By Ioannis Fidanakis
Part of my on going collection of entries entitled ‘Where have all the patriots gone’. This most recent entry is centered on the many frequent excuses people use inside our community for not helping out with our National Issues.
In my short time on this earth, I have seen patriotism drained from the very blood of Hellas, only to be replaced by materialistic needs and selfish motivates. It is no wonder that the Diaspora is battling for survival in the United States, with its lack of young active members inside the many different Hellenic-American organizations. What we have today is a lack of enthusiasm, interest and commitment to our National Issues and the struggle that goes hand in hand with them. We as a community have lost the concept that the only through this struggle do we truly understand our place within Hellenism, that the struggle defines and shapes us, that we are the struggle.
We have all heard and used excuses to explain our lack of commitment to the National Issues, and valid as some of them may, they are at heart still only excuses. One of the most often used excuses as to why one is unable to get involved with our National Issues, falls on the work place. Many of us use the crutch of work, to prevent us from partaking in the struggle. May it be a valid reason or not, do you think Hellenic peasants used the excuse of tending to their fields, rather then grabbing a rifle and join the cause of Independence? Each and every one of us can afford to use a sick day or two a year for our National Issues. Our ancestors gave their lives so we may continue to exist as Hellenes; the least we can sacrifice is a day’s wages so that our descendants may have the same privilege.
Even our youth has been poisoned by the mindset of our defeatist elders, using excuses ranging from their age to the wonderful institution known as school. For younger Hellenes this does present itself as a problem, because their role in our struggle falls completely on the shoulders of their parents. Seeing that this is the reality, I wonder why their parents are so quick to pull their children from school for something as simple as Good Friday services, yet don’t even think to do the same for any kind of event for our National Issues. Why wouldn’t you give your child the opportunity to bond with you and learn more about their roots? Older students, at the level of High School and College, do not have this same problem preventing them from being part of the struggle for Hellenism. Rather their problem comes from the fact that they are more willing to skip school to hang out at the mall or skip a class because of a frat party, then to sacrifice one day or a few hours for your own ethnic struggle. In the end frat parties and trips to the mall win out, and another generation is stereotyped and willing forfeits their own right to their own unique political and ethnic identity. We can all honestly afford to take a day or two off from school to secure the continued survival of our ethnic identity.
It seems that even as we age life becomes a tool for staying away from our National Issues. We find excuses through life, the most popular tossed around being, I have children. Yet when one thinks about it, this isn’t even an excuse, your children aren’t a reason to stay way from the struggle, they are the reason for the struggle. How many of us are willing to drag our children to dinner dances, keeping them up far be on their own bed time so we can socialize to the late hours of the night, but we can’t bring our children with us for issues concerning Hellenism?
Sometimes life does provide us with obstacles that are much harder to work around like economic hardships that prevent us from being able to give our all to the struggle, as we ourselves struggle through life. Be it as it may, this perhaps is the only valid reason in the entire deck that I shall not argue against. I would never wish to see a fellow Hellene loose their job, house, or be unable to pay their basic bills for survival because of our National Issues. However, I ponder, is their not another way one may be able to aid the cause other then physically being present at an event? If you are unable to afford to be active, why not help behind the scenes? Why not set sometime aside to make phone calls, write letters, or do whatever is in your means. The counter argument that one would if they knew how just goes to show us the failure of our current leadership, when it comes to outreach within our community. This excuse falls not on the masses, but rather on the self appointed elite within our own community. An excuse that I can only response to by saying, shame on our leadership, although this shouldn’t and must not disappoint the average patriot, rather let it empower you to take our struggle into your own hands. Search out other patriots and you shall find kindred spirits, with whom you can move mountains.
As I mentioned earlier, it is the struggle that defines us, it is through it that we truly forge our identity as a Hellene. We as a people are fiercely individualistic, millions of self appointed Achilles, living to our own rules, to rebellious to ever unite. Always hoping another Alexander will appear to save us, rather then donning the armor ourselves. So our very identity is founded on a strong sense of individualism, with a tradition of hero worship. Hero’s who found themselves and forged their very historical identities, through the very struggle which we now excuse ourselves from. Why do we remember such men, yet look down on those who follow in their footsteps today? Our loyalty mustn’t be to a physical nation state or its legitimate or illegitimate political system and regime, but rather with the idea that is Ellada.
An idea that unfortunately some within our community may not care about, a choice, which always brings a tear to my eye when it is uttered by another. How could one not care about their own identity? It seems impossible, but in the modern age globalization and multiculturalism, where ethnic identity is no longer celebrated, it makes perfect sense that today’s youth would forget that their ethnicity plays a role in just who they really are. Yet in the end if that’s someone’s attitude towards the National Issues, no words from anyone will change their mind. Instead when they are ready to listen, patriots will be waiting to speak.
The only real excuses that hold true merit, at least at first glance, seem to be the last two I’ve decided to touch on. The first being, ‘I don’t speak Greek’. Although to many inside the community, this seems like a legitimate reason for people to stay out of Hellenic politics and our National issues completely, however, I beg to differ. The vast majority of Hellenic-Americans are unable to speak fluent Greek. Are we to silence more then half of our own blood because of their inability to speak our mother tongue fluently? To do such, would be to leave our National Issues in the hands of the dwindling number of aging Hellenes that are responsible for the current state of affairs. It is not what language you speak that gives you your ‘Hellenic pass’, rather it is the common belief in the idea that is Ellada, which unites us. What is actually needed is for those who have lost their mother tongue and whose blood boils twice as hot for the struggle to grab the reins of control and raise the National issues from the ashes, like the phoenix reborn.
The final and most interesting excuse or should I say belief, as to why one shouldn’t get involved in our National issues has to be the idea, which has been implanted within our mind by the older generation that we shouldn’t concern ourselves with the national issues and rather should focus on ourselves and having a good life. That we should worry about material goods and getting that dream job, then and only then, if there’s time, should we offer ourselves to aid Hellenism. Well to this I boldly ask, do you think the parents of Rigas Feraios were pleased with his choice to travel and spread the seeds of revolution through martyrdom? Do you think the mother of Kolokotronis was pleased with her son’s choice to be a klepht and bleed for our freedom? I think not, I would believe that they were told the very same things our generation are told, that they should worry about themselves and raise a good family. And yet if they had listened, we still would be under the bonds of slavery.
In the end we are all guilty of using excuses for not being more engaged with the National Issues. Some of us using them more then others, but the time for excuses are over. What is needed now is a transfusion of patriotism back in to the veins of Hellenism. With out such our very identity will remain on life support, as we as a people fade deeper into a national comma.