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Ithaka on the Horizon by Stavro Nashi

Ithaka on the Horizon

by Stavro Nashi

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12 March 2008

Comments

Stavros

Simon,

I especially liked this part:

There are two anecdotes among the many that I especially liked. First at the crowded public funeral of the national poet Kostis Palamos on 28 February 1943 when, among a great crowd of mourners, George Katsimbalis began at the open graveside to sing the banned national anthem – a whole verse on his own followed by silence – German soldiers looking on, his wife trying to shut him up, and Ioanna Tsatsos, George Seferis’ sister, tugging at his sleeve. He begins the second verse, feeling like a drowning man, then a fat Corfiot friend makes a duet, and then, ‘like throwing a switch’, thousands took up the hymn to freedom. And second when Ioanna Tsatsos writes on 12 October 1944, that the German flag on the Acropolis came down ‘as though swallowed by the Holy Rock, and in its place rose the flag with the beloved colour of our sky’. I am embarrassed at the thought that next to my own there’s no other flag I should so gladly see marking a moment of great happiness – even though I deprecate the waving of flags in triumph (except for my brother’s sacred football) and admire Dr.Johnson for saying ‘patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.’

Stavros

BTW, selections from the Axion Esti-Romiosini CD are on the MGO sidebar (in case you haven't noticed).

Simon Baddeley

But you might like to see this exchange of e-mails which I refer to as the Corfu Knickers crisis:
http://democracystreet.blogspot.com/search?q=hahahahaha

Stavros

Simon,

I have taken a liking to you and to your blog. I must be honest and tell you however, that I was more than a little disturbed by one of the things your friend (who I assume is a Greek) said: "stupid flags and what they represent!"

I was taken aback by this because like you I love the Greek flag as much as I love my own. A flag is a symbol of the country it represents and if one loves his country he should accord the appropriate respect to its symbol. Perhaps patriotism like that of Koukidis and Glezos has out lived its usefulness these days in the minds of some. I still think it counts for something and if I am not mistaken so did Sam Johnson.

Boswell tells us that Samuel Johnson made his famous pronouncement that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel but he doesn't provide any context for how the remark arose, so we don't really know for sure what was on Johnson's mind at the time. Boswell however, assures us that Johnson was not indicting patriotism in general, only false patriotism.

While I can excuse your young sailing friend his unthinking attempt at levity it seems indicative of a lack of understanding for what constitutes proper decorum in a country not his own. It may be OK for Americans or their British cousins (or even some Greeks) to wear their respective flags as clothing or to display them with women's panties, however, for many of us it is not only a source of anger but deep sadness. I thought The Greek policemen were quite restrained. I guarantee that were this to happen in Turkey and such blatant disrespect were to take place involving the Turkish flag, things would have been much more serious.

I hope you take my comments in the spirit they are given.

Simon Baddeley

Stavros. Writing on contentious subjects – and what else is worth reading – brings to mind that hoary distinction between the separate roles of egg and bacon in breakfast. The chicken is involved. A chicken, like me,(I love Greece but I have never fought for her) can be confronted with the difference between themselves and the bacon makers. I feel you have to earn the right to love your flag. In the UK we treat our flag with little respect. Many brave fellows don't even known which way round it hangs, nor do they know its history and asked to make one they would be confused. We do not merely fly it with panties, we make it into them! This is why the incident I described seemed to an unthinking Englishman no more than a joke - puerile, yes, but just silly, not criminal. There is a deep well of reticence the British about their flag - not the St George that flies at soccer games, but the Union Jack or especially the red ensign and our naval white ensign. The flag I fly from my boat is casually referred to as 'the red duster'. http://www.flickr.com/photos/sibadd/413424856/ use dusters for cleaning, for goodness sake. But look on the wall of my step-father's office to the right of the old picture and see my duster!:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/sibadd/509809995/
I flew that the only time I began to feel like bacon. On my feelings for the Greek flag recall my words: 'I sailed to Greece from Messina with a friend in July 1962. The first morning of our two day crossing we were bouncing and swaying on a swift etesian reach. A sleek Greek frigate cut smoothly through the cresting waves heading west. In return to our salute she dipped her flag to us. I get a lump even now at that gesture - seeing that lovely ensign falling and rising again in the seconds of her passing as though official Greece was saying "yasus" just to us.' I know what the lines on your flag stand for - Ελευθερία ή Θάνατος. To have that ensign, even only as a courtesy flag on my own ship is a source of pride to me. I have the original Greek flag from my voyage to Athens. I do not fly it as it is too delicate, too precious. It stays on board (second starboard locker back from the bow)in case the one I use gets tattered or of I were ever called to play the bacon role for Ελλάς. I know what the lines stand for and the cross and the blue and the white. That young man was an idiot but I would have ignored him if he'd done the same thing to a red duster. My feelings for my flag are personal and only very very rarely as public as I make them here to you because you are someone (and others who read your blog) with whom I feel I can briefly reveal the depth of my feelings about this. Well done Greek for making an Englishman squeal! And of course I'm not offended. I was more worried I might have offended you and I'm pleased you replied so forthrightly. Xerete. Simon (may I reflect on and quote this exchange on Democracy Street?)

Simon Baddeley

...and I should have added, on the subject of bacon and eggs, that while the chicken is 'involved' the pig is 'committed'.

Stavros

Simon,

It was not my intent to make you or anyone else squeal. You are part of an endangered species: the PhilHellene. A species whose extinction I am working hard to prevent. Greeks haven't always been very kind to these folks. I personally admire them.

I see the whole issue as part of a larger and more serious problem. I don't see patriotism or nationalism as obsolete or passe, yet it is dying with little hope of revival. As European and American elites hurtle toward a world where all differences are wiped out, the nation-state is slowly being relegated to the dustbin of history. I am not anxious to replace it with something that appears much less palatable, not to mention, less democratic.

http://tv.nationalreview.com/uncommonknowledge/post/?q=MmZkNDk4M2FjNWJmM2M0NzdhMzgyYTRiMjk5NjlhMDg=

Nations are like family members. One day you are proud as can be of them, the next day you are embarrassed and saddened by something they've done wrong. Despite all of this you would never turn your back on them and would not think twice about coming to their aid in a time of crisis.

Please feel free to quote this exchange as needed. I thoroughly enjoy our give and take. Na se kala.

Margaret

Stavros, I had been about to write a post on my blog about a French Resistence hero, but he seems such a pale shadow in comparison to your chap. I've read more about him, and, well, wow, he seems to have led a very principled life quite apart from the courageous gesture in relation to the German flag.

I've also very much enjoyed reading your exchange with Simon, not least because I have been party to many reverential lowerings of our red ensign, or blue yacht club ensign at sunset. At least it is difficult to put an ensign on upside down - a fate all too easy to befall the Union Jack. I can think of many people who would unthinkingly have hoisted the panties, and that serves to remind me that British humour is very much an acquired taste if not in bad taste. We have no intuitive understanding of the respect with which national flags are sometimes viewed in other countries, though I think I'd add Holland, France and Germany at least to the club of those who, with us, have insufficient respect. Yachtmen above the age of thirty five are an honourable exception - the rules of the Royal Yachting Association are bed-time reading for most of them, and, as with the Greek laws, demand that only good quality, not faded, ensigns are used, and used properly.

The Union Jack (not the red ensign) makes a lot of British people feel very uncomfortable because it has been hijacked by hyper-nationalists. I think that is why it only comes out on occasions when it cannot possibly be misinterpreted or misconstrued.

I think we really struggle with our sense of identity in the UK at the moment. It is a real challenge to form a sense of national identity that is inclusive whilst not throwing out many of our wonderful historic traditions, especially having quite recently ditched multiculturalism as a bad idea. In the life of a nation the thirty or forty years of mass immigration are not a long time, and we have not yet found our feet.

I watched the YouTube clip and think that the expert overstates the case. Whilst there are many (my father included) who mistrust anything that emanates from Europe, I don't think it is membership of the EU that challenges our sense of national identity, nor the national identity of any other EU country. The EU is still, whatever anyone says, an economic entity that has almost nothing to say about culture and belonging except to those who, sadly, feel they do not belong to country of which they have citizenship.

Stavros

Margaret,

We all struggle with our sense of identity don't we.

I'd write a bit more but I just arrived in New York City to attend my sister Katina's 50th birthday celebration and I'm pretty tired. The whole clan will be here. I'll write about my experiences when I get back.

legein

What is most interesting about the whole "flag stealing" incident in 1941 is how ironic it was for the German Reich. The German Reich perceived themselves as the modern manifestation of ancient Greece; and more specifically, Sparta. However, their lack of any understanding of ancient history shows just what sort of neanderthals they really were. For example, they exalted the art, literature and thought of ancient Greece; specifically the works of Athens, the Ionian cities and Magna Graecia, but whose regions and cultural topos did not resemble the Third Reich at all. Also, they were not the works of Sparta - which the Third Reich held up as the ideal society. Furthermore, they failed to understand that the cultural continuity felt by the modern Greeks would result in feeling nothing but derision when seeing a German flag fluttering on the Acropolis.

The same goes for today in some segments of American society i.e. they seem themselves as the ideal manifestation of some imaginary Greco-Roman world. In reality, they resemble a corruption of the ancient ideal - resulting in nihilism.

legein

Stavros, good comment on the nation. Hellenic scholar, Gregory Jusdanis wrote a very good book on the nation whose first chapter you can access here:

http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s7070.html

Asgard

Is there any documented (non-Greek) history on this lowering of the Nazi flag? I don't doubt that it occurred but sometimes Greeks exaggerate things and I want to see if this is a campfire story (however warm & fuzzy) gone round and round?

legein

Asgard, just as Americans and the English exaggerate things e.g. WMDs, Abu Graib etc, so do other people. However, look up the book Humanism by Tony Lewis or the German archives. They mention the incident.

Stavros

Legein,

Thanks for the link.

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