This post was written for Phylax Blog.
Anyone who has spent any time at all reading MGO will have realized by now how much I love everything about being Greek. That love was nurtured by the fact that I grew up around Greeks and my own Greek family. Living in Greece, with all its challenges and then marrying a Greek woman, only further solidified that love. The Greek experience is a part of me. It is indelibly etched in my soul and amazingly, it becomes stronger as I age. My long association with the Greek World has crystallized in my mind the advantages of what so much of Greek culture and my Orthodox Christian faith have to offer.
Greeks love the sea. It courses through our veins. Perhaps that is why I joined the Marines. I have had my share of shipboard life while plying the seas all over the world. Like other Greeks before me, I've met all kinds of people. My travels coupled with growing up in a multi-cultural society have led me to the understanding that men are not exactly created equal, except in the eyes of a loving God. Some are smart, some imbeciles. Some cultured, some illiterate. Some are righteous, some sinful. I have also figured out that Greeks are not supermen or better than others. They are, however, as history teaches us, as a group, exceptional and unique. Most Diasporan Greeks have an idealized picture of Greece that they nurture in their heads. They create a version that is often not quite, shall we say, accurate. Greeks can be frustrating, stubborn, cantankerous and succumb to a debilitating "xenolatria," (love of that which is foreign) interspersed at times with a self-defeating arrogance. Cultures, like people, are not created equally either. Some have contributed more to Mankind than others. During the long expanse of history Greeks, in spite of their numerous faults, have had ample opportunities to make enormous contributions to the World. And so they did.
The recent events in Greece surrounding the teachers strike have made me think long and hard about why Greece, along with the rest of Western World, is teetering on the brink. In 1940, the entire world was also hanging by a thread. Two ideologies were colliding, western democracy, an imperfect system, that was sputtering and crawling along and totalitarianism, which was running by leaps and bounds, with determination, into the future. The Allies were losing, and losing big, until a little country decided to shout a collective "No" and make a stand. The rest is history. Many of the Greeks of 1940 had seen Greece rise to Olympian heights during the Balkan Wars and then fall precipit0usly in ten short years, dashing their hopes and dreams against the realities of the moment. They had dreamed and named their children "Fereniki (Bring Victory)" and "Nikiforos (Carrier of Victory), only to see many of their sons leave their bleached bones on the barren plains of Anatolia. The tumult engendered by the Catastrophe caused Greece to fracture, flirting with Communism and Fascism. The Greek Communist Party (KKE) found fertile ground among the discontented, the downtrodden and the poor. General Ioannis Metaxas, a staunch monarchist and nationalist tried to unite the country by creating a new "Third Hellenic Civilization" that seemed uncomfortably like a shadow of the emerging fascist regimes in Italy and Germany.
All that aside, the choice Ioannis Metaxas made in that dimly lit room in the early morning hours while dressed in his bathrobe and sitting across from the Italian ambassador who carried IL Duce's ultimatum, was not the choice of one solitary man, it was the choice of an entire Nation that answered the call. That generation sits in stark contrast to our own, cowering in the wake of Radical Islam and a resurgent Left that seeks to undermine the very meaning of the civilization handed down to us by the Ancient Greeks. The Greeks of 1940 were a different breed. They were forged in the crucible of war and poverty. They were faithful to their God and his Church, they were faithful to the Ethnos, and most importantly they had that indescribable sense of "Filotimo." Perhaps some were illiterate, uncultured, "country bumpkins," however, all of them answered the call in the face of overwhelming odds because they had something that we, with our all our so-called education and expensive worldly goods lack, they believed in themselves.
Back then, Greeks did not depend on the State to fulfill their every need; they didn't feel entitled. They struggled to send their children to school expecting them to take full advantage of all that education had to offer. More importantly, they expected them to learn how to be responsible citizens of the Ethnos. Back then, Greeks still looked upon children with love, but understood that children were just that, still trying to figure the world out and in no position to teach adults about what they should or should not do. Children were also expected to look and act like the children that they were. There is a saying: "It takes a village to raise a child." The question today all of us need to ask is: "Who exactly is that village?" It is not the television, political parties, the trade unions or even, and I say this with a profound sense of sadness, their teachers. Parents have the primary responsibility to do so and we are failing. When parents fail to fulfill their primary responsibility it is up to the Church, not the secular world to remind and assist them. Until Greeks reacquaint themselves with that Church and the Church reacquaints itself with the true needs of its people, parents are on their own.
Greek society, like other Western societies, is in crisis. Time is short, but it 's not too late. It is possible to rediscover the things that made Greeks unique and exceptional. Greeks can either continue to tear themselves apart or look back to the Generation of 1940 to determine how we can again become a beacon rather than a flickering candle. Faith, Unity, Tradition, Paidea, and Ethnos were the guiding lights of the Generation of 1940. Those lights can show us and others the way, once again.