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.