Not The Real Deal

I’ve been reading a fair bit of academic material in preparation for a long and detailed Commentarium article on Avatar, and while reading about The Vanishing American I suddenly realized something: the recent ranting in the German media (particularly Focus magazine) about how “the modern Greeks are not real Greeks, they’re nothing like the ancient Greeks, not even genetically!” is actually the exact same discourse as what the Native Americans so often get: “but these aren’t real Indians! The real Indians are extinct!

It makes sense, of course – it’s so much easier to justify destruction and oppression when the people you’re doing it to aren’t the real deal. No, they’re just greedy imitators who have happened to live here for the last few thousand years, and all they want to do is steal your hard-earned money. And they want reparations! Aren’t they ashamed of themselves for pretending to be Greek/Indian? No, we just can’t accept this sort of behaviour. Bloody savages.

(That the ancient Greeks were better-organized than the modern Greeks and that Greek nationalists should STFU about their heritage – not because it’s not their heritage, but because they’re pissing on it – has nothing to do with the issue.)

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7 Comments

  1. JM

     /  March 4, 2010

    The modern Greek do indeed have almost nothing in common with the ancient ones. But that doesn’t change the fact that reparations for WW2 should have been paid long ago cause. It’s another story altogher.

  2. The modern Greek do indeed have almost nothing in common with the ancient ones.

    I would contest that on a lot of levels, actually. If anything, Greece is notable for the way its ancient and modern culture are linked – especially through the Greek language. That doesn’t mean that the glories of the past are ours to claim, or that there isn’t much that has changed, but it is a historical fact that there is a continuity of Greek culture.

    By itself this obviously has nothing to do with reparations; but the discourse that portrays modern Greeks as impostors certainly does.

    Edit to add this from Wikiquote:

    [..] yet the historical evolution of the Greek language reveals a continuing identity which cannot be paralleled in any other Indo-European language. It is convenient and correct to separate ancient Greek civilization, but, in the words of Nicholas Bachtin, ‘it is neither convenient nor accurate to speak of a modern Greek “language”. There is no such thing. There is only the present state of Greek’ (Bachtin 1935:11). From Homer to modern demotic, the Greek language has enjoyed a slow, organic and uninterrupted growth, and the major changes can be charted in an unbroken literary tradition. Nor has Greek split up into a group of languages, as Latin into the Romance languages. Finally, Homeric Greek is probably closer to demotic than twelfth-century Middle English is to modern spoken English.

    * Standard Languages: Spoken and Written. By William Haas.

    As someone who has dealt a lot with language in his studies, I can really appreciate just how extraordinary this is.

    Which still has nothing to do with the racism of the media or the bullshit nationalism of right-wing Greeks.

  3. If I may say so myself said continuity doesn’t quite matter. It is there -partly of course, as thousands of years of conquering and being conquered does help with mixing things up- but has nothing to do with modern history. Modern history such as the resistance movement of the 1940s we can easily be proud of.

    Now, let’s talk Olympics and debt…

  4. If I may say so myself said continuity doesn’t quite matter. It is there -partly of course, as thousands of years of conquering and being conquered does help with mixing things up- but has nothing to do with modern history. Modern history such as the resistance movement of the 1940s we can easily be proud of.

    I’m with you there. My point is more about the usage of this non-authenticity discourse in the German media than about what Greek people should be proud of or not.

  5. And don’t get me started on the fucking Olympics… biggest fucking waste of money in Greek history. If we needed to have them, we should’ve done them old-school, at the original locations and with nude athletes. Now that would’ve been worth it.

  6. Absolutely agree. By the way, you did hear what happened to Manolis Glezos today, didn’t you?

  7. Yes, I did. Shameful, but that’s how the police operate these days.