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The Greek Diaspora: A return home The Greek Diaspora: A return home
by Apopseis.gr
2012-11-28 11:40:27
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The Greek diaspora has existed now for nearly four thousand years,for Greece is but a  small nation that has ejected its surplus population anytime the tidal pressures of overpopulation,war,famine or strife has washed over Greece.

The diaspora has been active since the Mycenaean times, when ancient Hittite palace records referred to a people pestering its western borders called the 'Achijawa' - the Achaeans, another ancient name for Greeks -  or to cities such as Corinth who would send out its settlers to establish new colonies in Sicily and Southern Italy; bringing the Greek language,the alphabet,the vine and the olive to Italy and to the rest of Europe.

apopseis01_01From them till now, Greeks have has been sending its sons and daughters on ships to travel to the far ends of the earth to search for a new life, for a new beginning; and it's in this same Odyssean,swashbuckling and adventurous vain that our parents have travelled to the foreign shores of America,Canada and Australia.

So the question arises, what is home to a Greek from the diaspora? Where is home?

The concept of Greece,the idea of Greece - and unlike any other nation - has not necessarily been tied down by a geographical qualifier,but has been defined by its very people.

Yet longingly have these Greeks of the diaspora looked back to their Homeland with a deep painful melancholy that can never be understood unless one leaves one's home.

When I was young, my late father in Sydney would play some records of the singer Stelios Kazantzidis, whose mournful songs would sing of the alienation and homesickness felt on foreign shores; and even to this day as a grown man,these songs never fail to bring a tear to my eyes and invoke a feeling of a deep yearning to return back to Greece.

Yet every year in August for one month, I do return to the bosom of my family back in the highlands of Epirus to enjoy the annual celebration of the holy virgin, to the Greek islands to become salt encrusted in the foamy flecked waves of the Aegean, and then onto Athens to hit the bouzoukia, and go to the Posidonio club to see Panos Kiamos sing, to the rooftop tavernas under the shade of the Acropolis such as 'O Kritikos' to dance a nighttime zeimbekiko under the Periclean walls.

Then to return back home to Sydney Australia, to immerse myself in the life that I have built in this beautiful harbour city on the heroic achievement of my parents,and when I do return, the question arises in me, what am I?

Am I Australian? Am I Greek? or am I a Greek Australian, or an Australian Greek?

I have pondered deeply this question and have come to the simple conclusion that I am both; I am a Greek, and also an Australian citizen. On what ever pillows my head rests is Greece, I will always be Greek, yet I am also a citizen of Australia, and fully contribute and participate in the culture and institutions of that wonderful nation.

The question of identify is very important to the Greeks of the diaspora, thus a brief exegesis is warranted. The early days of migration to Australia by Greeks was met with racism and bias.

I would attend a coastal high school south of Sydney, where the preoccupation of the locals was surfing, where I was the only 6'2 Greek amongst a population of short blond headed Australians; it was akin to being on a different planet, the cultural differences could not have been greater,and every afternoon when I would come back home, I would hide my right hand behind my back from my mother to hide the teeth marks of the Australia students I fought with just about everyday.

This experience has left some deep scars in a large portion of Greeks in Australia, which forced many Greeks to change their names such as Nikos, Stephanos, and Dimitrios, to Nick, Steve and Jim; whereby many Greeks buckled under the pressures of assimilation to melt into the population to escape the racism - yet I remained Nikos and refused to buckle.

This was the typical experience of Greek kids in Australia in the 70's and 80's, and a pressure that can never be understood by Greeks back home. But in time, Australian society evolved and has became very cosmopolitan and finally realized how valuable the contribution that these Greek migrants made, and today we all live in a very happy symbiotic relationship appreciating each other's culture.

But the damage has been done, whereby many Greeks of the diaspora have been lost to Greece, who no longer call themselves Greek.

So what can be done? What then are the needs, wants and expectations of the Greeks of the diaspora?

The simple answer lies in cultivating a sense of belonging with the Greek homeland, of fostering ties both political and cultural with the diaspora Greeks in every age group; from promoting educational summer trips to Greece for overseas Greek children in their teens,enabling more diaspora Greeks to attain their Greek passport (such as I have ), and to finally and most importantly giving the diaspora Greeks the vote and political representation in their Greek homeland, and in European parliaments.

Only through measures such as these will a stronger bond and affection between Greece and its long lost children of the diaspora be built, like a strong bridge that will bring a mutual and beneficial outcome for both parties.

For the twenty first century has become a smaller world, one interconnected marketplace and capitalist system whereby the ripples that socio-political and economic events bring affect the well being, and the social and economic balance of nations,as  has been recently attested by the GFC global meltdown; and the subsequent social and economic malaise infecting Europe.

With the recessionary pressures facing Greece, which is now approaching the socio-economic conditions of a depression;the Greeks of the diaspora look back to their homeland with both sadness and anger.

Sadness in that so many innocent working people and pensioners are suffering,and anger that this mutant European experiment is being forced upon everyday Europeans through the dictates of Brussels, enabled by their weak,and hitherto feeble politicians, whose modus operandi has been but to feather their own and their family's financial nests;in the closed shops and professions that are restricting the competitiveness of not only Greece, but of many other European nations as well.

For Greece economically has been a basket case for the past one hundred years; whose economy is akin to a 1930's archaic soviet-style planned economy being kept in the cellar: by Marxist left leaning politicians, by selfish unions and vested interest groups such as chemists,solicitors,taxis,manufacturing, doctors,shipping,by right leaning politicians who paid lip service to capitalism and only took care of their families with the fakelia (cash filled envelopes),and also to the petroleum industry  - whereby all of these cowardly vested interested groups placed their collective feet on the chest of the Greek citizen, and accordingly  made their society one of the most expensive and uncompetitive in the world.

One reason given by Greek politicians and the establishment against giving the diaspora an equal political vote and representation in the institutions of Greece and Europe is that this will upset the political status quo of Greece forever - and the positions of these vested interests groups.

The diaspora Greeks love their homeland, and one advantage of living overseas is that we can look at what is happening in Europe with an objectivity that is missing in Greek society at present that could become a very powerful catalyst for positive change and evolution in Greece.

Over the past four thousand years, Greece has gone through more turbulent and violent convulsions in its history than any other nation, yet she exists still, and in this next battle to raise Greece up can the Greek diaspora yet help; by giving the Greek diaspora political enfranchisement,this move through one stroke of a politician's pen will instantaneously expand the borders of Greece, to an organic flexible definition ofGreece.

We live in an intertwined capitalist world and Greece cannot afford to swim against this capitalist tide in a leftist 'Nephelokokkygian' illusion, Greece needs to cultivate a sense of hope and aspirational ideals in its people.

 Enfranchise the Greek diaspora, and the Greek diaspora will return home; not literally necessarily, but in deeds and action through this new 'umbilical chord'  to instantaneously enrich and assist its Greek homeland, for then they will genuinely have two homelands that they will belong to.

************************************************************************* 

Nikos Laios, North Sydney, Australia


    
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Emanuel Paparella2012-11-28 14:42:17
Indeed that little hyphen between Greek and Australian is symbolical of the bridge between two cultures and two continents and can be very valuable in a global society. The same phenomenon exists in the US which is good at integration of immigrants and used to be characterized as a melting pot of sorts, but perhaps “symphony of cultures” is a much better metaphor. Coming from a family with three generations of immigrants from Italy, I can well understand that what you propose, Mr. Laios, , makes eminent sense: the result of the enfranchisement for the Greek diaspora will invariably result in closer relations between Greek-Australians and their ancestral homeland. It is also an indisputable fact that the Greeks or the Italians abroad in general have a better more objective perspective of what is going on in Greece or Italy; biculturalism may be difficult but it give one a better perspective and can be very invaluable to both the mother country and the host country.


Leah Sellers2012-11-29 05:33:05
Indeed, Brother Nikos,
As a Woman, I can whole heartedly attest to the enriching nutritioanl benefits, and experiential Shared Life's Blood flow of connective and sustaining Umbilical Chords.


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