13 November 2014

Hellenism

Drawing that circles a red-figured cosmetic or jewellery container (pyxis)
Greek, made in Athens, 470 BC, attributed to a follower of Douris.
Like a schoolgirl who grows breast in grade five and has her first abortion at fourteen, we Greeks peaked too early. My mother says, "We were discussing philosophy in the agora when your boyfriend's ancestors were living in caves."
The astute reader may notice that I said, we Greeks, and not, the ancient Greeks. I won't make that distinction. That crowded upon, now reduced parcel of land known as Greece has been through more turmoil and change than almost any other and yet some essence of Hellenism still remains, amid the diesel fumes, cigarette smoke, cracked pavements, blearing car horns, through the shouting, cursing and general put downs, the bribery, the laziness, the looking out only for one's own family.
It is the arrogance of a written culture that dates back thousands of years. Blood shed in countless wars with the Franks, the Venetians, the Bulgarians, the Germans and the terrible atrocities of the Turks; as well as the civil war where the politically left and right turned family against family, neighbour against neighbour, and deceit, fear and betrayal became the currency of survival.
We are a bedraggled lot—from those still on Greek soil to those spread around the world, like a smear of taramasalata—a proud Diaspora, clinging to Hellenism like barnacles on jagged rocks. We argue politics and philosophy, drinking with the best of them; we cry easily, particularly at any mention of a lost homeland; and we question everything. Our cynicism has been hard won. Let the young countries, your Australia, your America boast hope and freedom.

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