Little Rock, Greece

26 May

One of the Little Rock Nine*, among the Black students who were the first to bravely attend officially desegregated high schools in 1957 despite the violent opposition.

If you’re Greek, and your wish that the earth would open up and swallow you hasn’t materialized yet, here’s some videos of Greeks acting like the crazed yahoos in the background of the above, now classic, photo, only towards the destitute and suffering migrants stuck in their country by EU stupidity.

One report from Al Jazeera:

And another two-part but short documentary by a Norwegian production crew that I couldn’t get any more information on:

Epiros, the beautiful but rocky and barren part of Greece readers must by now know that my family is from, is known f0r two kinds of folk songs especially: dirges to be sung at wakes for the dead (or on other occasions too, just for the cathartic pleasure they give, which tells you a lot about the region and its people), and songs of emigration (“xeniteia” — “kurbet” — yes, the Turks have a word for it too).  Xeniteia, from “xeno-” strange or foreign, is not so much emigration itself, as it is the state of being in a foreign place, away from your home, your people.  For as far back as I know, meaning up to three generations, every man on all sides of my family worked and lived abroad for perhaps the greater chunk of his adult life, in places as diverse as Constantinople, Bucharest, Buenos Aires, New York and Watch Hill, Rhode Island.  When my father’s village had around fifteen hundred people, there were around another five hundred Dervitsiotes living in Peabody, Massachusetts, working mostly in that town’s tanneries; they would joke that “Peabody, Mass.” meant “Our Peabody” — “mas” being the first person plural possessive pronoun in Greek.  Many of Epiros’ villages were inhabited almost entirely by women, children and old people; it was almost inconceivable that an able-bodied young man would just stay home and not try his luck abroad somewhere.

But Epirotes are not the only Greeks for whom xeniteia constitutes (or did) a deeply embedded chunk of consciousness and identity.  There wasn’t a Greek family from any region that didn’t have someone living and working abroad, and the longing and sorrow of that condition was something everyone instinctively felt; it was a collective emotion.

And that’s what makes these outbursts of anti-foreigner violence even more shameful and disgusting.  Again, one sees how the loss of diaspora consciousness is one of the things that has so cheapened and impoverished the Neo-Greek soul in the past few decades.  Again, I suggest, as I did in a previous post, that we all re-watch Gianni Amelio’s beautiful 1994 Lamerica: “…which is the story of how a cool, smug Young European Sicilian gets stranded in Albania and realizes that he’s only a generation away from being counted among the wretched of the earth himself — and how dangerous it is to forget that.”

I bash my peeps a lot.  There are reasons for it, complicated ones, but among them is the responsibility I feel to make sure my tribe’s slate is clean before I criticize anybody else.  But an equal object of my bashing here is the European Union, which aside from proving itself to be a neo-colonialist endeavour masquerading as the Highest Achievement of Western Humanism Project, has also revealed itself to be a half-assed, thrown together mess on so many institutional and bureaucratic levels.  (Yes, neo-colonialist: the Frangoi** gave up their colonies after the war and then discovered the exploitable potential of Europe’s own periphery again.)  A large part of these destitute peoples’ problem has been caused by EU refugee-immigration policy, which dictates that you can’t expel an asylum-seeker from the Union, but you can return him to his country of entry, which, since 2009, when Spain and Italy, with their greater resources, tightened up their maritime border security, has been Greece, the country least able to absorb them economically or deal with them administratively.  The above videos are two years old, but since that time, when by some estimates, one million refugees had accumulated in the country, all Europe did was ignore the problem while prescribing more diet pills for Greece.

Only this past spring did Brussels even give some aid to Greece to open up frighteningly named “closed hospitality centers,” detention camps on unused military sites, which given the condition I imagine those sites are in, and the fact that Greek police, who recently voted for the Nazi Golden Dawn party at a rate of more than fifty percent in some districts in Athens, will be involved in running them, will be a human rights paradise, I’m sure:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/29/greece-detention-centres-migrants

Thank God, the Merciful and the Compassionate, that we have a large, healthy Turkish minority in the northeast that provides imams, like the one in the second video, to give a decent burial to the mostly Muslim, anonymous and alone migrants who get blown up or who drown trying to cross our Rio Grande.

* The Little Rock Nine: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Rock_Nine

** Frangoi: a complicated but very important term that I will have to explain in another post.

 

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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