Saturday, June 25, 2016


Though I am not of Pontian descent, and lack the decidedly Pontic features of the bowed legs and prominent nose that serve as readily identifiable markers for all those who would be members of the clan, Pontiaki Estia has always been part of my life. The Central Pontian Organisation: Pontiaki Estia was founded one year prior to my birth and its first club rooms were in my neighbourhood. They exercised an intense fascination upon me during my early days as the lettering adorning the looming yellow and black edifice: ΠΟΝΤΙΑΚΗ ΕCTIA, was the only public Greek signage in my immediate area, upon which I could test my Greek literary skills. Furthermore, the existence of what appeared to be an English C in an otherwise Greek title, was a source of wonderment to me. Long before, I knew precisely what Pontians were, I learned, from them, the Byzantine alphabet.
I became obsessed with the clubrooms and would create stories in my head about what would go on there. Finally, after much nagging, my parents consented to take me to a function. I was very young and dimly remember the prevalence of black chairs and a multitude of people. What did manage to inextricably etch itself into my memory, was the sound of the music that assailed my ear drums. I had never hear anything like it, and just having started to learn to play the violin, I was entranced at the way in which the Pontic kemenche is used almost like a percussion instrument in the Pontic tradition. At that time, Pontian music had melded with the local Macedonian musical traditions found by Pontic refugees in their places of refuge and it was difficult to separate their disparate strands and locate the authentic tradition beneath, something that Pontiaki Estia has, over the years become expert at. On that day, I resolved to a) acquire a kemenche, something that I did almost twenty years later, a flimsy, balsa wood construction from an impoverished Russo-Pontian at Omonoia, and b) find out more about these mysterious, marginal and yet fascinating Pontic beings. This last strand of my resolve, I completed hand in hand with the good people from Pontiaki Estia.
Estia of course, in Greek, now denotes a home but in ancient Greek, it signified a hearth, fireplace, or altar. It is also no coincidence then that the ancient Greek goddess Estia, was the virgin goddess of the hearth, architecture, and the right ordering of domesticity, the family, and the state. Over the four decades of its existence, Pontiaki Estia has provided just that function. Countless people have been warmed at the hearth of its members fervor for Pontic culture in all of its diverse and manifold forms, or have been illuminated by the light of the fire burning within some of it more intrepid members as they went on their own journeys of self-discovery, learning much about some of the more obscure of dark chapters in their ancestor’s history, and so many others have worshipped at the altar of togetherness, solidarity and communalism that best exemplifies the culture of Pontiaki Estia. Defying the trend of Greek organisations that gradually become more insular and seek to exclude ‘others,’ whether by ideology or background, Estia has extended its guest friendship to the wider community, absorbing dancers, thinkers, historians and countless others, which is how I came to find my home there. So closely have its members begun to identify with Pontiaki Estia, as their Estia, way from their own estia, that they have even placed the words “Estia” on their number plates, in a profound and telling statement of identity. 
At the recent function commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the foundation of Pontiaki Estia, the dance floor was filled with youth from the various dance groups, all sporting versions of their diverse national costume. I commented that there were more dancers than some Greek brotherhoods currently have members. A young woman who was sitting beside me launched into a lengthy and learned disquisition into the regional variants of the Pontic costume, which can be distinguished by time, marital status, class and geography, all of which have been carefully and painstakingly preserved by the youth of Pontiaki Estia, I was amazed and heartened, though the extent of her erudition should not have come as a surprise. In a club that is now run by its younger members, (a transition that took a decade of conflict to achieve) these second generation Pontians have, to employ the buzz-word, taken “ownership” of their traditional culture. There are to be found within its ranks, specialists on Pontian song, dance, (of late they have been experimenting with new fusions, exploring common threads with Cretan music, showing how a tradition does not have to be oppressive but rather can be teased, explored and transformed into something entirely novel) costume, traditional lifestyle, cookery and of course the Pontian Genocide.  
These embracive rather than prescriptive qualities of Pontiaki Estia are perhaps the key ingredients of its brilliance. One finds on of the stultifying, officious parochiality of other Greek organisations here. Instead, I have found, through my involvement in the Genocide Awareness Workshops, pioneered by Estia and the means by which awareness of this tragic event has been disseminated to the broader community, a desire to embrace the unconventional, to seek new and novel ways to get the message across. While some of these efforts bear more fruit than others, it is this willingness to experiment, to try out new approaches without fear of recrimination or keeping them in thrall to undercurrent strategies in fractious endo-community squabbles, that the true value of Pontiaki Estia lies. Thus, in regards to the genocide, Pontiaki Estia has over the years, approached elements of the Turkish community in order to celebrate commonalities of culture, rather than just focus on death, sought to honour those righteous Muslims who protected Christians during the genocide, rather than merely demonise all Ottomans, pioneered a co-ordinated approach to genocide recognition in concert with the Assyrian and Armenian communities (and as such Pontiaki Estia remains one of them most multi-cultural, outward looking Greek organisations in Melbourne), used the media of drama, song, dance, theatre and film in order to tell its story and has now gone entirely mainstream,  currently engaging with the City of Ballarat to erect a monument to George Devine Treloar, a savior of the Pontian people, in that city. Their immensity of scope is as breathtaking as it is remarkable, and considering the multifaceted means employed to express their identity, historically important.
Even more important is Pontiaki Estia’s harnessing of local resources in the furtherance of their aims. While they remain an inseparable part of the world wide organized Pontian movement and sponsor visits by overseas artists on a regular basis, they also foster the growth and development of their own musicians, teachers, artists, activists and thinkers, in a way that some other Greek organisations who are still emotionally tied to Greece via a strange and complex inferior complex do not. What we are witnessing emerging in Pontiaki Estia is a particularly Australian development of Pontic culture, one to which all Australians, regardless of ethnic or cultural background, are welcome to participate in and are in fact, actively encouraged to do so.
There were tears in the eyes of many of the attendees of Pontiaki Estia’s fortieth birthday function, not only for those who have departed, carving their mark on the organization but also for those who now follow, or rather dance, in their footsteps. Yet for all of the radical innovation and the exciting new directions forged by a most uncanny, and to many Greek-Australians, marginal group, some challenges remain. The Pontic dialect is being lost and most emerging youth now have diminished facility in the modern Greek tongue. How they will negotiate and contextualize their Pontic identity within a superimposed Greek-Australian one remains to be seen. Nonetheless, they have tremendously inspiring precedents to draw from and immense reserves of positivity to sustain them. And some things, such as the dances that enthralled me almost four decades ago as a child, remain, as a touchstone, a staff and a guide, through the uncertain times that are to come. They, like the Pontians, show us how to transcend time itself.
First published in NKEE on 25 June 2016

Saturday, June 18, 2016


ΦΑΝΑΤΩΣ ΤΟΥΣ ΠΡΟΒΟΤΕΣ! proclaims a recent comment on a social media post by an Australian-born EΛΛΗΝΑΡΑ. If, Professor Higgins-like one was called upon to geographically place the said patriot by reference to his phonology as attested to by his post, then one would invariably hazard a guess that his place of residence is Northcote, pronounced Norphcote, though the p is generally silent, among those Australian-born hoplites of Hellenism who have particular difficulties with voiceless fricatives.
There is a funny thing about these Ellinarades. Despite the fact that some of them chose to intone the chant "Έξω οι Τούρκοι από την Κύπρο" at the recent Australia-Greece soccer match (and one would wonder why they chose to do so given that the chances of either Ban Ki Moon, Recep Tayyip Erdogan or indeed any other Turk who is fluent in Greek being present and being sufficiently moved by the aforementioned verse in order to do something to end a four-decade long injustice are rather small) they are nowhere to be seen during the annual Justice for Cyprus march organised by the Cypriot community.
Similarly, despite the fact that some of them have become enraged by what they consider to be the racist prohibition of the display of the flag of Vergina at the Australia-Greece soccer match and the ejection from the game of one particular flag-bearer, despite their enthusiastic participation in the "Ελλάς, Ελλάς, Μακεδονία" chant (again it is important to note that neither Skopjan leader Gruevski, nor United Nations negotiator Matthew Nimetz were present at the game, unless the chant was directed at undercover agents of Skopjan name appropriation), said Ellinarades are strangely absent from all of the activities of the Pan-Macedonian Association, the United Villages of Florina, the Aristotelis Association or even the Australian Institute of Macedonian Studies.
In like fashion, at the recent commemoration of the Battle of Crete, the Ellinarades were nowhere to be seen. Indeed, despite some of them chanting: "Τούρκος καλός μόνο νεκρός" at the Australia-Greece soccer match, the Ellinarades were conspicuously absent at the annual events commemorating the Pontian genocide. This is mystifying. If the Ellinarades are so imbued with the love of their motherland and so hurt by other's abuse of her that they require the slightest opportunity to express their love and air their grievances, (hence the pre-match chanting of “Greece, I love you and I will follow you as long as I live,” by ther Lonsdale Street Ellinarades) it appears illogical that they should choose to ignore an event that protests against the massacre of some 350,000 of their innocent compatriots and/or ancestors. Maybe on that day, they were just hurting on the inside.
You won't see the Ellinarades at any events that have to do with Greek language preservation or education. In fact, a good many of them, despite the fact that their cup of love for all things 'Hellenic' (they reject the word Greek as being unhellenic even though both words, Graecos and Hellenas refer to two ancient tribes in Epirus) runneth over, can hardly speak the language, as can be evidenced by their heavy use of the Google translation function when they seek to render their social posts in the mother tongue in order to display their patriotic credentials to their like-minded contacts in the motherland. When this is pointed out to them, they will often argue that speaking the Greek language is irrelevant to the Greek identity. What is important is to have undying love for Hellas, accept its superiority uncritically, rail against the rest of the world which, recognising that superiority, is involved in a conspiracy to degrade and humiliate the Hellenes, punishing them for their brilliance and rooting out all Helleno-traitors who, being in thrall to the Germanic Zionists (figure that one out), are legion.
Ellinarades are conspicuously absent from fund-raising functions for Greek welfare and aged care facilities such as Fronditha and Agapi, or the various Church-organised philoptochos poor relief endeavours. They do not activate their social media networks for the purposes of cajoling their friends to donate generously for the preservation and assistance of local Greek clubs or dance groups. And yet the funds that some of them expend to purchase their blue and white regalia, or execute their scotch-infused, rose-petal strewn zeimbekiko at the ersatz bouzoukia around town would go a decent way in assistance those groups that really ensure the cohesion of our community.
Some of these Ellinarades are on the dole. Others are on carer's pensions. Many have attended government funded public schools and many others have graduated from university by availing themselves of the Australian government's HECS scheme. Most have been born or have lived the vast majority of their lives in Australia. It is therefore perplexing and deeply disquieting that some of them chose, at the recent Australia-Greece soccer match, to boo the national Australian team and the Australian national anthem. In fact, it represents the height of ingratitude both to the country, the community that nurtured them and the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria which lobbied so hard and overcame numerous objections in order to secure the transfer of the match from Newcastle to Melbourne.
As such, the antics of the Ellinarades should not be dismissed as mere youthful exuberance, especially given sections of the broader Australian community have always questioned the commitment of migrants and their Australian-born offspring to this country. As enthusiastic Australian citizens, our communities have achieved a praiseworthy equilibrium between preserving and evolving our ancestral cultures while at the same time integrating ourselves meaningfully within the broader social context. This has been achieved in partnership with government. We can ill afford the antics of the uncouth to disturb that golden mean. Nor can we tolerate those largely disconnected from the Greek community, with a limited and perverted understanding of the Greek tradition imposing upon us their pernicious view of their identity and by corollary, inviting our fellow citizens to view us as cast from the same mould, simply because they lack any other means to "Get their Greek on."
Granted, simian chest-thumping and jungle-cries are part and parcel of the sporting experience regardless of how much they may make us cringe. Justifying anti-social and illegal behaviour by reference to a deification of anti-social antics in Greece which have nothing to do with tradition and everything to do with a society in the process of disintegration, is quite another. The Ellinara who stated: “Flares are all a part of football. You can take it back centuries, it’s all a part of the atmosphere,” is a case in point and we would all be fascinated to learn whether, in 1816, lighting flares at the soccer was a hallowed tradition in his grandmother's village.
In the aftermath of the match, sundry Ellinarades are crying racism at the manner in which the Australian media chose to emphasise the actions of the unruly few and exaggerate the disorder they created before and during the match. In his study ‘The Wogs are at it Again’: The Media Reportage of Australian Soccer ‘Riots, ’John Hughson argues that the Australian soccer stadium has become an arena of contestation, not for rival football teams, but for warring ethnic groups, who use the terraces and playing field as a ‘battleground’ to settle ‘long standing political grievances’. He argues that the commercial media is largely responsible for this perception and that the media treatment of soccer has constituted a form of institutional discrimination that serves to reinforce attitudes hostile to the broader acceptance of multiculturalism, suggesting that the media is not a passive reproducer of social attitude, but, rather, is a producer or co-producer.
Hughson, as well as George Vasilacopoulos and Tina Nicolacopoulou who have in their study From Foreigner to Citizen: Greek Migrants and Social Change in White Australia 1897-2000," written broadly about the migrant as an eternal subversive element in the eyes of the mainstream are certainly valid points of references in seeking to analyse unsavoury mainstream media motives for focusing on the Ellinarades and yet the same people who deride the Australian mainstream media for doing so, often accept uncritically, the mainstream Greek media's propensity to act in exactly the same way when portraying the often unsavoury nationalistic antics of ethnic groups within Greece. In this, the Ellinarades mindlessly play into the hands of those whose agenda vis a vis all community groups, is well known.
As a community, we need to explore what are the deep seated cause of our insecurity that compel us, to politicise the most simple of events and make them a cause of controversy and strife or at least, regard them as intrinsic to our ethnic identity. Why do we consider the Star of Vergina (a symbol that, despite its ancient provenance until the nineties appeared on no Greek flag anywhere and is thus not a traditional cultural artefact) or indeed the sickening white supremacist, ultra-right wing flag borne by one Ellinara, appropriate objects to take into a field where a bunch of grown men kick an evolved pig's bladder to each other? Why do we invest so much emotion and importance in the outcome of such a game as if our collective and individual dignity depended on it? And finally, we need to determine how we can prevent the neanderthal ersatz, hateful and often racists Hellenes from sullying our reputation, community and thus jeopardising our legitimate and vibrant cultural activities. Maybe by demanding that they finally grow up and take their place in our community as responsible and useful constituents.

First published in NKEE on Saturday 18 June 2016

Saturday, June 11, 2016


It has been foretold by Saint Kosmas the Aetolian: “The blonde race will provide assistance and the City shall be given to the Greeks.” Saint Paisios also confirmed this, stating that “the blonde race shall intervene from the North and everything will transpire as is contained in the prophecies.” An inscription of the sarcophagus of Saint Constantine the Great is reported to read: “the blonde race shall vanquish the agents of Ishmael.” Agathangelos, the supposed prophecies of the Rhodian monk Ieronymos Agathangelos, which were actually written by the archimandrite Theokleitos Polyeidis, predict that the “blonde race,” will rise to attack the Turks and save the Greeks. 
All this is a prelude to the ultimate prophecy, made by the Byzantine Emperor Leo the Wise in his collection of Oracles about the Fall of Constantinople: “With regards to the legendary, poor and chosen king, who is well known and yet unknown, who lives at the edge of the geographical area of the Byzantine empire. The true king, whom people have chased from his abode… will be revealed at the time when the end of the Ishmaelites approaches… It will be on a Friday, in the third hour of the morning when he will be revealed… He, who is to be revealed, will be identified by means of celestial signs. While he is sleeping, he will hear a voice and see and Angel who will appear like a royal servant dressed in white; the Angel will take him by the hand and will tell him: you, who are sleeping, get up… Jesus Christ will be with you. It is your calling to lead a chosen people; and the Angel will add: you, who have been concealed, do not hide yourself any longer, many are asking for you… and furthermore, the Angel will give him plaques of stone upon which are etched two commands: Punish the evil doers and rule justly over your defeated enemies.”
The problem is for centuries, the Greek people have not been able to figure out just exactly who the blonde race is. In 1750, when the prophecies of Agathangelos were first published, readers automatically assumes that the blonde race were the Russians, as the prophecy clearly describes Russian encroachment upon Tartar held territory in Ukraine and the Crimea, territory to which Greeks were invited to settle and given a remission of taxes for a decade by Catherine the Great. When Rigas Feraios published the prophecies of Agathangelos in Vienna in 1795, he implied in his introduction that the blonde race must be the French, under Napoleon. This is despite the fact that one of the prophecies reads as follows: “O Frenchmen, where are you going? The new king leads you to the slaughterhouse, and you shall leave your lives upon the high mountains; and your enterprises shall be manifestly abandoned.” 
Publishers of the Athenian 1838 edition on the other hand pointed in the direction of Otto and the Bavarians. During the Second World War, on the other hand, readers of the Agathangelos in Cyprus interpreted the prophecies in such a manner as to have the Germans as the blonde race. Supposedly, they would liberate the island from British rule and restore it to its former glory. We all know how that went for them and the Cypriots ought to have bene a bit more careful considering that apparently, Agathangelos said the following: “Germany, Germany, why are you so proud? You will be divided into two.” Ever since that time, generations of idealistic millennial Greeks have been painstakingly scouring the Agathangelos, along with the various dubious additional fabricated prophecies that are created to suit all occasions, in search of clues.
Gentle readers will therefore take comfort to learn that the search is over and the true nature of the blonde race has been revealed. It turns out that it is after all, the Russians. It makes sense when you think about it. Russia is to the north (a prerequisite), it is, in its present manifestation, to all intents and purposes, a pious orthodox country and even though Greeks are commonly aware that the Rus in Rus-sian means ‘the red ones’(it actually doesn’t, it comes from the old Norse word ‘rods’ meaning ‘the men who row’) their leader, Putin is fair and blonde. His sallow features remind one of Tsar Ivan the Terrible riding his destrier in the great medieval icon of the Church Militant, an allegorical representation of the conquest of Kazan. Not only is he a judo champion of repute, a muscled and agile all-round sportsman, jet flyer and racing car driver, tranquilizer of polar bears and shooter of whales, he is also the leader of the largest country in the world. Further, it is widely rumoured that Putin is descended from the royal Tverskoy family and in particular, from Mikhail of Tver, the Grand Prince of that principality. I cannot think of anyone suited to be an agent of the cosmic forces that will return the Emperor to his throne in Constantinople.
The monks of Mount Athos think so too, which is why they recently enthroned Putin on the despotic throne, during his brief visit to Mount Athos, to the fury of the president of the Hellenic Republic, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who despite being the nominal ruler of the region, was not offered even a sub-throne at Putin’s side. Then again, there is nothing contained in the prophecies about a white haired Professor of Administrative Law with the countenance of a person sucking a lemon in any way saving the Greek people. 
The enthronement of Putin should have come as no surprise. There were signs and portents everywhere. A week before his arrival, countless articles were posted on Facebook, proclaiming that Putin had threatened the leader of the Ishmaelite horde with the conquest of Constantinople, should he choose to persecute the Greeks. A night owl, flying over Saint Sophia was heard to screech the song of the Volga Boatmen before crashing into a minaret and its GPS mysteriously vanished and could not be recovered for analysis. Did not the righteous leader prove his suitability for his pre-ordained role, by acknowledging, while ensconced upon the bishop’s throne, that “a very important and necessary att is undertaken on Holy Mount Athos. This act is about the preservation of the moral traditions of our society. To a considerable degree, you are a source of this well-being and grace?” Did he not state that the Athonites are “fighting for the faith,” thus implying that he would also do so? Most tellingly, did he not, not-so obliquely hint at the unity that is to come by stating: “I am confident that Russia’s ties with Holy Mount Athos and Greece as a whole will continue to strengthen, and spiritual kinship and trust will continue to set the tone of our traditionally close and friendly relations?” Truly then he is the chosen one and all that remains is to locate who is the poor and chosen king who Putin will install upon his throne. Those monks who have seen in Alexis Tsipras’ inability to afford a neck-tie, some type of correlation, have been excommunicated.
Οἱ μισοῦντες αὐτόν, which is good imperial Greek for the haterz, are incensed for various reasons. The more religious-minded of them maintain that the bishop’s throne upon which Putin is installed represents the teaching authority of a bishop and should not have been usurped by a secular leader, no matter how gifted, and that this episode represents the way monks, who should be concerned with things spiritual cannot resist the temptation to meddle with the chthonic matters of this corrupt world. The Byzantine Imperial party, on the other hand, refute this, arguing that the true throne of the bishop is in the apse behind the holy altar. This location is referred to as the "high place" and represents the presence of Christ presiding over the services, even when the bishop is not present and therefore an icon of Christ is often placed above the bishop's throne. The throne located along the southern wall of the church, on the kliros, in which Putin stood, is just an elaborately carved monastic kathisma or choir stall on steroids which has no liturgical significance save that during the divine liturgy, the deacon ascends to this throne to read the gospel, facing west. This was traditionally where the Byzantine Emperor stood during church services in the Great Church of Saint Sophia and it is the bishops who have actually, in their use of that seat, actually usurped a throne that properly belongs to the Emperor and must remain vacant until his return. The fact that in the Russian tradition, there is no kathisma and instead, there i a large square platform set in the very center of the nave, with a removable chair or faldstool placed on it, a remnant of the ancient bemah or amvon, borrowed from the Jewish synagogue, which stood in the center of the church in ancient times should provide perspective as to the full extent of this usurpation. According to the purists therefore, Putin is an upstart, an anti-Emperor who will lead the righteous astray, clad as he is in improperly given, ecclesiastical authority. Then there is Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who stubbornly maintains that he should have been the one enthroned, but his supporters number himself and his neutered cat and thus does not deserve further mention here. 
Nonetheless, those aggrieved can have their consciences put to rest. Putin is a mere throne warmer. For the chronicles state that it is the Emperor St John Vatazes who is rumoured to return after Putin’s exertions are over. When he was exhumed, the dead emperor appeared as if he were sitting upon a royal throne, without any darkening, without any odor, without any signs that he was dead. He appeared as if made of marble. It is he who shall arise at the appointed moment, to re-mount his throne, pushing aside any bishops or presidents who happen to be in his way.
These are dark and troubled times pious readers. The Greek people are languishing under a kleptocracy forseen by St Kosmas: "There will come a time for your enemies to take even the ash from the fire, but do not change your faith like others will." Perhaps, mired in the quagmire of their own misery, they cannot recognize their savior when they see him. Quoth St Kosmas: "There will come once a foreign crowd who will believe in Christ. But you will not know it.” Yet salvation truly is at hand. Just as St Kosmas predicted a way of the μνημόνιον: "They will impose you a huge and unbearable tax, but will not catch up," so too did he see the coming of the blonde ones. "The great battle will be in the City. There, all nations will gather, and so much blood will be spilled as for a calf to swim in. The victor will be the blonde race. We will be with the blond race". Brace yourselves therefore good people. The battle for Middle Earth is beginning.

First published in NKEE on Saturday 11 June 2016

Saturday, June 04, 2016


The dolorous news that Northcote High School will gradually phase out its Modern Greek (and Italian) program has caused great consternation within the Greek community. This is especially so given not only that this is one of the more ancient public school Greek language programs in Melbourne, having been in operation for some four decades, but also because some 120 students are currently studying the language at the school. In their stead, Chinese and French will be taught. 
 This should not surprise us. Victorian educators aware of this matter have commented that ever since deregulation, principals have been empowered to make requisite decisions in order to attract students (principals’ pay being dependent upon numbers). The new and lucrative market of full fee paying foreign students is relevant to such decision making. School policy is thus aimed at marketing towards full fee paying foreign students (hence the inclusion of Chinese as a language) and upper middle class students as a target demographic in hipster town, that will give the school the grades so that it can market itself effectively (hence the prestige language: French). In this paradigm, Greek as a language is divestible.
 It is not known whether the Greek community at large is cognisant of such considerations. Nonetheless, in the meantime, yet again, the Greek community is called upon to enter campaign mode and mobilise in order to prevent this calamitous event from actually transpiring. 
 Such campaigns are deemed to be effective, especially given the propensity of public schools to attempt to divest themselves of Modern Greek studies of late. Some years ago, a concerted community campaign to 'save' Modern Greek at Wheelers Hill Secondary College ensured the continuation of the program, at least until the present. In the case of Wales Street Primary in Thornbury however, where similar campaigns to preserve Greek were successful, earlier this year, Greek was discontinued after a democratic vote, despite the school having a large Greek student base. Since 2011, the study of Greek has also been discontinued at Fairfield Primary, Bentleigh High and Westgarth Primary School and it is rumoured that it is under threat at Balwyn High as well. 
 It appears then that at least for the past two decades, a pattern of decline has been established vis a vis Greek language studies wherein, rather than establishing a strategy for expanding the number of students, we are content to sit idly by, paying no attention to the diminution in enrolments or the decline of fluency standards until such time as any given programme is threatened with termination. It is only then, in order to forestall the inevitable, that we spring into action, largely ignoring and seldom addressing the root causes behind this disturbing phenomenon. 
 Apparently, one of the reasons cited for this tendency to discontinue Modern Greek Language programs from public schools, is that the Greek community is already serviced by its own private or community educational facilities and therefore there is no need to burden the public purse. Conversely, proponents of Greek being taught in public schools maintain that as taxpayers, we have a right to demand that Greek be taught in such public schools. This is a deep seated belief that has been widely held by our community ever since the formal institution of multiculturalism as government policy. 
 Nonetheless, it appears that our right to demand, does not correlate to an actual right to have the language taught. Various stakeholders have pointed out that when Greek was introduced to the public curriculum so many decades ago, the Greek community was one of a few that comprised the multicultural fabric of Victoria and was electorally significant. Now, though numerically significant, it is one of over a hundred ethnic groups, all of which vie for their place in the sun and a slice of the funding pie. Many of these groups can be trusted to vote en bloc in a particular way, in a manner which the largely assimilated Greek community no longer does. Therefore the need to placate the Greek community politically is seen as less acute than it may have been in years past. Put simply, there is a section of the powers that be, that consider that we are insisting upon the maintenance of privileges that are archaic and bear no relevance to the real state of our community and its needs, simply because this feeds our ego and makes us feel important. The maintenance of such privileges is a burden on the public purse, preventing distribution of funding to emerging migrant communities that have greater need of it. Furthermore, some of them argue, in a society where economics drives politics instead of the other way around, given the continuous decline in enrolments, funding programs for which there is no manifest demand is inefficient, leading to poor 'outcomes.'
 We must pay homage to the committed first generation migrants who fought hard to have modern Greek language classes instituted in public education. Theirs is an unprecedented, historic achievement, effected at a time when there was dire need for such programmes. Yet we must admonish the broader community for resting on its laurels and not realising that regrettably, in the modern world the term 'policy' is not synonymous with 'rights,' that policies can and will change over time, according to expediency, social evolution and political considerations and that it is an exercise in futility to expect that the interests of the State will be in sync with those of the Greek community perpetually, without any diversion whatsoever. 
 As a community, we should have looked forward to a time when the maintenance of modern Greek language studies in public education was no longer in the interests of the State Government and planned accordingly to address such a happenstance, prior to its arising. Our experience during Ottoman times, when privileges afforded by Sultanic berat were rescinded and had to be re-negotiated every generation should have made us more cognisant of the transient nature of all things political. Our insistence, even now, upon illusory rights as taxpayers or citizens shows a wilful and concerning blindness on the part of our community with regard to the way it negotiates with government and plans for the future. While our political consciousness is stuck in the eighties, our demands will become either quaint or incomprehensible to those who purport to legislate on our behalf.
 Blaming the abolition of public Greek language programs on the prevalence of private or community Greek schools therefore represents the height of cynicism and an attempt to distract us from government abandonment of a commitment to community language education. It is common knowledge that very seldom do foreign language students in the public sphere obtain functional fluency in the languages they study. Scores of studies have attested to intrinsic problems with the effective teaching of foreign languages in Australian public schools, indicating that even where such language programmes exist, their actual rationale and aims may diverge alarmingly from community expectations as to standard. This is something the Greek community has never addressed. On the other hand, schools run by the community for the community ideally have the freedom to tailor their language teaching to reflect values and aspirations relevant and particular to that community.
 The underlying problem with our community's overall stance to Greek language education is not defencelessness in the face of cynical government shifting of political positions on substantive multiculturalism but rather a perennial inactivity to come together to articulate exactly what we want out of modern Greek language education in Victoria. In short, our community has no language policy of its own. Our institutions have developed independently and often in opposition and conflict with one another, with ideology or profit often displacing fluency as a priority and no uniformity of curriculum. No study of the changing demographics of our community and in particular the effect of mixed marriages, or the bourgeoisification of the latter generations, on language learning have been undertaken. Consequently, we can neither plan, nor co-ordinate our endeavours so as to manage the challenges of the future. Criminally, there exists no mechanism for review or evaluation of any of our Greek language learning providers.
 There is immense folly in our approach. If we could, even now articulate a common approach to modern Greek language teaching, we could then, as a community, co-ordinate our activities in such away as to ensure that Greek is taught by a multitude of institutions, both public and private, in a meaningful way, aimed towards fluency and functionality, rather than a bureaucratic ticking of boxes reflecting the achievement of illusory outcomes. Such a co-ordinated body, properly invested with authority by our community would then emerge as the key stakeholder in any conversation with the State in matters of language policy and be able to enter into effective dialogue with it. Yet until such as the necessary conversation within our own community takes place, we will be doomed, as deluded Lotus-eaters, to sail between each linguistic Scylla and Charybdis, tacking to any wind Aeolus may send our way in the hope of salvation, all the while paying heed to the seductive song of the political Sirens, who continue to inform us that we matter. Aux armes, citoyens.

First published in NKEE on Saturday 4 June 2016