Reply to The Daily Telegraph
It was to my huge discontent, to read Joe Hildebrand's article in Saturday's (25.08.12) The Daily Telegraph titled "Laziness the key to Greek plan for world domination".
First of all because of the very simplifying and, at the same time, distorted way history is presented. The author of the article needs to be reminded that the ancient Macedonians were Greeks as were the Athenians, the Spartans, the Corinthians and so many others as well. And their language was the Greek language as can be easily understood if you look at coins dating at that period. And so were the Byzantines who prevailed at the Eastern part of the Roman Empire after the Romans. Having said that about all the above-mentioned Greeks, it is for others to explain to your journalist who the Romans, the Burgundians, The Catalans, The Florentines, The Venetians and the Turks really were.
The second thing is that by no means did the Greek culture cease to exist 2,500 years ago. The Greek civilization continued until nowadays, it kept evolving, flourishing and offering a lot to the rest of the world. In fact, Joe Hildebrand's very reference to all the other cultures that the Greek culture had an impact on is the proof of its liveability, adaptability, evolving and surviving until today.
Imagine that after all these "hardships", as Joe Hildebrand calls them, and having been a new and independent state for only 60 years, Greece was able to offer and re-introduce to the rest of the world the Olympic Games and the Olympic Spirit.
Yes, the first modern Olympics took place in Athens and this is why you saw the Greek flag in the main stadium and you heard the Greek national anthem and the Olympic Song (composed and written by Greeks only 120 years ago) during the recent London Games!
Needless to refer to all the Greeks who have thrived in the fields of culture and science during the past century but a few names are really worth mentioning: George Seferis, Odysseas Elytis, George Papanikolaou, Manos Hatzidakis, Mikis Theodorakis, Katina Paxinou, Melina Merkouri, Vangelis etc.
The third thing is Joe Hildebrand's claim of no connection to the past. Apart from the above-listed who provide a sufficient proof of continuity in the Greek culture, it also needs to be mentioned that the pride and having conscience of their heritage is what makes Greeks stand today guardians of our glorious past and present.
If it wasn't for modern Greeks, nothing of what Joe Hildebrand admires from our history would still be there. And of course we still know how to create works like the ones of our ancient past, that both showcase and pay tribute to that past: one only needs to visit the recently inaugurated Acropolis Museum (2009) and the modern Metropolitan Rail System - that runs through the biggest part of the underground of Athens, transporting thousands of Greeks and tourists everyday and in fact hosting whole museums in its stations (i.e. Syntagma, Acropolis, Panepistimio, Keramikos) at the same time - to understand what I am talking about.
And all this takes us to the "laziness". Obviously everyone has to admit that it is not only a generalization but also a profound insult.
Not because the achievements of modern Greeks are disregarded but because if we were lazy, Joe Hildebrand would not be able to visit and enjoy our hospitality the way he did. This is why I am also sure that the gyros he tried was the best and I hope that his coffee was the way he likes it!
And believe me, our generosity is everywhere, from the culture we offer to the rest of the world, to the food and care we offer in abundance to our guests. Perhaps for some it is hard to understand and accept it, but this is how the Greeks were, are and always will be!
As for the figures that prove that we are one of the hardest working populations in the EU, one can easily refer to the OECD relevant data.
Last but not least, Greeks have worked really hard along with the Australians, not only here in Australia to build this beautiful land and life of yours, but also back in our country where that work and task were much tougher since we fought side by side in two World Wars trying to defend our shared values of self-dignity, freedom and democracy. And I think these values and these fights should have made Joe Hildebrand think twice before writing that article the way it was worded.
Counsellor for Press
Press & Communication Office
Consulate General of Greece in Sydney
This letter appeared in the Greek Australian Vema in September 2012