February 8, 2010

Contemporary Greece and Westernization

[An interesting article written in 1997 that is proving itself to be rather prophetic the way things are progressing in present-day Greece. - J.S.]

by Chrestos Yannaras

A rather "incidental" item appeared in the magazine Economicos Tachidromos of 14 August 1997. It referred to a speech Henry Kissinger gave some three years prior, during which he said the following:

"The Greek people are a difficult if not impossible people to tame, and for this reason we must strike deep into their cultural roots. Perhaps then we can force them to conform. I mean, of course, to strike at their language, their religion, their cultural and historical reserves, so that we can neutralize their ability to develop, to distinguish themselves, or to prevail; thereby removing them as an obstacle to our strategically vital plans in the Balkans, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East."

Were such a condemnatory speech to appear in the Greek press today, regarding -- let us say -- Greece's inability to organize the 2004 Olympic Games (even if it were a reprint of something said years ago), there would be a storm of protest and much anger. It would make the front pages of the papers, and would no doubt be the lead story on all of the televised newscasts. The party in power would "strongly condemn" such a statement, and all of the opposition parties would issue their own caustic rejoinders. There would be a veritable "fiesta" of outrage; but, unfortunately, such a reaction would never occur over issues having to do with things that seriously impact the lives of contemporary Hellenes: such things as our language, our ecclesiastical tradition, our history, or the continuation of our culture.

By some strange coincidence, one week before the article in the E.T., the exceedingly "progressive" periodical, Samizdat, published ( 6 August 1997 ) an incognito article that predicted the inevitable and desirable Latinization of our Greek alphabet. It was declared, moreover, that such a development would have a "liberating" affect on contemporary Greek thought. It would seem that the author -- writing under a nom de plume -- has been mobilized to advance the political agenda that Kissinger so blatantly expounded. Are such people paid operatives of some dark conspiratorial power that is seeking to destroy Hellenism? Not really. Quite simply, these individuals are just our run-of-the-mill "progressive" Greek intellectuals, and nothing more.

The almost total indifference in Greece to the insulting and startlingly revealing declaration by Kissinger is something -- I must confess -- that I am beginning to understand. It is proof positive that the strategy outlined by "Henry the Great" [Kissinger] has been deployed and is already showing impressive results. I understand and await the Latinization of our alphabet as an example of things to come; This Latinization will be the result of the strategy that is working against Hellenism. But I was once young and have grown old, and have yet to understand just what kind of Hellas our native-born "progressives" have in mind. What kind of a country do they think will emerge as a result of their agitations on behalf of the Kissingers of the world?

What is it that they are pursuing and what is it that they fear? For years now I've been following the methodical war they've been waging -- virtually unchallenged -- in the Sunday pages of our "progressive" newspapers: the disdainful formality of their writing, the fanatical ironies and sarcasms, the jeering and the mockery concerning anything having to do with the continuance of our language or the ecclesiastical traditions of our people. We are dealing here -- it would seem to me -- with the psychological hang-ups of a backward peasantry burdened by a naked indifference as to whether our race continues, the quality of our lives, and the future of the native culture of our country. Do these people have an exemplary model, perhaps, of some "advanced" western nation, where the progressive mindset they espouse has worked to bring down the existing establishment? Maybe they have the same faulty vision of the West that [Adamantios] Korais had two centuries ago. Or they may even be anticipating the initial successes Marxism enjoyed in 19th century European thought.

Our "progressive" intellectualism, together with the political agitations of its adherents, are promoted by many who've been educated for years in the West; individuals who've taught in the universities of the West, and who've maintained continuous working relations and social contacts with the scientific and academic communities there. How is it that these people continue to ignore the growing threats against such vital and essential components of our civilization? Such things as our language, religion, and culture. I will contribute my personal observations concerning these questions. I have met, in western countries, Greek scientists and academicians with decades-long experience as professors and researchers, who are permanently afflicted with the inferiority complex of the backward peasant; the complex they carried with them when they left Greece to go to the West. Their main objective being to persuade the inhabitants of their new environment that "yes I had the misfortune of being born a Greek and an Orthodox Christian, but look at what a good westerner I've become." And because they've been taught that "western" means anticlerical, that it is synonymous with having a disdainful view of the falsely characterized "medieval Byzantium," that it requires that one display a sarcastic mockery of any metaphysical speculation, and that one be an ardent proponent of utilitarian rationalism, our "progressive" immigrants strive to embody all of these putative western concepts. This is how they have imperceptibly imprisoned themselves inside of their inbred peasant inferiority complex. They are perfectly capable practitioners of their particular disciplines, but totally incapable of correctly perceiving the spiritual ethos being promulgated all around them.

This particular malady -- the psychological complex afflicting our neo-Hellene "progressives" -- is a very difficult if not impossible illness to combat. It can't be cured by mere argument against it, no matter how compelling. I have only one suggestion to make to our political leadership (or to some enterprising private firm): let some responsible international polling company take a survey of European public opinion. How many agree or disagree with Kissinger's statement? How do our European partners envision our country in the future? Do they prefer us without our unique language? Without our religious traditions? Do they want us to be a colorless culture of consumer-drones, devoid of distinctive characteristics? Maybe from such a study our "progressive" political agitators will learn something new and useful.

Article by author, professor, and columnist, Chrestos Yiannaras, in Kathimerini, 24 August 1997.