Of Nationalism and of ... Potatoes!
I was born in Athens, Greece, by Greek parents , both of them born and raised in Greek mountainous villages at an elevation above 1,500 (around 5,000 feet), which means that they were rather "pure" Greeks, who could boast that their lineage reached to the Greeks of yore, as the sundry conquerors of Greece through the ages, Persians, Romans, Venetians, Turks, French "invaders", German Nazis, Austrian Nazis, Bulgarian Nazis, British soldiers, Irish soldiers, Scotch soldiers, Australians as British soldiers, New Zealanders as British soldiers, Gurkas as British soldiers, Hindus as British soldiers, and finally noble Texans, could not easily spread their culture at that rather prohibitive elevation.
Yet, for almost my entire life I have lived following the dictum of a ... Briton!
The Briton: Dr. Samuel Johnson.
The dictum: "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."
My father was proud of his mountainous birth-place not in a patriotic sense but rather in a macho sense, as testified by my mother who told me that when they were engaged and were having diner in a restaurant she asked that they have a salad, but then my father retorted: "What, am I a faggot to eat a salad!" The mountaineers of his birthplace ate only meat. My mother, a very rational person, to any patriotic garbage would have reacted by a faint smile of scorn.
So, having this background, early on, I had come to the conclusion that "nationalism", the crown of patriotism, is a rather despicable attitude to have. Also, I was present (1945 - 1960) when the Greek "nationalists" as tools of the CIA had murdered more than 150,000 fellow Greeks. Which led me to the conclusion that the only things that connect a person to the place he was born are the language, the music, the dance, and the history of the population of that place, in relation to the Resistance of that population against the violence of an aggressor. Also, I came to the conclusion that the "nationalism" that the mainstream paid tribute to, had as its basic element the repulsive religio-patriotic notion of the "chosen people". With Russians, Germans, French, Americans, and (Right-wing) Greeks at the front of this, rather violent, pack.
This noon (February 27, 2012), as we had lunch, opposite me the TV was on and, this being what the Greeks call a "Clean Monday", the picture facing me was a group of about a dozen young men and women from Crete dancing to the music of their native island.
Then, probably influenced by the situation in Greece, in my mind, as these young Cretan Greeks danced, while one of them improvised rhyming tow-lines stanzas satirizing everything political or other, I compared them to some of the most important people in the world, for example Angela Merkel (of DDR-Protestantism [!], of DDR-youth, of Cheney- Rumsfeld patronage, etc), Wolfgang Schaeuble (the industrious and disciplined Good German), and (poor, little, frosty) Hillary Rodham Clinton (of drones, of death, and of the participation to the crimes of her dear husband).
[Note: DDR was the communist part of Germany. "Clean Monday": A Monday that the pious Christians have chosen to, once each year, fast and pray so that the Almighty be persuaded to clean them of their sins, etc. Perfect!]
As a Greek, a citizen of a country that belongs to the West (and the IMF) or which is the West, according to some educated people, I have to follow the tenets of my roots. So, the comparison must be first about "physical" characteristics and second about "cultural" richness.
Of course, a physical comparison of the dancing young Greek women and men to the more "mature" individuals mentioned above, Merkel, et al, is morally unfair. Yet, given that Meryl Streep was about to get that hallowed "Oscar", I thought, while watching those dancing Cretans, that it is legitimate to make such a comparison between equivalent "entities".
So, starting with the Greeks of classical times, the ones that initiated this "strange" business of human beauty with their statues of unbelievably attractive physical form, I focused my mind on the marble statue of Hermes of Praxitelis, the most beautiful statue in the world and the marble head of Hygeia, of similar value. [Praxitelis was the sculptor, 370-330 BC].
During the last century more than one hundred million German and American Christians have paid homage to an... idol; the statue, at Olympia, of Hermes, a Greek God! In, better, more religious times, these millions would have been murdered by the Church, as happened for hundreds of thousands of humans in the hands of the late Roman Emperors, by then Christianized, and the Early Byzantines; very fervent Christians.
Those worthy Christian Emperors could not stomach that Hermes was the God of commerce, eloquence, invention, travel and theft! Actually, Aristophanes in The Frogs (ca. 405 BC) had something to say on the matter of resurrection and made Dionysus (the God of wine, fun, etc.) say of Hermes and of Hermes's father, that performing resurrections was a family profession! Of course this was happening almost 500 years before the Christian era and had no connection to subsequent resurrections.
So, the marble head of the statue of Hermes at Olympia is the perfect head of the male of the human species.
The marble head of Hygeia, the Goddess of Health, is found in the National Archeological Museum in Athens. I have the feeling that the poor Goddess is mostly ignored by the multitude, mentioned above, as it is exhibited among dozens of other marble or bronze heads.
Again, the marble head of Hygeia, the Goddess of Health, is the perfect head of the female of the Human species.
However it seems that both heads do not depict the head of an existing man or a woman, but are composite representations of the perfect male or female head, based on the characteristics of many living persons, at that time.
I think it is Christians that say only God is perfect. Yet in Sunday School I was taught: "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." [Genesis, 1: 26 -27, King James' Version. Also, the original, in Greek, sounds much better]. I am a bit confused.
Anyway, people searching for "perfection" can easily find it in the sculptures of Hermes and Hygeia. And that is what Hitler and his cultured friends did. They tried to mimic the Greek perfection by filling their "nation" with Greekish sculptures of the Aryan race. However, they did not succeed, as the Romans did not succeed, before them. Do you agree Herr Schaeuble and Frau Merkel?
On the other hand, if one is an ordinarily normal person who does not search for "perfection", but is simply rational, he or she will agree that Rodin, probably the best sculptor after the classical Greeks and Michelangelo, was right to start his career by sculpting the head of a beggar with a broken nose.
So, we arrive at Hollywood, the contemporary Mecca (!) of manufacturing perfection (that is "beauty"), with the help of the chemical industry and of surgical dexterity, and we witness the most important cultural event in the world; the Oscars.
Given that Meryl Streep, an American of German-Swiss descent, is the epitome of Northern beauty, culture, etc, etc, as mentioned above, she should be compared to a Southern equivalent "entity". I think that it is fair to compare her to Berguzar Korel, a Turkish woman (an actress) with a Cretan [!!] grandmother and possibly with deep (biological) roots in the Southern human variety of the Mediterranean Basin, the fount of civilization, according to some. About her artistic and physical attributes I have already referred to, briefly, in my ZNet Commentary "Of Turks and of Greeks", of May 26, 2010. The reader of this article can draw his or her own conclusions by comparing the two "entities" by himself or by herself.
Personally, I would be curious to know the conclusions of Herr Schaeuble and Frau Merkel.
Leaving the domain of "physical" comparison we examine the "cultural" one.
We start with Ms. Streep:
There are two questions that should be asked of her.
1. What is her view about the incident during the filming of the "Karen Silkwood" story [the murder of a woman by the nuke industry], when the father of Karen Silkwood protested that the way his daughter was presented was false, and he was not only ignored but, also, insulted. If her view was that the treatment of Karen's father was wrong, did she demand that the story should be adapted according to the information furnished by the father and apologize to him?
2. Did she know that Margaret Thatcher was the "creation" of Robert Moss, the Australian CIA "operative", who before the "construction" of Thatcher was the "creator" of Pinochet, the most repulsive criminal in the post-Hitler era, was the "creator" of the Brazilian dictatorship, etc, etc. If she knew, did she demand that these facts should be disseminated through the film as instructive information to the ordinary people of the world?
I am certain that Streep, Schaeuble, and Merkel, as moral personalities, will agree that the Thatcherite, the Robert Moss, and the Karen Silkwood events should stop being parts of human history, in the future.
Back to Crete:
As I was watching the young women of Crete dancing, I suddenly realized that the women on the TV screen were almost exact copies [in form and movement] of the women on frescos of the Minoan Palace. That is, I realized that what I was observing was what was happening in Crete about 4 or 5 thousand years ago. Also, I became aware that this was a cultural event that was a significant moment, not only in the human history of Europe, but in the history of our planet. And that happened and is happening in Crete, Herr Saeuble and Frau Merkel, not in ... Hamburg.
Did I renege from my original Samuel Johnson thesis? No, I am simply angry, knowing that a part of that fresco could have been stolen by some northern nobleman and today might be in a German or British museum out of which some cultured gentlemen are making a profit. Also, imagine what the planet might have been suffering from the arrogance of these gentlemen, if the fresco, or Hermes, or Hygeia was found in ... Frankfurt or Arizona.
The works of Johann Sebastian Bach, or of Georg Friedrich Haendel, or of Praxitelis, or of Rodin, or of Noam Chomsky are ecumenical. What matters is that ordinary people should enjoy and appreciate them, instead of making millionaires out of the various Madonnas, ... Gorgonas, etc. By the way, Herr Schaeuble and Frau Merkel are you Wagnerites?
Also, why should people live and die in a culture of KKK? Where KKK is: Kinder, Kirche, Kueche (Kids, Church, Kitchen) or with the mentality of that other KKK-culture?
The Greek word "gymnos" means naked. The (modern) Greek word for "high school" is "gymnasio".
The Anglos took the word of the "dirty Greeks" and use it as: "gymnasium" ["gym" by the practical Yankees], "gymnast", "gymnastic", etc, etc.
The Saxons (a.k.a. Germans) took the word of a lower race, the Greeks, and use it as: "das Gymnasium" (grammar school; university preparatory school), "der Gymnasiast" (grammar school pupil), etc, etc.
It seems that the classical Greeks used to train in the "gym" ... naked!
Anyway, in the 1940s Greek kids had to spend 8 years in the gymnasio (high school), after 4 years in the elementary school. So, I spent 8 years from 1941 to 1948 in the gymnasio, 4 years of them under Nazi occupation.
My gymnasio was the "8th Gymnasio of Athens", a huge 4-story building, about 280 feet long that could accommodate more than 2,000 students with a vast school-yard of about 320 feet by 290 feet (and that, smack in the middle of an urban area). Famous graduates of the school: Two prime ministers (one of them chosen by the CIA), Kastoriadis, et al.
During the occupation, the "8th" was commandeered by the Nazis and a great number of them were stationed there. One day, while the Greeks were starving and dying in the streets, by the tens of thousands, the Nazis deposited a 10-feet high "hill" of potatoes by the wall of the eastern side of the school-yard. The potatoes remained there for weeks and started rotting. The stench was unbearable, even for the Christian Wehrmacht "supermen" themselves. Yet, they kept the potatoes there to the finish.
[Note: The kind-hearted Germans had allowed the Greek children to use a few class-rooms in a 2-story extension of the main building. Each morning, we were observing a dozen Nazi soldiers on bikes leaving the place. There was a "rumor" that they were the execution squad heading for their patriotic duty of murdering ordinary humans.]
Of course, dear Frau Merkel, the potatoes were not moved from the Wermacht Vaterland to the 8th Gymnasium of Athens, they were the products of Attica, the land extolled in poems by German poets of old, and were planted and harvested by ordinary Greek humans.
Now, 71 years later, almost one third of the Greek population has no money to buy even some potatoes. There is a wide spread opinion that you Frau Merkel and you Herr Schaeuble (two Germans) have something to do with this. Yet, this time the Greeks, did something about the potatoes.
Here is what is happening:
About a month ago, the farmers of Attica that produce potatoes occupied Syntagma Square, the Greek center of Resistance against the IMF, etc., and started giving away free tons of potatoes to needy Greeks. About a week ago, the farmers of the prefecture of Pieria, in northern Greece, were contacted by a group of people through the internet and asked to buy their potatoes for Euro 0.25 per kilo instead of Euro 0.10 that the (ever present) middlemen were paying them, while, finally, the potatoes were sold in the supermarkets for Euro 0.75 to 0.80 per kilo. Then the internet volunteers, "sold" the potatoes to the population for the same Euro 0.25 per kilo. In a few hours about 25 tons of potatoes were sold. Also, in a few hours the supermarkets, greengrocers, etc., cut the price of potatoes in half!
Today, this is spreading all over Greece not only for potatoes, which by now are reaching the hundreds of tons that are sold without the "help" of the middlemen, but, also, for beans, for rice, for olive oil, and even for meat.
As expected, the middlemen, a "strange" class of people that live a parasitic life, thanks to their connections with politicians, etc., started reacting by threatening the farmers, even with violence. The usual behavior of the pious and law-abiding citizens of the existing neo-liberal social order.
My estimate: This nascent movement against the middleman and the solidarity shown in the process, constitute a very important aspect of the Resistance of the Greeks against the arrogance of the "northern" elites. Also, we should not forget that up to now the deep wrath of the Greeks was silent, in spite of the demonstrations and the throwing of eggs and yogurt against the politicians. This might change.