A few weeks ago I wrote a letter bemoaning the downward spiral of the Greek Language in Australia.
As many of us were aware growing up in the 1970’s, if you spoke Greek in public you were liable to get yourself verbally or even physically abused.
To those of us who lived outside the relative safety of the inner suburbs with its majority ethnic composition.
It often made you wish to lose the ability to speak the language.
Here is the contradiction. In today’s era, no-one would dare attack any of us (at least physically) for speaking a second language.
So, the fear factor, one of the major reasons for our parents not speaking to us, does not even exist anymore.
However it appears that fear factor has been replaced by the ‘lack of need’ factor in our current social and economic climate.
Whilst the aforementioned fear factor may not exist anymore, the Cultural Cringe attached to it still exists.
The example I use is of a family of educated Greek born parents whose children do not speak Greek.
Upon asking a mutual acquaintance ‘why is this so?’, she responded, completely without irony, ‘because they are educated’.
Now, these days of course, you can understand that the ‘acquiring’ of a new language is a sign of intellectual advancement on the individual’s part, no matter what era we live in, but it astounds me that ‘losing’ a language can be still seen as a positive.
The 1980’s began the onset of two divergent aspects of Greek life in Australia.
Due to various reasons (market de-regulation; Greek-Australian acceptance by the mainstream, etc) this era ignited the increasing wealth that the Greeks accumulated, that has manifested itself in Greeks now leading the ‘Richest Australians’ list but at the same time we have sacrificed much of our Hellenism.
We transitioned from a communal society (eg. many of our parents were in unionised jobs) where we made decisions to assist the majority of Melbourne Greeks, to an individualistic society where we all started our own businesses and looked for the best education/health/suburb etc for our children.
Although I am sounding critical of the ‘wealth accumulators’, I want to say that at least one of them gave the Greek community of Melbourne an immense gift.
The Stamoulis family gave us our own radio station 3XY!
Yet do any of the younger generation listen to it?
It offers a great variety of Greek music and whilst we may not always understand all the complex issues as they are spoken in Greek, it provides a welcome relief to the mainstream western-anglo Australian fluff heard on most other station’s.
But amongst my social circle (and we’re 40, so god help the younger generation) I do not think anyone listens at all!
Anecdotal evdience also suggests that there are parents using Greek school as a babysitter, not really caring if their child is learning Greek.
And what do we make of the Greek parent who admonished the teacher for addressing the parents child’s name in Greek rather than English?! Dear oh dear.
And I have seen the future.
It exists in Perth.
Much of the population there is at least a generation older (many are Kastellorizian immigrant’s and descendant’s from the 1900’s up to the 1940’s) and, understandably, the Greek culture is not so prevalent. For instance, there are very few Greek restaurants or cafes.
It is a warning to us here in the Eastern states.
Whatever happens folks, with Greece enduring its current economic crisis, we may be on our own from this point onwards as far as help from the homeland.