Wednesday, January 16, 2013
I often get very embarrassed by the rise of nationalism in my home country, Greece. Somehow, a bunch of misguided airheads and the youths that fell for their doctrine of hatred believe that they are true Greeks and they represent Hellenism or protect it from the “corrosion” of immigration.
I feel so ashamed that the Greek nation became synonymous with xenophobia, neo-Nazism and far-right nationalism. In a country that suffered so much by the Nazi occupation and that had experienced mass emigration to Europe, the Americas and Australia, to have now groups of skin-heads beating up any immigrant they find is disappointing.
How can they ever call upon the ancient Greek ancestors of theirs, to justify their brutality and ignorance? If they had ever read the speech of Alexander the Great at Opis, where he famously claimed that he does not classify people according their descendance or race but their virtue, I wonder why then they think they honor his memory by beating immigrants.
Have they ever understood the teachings of many ancient Greek philosophers, especially of the Stoic movement and those of Zeno of Citium? They promoted cosmopolitanism and believed that all people are manifestations of the one universal spirit and should live in brotherly love and readily help one another.
So if the Greek mind has in the past given birth to those ideas, how on Earth their descendants believe that with their actions are protecting and promoting Hellenism and “Greekness?”
Yes, Greece has an immigration problem that must be solved soon. And indeed people are angry and rightly so, because they were let down by their politicians. But why is that the immigrant communities are used as scapegoats for all the country’s difficulties?
I am also a proud Greek and a bit of a nationalist. I love my country and I want it to shine, to be prosperous and its people to have the same living standards as any other country in Europe. I also want to promote and preserve our culture and heritage, while making Greece an example for other countries to aspire and follow.
Now how can we achieve all the above if we want to close the borders, deport all immigrants and allow such groups like the Golden Dawn to exist? What is the example we give to the rest of the world? Where is the preservation of the Greek culture that these brutes are claiming they are promoting?
Yes Greece right now has too many immigrants and can not cope with the crisis, the unemployment, the economic collapse and the immigration issue. But that is not a reason for violence or hatred; it is a reason for better and more functioning immigration and integration policies. Why hasn’t the Greek state promoted those, while it relies on those bullies to offer a solution to the problem by promoting a fizzling of the public’s anger?
This can have disastrous consequences for the social order in the future, as well for the country’s reputation in the world; funny how the supporters of the Golden Dawn think that this is what the country needs right now.
When trying to compare Greece with the country I live Ireland, one can draw interesting conclusions. Not that there are not any racism incidents here. But Ireland has managed to attract a right mix of immigrants that come both from poorer developing countries and richer, developed ones. In that way Ireland has managed to benefit more than Greece from its immigrant population.
Socially Ireland changed drastically and it all comes down to one factor: the Irish came in contact with other cultures, either by traveling or by interacting with them at home. When the Irish became wealthier, they started traveling a lot and that was a positive factor. At home too, many students or immigrants from the rest of Europe, USA, Japan, Australia, Canada and many other developed countries arrived, bringing new ideas and way of thinking with them.
In that aspect Greece is lacking behind. My wish is to create an open country, modern, cosmopolitan and wealthier, both in an economic level but also in a cultural. If we manage to attract the right workers with the right skills and do not use them only as workers and exploit them, but also integrate them totally in our society, the ones who will be benefiting in the long term will be ourselves.
If we become a cosmopolitan society, groups like the Golden Dawn won’t be able to thrive. The old established elites, either the religious or political ones, won’t be able to manipulate or blind us with their outdated ideologies, holding us ransom to achieve their goals and promote their interests. We won’t fall as easily for their propaganda.
And there will be economic benefits as well. When a lot of these immigrants eventually return home, provided of course they have a positive experience in our country, they will form strong links with Greece that will ease trade and cultural exchanges. They will become what most of the Greek Diaspora have become: ambassadors of Greece in far and away places. If we beat them up and abuse them of course, that will never happen.
Yes there are challenges to face with immigration and we should learn some lessons of the failures of many other European countries like Britain, France and Germany in integrating their immigrant population. Most of them still have problems. But we should normally have the advantage to learn from their mistakes and don't repeat them. Do we have this ability; are we mature enough or we get what we deserve in the end?
Greece is lacking behind for the exact reasons that we have made no effort in benefiting whatsoever from the presence of foreign nationals in our country, apart from exploiting them. And we have made no effort in attracting the right skilful workers, or students from other countries and enrich our culture with theirs and through their active participation in Greek social and political happenings.
And the more we become xenophobic, the more we ruin any chance of ever achieving change and progress in our country. Now I love Greece and I want change and progress. I do not think that these “nationalists” have Greece’s best interests in mind. If fact I am more of a patriot than they are, and I want quite the opposite of what they do. Time to rethink I guess our priorities as a nation!