Gordon G Hall
Writer and Neo-Philhellene

Articles about Greece
The Great Upheaval

I use the first person plural with caution but with confidence. As a British Subject living in Greece I have no vote in the national elections, not do I have any claim to even a tiny bit of this country as my birthright. And yet, as the philhellenes of old, I find myself caught up in an affair of the heart with this Greece of yours – and one that fills me with a strange misplaced sense of pride, for at least I was here at the time of the Great Upheaval.

And upheaval it has been. What a pleasure it is now to involve myself in the political chit-chat of my friends, neighbours, shop assistants, waitresses and every other living Greek. Not that political discussion is anything new in this country, but until recently it was just a matter of who could moan the loudest. Round and round went the conversation, detailing old and new transgressions against honour and decency, rehearsing the corruption, the nepotism, and the incompetence of the Old Order. For years the parties changed but the faces, indeed the dynasties, did not. Now the talk is positive and optimistic. There is a light in peoples eyes that was not there previously.

Am I alone in experiencing a feeling that must be akin to Greeceā€™s liberation from the Ottomans? The unjust taxation of the poor; the knowledge that the seat of power was in some far off distant land, and the certainty that the Quislings amongst our own people were growing fat upon their status as puppets of an alien regime. For suddenly there is Hope. True the reforms that SYRIZA have proposed, and indeed started to implement, may not last. Indeed the whole wonderful ‘liberation’ may be doomed, but the point is that we (well ‘you’ if the truth be told) have done it. The Old Order has been at least temporarily vanquished and we have moved into a different scheme of things.

What a delight it has been to see our open-collared politicians standing shoulder to shoulder with the necktie incarcerated, and what a joy it is to discover that they have restored our feeling of self-worth, of national pride and of taking our rightful place in the world. As an Englishman I took particular delight in the contrasting images portrayed by Ianis and George on the steps of Downing Street; one representing the future, and the other encased in his suit and tie comfort blanket. Mind you I am fairly sure that neither of them had the slightest idea why they were meeting, after all the UK is not in the Eurozone!

So what of the future? As I write this our Prime Minister and Minister of Finance are still doing the rounds of the European leaders and there is uncertainty as to whether our banks will be supported by the ECB. It is possible, although not probable, that Greece, for its great impertinence, will be given the heave-ho out of the European Club. Well if that is the case then so be it. A large proportion of the population would prefer the security of the Euro to the harsh reality of ‘going it alone’ with a new drachma. But now we have tasted freedom, and we have a restored sense of belief in this wonderful country. If the choice is Troika/Stability/Euro against Patriotism/Uncertainty/Drachma then I have little doubt that public opinion will follow our tie-less leaders into a Brave New World.

It is of course easy for me to write such ‘courageous’ words when at the first sign of real financial trouble I could pack my bags and run back to the safe land of Osborne and neckties. But who would want to do that when the alternative is to stick it out here and enjoy the ride. Whatever else it will not be boring and as Clausewitz said of a brilliant but erratic general “I would follow him anywhere – out of curiosity”

Well done, all my friends in Greece, I am privileged to be as one with you.

POSTSCRIPT: Oh, what irony! The referendum was of course won by the ‘Oxi’ vote – and Tsiperas capitulated. The brief ‘Greek Spring’ has turned once more into disillusionment bordering on despair, and a sense of betrayal. Perhaps Tsiperas never really had any choice, but like the Grand Old Duke of York he led us, his army, up to the top of the hill - then he led us down again!


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