, what is important is the perpetuation of the plotting and scheming which is a pre-requisite to an immersion in the byzantine world of internecine communal strife and petty politics. At a time when Greek schools, arks of the future, are in crisis, the letters pages of our print media are taken up in impassioned dissertations as to the magnitude of the inherent evil of various Pontian community ‘leaders.’ Further, in a scene reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s 1960’s blockbuster ‘Spartacus,’ diverse Pontic personages are purporting to be the legitimate committee of the Pontian Federation. If it is not the Pontians, then some other regional group will invariably find itself splashed across the pages of the papers, through the intercession of some righteously aggrieved member, performing a public service by outlining just how the non-disclosure of tens of dollars in an annual report or the omission to inform a committee about a certain act by its executive has placed the entire community in mortal peril. Once in a while, a fervent Christian will appeal to readers to reject the ways of this world and espouse Orthodoxy, while in riposte, fervent atheists, convinced that belief in religion is backward and that belief in nothing is downright intelligent and enlightened write in exposing the fallacies of their opponents and identifying in Christianity, the sole source of Hellenism’s problems.
Of late, the issue that has become the primary focus of the Greek community, is the upcoming elections within the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria. This venerable organisation occupies a key position within our wider cosmos as unlike most of the community organisations that compromise “the community,” its basis of existence is not the region of origin of its members. As such, it is seen as widely representative, given that it comprises, (especially since the latest bout of branch-stacking), some 4,000 of the reputed 150,000 member strong Greek population of Melbourne. As such the GOCMV acts as a sort of Oracle of Delphi for the Melbourne Greeks and other, pettier organisations measure their legitimacy and status according to their relationship with it. Indeed, some organisations, especially those with a political aim, go so far as to claim a stake in the GOCMV, while the GOCMV itself is not averse to attempting to influence the governance of other organisations, in order to secure regimes more favourable to itself, quite akin to the manner in which the ancient Macedonian kingdom created client states for itself – that is, if the rumours are to be believed.
I once let myself be talked into nominating for the board of the GOCMV. At that time, I believed that the board, was like any other Greek board, where interested parties put up their hand to assist in the running of the organisation. A week after I nominated, I was advised that no place could be found for me on the ‘ticket,’ and was asked to withdraw my nomination which I duly did. Come the next elections, I was asked again to nominate for two different tickets diametrically opposed to each other. By now alert to the pitfalls of partisan politics, something that I abhor as something conducive to extreme nastiness, I cheerfully declined, though I note with amusement how even until recently, my name apparently appeared on various draft tickets. No, ticket evasion is the only way for a diatribist. We are after all, whiners, not fighters.
It is fascinating to watch the various political constellations, negotiate, batter each other, align and then fall apart again as egos, vested interests and idealism all condense into a critical mass that threatens to implode come every petty disagreement. The current period, in which the various parties position themselves in order to fight the election is absorbing. On the one hand, there is that perennial electoral favourite: continuing concern about the fate of the Greek government’s cheque that may or may not have been intended for Alphington Grammar. Last time around, the issue was where the cheque was. Now it is what it is used for.
Debate also raged among the gladiator pits of the Saint Dimitrios Parish hall among the stalwart community warriors with regard to resolving the vital question of whether to limit the Emperor’s reign over the Senate and People of Rome for two terms or not, as well as whether the leftist opposition and Trotskyite wreckers should be rehabilitated into the Party, or best left alone in case a Thermidorian reaction consigns all the sans-culottes into the guillotine. These stalwarts screamed, wailed and gnashed their teeth in the furtherance of the cause of their future and consequently, were afflicted with sore gums for days. Interestingly enough, the previous pole of differentiation, namely, the erection of a very large, very hard tower that would grant us amazing potency and ensure our longevity for aeons to come, appears to have, temporarily at least, drooped flaccidly to the wayside.
A brief plunging into the abysmal depths of various community haunts and one emerges dripping with damp and dank rumours about community presidents who are organising certain events in order to sabotage other organisations, at the behest of shadowy forces in the Greek Foreign Ministry, about opinionated doyens becoming so infuriated at certain obscure policies held by youth organisations that they set the media bloodhounds on them in an effort to cower them into the submission of conformity with their views. Then there is the story about a reversion to fisticuffs between members of a regional organisation as a consequence of a recent argument as to their stance on a certain “national issue” before an audience of youngsters, coupled by an impassioned observation by a significant community leader: “If you do not share my opinion, then you have no place in here.” Dem’s fightin’ words. And of course, there are the various rumours as to projected planetary alignments that will reconcile the zodiac and ensure that x rather than y becomes president of the Council of Greeks abroad. These rumours are most absorbing and only time will tell whether w will be able to really “get the numbers” as he says he will, to upstage v’s support of x and really cause an upset. It all depends on whether....
Where we were? Oh yes, Modern Greek VCE enrolments. Was that not what were we are talking about? I’m clicking my tongue in shame and disbelief at the parlous state of the Modern Greek language. How did this come about? I mean, we have so many schools, so many teachers, and is not Melbourne the third largest Greek city in the world? It can’t be that drastic that we can’t fix it. I mean, there are so many Greek organisations out there. I’m sure that if we got them all together in a mass forum or something, we can work out something with the government to get it all going again. But mark my words, if that man attends the forum after what that other guy said that he said about my organisation, then I am going to tell his president that I will make sure that the other organisations will never work with him ever again. Anyway, I hear that moves are afoot to remove him from his position. Apparently one of the factions in the GOCMV is demanding his removal and the way they are going about it is this........


First published in NKEE on 30 November 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009


Verily, I am a Persian miniature, for I am small in stature and all can see over me if they bend down. Furthermore, I have border, a border of thorns and acanthus leaves, at least that is what they tell me has caused my wounds and they are cunningly fashioned, so much so that the cunning oozes out of their pores and is lost to the moon. Such borders as these are next to nothing. The void rubs their shoulders and the small shreds of paper tissue that flutter from the colophon know that the space is enclosed and that the space is called Paradise.
When I awake each morning it is morning and the sun is not real, for its rays have never given up the search for the Ultimate truth and Shams sings songs for me as he weaves them together. He gathers them up and hangs them upon the boughs of the Peacock Angel. There are no names for these songs as there are no names, it was ever so and I touch them with the forefingers of my hands extended and I call them what they are and Shams calls them and Shams is a cup of wine and the cup of wine spills onto the grass before I call it and disappears.
In Tabriz there was one such as this, excepting that she had never left her garden and her melons would not speak, nor would they comb her ebony hair, for it was not straight and could not be bent into the meter. She looked into the river and the river was her eyes and her eyes flowed down to the sea but the sand refused to follow her to a citadel where the sun could not be seen and the vultures perched upon their cubes waited for natrium to emerge from her soil.
When the beasts come to me, they come as one unto a brother who has not known his mother and must relate his provenance while spitting the seeds of dates through his teeth. When these seeds are piled high they are called calendars and from them, the age of the firmament is measured for the whole of an hour and the sky beckons. I name the beasts. They step upon the calendars and time stops still. No more will they call me brother for I know what they are and when I call to them next it will be as one who has eaten the wind but will not be fulfilled and I shall never cut my nails in memory of them.
There are fires in Yazd. They burn the sky perpetually but do not consume it. Their tenders wear masks and do not breathe before them, for to draw in the breath of fire is to consume infinity and their stomachs are kufic and will not be turned to any other purpose. Once a young boy placed a stick in such a fire. His hand blazed into a pomegranate tree and thereafter he could only see in shades of black and white. All around him believed in a miracle until the winter came and the pomegranates became the eyes of a peacock and his hand was seen in many dark places where the peaches reign.
I have not eaten, for my mouth is closed and my nostrils know no lust. I console the contortions of roses upon their stakes and bow before the flowering of the aubergine and the whispering of the rice, which leaves its marks upon my lips. I call to them and they do not answer, for their mouths too are clothed and know no lust, save that they leave themselves before me and go about their business, They have no names and their footsteps are golden for the winged ones protect them with their stings.
In Nineveh a lion was killed. The people of the city say it was their king who did this, for he protruded from behind the walls, sword in hand, wearing the lion's mane. Some say that in years to come, his face will be blasted off the walls by the lightning of a foreign race and then it will become known that giants once ruled the land. But those who say this have blood on their jaws and eyes that are yellow. They will not look upon their countrymen in the face and upon their foreheads there is a mark from the impression of a reed.
When I look upon the waters at noon, I see the Peacock Angel flagellating himself with reeds for they must suffer on my behalf and my back is streaked with blood and a leaf caresses my shoulders and I know not the touch of silk for the mulberries have turned their heads away from me. I call to them and they do not answer, for my hands are as yet untrammeled and they cannot see my tears for the water and the water has heard them walking in the garden and is afraid of them.
In Urfa the stones cannot be moved, for upon them is inscribed protection. The fish know this and that is why they are sacred. They bear the marks of the stones upon their fins and it is death to all of those who would eat them, for the water is dead and it goes nowhere; it died in childbirth and there is no burial shroud for it that does not bear the mark of the stone and all recognise this and shudder, for in all of Urfa there is no linen with which to wipe their faces and they wipe them upon stones until they are smooth and polished, like marble.
In the evening, shadows call. They fill the clearings with their footsteps and the holes where the shrieks of peacocks have been left unguarded. Their footsteps shed hair and fur that covers the skin when it is touched and once touched it will never let go, not even at the behest of the cork tree which sheds itself continuously and floats upon dew. There shall be fur upon the moon tonight. The sun can see it and it is red and I am red and I am the waning son.
In Konya there is no need for a moon. All faces are pale and they circle the earth concentrically and the earth counts their revolutions and withdraws its waters for a time. There people count their wealth and inscribe it in books, for as long as these books survive, such wealth cannot be lost and they can all recite the ninety nine names of the sun but none of them have ever heard of the Peacock Angel.
The Peacock Angel sings to me for he has extinguished the sun and I cannot read what is written upon the moon, for such sounds have no name. There was a place for me in this darkness even before the rising of the sun though I cannot remember it and the earth has its own purpose for me, which is cold and moist. I can see the moon with my eyes and the moon has bristles. I will sing a song to these bristles that has no name and I will use my talons as a plectrum before I leave the palm trees and follow the feathers that have fallen from the sky.
In Usak, Usta Vasil the cobbler spent his daughter's dowry on sheets of the supplest leather for he was to fashion shoes for the Padishah such as never had been worn before but the next day he was never seen again. Some said this was because when Usta Vasil took the shoes to the Padishah, he saw that his feet were cloven and he ran away in fear and others say that there never was a Padishah and that Usta Vasil walked a very long way and his shoes were not exhausted though his feet, which were cloven, crumbled into the dust that is picked up on the wayside these days as a protection against curses, though they will not ever say why this is so.
I call upon the sun and from the soil there rises such a scent of rose water you would think that roses have been crushed into the soil. She rises before me, the perfume of my blood and I adorn her with eyes and she draws back and shuns my embrace. She accuses me of falling in love with her messenger and the stars fall, the bees are enraged and I am turned without the walls and wash my clothes in the waters of my tears and spread them out to dry in the glow of her radiance. And there are peacock feathers on my eyes and peacock feathers in my hands but the Peacock Angel is nowhere to be seen and the peacocks within the gate shriek that they are the Door and the Door is shut.
In Kostantiniyye there will come a time when the half-cooked fish will one day jump out of the water. The monks will catch them in their frying pans and eat them and then, they will spit out my bones upon the page.

First published in NKEE on 23 November 2009

Monday, November 09, 2009


A long time ago, when I was involved in the Council of Greeks Abroad, I attended a youth conference in Adelaide. In their infinite wisdom, the Adelaide youth delegates had put in pride of place on their agenda, the following topic for discussion: “The schism within the Greek Orthodox Church that is dividing the community in Adelaide.” At the time, I felt this to be an invidious and rather sinister attempt to embroil the youth in a political issue that did not concern it. Further, viewed canonically, there is no schism within the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia. Instead, there is the Church, and those institutions/ entities that have chosen to separate themselves from it, for sundry reasons. Consequently, I advised the Adelaide delegates that unless the item was removed from the agenda, the Melbourne delegation would return home. The offending item was duly removed and we went on to discuss diverse measures with which to perpetuate Hellenism for the youth of Australia, none of which were ever implemented.
The (unnecessary) dichotomy between Church and Communities has served to define and define the Greek organised presence in Australia. Greek Community organisations are constituted and given legal existence and regulation by the laws of the dominant ruling group in Australia. Adopting Vassilacopoulos and Nicolacopoulou’s analysis, the ruling group seeks to legitimise its power over a country that does not intrinsically belong to it, by abrogating to itself the right to define the manner in which other minorities that it has allowed to be here, relate to it. The Greek Orthodox Church on the other hand, is governed by a set of canons so venerable, that they comprise the deliberations of the Apostles, along with those of the Ecumenical Councils, held during Byzantium. Furthermore, they have been applied, all around the world and in diverse circumstances, for two thousand years.
Had Hellenism been a purely racial, national or cultural phenomenon for the Greeks of Australia, then perhaps the conceptions of these would have been seen as mutually exclusive and thus they could co-exist without friction. However, the dichotomy between them is blurred. Ever since the fall of Byzantium, when the Greek Orthodox Patriarch was seen as the head of the Rum millet, and was made responsible to the Sultan for its behaviour, as well as the church’s role in retaining a Greek Orthodox identity among its adherents, the Church has in the popular consciousness, become synonymous with Hellenism.
It is this equation between Orthodoxy and Hellenism that created a historical anomaly in Australia. Secular organisations were incorporated according to Australian law whose task was to safeguard the Greek identity. Invariably, one of their first endeavours was to build a church, proving the inextricable link, in their minds, between Orthodoxy and Hellenism. The Greek Orthodox Communities that arose, are symptomatic of this way of thinking.
Though these Communities are aberrations of a time when communication with the motherland and ecclesiastical authorities was difficult and the Greek community was small, (in Melbourne, we conned the Syrians, Bulgarians and Lebanese to help us build our first church and after we built it, we kicked them out), they give rise to problems. Secular organisations, especially those run by lay community members with no experience or knowledge of the complexities and intricacies of ecclesiastical law and tradition should not purport to administer churches. Had this been a stop-gap arrangement until such time as proper ecclesiastical authorities were able to establish themselves in this country, then this would have been acceptable. However, upon the establishment of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, these secular communities refused to cease claiming a right to dabble inexpertly in religious affairs.
Consequently, for much of our history as an organised presence in this country, secular communities have purported to run the churches they held as assets like clubs, or investment properties, contrary to the intention of their founding fathers. In doing so, they have neglected many other facets of community life that are vital to the development of a healthy community, especially in the sphere of welfare, culture and most importantly, cohesion and goodwill. Essentially then, this is a ‘turf war,’ where secular communities want to ‘play Church’ simply because they own Churches and the Greek Orthodox Church does not want them to play church. On occasion, the Greek Orthodox Church also sees itself as the peak representative of the Greeks of Australia, understandable historically, though, in today’s diverse and fragmented post-modern society, possibly debatable. The result of this turf war has been bitterness and a dysfunctional community. The obvious, that religious organisations should deal with religion and that secular organisations should deal with everything else escapes us, simply because many of us, rather than seeing the Church as a body that expresses a conviction about Christ, see it as a cultural organisation that can be used as a pawn for power-play in community politics. That in itself, is sick.
In Adelaide and in Sydney, some Greek Orthodox Communities, not being able to achieve a modus vivendi with the Archdiocese that would permit them to dabble in Orthodox religious affairs, eventually went ahead and formed their own autocephalous ‘church’, not in communion with any other canonical Orthodox church, under a defrocked cleric, Pavlos Laios. For these lay members of the community, ecclesiastical teachings about the importance of unity and communion were if not unknown, then certainly sacrificed to the cause of secular power. As a result, what are effectively for the canonical Church, ‘mock’ sacraments performed in these autocephalous ‘churches’ are not recognised by the Greek state. Further, a deep chasm separates the Greeks of these regions, according to their ecclesiastical affiliation, something that is reprehensible.
There are of course two sides to every story but the clincher for me is the fact that the directors of the Greek Orthodox Community of South Australia seem to display a complete lack of ignorance of the tenets and canons of the Orthodox Church, something that renders them, as lay–people, ineligible to purport to govern a church. I remember reading a newsletter of the SA Community a few years ago, where its president professed respect and adherence to the Ecumenical Patriarchate as spiritual leader and then went on paradoxically to thank the defrocked Laios, ‘head’ of the ‘Autocephalous Church,’ as his archbishop. Speaking, around about the same time, to a member of the Tasmanian Community, which had just separated itself from the Archdiocese, I was amazed to discover that the Tasmanians who had engineered the split over administrative issues, had no idea of the concept of apostolic succession, or of the unity of the Orthodox Church, under the Ecumenical Patriarchate. They seemed to believe that having found someone who could parrot the liturgy, they could purport to be a legitimate Orthodox Church. The fact that they were willing to split from the Church, not on questions of doctrine or teaching but merely because of operational problems, and make up a new ‘church,’ seemed gravely disquieting. It reminded me of the myriad of Greek regional organisations that split form each other for exactly the same reasons and exist in parallel and multiplicity to plague and fragment our presence as an entity here. That may be permissible, though in the long run harmful when dealing with petty intra-community politics but shouldn’t we afford the sacred greater respect? What kind of people are we, really?
The latest announcement by the Federation of Greek Orthodox Communities of Australia that they now seek to submit to the jurisdiction of the Old Calendarist Genuine Orthodox Christian Church can therefore only be viewed with derision. This fundamentalist ‘church’ which exists in about four different forms, none of which recognise each other in Greece, has had a chequered history. In 2004, its church here in Melbourne, left the jurisdiction of one of its bishop’s, citing allegations against him that he had tried to seduce a young man. The ‘church,’ is not in communion with the canonical Orthodox Churches, because it opposes the adoption of the New Calendar by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1924.
The Federation does not give two hoots about the adoption of the Old Calendar. As the Federation’s President, Theo Maras stated: “This is a canonical church, recognised in Greece. Its sacraments are recognised by the Greek state and since it is a canonical Church, representatives of the Greek government can visit them. Thus, our problems are over.” In order words, in its shopping for jurisdiction, it has found a more convenient one, with greater benefits than the autocephalous construct it has constructed, giving its revered ‘primate’ Pavlos, an ultimatum: Join us or be discarded.
So much for the Federation’s religious convictions (and expertise) then. A church is not canonical because a state recognises its existence. The Greek government also recognises the Catholic Church in Greece, along with its sacraments, as valid for legal purposes. It is the Orthodox Church in its entirety that recognises a church as one of its own or not, according to its own canons. In making such statements, the Federation is exposing itself, for what it is: a disingenuous secular entity that seeks to play church. The Genuine Orthodox Church also displays a lack of conviction by accepting adherence to the New Calendar among its potential new parishioners. This is strange given the erstwhile strictness of this church. Is it the prospect of possessing more parishes that encourages it to be more ‘flexible’?
The prospect of having parallel religious leaders purporting to propagate the same doctrines is a stupid and immature one. In a community already polarised by ego and politics, where the vast majority of its constituents are not represented by the existing ageing organisations, the last thing we need is another unnecessary ecclesiastical controversy, borne of ignorance and vested interests. Whether or not one believes in the doctrines of religious organisations, they should be respected, not parodied and cloned when their existence does not suit us. The Federation of Greek Orthodox Communities has displayed its fundamental moral bankruptcy in considering submitting to an uncanonical ‘church,’ for secular reasons. Its members, and the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne, which has established a workable arrangement with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, the sole canonical Greek Orthodox Church in Australia, should call it to account and abandon it. Maybe a few words from He who they claim to represent, may offer guidance: “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”

First published in NKEE on 9 November 2009
(Please note that since the time of writing this article the Genuine Orthodox Church of Greece Synod has issued a statement stating that at no time did it enter into negotiations with the Federation of Greek Orthodox Communities in Australia and that it appears that the said Federation was in fact, conducting talks with a splinter group. The full text of that statement can be found at:

Monday, November 02, 2009


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


First published in NKEE on 2 November 2009