Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Samaras at Colonus?


In a previous chapter we mentioned that the Athenian theatre in the form of art offered to the people the ideological arms they needed to defend their democratic, political and social institutions. Let's have a look at the immortality of the Greeks, understanding finally Theoclymenus' greatest fear that leads him to the elimination of every Greek that "comes in his turf."

L.154 "He kills any Greek he captures coming here as a stranger." L. 437 "Get away from the palace. Don't disturb my master or you will die because you're Greek. Greeks are not accepted here." L.446 "Stranger, I was given this order. No Greeks are allowed near the palace."L.468 "He is a big enemy of the Greeks." L.479-480 "because if my master catches you he will welcome you with death."

Why all this hatred? Isocrates claimed that the myth of Helen triggered the passionate hatred against barbarians. This feeling led to the freedom of the Greeks and the beginning of the elimination of the Asian  danger for Europe. How was this accomplished? As Isocrates points out, for the first time the Greeks agreed to cooperate and so they won a glorious victory. They proved and confirmed this later, during the Greco-Persian Wars, when they were able to protect Europe from "the Asian hordes." We would say that something similar happened  during the Greek War of Independence in 1821. Dionysios Solomos, shaken by the Greek Revolution of 1821, wrote in only a month the 158 stanzas of the poem "Hymn to Liberty," the 25 year old poet's first major work. The Hymn (that, we must note, has been translated in most languages) is inspired  by the Greek people's fights for freedom from Turkish servitude. If we look closely to the etymology of the words  Ελ-ένη (Helen)  and Ελ-ευθερία (Freedom) we will find many similarities. Like we've mentioned  in previous chapters, "ελ" symbolizes the positive side, meaning the bright one. However, these two Greek words have also a negative side.

Homer calls Helen "ριγεδανήν" ("horrible") because she caused  the death of many heroes. Let's see how our national poet Dionysios Solomos recognizes her. "I recognize you  by the fearsome sharpness of your sword, I recognize you by the gleam (in your eyes) with which you rapidly survey the earth. From the sacred bones of the Hellenes arisen..." I use these lines to point out her negative side. Homer and Solomos are two artists that did not define death as the end. Their works are works of escape towards something greater than death, and Solomos  ends up crying "Hail, o hail, Liberty!" referring to this paramount blessing of freedom.

The heroes of the Trojan War, as well as the heroes of the Greek Revolution of 1821, exceed their limits and so they are the only ones that achieve witnessing this paramount blessing.

Let's come back to our era. Recently,  Prime Minister of Greece Antonis Samaras gave an interview for the German newspaper "Bild" at the Maximos mansion. The Prime Minister was photographed in front of the painting "Grateful Hellas" by  Theodoros Vryzakis (1858), a work of art bearing multiple national symbolisms. Long ago, we saw former Prime Minister George Papandreou giving an interview for Greece's state television sitting at the same desk, however, he avoided appearing in front of this painting  but chose a blue background. George Papandreou received many negative and defiant  comments for this attitude. The comments being justified or not, the answer given to the Hellenic Parliament by the under-secretary was this: "The painting "Grateful Hellas" by Theodoros Vryzakis (1858) belongs to the National art Gallery and Alexander Soutzos Museum which has the institutional responsibility, among others, for the conservation  of the works of art that are lent for use to other institutions whenever the Gallery finds it necessary. This particular painting has been returned to the National Gallery and has been replaced by another one with the title "Endless field-Delphi", etc.

I would like to point out the phrase spoken two years ago, on October 1st, 2010 "whenever the Gallery finds  it necessary" that makes necessary the return of the painting in the Prime Minister's office on August 25th, 2012. So, the Prime Minister  and the current government make the return of the painting at the Maximos mansion necessary and intentional. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras recently chose to be  photographed with confidence in front of this painting for the German newspaper, a photograph that went around the world. We can analyze the message he wanted to send with the help of his interview for the newspaper. First of all, there is the title adopted by many media: "We need some air to breathe." We would say that this desire is inept and his use of the plural "we want " and "we breathe" is apt because he represents a nation. Why inept? Because personal freedom means that one is able to act (not only in a personal way but also) in the social sphere without being confined by coercion.

Social freedom is secured by equal opportunities for all the members of society and contains the freedom of employment. Next, he mentions that " a possible return to the use of the drachma  would mean the destruction  of Greece and the end of democracy. It would mean five more years of depression and unemployment would reach the percentage of 40%. A nightmare for the country, financial collapse, social turbulence and unprecedented crisis of democracy. The return to the drachma would cause a further decline of the living standards by 70%. Which economy, which democracy can survive like this? In the end, (he notes) it would be like the Weimar Republic."

Here, we discern fear. He's afraid of the consequences  of the collision with more powerful structures. But what is the Prime Minister actually doing? He deprives himself of the ability to use his freedoms. Dictatorships are a typical example of situations where political freedom does not exist. It's typical  for societies to ask their government for more political freedom. And the solution for the Prime Minister's keen desire (which is freedom) is given by another "Theoclymenus". According to Bloomberg L.P. , during the earnest meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Germany and Greece, Minister Westerwelle was adamant against the renegotiation of the terms concerning the austerity measures and Minister Avramopoulos stood "at attention" and noted in his turn that Greece would present in the next weeks the austerity plan  containing the announced cuts as part of Greece's constancy concerning its commitments.

Prime Minister, if you think that these measures will prevent us from becoming a Weimar Republic, then please take down the painting behind your desk and place a new one invoking Oedipus.

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