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Dean Kalimniou's article on Spartan Place is disgraceful!

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23 November 2009

As a 19-year-old Melbournian of Greek heritage, I could not help but feel overcome by a sense of disgust upon reading Mr Dean Kalimniou's article Spartan Place.

From a myriad of flaws; historical and factual, and grossly inappropriate attempts at satire and irony, I choose to rebut the writer on but one error.

His suggestion that the erection of a monument to a 'foreign hero' in Australia, 'denies the legitimacy of the ruling group's hold over this land' is utterly abhorrent.

If we chose to follow this vein of thinking, any cultural practice that deviates from that of the Anglo-Saxon majority, would be deemed, by the author, 'ludicrous'.

Greek School, Chinese New Year and Hanukkah would all be disallowed in Australia - even foreign language newspapers, such as the one in which Mr Kalimniou writes, could be seen as challenging the Anglo-Saxon dominance of this land.

All migrants would be expected to forsake their culture and religion, and assimilate entirely.

This notion - put forth by the writer in seriousness or in jest, is unacceptable.
Even the Anglo-Saxons - whom I must assume to constitute the 'ruling group' to which Mr Kalimniou refers - would find his opinion flawed.

The Multicultural Victoria Act 2004 declares that people 'from a diversity of backgrounds have the freedom and opportunity to preserve and express their cultural heritage and ...equal rights and responsibility under the laws of Victoria'.

Mr Kalimniou's sentiments, even his flippant use of the term 'wog' contradict this most fundamental piece of legislation.

The very individuals that legislate in this country agree that it is the right of all not to leave their 'wog problems back in the countries from which they came', to not be subsumed by the controlling party and their culture.

A multicultural society, such as the one which Australia purports to be, is one in which a plurality of cultures and values not only exist in harmony, but, and I think most importantly, these various cultures are valued equally.

No one group's culture can be deemed as 'ruling', as to do so only engenders conflict.

The path to achieving plurality - including the appeasement of historical conflicts and rivalries between migrant groups - is not, as the writer suggests, to simply abandon our culture and history, but rather to strive for utter cultural tolerance.

The erection of a bust of King Leonidas - notwithstanding its historical and cultural significance - is a symbol of such tolerance.

Further, the writer's complete failure to recognize Indigenous Australians as the traditional owners and stakeholders in this land, betrays a cultural, historical and political insensitivity consistent with the tone of this piece.

In no other media outlet has the erection of this bust been opposed on the grounds adopted by Mr Kalimniou - that is, that a statue of a foreign hero in Australia, in public anywhere, is wrong.

The individuals who first objected to the bust, protested that the location of the monument was inappropriate, not its mere existence.

Whether one is for or against the erection of King Leonidas' bust in Brunswick, Sparta Place, we should not allow individuals such as this writer, to make it an issue of whether foreign cultures should be allowed to exist at all in Australia.


Miltiadis Paikopoulos

Ivanhoe 3079

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I recall a moment that gave me a wonderful sense of pride as an Australian with Greek heritage. I was fortunate enough to be visiting London with my oldest son when meandering through Hyde Park in London we where amazed at the size of this large statue of a warrior like figure. Upon close inspection we realised it was Archillies. Wow, the English saw it suitable to celebrate and erect such a monument in a prime spot in central London. The camera got a working over and we left proud and with admiration for the English that they saw fit to honour a Greek hero on British territory.

I believe Mr Paikopoulos has taken many aspects of Mr Kalimniou's article out of context and has attempted to distort the facts. I myself had to read the Diatribe twice to get to the truth of what Mr Kalimniou is trying to say. First, to say that Mr Kalymniou did not recognise Indigenous Australians is ludicrous and irrelevant to this article. There is a ruling class and it is not so much an ethnic one, as opposed to a socio-economic and institutional one. Sure, it was set up by the Anglo Saxons, however there are many people from different backgrounds that form part of it. You only have to conform to the structure to gain legitimacy within it. Conformity is knowing that cultural organisations have a secondary place in Australian society. Let us not kid ourselves. If people really believe that most cultural organisations are taken seriously in the eyes of politicians and business, then people are seriously deluded. This is what Mr Kalimniou is referring to in my opinion. I believe though the greater point is relevance. Who cares that a statue of Leonidas is being placed in some suburban mall? What value does this give the community? Would that make more people take up the Greek cause? Surely not. As indicated in the article, this is nothing more than another photo opportunity with no real benefit to the community except for bragging rights. I believe that Mr Kalimniou's irony might have been lost on the author of the letter when referring to the "ruling class." The fact is that most Australians, including many Greeks, do say that Greek issues have no place here in Australia. The underlying message of the Sparta Place Diatribe is the never ending push for relevance. A bust of Leonidas does contribute to our relevance in Australian society. What it does do is negate the true heroes of Hellenism here within Australia. Instead of promoting this history, a history more relevant to us living here today, a history that can be deemed inspirational to us here today. Tolerance, by definition, is sympathy for beliefs or practices differing from, or conflicting with one's own. I believe that Mr Kalymnios reflected that in his Diatribe. The point he is making is that we should move beyond tolerance and more towards admiration. By gaining the admiration of the greater community instead of being tolerated by it, then we truly strike a victory for Hellenism and its longevity here in Australia. Great Diatribe, keep them coming!

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