In this week's diatribe, Dean Kalimniou looks at anthems and their stake on nationalism
In the classic Greek coming of age novel Leonis' Diary (Το ημερολόγιο του Λεωνή), Giorgos Theotokas paints a cross-generational picture of Greeks of pre-First World War Constantinople, encouraged by their compatriots success in the Balkan Wars, taking the final step in totally rejecting their status as Ottoman subjects and their place in the racially and religiously stratified Ottoman Empire.
Among the young Leonis' classmates, this is manifested by one of them, Menos, refusing to learn Turkish or participate in Turkish class, despite this affecting his grades on his report card. In another vivid scene, Leonis' classmates, in an act of defiance against their overlords and asserting their own political and ethnic identity, refuse to cheer and chant pro-Ottoman and German slogans, when the German Kaiser visits the City. By rejecting the paraphernalia of propaganda, Leonis' classmates signified that they no longer felt bound by or part of the State that claimed a proprietary interest in them, while Leonis, more cautious, mused that the Greek nation was one that was "newly impoverished."
States employ a multitude of flags and symbols designed to invoke a feeling of unity that will underpin and reinforce its guiding ideologies. One of the most paramount is the national anthem, a patriotic musical composition that evokes and eulogizes the history, traditions and struggles of a people, recognized or instituted by a nation's government as its official song, or by convention, through the use of the people.
Thus, the «Υπερμάχω Στρατηγώ,» an Orthodox Hymn to the Theotokos as Defender General composed during Byzantine time in thanksgiving for her miraculous deliverance of the people of Constantinople from siege has been chanted by Greeks in times of delivery from evil ever since and has widely been held to be an unofficial anthem of the Greek people. Despite this most antique pedigree, national anthems are relatively recent inventions, rising to prominence in post-Napoleonic Europe in the 19th century though some others predate this period, in origin, if not in institution, such as the Marseillaise, which inspired the "Thourios," Rigas Pheraios' rousing call to action, which was adopted in 1795 in France. Despite the popularity of "Thourios," its universalist and inclusionary sentiments, calling upon all oppressed Balkan Christians of diverse nationalities to unite, could not render it an appropriate propaganda vehicle for an ethnically exclusionist nation state.
As a result, Dionysios Solomos' 1823 Hymn to Liberty was adopted in 1865, as Greece's national anthem, all one hundred and fifty eight stanzas of it, making it the longest national anthem in the world. Funnily enough, there exist two choral versions of the anthem, both written by Corfiot operatic composer Nikolaos Mantzaros, a longer and a shorter, both of which are relatively uninspiring and serve to render trivial or mind-numbingly banal, the rousing and moving sentiments of Solomos' masterpiece. Greece's founding myth, as conveniently contained within its national anthem is that of the necessity of armed struggle by a renascent people against tyranny, in defence of liberty. Australia's national anthem on the other hand, written in 1878 but only adopted in 1984, is an adaptation of a paean, penned by Peter McCormick, celebrating the bounty of Australia and the courage of the British who established themselves there, and inviting further colonization by "loyal sons".
In its current form, it still celebrates the bounty of Australia, while letting people who have come "across the seas" know that "we've boundless plains to share." Considering successive governments' immigration policies, perhaps a footnote should be added to this stanza, noting that the verse does not apply to boat people. Either that, or an amendment such as "for those who've come across the seas, in an above board and legal manner pursuant to the Migration Amendment (Excision from Migration Zone) Act 2001," is in order.
This notwithstanding, it is evident from the lyrics, that Australia's founding myth is that it is a land of opportunity, in which everyone may have a share. Both the lyrics and the melody of the anthem have been criticized as being dull and unendearing to the Australian people. In 2011, for example, National Party Senator Sandy Macdonald opined that Advance Australia Fair is so boring that the nation risks singing itself to sleep with boring music and words impossible to understand. One person however, who does not agree, is former NKEE journalist Dimitris Tsahouridis, who is want to burst into impromptu renditions of the anthem in public places. Another is our very own Victorian multicultural minister, Nicholas Kotsiras, who believes that schoolchildren should sing the national anthem once a week as part of an "Australian education" program which he says will help combat racism.
According to the minister, singing the anthem would not be divisive or ostracise children from migrant families. The minister should be applauded for his initiative. In a country that openly accepts people of all walks of life and religious persuasions, there is always a risk that members of society, who are limited as to their ability to integrate owing to economic, linguistic or religious factors will feel increasingly isolated and ghettoized as a result.
- Register Now
- Mykonos: Something to 'Crowe' about
- Greek community pays tribute to Hazel Hawke
- Melbourne Heart signs Massimo Murdocca
- Gastronomy Days at Benaki Museum
- Greek men affected by crisis
- Greece honours Australian WWII veterans
- Christopoulos to open new Melb Cafe
- Philippoussis vs furry animals
- New rules for reverse mortgages
- Tax overhaul draft sees no declarations for single incomes
- 8 May 2013 | 13 Votes
- 8 May 2013 | 9 Votes
- 3 May 2013 | 9 Votes
- 15 May 2013 | 9 Votes
- 22 May 2013 | 8 Votes
- 13 May 2013 | 8 Votes
More from this Section
- Recognising genocide
- When the pillars are shaken
- National language survival
- A personal observation
- Economic assassins
- Cypriot tax haven spoils long gone
- The bookstore of the hearth
- How Greece's once-mighty Pasok party fell from grace
- Germany: The ruler of 'New Europe' - would it qualify?
Internet based sister classes connect Greek classrooms to Australian ones in a way to collaboratively learn the language
Round seven of NSW League Two preview
Mitchell Duke and Trent Sainsbury of the Mariners are among 12 Australian-based players selected for a Socceroos training camp
Victorian Energy Minister Nicholas Kotsiras says more information protects consumers and could help them save money
The 2013-14 program provides 128,550 places for skilled migrants; 60,885 places for family migration and 565 places for special cases
The party had consistently spent 30 per cent more than it earned over its time in power
On top of the $26 million allocated for the 2013-14 budget, the Vic government will include an extra $1.86 million over two years for multiculturalism
The government issued civil mobilisation papers to some 88,000 teachers who face arrest and possible dismissal if they fail to turn up for work this week
Greek Australian businessman Mark Voyage was one of the first Australians to crack the Chinese market and witnessed historic moments from a local perspective
Central Coast suffered a 3-0 defeat in China, effectively ending their ACL campaign
Mum's the word for a special comedy event for the Pansamian House
The alleged paedophile was hired as assistant coach for the Under 17 Greek National Cricket team
An anti-racism bill aimed at reining in the ultra-right Golden Dawn party by imposing tougher penalties on the incitement of racist violence has caused a major rift
Lecture on Cultural Heritage Preservation in a Cyber World, by Dora Constantinidis, will be held as part of the exhibition Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures
Following a successful run in Melbourne, the play To Kelepouri will travel to Sydney and Hobart
Three Greek sponsored clubs still hold the top three places on the ladder. For a Greek derby of old rivals, Oakleigh Cannons travel to South Melbourne for round seven.
Harry Kewell's hope to be picked for the Socceroos squad is in doubt
New Democracy, SYRIZA trade barbs over how to tackle Golden Dawn