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Hellenic line in the sand

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29 June 2009

Greece must refuse to provide the sacred Olympic flame for the next Olympiad in London if the Parthenon marbles are not returned.

If the British government wishes to continue being stubbornly arrogant and childish on this issue then Greece should take its bat and flame and stay home in 2012.

The British can call the London Olympiad by some other name.

In addition to the British government returning the marbles to their rightful home, they must offer public apologies for three wrongs committed in relation to this matter.

Firstly, an apology for the initial theft of the Parthenon Marbles by Lord Elgin who was at the time acting as a British diplomat in the Ottoman Empire.

Secondly, an explicit apology for first buying and then holding on to stolen ancient Hellenic property for two centuries and parading them in an utterly disjointed and pseudo-Hellenic public gallery several thousand kilometers away from their home.

Finally an apology is needed to recognise the real and often forgotten crime in this whole saga which is the vandalising of majestic ancient Hellenic art works.

Lord Elgin had so much love for these marbles that he hacked and butchered them into discretely meaningless segments so that he could transport them back to the murky and cold climate of England where they were initially stored in his shed.

Enough is enough!

The Greek government and Greeks around the world must draw a line in the sand on this one.

Petros Rozakeas
Burwood East, 3151

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A TIME OF REFLECTION FOR THE GREEKS OF THE DIASPORA. Pellana today and what does it mean to the youth of today in the Diaspora. One can easily dismiss a little town tucked away in the midst of towering mountains and astride the once mighty river Evrotas in the heartland of Lakonia, Peloponnese. It is just a small town, insignificant to many but yet it has yielded sons and daughters that have contribute much to the world as we know it. From Doctors, Scientists, Businessmen and women, Political leaders, Armed Forces, Mathematicians, Professors, Para military personal. Authors and many other professions of which many are now living outside of the village and throughout the world. Today being the year 2011, one takes the time to reflect upon the past and ones heart and mind invariably takes them back to their place of origin. A place where much bloodshed has been shed throughout the centuries, a place where people were uprooted more than once and only to be populated again and again. Not only to this small village, but to all the other villages similar to that of Pellana. This may be but a small town or village one may say, but what does it mean to the Greeks living in the Diaspora. Each village during the Greek Civil War may be seen saw the last time that blood was shed, but then many forget about the right wing government and the coup of the Colonels in 1967. It was also a time when people suspected of left wing sympathise were again rounded up and relocated to island prisons. A time when no one knew who their friends were and if one happened to have friends on both sides; they were made to choose or were cautioned to stay clear of one side or the other. One may also ask why bring up the past and resurrect the ghosts of the past. Why bring up wounds that will not heal or even mention the horrors that were conducted in and around the surrounding villages. To heal a wound, one has to apply the appropriate medicine, provide the care and rest to ensure a full recovery. Many were not given the opportunity and left their homes for new places abroad. Many would never return and their bones lie in their new resting places as far away as Australia, Argentina, and Canada and in some cases South Africa and Russia. Those that decided to return permanently even for a holiday were not always greeted with enthusiasm or with a warm welcome in fear that they may7 be returning back for their patriarchal inheritance. The lucky ones are those who either mad a new home in the town of Pellana and visited their home every year or visited the town occasionally or every two years depending on one’s finances. The village mentality for those Greek returning was still the same. They had to show that they had made it good in the new country and that it was an unwritten rule that when they returned they had to provide gifts or at least buy a round of drinks and prepare a table for those in the village or their relatives. This happens even today. In the early years when those who had left the village, it was not uncommon to send back to those who remained, money, clothing and gifts to sustain them through the difficult early years when the fledging Hellenic republic was still reeling and recovering from WW2 and the Greek Civil war. These much need and unwritten or spoken gifts assisted those who lived in the village until such time that the people of Greece were able to raise their standard of living to a moderate level that was sustainable. If one can put aside the negative and/or illegal aspects of the Colonels regime and agree to disagree regarding their methods, one cannot but agree that the programs and the projects that they started during their time in power had positive results for the people. Electricity, Roads, Water, Hospitals, Educational and other basic facilities were created in most if not all parts of the Greek homeland. This author does not condone nor denigrate the colonels in power but merely stating his point of view from his own perspective. The author visited the village of Pellana in 1973 whilst serving as an Australian soldier stationed in Singapore and Malaya. The observations made then when compared with today vary greatly with the latter years observations in the negative. In 1973, the streets were clean, no graffiti, people were hospitable, Electricity and water was being installed, and educational facilities were almost in every village and the government facilities and department operating at their utmost efficiency. As the years went by and the Colonels were toppled from power, Greece went into a maelstrom of political upheavals which are still being felt today. Entering the European Union was a smart move, but not smart enough to ensure that when they changed over to the Euro that the value of the Drachma was not overvalued. This minor matter has brought Greece to its knees all for the sake of getting rich quick without a thought for the future. Yes, for a while life was good and many made their fortunes, to the point where money ws not an option, while all the time foreigners or those in and outside the European Union were buying up properties, business, facilities and other organisations. As result of this inflow of foreign money, the people in the villages flocked to the major towns which swelled the population creating a housing boom in the guise of high rise buildings without any thought for parking spaces or other amenities that most major cities take for granted. The financial deficit in the mean time grew and inflation became a major problem. Loans were remortgaged and new measurers put into place to ensure their sustainability. All the time the people either not aware of the dangers or had selective blinkers on their faces ensuring that their minds were not on the problem that were looming. When suddenly the pressure was put on and Greece asked to cough up their loans and/or to make the necessary interest, everyone but a few panicked. This opinion was not only confined to Greece but also to Portugal, Italy Spain, Ireland and even the United Kingdom. Greece wore the bad end of the stick and became the laughing stock of the European Union. One forgets easily what Greece experienced during WW2 at the hands of the Italians and the Germans. Compensations and reparations for the damage to Greece have never been made, something which many have conveniently overlooked. When the Olympic games was in progress, Greece was made to appear the laughing stock again by the world press who had nothing better to do other than to criticise Greece for not being ready for the games and for being a potential haven for terrorists. Something which never happened in either cases or the end result was lack of visitors which put the Olympic Games organisers in Greece in much debt. Toda Greece is being displayed to the world as a country that cannot meets its financial responsibilities despite its attempts to curb spending. The author wonders, how many people realise exactly what is happening in Greece today. Do they know that people are starving and have no work, Are they aware that people have no homes to live in due to their lack of finances? Do people know that there are thousands who “go to work”, remain there and do their quota of work knowing that they will not get paid. They go to work because it gives them a sense of self respect, know that they are doing their bit for the economy and hoping that they will be offered a job, no matter how small, but a job. It is about time that the Greeks in the Diaspora realise the hidden pain and suffering that Greece and its people are going through at the moment. Greece at the moment is at the mercy of those countries that have the capacity to provide the support necessary to ensure Greece has the structures in place to ensure its survivability and being given the opportunities to have a sustainable economy that will be able to repay its debts over time. One solution that may not be as farfetched as one would like to think and that is that those with a Hellenic background who now live overseas, come forth and buy back Greece from the brink of financial disaster. Don’t let foreign countries gobble up the territory. A territory that took many years of hardship wars, bloodshed and anguish to make Greece a country free for its citizens. Imagine if the debt that Greece owes to the European Union is sold to a country that is on less than favourable terms politically, geographically and/or or financially. What then. Do we come a full circle? What does this mean to the little town of Pellana in the Peloponnese, a little town like many others that dot the Hellenic landscape? Will they all be gobbled up and forgotten, because we who live in the exterior close our eyes to their misery. Where are the bold orators and fighter of yesteryear, where are the men and women who scarified their lives for a Greece that stands today alone. Will the heroes and heroines still to be found amongst the leaders and the youth of today? This is the real challenges that face the Greeks abroad. Wild they stand idly by and see their place of origin sink slowly into the mire.
I believe the withholding of the Olympic flame, though heartbreaking, is essential in recording our dismay into the annals of history. The claim that the wonderful British people are targeted for punishment is unfair. Unfortunately someone will always suffer regardless of intent. This is the price we all pay when we attempt to get what we want, though in this case it is truly a matter of attempting to get back what is rightfully ours. To ask Greece to put itself on the back burner on this particular issue is a tall order. I personally believe that if London wants to carry on the Greek Olympic tradition, it must first observe a modicum of respect for the Greek Olympic heritage. The 2012 Olympics may be the last opportunity to barter for the Parthenon marbles as any other types of round table discussions do not seem to be working and fail to show any proof of resolution. They can say, "they're only marbles." We can reply, "it's only a flame." The Parthenon marbles belong home in Athens. Period. Drastic issues dictate a need for drastic measures. Period. Greece, a country that has proven it's global contribution toward the embetterment of mankind certainly derserves a small act of reciprocity. Returning the Parthenon marbles, a simple gesture, would prove that England has the ability to put down its ego and exercise a little philanthropy. But, that is a Greek word. Isn't it?
I believe the British people are more concerned with the price of bread than returning the marbles to Greece. Lets face some old truths: it is in England's interest to demoralize the Hellenic people, to financially and culturally bankrupt them into submission. No one in the world has our best interests at heart, aside from ourselves. The English were all too happy to buy the marbles because, as far they are concerned, and I quote, "they are not the same people of 2000 years ago". They view us as subhuman and the last thing they would ever want is for Greece to reclaim its former glory, pride and size. We must boycott the games and end this disgraceful subservient behavior. Indeed, bring the games and marbles home where they belong for once and for all time.

Atkenos, you ask “Where are those same [British] people when we call for the return of the most sacred items in all of Hellenism?” but the premise of your question fails the most rudimentary factual check. Since you asked, let me just mention three quick examples:
1. They formed the British Committee for the Reunification (formerly Restitution) of the Parthenon Marbles in 1983 and have since lobbied for the return of the sculptures to Greece and are working with The International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures.
2. They are making a well argued and reasoned case for the return of the sculptures with books such as “The Elgin marbles” by Christopher Hitchens, Robert Browning and Graham Binns.
3. The British public by their overwhelming majority support the return of the Parthenon sculptures as attested by gallops conducted recently and in the past in Britain.

The last thing Greece needs is to create the kind of international backlash by punishing the Olympic spirit which would be the effect of withholding the flame and would set the Greek cause decades behind. Lets not lose sight of the fact that it is the Trustees of the British Museum that need to be convinced or forced to act. Not the British people. They are already on the side of the Greeks.

I am not impresed, with respect, by anyone stating that we should not punish the British people. Where are those same people when we call for the return of the most sacred items in all of Hellenism? No, we must draw a line in the sand and I join calls to ban the Brits from having the Olympic flame unless they agree to a time table to return the marbles. Unless Hellas uses leverage, it will NOT win, and this IS leverage.

Greece may wait another 200 years to get the Parthenon marbles returned by the British.

I understand that Indigenous Australian people have been trying to have the remains of 100's of dead Aboriginals - mainly skulls - returned from England for a proper and respectful ceremonial burial without any luck.

The arrogance of British authorities to hold onto these ancient artifacts and numerous other items that were STOLEN is breath taking.

Although a refusal by Greece to provide the Olympic flame for the 2012 London Olympiad or to Boycott the games is an extreme act, it may well be the only option left to the Greek government. It would certainly produce a WORLD spotlight on the issue.

It would be a mistake to withhold the Olympic flame from London 2012. Why punish the British people, the world and the Olympic spirit for what is the fault of the British Museum? In fact the overwhelming majority of the British people are in favour of returning the Parthenon sculptures to Greece. Greece's ongoing moral and disciplined stance with the help of the fair-minded British people will put more pressure on the British Museum and the British government.

I disagree completely with your statement with holding the Olympic flame from the London Olympics is absolutley the correct move. The issue of the stolen marbles has been ongoing for many decades. Now we have the opportunity to bring it to the forefront of public attention of the British and the world.

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