This post was written for and appeared previously on Phylax Blog
One of the goals of blogs like Phylax Blog has been to bring together Diasporan Greeks with their brothers and sisters in Greece and to facilitate a dialogue about what it means to be Greek and the issues affecting Greeks no matter where they live. Globalization has helped dispersed Diasporan communities to maintain contact between themselves and with the Patrida. It minimizes the physical distance between Greeks, which is the main obstacle to unity and survival.
Dr. George Prevelakis, the Konstantine Karamanlis Professor of Hellenic and Southeastern European Studies at the Fletcher School of International Studies, Tufts University in Boston has written an insightful paper. Professor Prevelakis contends that the future of Hellenism is dependent on how the current conflict between the Greek State and Greek Diasporas plays out. He writes: "For Greeks not satisfied with prosperity in return for geopolitical dependency and denial of Greek values, the present situation is quite humiliating. Spiritual, if not blood children, of the Ancients and of Byzantine and Ottoman elites, are Greeks now to be reduced to servants of second rate European tourists?" According to Prevelakis, the Greek State, organized according to Western criteria, chose the route of nation building and relegated the Greek Diaspora which had played a vital role before and during the establishment of the nation state, to a slow extinction. Unfortunately the collapse of the Megali Idea and the subsequent uprooting of Diasporan Greeks in Asia Minor frustrated any hopes for expanding a State beyond the confines of the Balkans. In its wake a new Greek Diaspora was created. Today about five million Greeks, equivalent to somewhere between 40-50% of the Greek population of Greece and Cyprus combined, is scattered mostly in English speaking countries. The sons and daughters of often illiterate villagers have done well in their new homes and now occupy enviable positions among the intellectual elite, the professions and in business. Despite diversity, the Greek Diaspora is united by the Greek speaking Orthodox Church via the Patriarch of Constantinople, the main institution of the Greek Diaspora for centuries.The Diasporan communities are in a much better position to survive and prosper in a new globalized world with their inherent reliance on informal networks, family, cohesive communities, education, cultural traditions and religion.
Prevelakis contends that "Globalization favors Greeks but, at the same time, the crisis of the territorial Nation State weakens them. The Greek State created according to models foreign to Greek traditions, has never managed to function properly, in spite of the efforts of great political leaders." Initially the Greek State referred to the Diaspora as "Greeks abroad," in other words Greeks who would return eventually. If some of them assimilated and were lost to Hellenism, that was an affordable price to be paid for the benefits incurred. The remittances that these Greeks sent home were an integral part of the Greek economy. Greek immigration was also a safety valve that relieved the pressure of unemployment and the lack of opportunity in Greece. The cash cow assumed another dimension when the Greek American community mobilized to support Greek national interests after the invasion of Cyprus. The emergence of a changing diaspora spearheaded by a third generation which is increasingly trying to redefine themselves by rediscovering previously abandoned roots has been difficult for the Greek State to control. The State can neither understand the current Diaspora and its nature nor control it despite efforts to do so. Professor Prevelakis sees the main factors of Diasporan identity as language, religion and family. These pillars are under attack in Greece itself as it attempts to modernize and adapt to the values of Western European society. The critical question that he poses and ultimately Greeks of the Diaspora and those living in Greece must answer is this: Will the dynamic of the Diaspora impose its logic on the declining Greek State or will the Greek State, in its spasmodic endeavors to keep afloat strangle the perspective of the Diaspora?
Read the whole thing.