Saturday, October 29, 2011


The Greek version of the latest edition of my place of origin's brotherhood's newsletter is largely unintelligible, comprised of dubious spellings and imaginative grammatical constructions that connote fluency in Swahili and only a passing acquaintance with Modern Greek. Considering however, that the brotherhood in question is over the venerable age of seventy years, the fact that it persists in communicating to its ageing members in a form of Greek, however garbled, is praiseworthy, especially considering that many of its community counterparts these days increasingly choose to adopt English as the primary language of communication. This, despite our large numbers and numerous schools and other institutions, is not surprising. Modern Greek is language in decline, gradually disappearing from use in Australia.
It was Cavafy who, in his evocative poem: "The Poseidonians," told the story of the inhabitants of a Greek colony in Southern Italy, who: "forgot the Greek language after so many centuries of mingling with Tyrrhenians, Latins, and other foreigners. The only thing surviving from their ancestors was a Greek festival, with beautiful rites, with lyres and flutes, contests and wreaths. And it was their habit toward the festival's end to tell each other about their ancient customs and once again to speak Greek names that only few of them still recognized." This tokenistic treasuring of redundant tribal totems is most haunting and not without parallel closer to home.
While Greek may be the primary language of discourse for first generation migrants aged sixty and over, the same cannot be said of members of our community who arrived here at a young age and grew up here, or the generations that were born here. Increasingly, English is the language employed in most facets of life, and primarily in the family home. When Greek is spoken, it is usually spoken only to the pappou and yiayia generation and even there, that said generation is more and more, employing broken English in order to communicate with their children and grandchildren. Consequently, upon the demise of that generation, it is evident that the opportunities for speaking Greek will be severely curtailed, for it is relatively unheard of for Greek to be spoken with convincing regularity among members of the latter acculturation generations, especially without this eliciting a raised eyebrow and a sarcastic comment. Where Greek is spoken among the latter generations, it is usually done so in a fetishistic fashion, with the coining and adoption of words that establish a common Poseidonian origin for those engage in the discourse, such as "re, malaka, megale etc." Generally speaking however, it is a register that is avoided. One of the reasons for this, is an insecurity with regard to competence and an inherent fear of making mistakes.
As an aside it is of interest to consider, tentatively, so as to avoid the risk of making gross generalisations, that such limited intra-generational Greek language use as is employed by the second generations often differs according to gender. Though it is postulated by anthropologists that women are more likely to retain and pass down a mother tongue and customs, it is interesting to note that slightly more second generation males than females use aspects of the Greek language in their daily discourse towards each other. There may be a multitude of complex reasons for this, including family relationships and gender relations within them, the gender-biased composition of our social organisations that facilitates communication in Greek with more ease for males than females and a host of other factors that truly require further examination.
The phenomenon of limited intra-generational Greek discourse among the second generation and next to no discourse among the third generation, is a logical and not unnatural outcome of our sojourn in these Antipodean parts. The more one is acculturated to a society, the more one is exposed to its dominant language and the more that dominant language will permeate not only one's own personal spoken medium but also its underlying cultural constructs and suppositions, the more the original spoken medium will emerge hybridised. This is especially so in our community, where the vocabulary of our agrarian in origin first generation was generally limited at best and unable to reflect the challenges and concepts denoted by an urban environment, even in its own tongue. Despite growing up in a consciously monolingual family, right up until the age of thirteen when my grandmother visited us from Greece, I was convinced that the Greek word for market was marketa, for I had heard no other. The same applies for friza. My grandparents discovered the fridge in this country and, especially given the paucity of media for communication with the mortherland during the fifties and sixites, could not have known that this was deemed a psygeio, by their family back home. From there, it is but a short leap to jettisoning one's imperfect idiom, for one in which you can be fully understood and in which you can express yourself with greater ease, for it is frustrating and annoying to attempt to make one's deeper feelings understood through the use of a language that you lack the mastery of to employ to that purpose, especially considering the vast generation and communication gap that was opened between a first generation that threw itself wholly into the hard work of establishing roots in this country, leaving their offspring to bring up themselves and thus, not fully transferring to them, despite their best efforts in constructing schools for the purpose, a functioning and fluent mother tongue. Sum total: a significant component of the reason why the loss of fluency in the other tongue is marked down the generations, can be ascribed to those latter generations' exclusion or marginalisation from the social pursuits of the language-bearing generation, where the mother tongue could be learnt and practised, thus providing it both relevance and utility. The inherent contradiction here is starkly tragic. Ours is a gerontocratic community that values children more than anything else but seems unable to emancipate them. As a result, those offspring are often excused from the rules and scrictures of their forebears constructed community, and sadly, the language that is required to navigate one's way within it.
That English is deemed to be the primary language of the latter generations and the corollary redundancy of Modern Greek can be evidenced by the following instructive anecdotes. First generation clients who walk into my office often feel compelled, by the perceived difference in our ages, to instruct me in broken, highly unintelligible English. They will not switch to Greek, even when entreated to do so, primarily in order to save time, and will persist in slaughtering the English language even when spoken to in Greek, as if there is an unwritten understanding that English is the only acceptable register when communicating with the younger generations. Other members of the first generation become decidedly uneasy when they discover that they are communicating with members of the latter generation possessed of a greater facility for Modern Greek than themselves, as if it is offensive to challenge the keepers of the mother tongue by matching one's abilities with their own. On one occasion, I was accosted by an irate monolingual client for providing her daughter with a legal phase in Greek to be conveyed to her mother in order to facilitate her understanding of a particular legal process. The hapless daughter was unable to replicate the phrase and my client chastised me both for confusing her offspring by speaking to her in Greek, and inconveniencing her, by asking her to speak the language. Truth be told, I was contrite to say the least.
This is generation that will insist that its progeny marry its own kind, in order to preserve the mother language and traditions and will also be the first to conceal the fact that regardless of the much coveted and dearly won phyletic homogeneity of their family, neither language or traditions have been preserved with any real capacity for viability save a cursory «Χρόνια πολλά παππού,» if they are lucky. Nor is it the language spoken to third generation children by their parents. To be fair, this is also the generation that has largely assumed the responsibility and the logistics for conveying their grandchildren to Greek school, above and beyond the counter-productive cautionary tales and 'horror-stories' of their own offsprings' Greek school experiences that do much to render their children's attitude to Greek language learning a negative one, from the outset. There is not much point expecting one's child to adopt a positive attitude towards going to Greek school, if they are already burdened with their parent's prejudices against such institutions. The first generation also bears the brunt of assisting their grandchildren with their homework, as I found out during my stint as a Greek school teacher. In general, I found that second-generation parents, in the majority, did not supervise their children's homework or take it at all seriously. On the other hand, it was easy to detect from the children that would hand in their homework, lovingly executed in polytonic and with katharevousa suffixes, the hand of a first generation helper. Such contact and intervention is vital for language acquisition. In many cases, second generation parents find it inconvenient to send their children to Greek school and only do so in order to stem the flow of nagging from their parents. For it is trite to mention again that in the vast majority of second-generation Greek homes, Greek is no longer the language spoken and thus, Greek from being taught as a mother tongue, is now taught as a foreign language, with obvious implications for the standard of learning, especially in Australia, where fluent foreign language acquisition is not a priority.
A few months ago, in an interview with a community radio program, I was asked my opinion on the state of "Ellinomatheia," that is, Greek language learning in our community, which is in steady decline. My response was that as a community, we have not developed a language policy commensurate with our aims as an ethnic group. Do we wish our children to be fluent in the Modern Greek language, on a level with their counterparts in Greece? Is this desirable or achievable? If not, do we wish to admit defeat and claim satisfaction with the parroting of a few token phrases, such linguistic incapacity to be justified as long as a child "feels Greek?" What is it that we want out of Greek language learning? How does the fact that English is the primary language not only of everyday conversation but also of instruction the Greek language impact upon our objectives? And, quite frankly, how do we separate lip service paid to the importance of the Greek language, from the generation of actual enthusiasm, drive and hard work to ensure that the language survives. What structures do we create in order to deal with changes in our community demographic and to assess how this impacts upon Greek language learning? These are obvious questions and yet we are as incapable as a community to arrive at a consensus as we are, to collaborate in order to realise our aspirations. Ultimately, it is my view that these are questions that the first generation must still decide, as sadly, the latter generations in many respects lack both the competence and the passion to do so.
There is an element of self-loathing among the latter generations about the level of their skills in the Greek language, at least for the time being. Yet this is not without historical precedent, as Cafavy proves: "And so their festival always had a melancholy ending because they remembered that they too were Greeks, they too once upon a time were citizens of Magna Graecia; and how low they'd fallen now, what they'd become, living and speaking like barbarians, cut off so disastrously from the Greek way of life." If such a state of affairs is to be arrested and tens of Greek school teachers rescued from unemployment, a concerted and long-lasting effort to make the Greek language relevant in our community through rigorous education, integration into our existing communal life and the facilitation of social opportunities where it may be spoken by all generations must be made. That is, if we still have the ticker, or the guts. Time will tell.


First published in NKEE on Saturday 22 and 29th October 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011


"The Greeks - dirty and impoverished descendants of a bunch of la-de-da fruit salads who invented democracy and then forgot how to use it while walking around dressed up like girls." PJ O'Rourke.
It is a singular fact that one of the most common generalisations made of the Greek people is that in matters of honesty and veracity, they are particularly lacking. For the observation that the truth does not lie within the Greek, we have the Trojans to thank, for it is they who first had the temerity to warn the world that they should be wary of Greeks bearing gifts, and this after they had spirited away Menelaus' not so unwilling wife. Furthermore, Odysseus, one of the main protagonists of Homer's saga is described as «πολυμήχανος,» which can variously be defined as ingenious, crafty, tricky or shifty, proving that there is a fine line between genius and amorality. Nonetheless, it cannot be denied that traditionally, «πολυμηχανία» is a quality that has generally been prized among the Greeks, who have generally had to rely on their wits rather than their brawn to survive. Even today, the cunning plan, the "kombina," involving a Byzantine level of intrigue and dissimulation is well appreciated when it bears results, and widely derided it if fails. There is even a noun to describe those who would indulge in such activities as eg. misrepresenting one's financial position in order to obtain a benefit. They are known as kombinadoroi.
The self-imposed stereotype is not restricted to males. According to the misogynistic ancient Greeks or at least Hesiod, women are by their very nature deceitful, as Hermes endowed Pandora, the very first woman, with "a shameful mind and deceitful nature," as well as instilling in her "lies and crafty words." It deserves mention in passing, that the Homeric hymn invokes the said Hermes as being of "many shifts, «πολύτροπος,» blandly cunning, a robber, and a thief at the gates." It is also a little known fact that the Greeks counted Apate, is one of their lesser goddesses. The daughter of Nyx, she was the goddess of lies and deceit and was assisted in her tasks by the Pseudologoi, malevolent spirits of lies and falsehood, born to Eris, the goddess of strife.
If the Greek gods are by their nature dishonest, then why would the Greeks not follow suit? Epimenides the Cretan is said to have cast aspersions upon his whole tribe, when in 600BC he reputedly said that: "All Cretans are liars." So shocking was this statement held to be, and given that he himself was of the race, his statement is an amusing paradox, that it turns up some six centuries later, in the most unlikely of places, the Bible, where in the Epistle to Titus, where the Apostle Paul writes of the Cretans that "they are always liars, as one of their own has said." Herodotus too is widely held to have been the "Father of Lies," though this is decidedly unfair. As if to drive the point home further, the hallowed freedom fighters who saw the Greek nation reborn were largely drawn from the ranks of the kleftes, who were, you guessed it, thieves and brigands.
Given the above background, it would come as no surprise that our neighbours have come to embrace the stereotype we have created for ourselves with perhaps more fervour than allows for comfort. A well known Albanian proverb warns: "After shaking hands with a Greek, count your fingers." The Russians on the other hand, maintain that "Greeks tell the truth but once a year," with the exact date unspecified, while the Bulgarians, who are in closer proximity admiringly observe that: "One Greek can outwit ten Jews." The Romanians on the hand, are slightly more apprehensive, warning against "a Gypsy who has become a Turk and a peasant who has become a Greek." While the Dutch may state that: "A Greek will survive where an ass will starve", the Italians gravely opine that: "Whoever trusts a Greek lacks brains." The last work in the gross generalisation stakes goes to the Greeks themselves who analyse their place and esteem among their neighbours as follows: "A Russian may be cheated only by a Gypsy, a Gypsy by a Jew, a Jew by a Greek and a Greek by the Devil." Of course Greeks return the compliment, engaging in the coining of similar stereotypes for their nreighbours. This light haearted phenomenon is not so much evidence of hostility, than of a harsh and unstable environment, in which those who cannot think on their feet are soon left behind.
Sydney Morning Herald columnist Paul Sheehan is in different company whoever, when he wrote in the infamous article that has the heads of the Greek community shaking in disbelief, that "the national sport of Greece is cheating. Cheating across every tier of society." This sentiment of course, is one that has been echoed by countless of Greeks since the foundation of the Greek state and anyone who has lived in Greece or had the misfortune to tangle with its bureaucracy would find themselves sympathising with it. However, when it comes from Paul Sheehan or other English-speaking journalists, it is offensive, not because it is a statement of fact but rather, because it appears, to a Greek-Australian audience to reinforce a prejudice against the Greek-speaking people as dishonest, effete and morally questionable that has been around since Roman times. In short, it reeks of Orientalism.
Orientalism, a term coined by the thinker Edward Said, postulates that Western knowledge about the East is not generated from facts or reality, but from preconceived archetypes that envision all "Eastern" societies" as fundamentally similar to one another, and fundamentally dissimilar to "Western" societies. This discourse establishes "the East" as antithetical to the "West." The idea of an "Orient" is a crucial aspect of attempts to define "the West". Thus, histories of the Persian Wars would contrast the monarchical government of the Persians with the democratic tradition of Athens, as a way to make a more general comparison between the Greeks and the Persians and between "the West" and "the East" but make no mention of the other Greek city states, most of which were not ruled democratically. According to Said, this assumption of the right to define, is merely a western style for dominating, restructuring and having authority over the Orient.
While classical Greek civilization, as defined and interpreted by Western scholars is generally held to be the basis of Western civilization, in the popular consciousness at least, modern Greeks are not and quite possibly never have been held to be part of that West. From the time of Cato the Elder, right through to the Great Schism between the Eastern and Western churches, the sack of Constantinople by the Crusaders and beyond, the same slurs, the same derogatory generalizations have been made of the Greeks, generalizations that have also been made of other ethnicities in the Middle East: we are effeminate, lazy and untrustworthy. William of Tyre for example, described the Byzantine Greeks as: "a brood of vipers, like a serpent in the bosom or mouse in the wardrobe evilly requite their guests." Furthermore, because the Greek religion is Eastern, right up until the end of the nineteenth century, Greeks have been termed infidels, placing them instead of the West, (where we like to think we are,) in the 'barbarous' East. As the Reverend George Croly preached during the Crimean War (a war that was provoked by Russia's insistence upon being considered the protector of the persecuted Christians of the Ottoman Empire and not allowing the Western powers to encroach upon or assume control of Greek Orthodox shrines in the Holy Land), to widespread acclaim: "The Greeks have so little maintained the Christian character that they have done more to injure Christianity that ever the Turks have been able to effect." Another lay preacher, attempting to whip up enthusiasm for the Crimean War among the British public went even further: "As to the Greek Christians, they were a besotted, dancing, fiddling, race." This then, is where we have stood in the West's eyes, for centuries.
Unfortunately, the West, having arbitrarily defined for itself what it means to be a Greek, while Greece was under the Ottomans, soon came to realise, as they came in increasing numbers to visit classical sites in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, that the inhabitants of the region were of a diverse backgrounds and cultures and were not the narrowly and erroneously defined "Classical Greeks" of two thousand years previously. Nor did they have much in common with the Westerners, who were the sole inheritors of the Classical Greek tradition. For this reason, many came to despise the Modern Greeks, first as unworthy descendants of great ancestors and then, as interlopers who could not possibly be Greek, given their eastern propensities.
At the foremost of those who would deny the Greeks their ancestry on the basis that they didn't fit with Western preconceptions of what Greeks should be was the German historian Jakob Fallmerayer, who considered, in a revealing passage that defined the stereotype, that: "The race of Modern Greeks has been wiped out in Europe. Physical beauty, intellectual brilliance, innate harmony and simplicity, art, competition, city, village, the splendour of column and temple - indeed, even the name has disappeared from the surface of the Greek continent.Not the slightest drop of undiluted Hellenic blood flows in the veins of the Christian population of present-day Greece." Going even further, he maintained that the Greek War of Independence was a: "purely Shqiptarian Albanian, not a Hellenic Revolution."
Fallmerayer saw the fact that Modern Greeks had more in common with other regional populations as an indication of the "Slavic" nations to overwhelm the "Latin and the "German." He further argued that the Great Powers who had supported the Greek Revolution had been led by a classical intoxication to misjudge the character of the modern Greek state. His world vision fit in nicely and neatly with that delineated by Edward Said in his Orientalist paradigm, where Greeks were definitely on the side of darkness:
"For nearly eighteen aeons, all history has been the result of the struggle between two basic elements, split apart by a divine power from the very beginning: a flexible life-process on the one side and a formless, undeveloped stasis on the other. The symbol of the former is eternal Rome, with the entire Occident lying behind her; the symbol of the latter is Constantinople, with the ossified Orient. That [Constantinople] might be one of the two world-factors, or if one prefers, the shadow of the shining image of European humanity, and therefore that the constitution of the earth might not admit philosophical reconstruction without its assent, is the great scholarly heresy of our time."
By the time of the Crimean War, the British tabloids and the French Catholic Ultramontane press were able to whip up popular enthusiasm for the War by treating it as a Crusade against the Greeks and their religious practices, which were degenerate and even more 'uncivilized' that Islam (another instance of double headed orientalism). Fast forward now to 1920 and we have British military attache to the Greek occupation headquarters in Smyrna describing Greek High Commissioner Aristidis Stergiadis as being: "perhaps as honest as a person of his race could possibly be." The anti-Greek prejudice then forms a familiar course: impugn their race, their character and characteristics, thus dehumanising them and rendering them legitimate targets for abuse. How else can one explain this extraordinary comment by John Carne: "Few things can be less tempting or less dangerous than a Greek woman of the age of thirty," or the remarkable assertion by an Australian judge a few years ago that Greeks particularly enjoy anal sex?
It is not difficult then to take the conceptual leap and agree that: (a) While we may think that Greek civilization forms the basis of the West, Westerners define that civilization as something mutually exclusive to that of Modern Greeks; (b) As a result, Westerners do not consider Greeks as legitimately belonging to the West; (c) Westerners typically do not hold Greeks in as high esteem as Westerners as they are really Easterners; (d) As Greeks are not counted among their number, it becomes easier for Westerners to denigrate them.
Such an analysis may appear to be far-fetched or extreme, yet in the common English-language discourse, Greeks are generally considered slightingly and the prevalence of media material considered to be "anti-Greek," in English language publications around the world and locally merely reinforces the existence of such a prejudice. It could therefore be said that in writing his strongly worded article, accusing Greeks of being thieves, Sydney Morning Herald columnist Paul Sheehan is merely unwittingly reflecting an orientalist prejudice against Greeks that has been developed by the West over two thousand years, which makes it easier for him to make such hurtful comments and where, if he were in the same situation writing about another ethnic group held in greater esteem, he would have been given pause for thought.
At the end of the day, the reason for the shock and horror in the Greek-Australian community at such an aggressively worded article as that of Sheehans is that as an ethnic community permitted to operate within the bounds of the broader Australian community, our compatriots goodwill and esteem is important. Not only does it make us feel good and accepted by the establishment, it also is vital for interethnic harmony, that name calling and generalising about races does not occur. As the recent VCAT debacle with regard to racial slurs against Greeks by a local FYROMIAN rag prove, not much protection is currently conferred to ethnic minorities that are subject to such abuse, which then have the possibility of taking on other, more sinister proportions.
That being said, it is sincerely doubted that the Greeks of Greece, who have to deal with dire economic circumstances, regional instability and have been called every form of abuse invented by man for the past two millenia, would really have a care for what an obscure journalist at the other end of the world thinks of them or their management of their country. They are just as thieving cheating, lying and effeminate (interestingly, Amy Wihtehouse's first kiss was with a Greek boy who is now gay,) as anyone else in the world and long may they continue to be so for they are benign and harmless and understand fully that: «Ο ψεύτης κι ο κλέφτης τον πρώτο χρόνο χαίρονται.» We leave you, gentle reader, having surreptitiously emptied your pockets and stolen your superannuation, with this from Robert Kennedy: "Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world."


First published in NKEE on Saturday, 9th and 16th October 2011.

Sunday, October 02, 2011


“Don’t ever discount the second and third generations,” was the parting shot of the second generation president of the Cyprus Community of Melbourne and Victoria Harry Tsindos, as he mulled over the spectacular rejection of his plan to revitalize his organization through the rationalization of assets. Preceding the General meeting convened to discuss and approve his proposal, the local media published material emphasizing the ‘youth’ of the Cyprus Community’s board, pleading for understanding and a consideration of a vision for the future. The inference was clear: this proposal does not only make sense, but it also is proposed by a member of the community who belongs to the second generation. Since the second generation is the future, it should be evaluated carefully.
Conversely, by all accounts, the General Meeting, rather than being a quiet and somber affair where the proposal and its implications were studied at length and suggestions or amendments made, was rather a cacophony of strife, bile and discord, punctuated by incidences of violence that are deeply disquieting for the health of our community, which after all, is supposed to be an all inclusive environment where people of a common background may associate freely.
It would be difficult to ascribe such surprisingly vehement ventings of spleen to the strength of feeling of members as to whether their financially ailing Community should divest itself of or reinvest its assets. Rather, one can trace, within the literature published in the local media over the course of Harry Tsindos’ assumption of the presidency of the Cyprus community, a smouldering resentment that quite possibly has its genesis in the generation gap.
Our Community organizations were constructed by the first generation so as to provide a social outlet in a foreign country, with persons sharing the same place of origin. It was expected that at some dimly conceived stage in the future, successive generations of migrant progeny would fill the ranks of those organizations and follow in the footsteps of their forebears, participating in the same events, sharing the same forms of entertainment forever. What was not envisaged was the rapidity of the social assimilation of the second generation within the mainstream and its mass desertion and rejection of our existing community organizations. As a result, persons of the second generation who take an active role in Greek community organizations are an exception rather than a rule and it is for this reason that we periodically come across advertisements in Greek publications stating: “It would be a great pleasure for us to welcome members of the second generation, who are the future of our community.”
The sight of members of the second generation participating in community organization events is a source of great solace for the first generation. It pours balm upon their fears that their works and labours do not have a use by date and that such activities will be replicated far into the distant future. Ensconce those same second generation members in positions of authority, nay, elevate them to the committee board or the presidency, and the well worn for constant repeating mantra: “The second generation must take on the reins of our organization,” becomes increasingly threadbare. This is because Greek community politics can be characterized as a bloodsport, where committee members and local powerbrokers scheme, plot, conspire and intrigue in order to elevate each other and then undermine each other. In this game of thrones, as history has proven, nothing is sacred, not one’s reputation, sense of decorum, one’s family or even, in some extreme cases, one’s personal safety. The architects of our community ‘politicised’ culture were seasoned in the fractious and paranoid days of the Greek Civil War and its aftermath. Their legacy to the political culture of our organisations over the decades, has been strife, division and discord, to the extent where it often seems incredible that the remarkable edifices that dot our local landscape where ever purchased or erected at all.
Idealistic second generation Greek Australians who have been suborned, coerced or seduced into entering the fray of community politics in order to “make a difference,” tend to ignore the abovementioned prehistory at their peril. More dangerously, they seem to believe that because they belong to another generation, they will be respected, assisted and spared the brutal onslaught of politicking that comes part and parcel of their role. Certainly they will be assisted, at least by those who convinced them to enter the heady stream of bile, for they will use them to serve their own deeper and obscure purposes. Sadly, they will not be respected. The second generation of Greek-Australians has not been able to emancipate itself from the first to the extent where they can engage in social endeavours on the community playing field in their own right. As such, in what limited play exists, they are considered mere pawns of other, first generation guiding hands, and discounted. In one case, rival regional groups will refuse to deal with the second-generation secretary unless the first generation president is present, citing as an excuse that they have no way of verifying whether what the secretary says has the approval of the board. Further, because as the Greek saying goes: “Who ever enters the circle of the dance, must dance,” they will not be spared abuse, as the hapless youthful members of the Pontiaki Estia committee have found out over years of being screamed at by ageing members of their organization, being accused of being front-men for a particular clique and in particular, at the horrible Annual General Meeting a few years ago, where an elderly gentleman publicly threatened to remove a young committee member from her seat and forcibly have sex with her in front of a howling, seething group of aggrieved members. This then, is what awaits idealistic second generation Greek-Australians who dare to presume they may ascend to the same level as that of their parents’ generation in Greek community affairs.
In the case of Pontiaki Estia, just as in the case of the Cyprus community, the bone of contention was property. Any suggestion by the second generation that community property bought and paid off by the endeavours of the first generation is bound to provoke hostility and bitterness and this is because:

a) the second generation did not struggle or make sacrifices in order to acquire the said premises so how dare they tell us what to do with it?

b) the second generation does not actively take part in our organisation so why should they tell us where and when we should meet? And;

c) obviously someone else is behind this suggestion and is putting the second generation up to it. Most likely they will profit from this arrangement and embezzle community funds so why should we agree to such a state of affairs? It goes without saying that a generation intent upon defending their hard won privileges from outside incursions is no longer best placed to plan strategically for the relevance of their organization to the latter generations.
As a result of the ensuing paranoia, distrust and hostility against the second generation would-be Titans, who bearing sickles are intent upon emasculating their own Uranuses in order to seize heavens, these same second-generation committee members also run the risk of becoming hostile and inimical to the vast majority of members that they purport to serve. So intent are they upon preserving their own position and protecting themselves from attack, that they invariably grow bitter and alienate themselves from the needs and requirements of a generation that they increasingly identify as being an enemy. Instead, they re-forge themselves as trailblazers, willing to go to extraordinary and often rude and insensitive efforts to disestablish the first generation and run roughshod over their concerns, in the name of furthering the interests of the marginally existent second generation, within their organization.
It is only in minutely few instances, where savvy individuals who are able, through their language skills and involvement within organizations, to shift seamlessly between the two generations and are pugilistic enough to enter the bloody fray and hold their own that a happy medium between the two generations can be reached where a composite committee can seek to pursue the interests of both generations. For everyone else, as Harry Tsindos’ experience has shown, a bitter aftertaste is left in the mouth, which serves as a cautionary tale both to the second generation as to their chances of an effective and enjoyable involvement within the organized Greek community, and to the first generation as to the viability of encouraging or permitting (and how much this word speaks volumes as to the inclusiveness of our community organizations) the involvement of those few of the second generation left with a communal conscience.
Had our community organizations truly been havens of cohesive social networking, with an emphasis on mutual assistance and fostering close ties between their members, instead of mini-parliaments where otherwise normal citizens could indulge their penchant for megalomania, this sorry state of affairs most probably not exist and our community would be more structured and closely-knit than it actually is. The crossroads then are these: either we allow each generation to look after its own needs separately (and the absence of second generation organizations proves that this generation has no desire to organize itself with its place of origin as a common denominator), or we go back to the grass roots and seek out structures that have the family, children and individual relationships as their basis. That requires time, kindness and humility but surely if there is a future, it lies in this, and not the bile and useless bickering over money and power, that has blighted our development in the past.


First published in NKEE on Saturday, 2 October 2011