Saturday, December 04, 2010


In the 1989 fantasy film, "Field of Dreams," Kevin Costner hears a disembodied voice whispering "it you build it, they will come." As a result, he sets about building a baseball field in the middle of his cornfield, despite his peer's belief that he is rather lacking in sanity. Finally, when the field is completed, ghostly baseball players of the past come out to play, along with Costner's deceased father.
Whether GOCMV president Bill Papastergiadis hears voices, as opposed to the anguished wailing and gnashing of teeth of the dispossessed opposition is something that has never been disclosed in the various campaign literature and community newsletters. One could however conjecture that if he does hear voices, they are those not of the departed but rather, of members yet to come.
This would after all, go some way in explaining the urgency in which the matter of developing the decrepit GOCMV HQ on Lonsdale Street is being dealt with. Despite cries of caution, impassioned pleas that other alternatives be looked at for development, such as the vast impassable wasteland at Bulleen, or that at least a committee of mathematicians be convened in order to consider the combinations and permutations of the precise order in which one could sell off various unproductive GOCMV assets in order to finance such a grand enterprise as a fully engorged tower, standing proud and erect on a street-corner for years to come thus ensuring the perpetual virility of our community, an annual general meeting is to be held in order to obtain member's consent for the erection of such a marvellously large edifice.
Despite the justifiable misgivings many may have as to the process in which the construction of the tower is to be funded, it cannot be disputed that the refurbishment of the GOCMV's building is a necessary and beneficial undertaking. It is nothing more than the manifestation of the crest of the wave of momentum that has revitalised the GOCMV's other undertaking - the running of Alphington Grammar School, among other things, the admirable galvanisation of prominent members of the community to take an interest and donate generously to it. There is now within the administration of the GOCMV a can-do and let's get things done ethos that would put the most fervent Obama supporter to shame. Furthermore, there is a vision for the future, something that though extant in the past, tended to lose itself among the Byzantine micro-politics and fractiousness associated with a membership intent upon pursuing rather irrelevant political and personal agendas rather than the true function o the organisation - to forge us into a community and a family. Today, there is renewed interest in the workings of the GOCMV by sectors of the community that hitherto felt it was not their place to be so involved, or who felt excluded from its vision and workings owing to their political, religious or regional affiliations. This opening of the GOCMV to the broader Greek community is timely, coming as it does during an era where the small, insular tesserae within the mosaic of Greek community organisations are beginning to come unstuck, exposing frightening patches of stark white plaster in their stead.
Consequently, we stand upon the threshold of the GOCMV that, given the correct choices and addition of the requisite amounts of goodwill, is poised to become larger, more representative, and finally, able to provide tangible benefits to its members - something that hitherto has not been possible - all neatly packaged and contained for easy storage in a large and quite appealing building. Or at least one hopes so. For among the chief selling points of the tower, (and one that is particularly appealing is the fact that we shall have, in the heart of the city, a great big skyscraper, or at least a modest but tasteful and respectable one, to attest to our presence and importance to Melbourne in a way that a few novelty shops along Lonsdale Street, or a neo-Greek theme park in out of the way never could. Furthermore, should we perish from the face of the earth; we shall always have this lofty construction as a fitting monument to our passing. Indeed, we could in that eventuality, emulate our Zoroastrian brethren and transform our ziggurat into a tower of silence, whereupon our bodies may be exposed to the fowls of the air, in the hope of a righteous resurrection,) apart from the fact that it represents probably the last opportunity we will have to prove that working together as an organised Greek community and actually achieving something tangible is not just something that was done in the past and indeed that we are not just a motley collection of pontificating, self-interest and totally impotent contemplators of our own fundamental orifices with not even the suspicion of a capacity for collective action, is its capacity to house various vital cultural facilities.
It is at this point that we deserve to make poise. Other organisations, notably Pontiaki Estia, also planned the construction of "cultural facilities" on the site that they now wish to sell. To adopt the "if we build them, they will come" attitude, common to all brotherhoods who struggled to acquire and pay off their buildings,για τα παιδιά τους, only to contemplate empty and dusty halls at the conclusion of their endeavours, to culture is a recipe for failure. It has been proven time and time again that it is not enough to idealistically embark upon projects in the hope that these may strike accord with generations and interest groups that have not been consulted.
The centring of cultural facilities under one roof certainly makes sense and will have the consequence of causing the projected tower to become the cultural hub and fulcrum of the Greek community in the future - that is - if we truly are into culture - something that is arguable to say the least. However before any determination as to the nature of these cultural facilities is to be made, it is imperative that the GOCMV conduct a proper enquiry and needs analysis as to the present state of Greek cultural activity, especially among the youth. In actual fact, the most common pursuit of those youth who concern themselves with Greek culture is Greek music and traditional dancing. They are certainly not represented in any significant numbers in any of the Cultural Associations that exist. Thus, though one would stand in awe and rapture at the prospect of having a lecture theatre, auditorium, lending library and perhaps small cinema room within the complex, is this firstly feasible and secondly, would future generations make use of these facilities? Would indeed, they feel welcome to do so? To this it would be frightening if there could only be one answer: "If you build them (hopefully) they will come."
Ultimately, everything depends on whether the members of the GOCMV have the courage and self-knowledge to realise that we are at an important crossroads, with regard to our future. While the tower represents an amazing opportunity and challenge, if we continue to utilize our organisations as a means for the little man to play politics, if we continue to foster within them a climate of unfriendliness, suspicion and exclusion, no project aimed at bringing people together will succeed, for no one, unless they are psychologically ill, wants to socialise in an unhealthy environment.
Notwithstanding the many questions that need to be answered about the construction of the Tower, in my mind, a large centrally located building that can welcome all Greeks to it, assist in the co-ordination of their activities and provide real benefits to its members in the form of cultural and social facilities, assist members of our community who are in need and indulge in our inherent need for gossip and light-hearted social interaction, is a project worth fighting for, especially now that the State Government has pledged its support. For the alternative, a continuation of the slow, nasty sinking into the foetid quagmire of insularity, alienation and stagnation, is too beastly to consider. The GOCMV general meeting therefore is not an opportunity to thwart perhaps the most visionary idea we have had in decades, simply because we harbour a dislike for its proponents, but instead a veritable chance to put aside past squabbles, link arms and project our existence, decades into the future.


First published in NKEE on Saturday 4 December 2010