“…a craven and cringingly embarrassing pandering to the West’s classical image of what Greeks are supposed to be…”

27 Apr

The above is a quote from my April 22nd post: “Turkey in Europe”

Just to get a minor point out of the way first.  The sheer arrogance of this “Hellas” and “Hellene” campaign — that speakers of other languages should change a word in their vocabulary to suit our bloated fantasies — enrages me.  “Griego,” for example, is not a Greek word that you can change; it’s a Spanish word that Spanish-speakers use to refer to Greeks.  Are you going to make them change it, Katinaki?  You don’t hear Hungarians running around insisting the world call them Magyars, or Finns launching a campaign to have us all call them — do you even know? — Suomalaiset.  (Unfortunately, there are some annoying Turks who are trying to get everyone to say “Turkiye” instead of “Turkey,” with the lip-pursed umlaut on the ‘u’ and the the extra syllable at the end.)

The occasion for this post is this ridiculous personage below: Katerina Moutsatsou, who hasn’t just posted one video but is all over the web and is apparently a Greek actress, though she sounds and acts Greek-American to me:

Grrrrrrrr……  You didn’t invent the West, yavrum; the West invented you — ki akoma na to pareis habari — and in deep, profound ways your refusal to see that is fundamental to the current crisis.  Because once the West invented you, motivated by cultural and ideological desires of its own that had nothing to do with you, once it got you to internalize its image of you so that two hundred years later you’re still trying to squeeze cultural capital out of that internalized colonial identity — because this stupid “Hellene” campaign is just an expression of that pathology — the West proceeded to ignore you and still does.  But keep preaching that gospel and see how far you get.

Happily, she’s not being taken seriously by most.  Here’s a great riposte to Moutsatsou’s video, which in contrast to her inflated silliness, is the best of what a Greek can be: ironic, angry, smart, aware and funny.  This guy Spyros originally had a little cut of Moutsatsou in the beginning so viewers could get the reference, but the young miss made him remove it for — not kidding — copyright reasons, and he had to re-edit and repost it.  He says in Greek in his comments: “I reposted without the part where Mouts’ [Moutsatsou] is talking…” — “mouts” being suspiciously close to gay Greek slang for “annoying chick” — probably unintentional but you never know.  “Malakas,” for those who aren’t Mexican or haven’t otherwise worked in a New York diner kitchen, is a multi-toned word.  Originally meaning “masturbator” I guess, it now means “asshole” or “jerk” but among young men (and increasingly young women) it can be a totally innocuous interjection like “mate” or “buddy” or “dude.”  Spyros absolutely means it in the harder-core “asshole” sense.  I was especially moved by: “I don’t blame globalization; I blame immigrants.” (see my April 14th post: “Ain’t that America”)

And then there’s Manos, a talk show host who just goes on an all-out firebombing of Moutsatsou’ pretensions.  The one Greek phrase he uses and that I feel obligated to translate is when he says, “if I owe any money…it’s because “Hoi hwraioi echoun chree” (“Hot guys have debts…”) which is the refrain of a Greek pop song — a piece of crap as music but the refreshing heights of Greek impudence given the current situation — whose lyrics go: “Hot guys have debts…and they pay them with kisses…so tell me what I owe and we’ll settle accounts in my arms.”  Dedicated to Angela Merkel.

Any issue like this becomes an instant riot-fest of satire in Greece, something maybe we did invent, because give them a good story and it suddenly turns into a country of ten million very sharp-witted, merciless, gossipy housewives.  God help you if they find even the tiniest crack in your position or your posturing.  Miss Moutsatsou is going to get run out of the country soon; once Greeks are on to you, you’re finished.  As Cavafy wrote: “…κ’ οι Aλεξανδρινοί τον πάρουν στο ψιλό, ως είναι το συνήθειο τους, οι απαίσιοι.”


Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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