Finding the Ark of Hellenism’s Cultural Legacy to Navigate the Global Tempest

FILE - Incoming French President Emmanuel Macron walks towards the stage to address his supporters at the Louvre Palace in Paris, Sunday May 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, Pool)

On the heels of Turkey’s referendum, which revealed deep – perhaps irreparable –  divisions, French voters elected neoliberal banker Emmanuel Macron as their president, with all eyes on June’s parliamentary elections to see if the outcome will confirm the nation’s political sentiments.

Although the favorite won handily,the record 10.6 million votes for Marine Le Pen’s Front National, coupled with the near record 25 percent of voters who abstained and 8.6 million who cast a blank or spoiled ballot reveals glaring divisions that threaten the core of theseemingly unraveling European Union.

Meanwhile, mainstream partieswere strongly rebuked in the first round election of the French elections. Sadly, the unwillingness of mainstream parties to engage in any real repentance for their political sins and blind support of a system responsible for much of the ills befalling the people of European has soured voters.The absence of a counterproposal to economic colonialism and debtocracy used by Germany to assert control over the entire continent is now amplifying the message of more extremist candidates.

With nearly half of French voters backing eurosceptic candidates, the current European governing apparatus of banksters, cronies, and bureaucrats received yet another rebuke. Still, days after Macron’s victory, German Chancellor Angela Merkel dismissed the idea of relaxing Eurozone spending rules, quickly putting the onus on France’s new president to implement economic reforms – thus furthering Germany’s stranglehold on the EU.

If the past century is any indication, the interests of Atlantists remain ever opposed to those of Germany. Great Britain has made its choice and it remains to be seen whether France will rejoin its 20th century ally or regress to its medieval Frankish feudal roots. Other countries, such as Italy, are also approaching the boiling point, with caretaker governments masking voter anger by postponing elections.

As the European political crisis festers, Greece continues to have its cart hitched to the wrong horse, awaiting respite and a bailout from that very same gang of political thugs who turned an excessive deficit into a full-blown debt crisis. In fact, the country has a better chance of getting help from one of Euripides’ dei ex machina than the current syndicate of lenders who have spawned one of the worse “peacetime” economic depressions in history. Of course, whether the events taking place in Greece and elsewhere are really indicative of “peacetime” is subject to debate.

Many have likened the plain blackmail exercised against Greece by its lenders, including forced fire sales, mass impoverishment, and loss of sovereignty to economic warfare – a modern version of war that subjugates foreign nations without occupying forces having to waste a single bullet or endure “scorched earth.”Meanwhile, some posit that the first phase of World War III has alreadybegun (with the destruction in Syria, refugees and forced migration, and subsequent geopolitical shifts cited to support this argument) with phase two set to unfold in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.

In the face of these developments, Hellenism worldwide must study the past to prepare for the future. In recent centuries, Hellenism has faced major difficulties in adapting to changes in state and civic organization worldwide. The rise of nation-states in the 19th century saw the formation of the modern Greek state and a national rebirth, but also the decrease in the influence of the Greek Diaspora, which went from a sterling paradigm of organization to a mishmash of different affiliates, often undercutting one another. Similarly, the rise of nationalism exacted a disastrous toll upon the indigenous Hellenic Christian element in Asia Minor, with Turkey committing the first 20th centuryatrocity of genocide against the Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians. Similarly, in the post-WWII backdrop, Greeks were caught in a bloody civil war and subsequent political turmoil that left the nation and the Diaspora deeply divided, even after the fall of communism and the blurring of the boundaries between the political left and right.

Ironically, it wasn’t until after the Asia Minor Catastrophe in 1922 and the massive influx of refugees from Asia Minor that Greek society saw the first major attempt to create a Hellenocentric outlook, propagated by the so-called “Generation of the 1930s” (including Seferis, Elytis, Ritsos, Gatsos, Kontoglou, Theotokas, Tsarouchis, Empeirikos, Lorentzatos, Engonopoulos, Pikionis, Hadjidakis, etc.), which exerted a lasting influence. Their works not only studied and tried to define the concept of Greekness in the modern age, but also sought to identify its qualities and characteristics in the culture and traditions of the people. Makryiannis’ writings, Theophilos’ paintings, the architecture and aesthetic beauty of a modest village home on a Greek island somewhere in the Aegean all became symbols of timeless values and worldviews contained in Hellenic Culture. Suddenly, deep-running connections between a humble byzantine chapel harmoniously coexisting with nature and Pericles’ concept of philokalia, a Byzantine icon and the authentic expressiveness sought by modern art in an attempt to unshackle itself from the oppressive naturalism of the Renaissance, the nine-eights rhythm of the zeibekiko danced at tavernas and feasts and its Ancient Greek roots, or Tsitsanis’ Cloudy Sunday (Synnefiasmeni Kyriaki) and its kinship with the famous hymn dedicated to the Theotokos “Ti Ypermacho Stratigo” (O Invincible General) all began to manifest themselves in an era when the everyday citizen, in spite of widespread poverty, spoke like a poet and was versed in Homer and Chrysostom.

With the European Union undergoing a deep and lasting crisis of identity and solidarity, Greece’s policymakers still seem plagued by Stockholm Syndrome, unable or unwilling to fathom the thought of assuming the responsibilities and sacrifices that come with independence. The initial vision of a united Europe of the peoples seems like nothing more than a distant pipe dream, while Germany’s totalitarian tendencies linger like a recurring nightmare… It is not yet clear what the fate of Europe will ultimately be, but as a new day dawns on the Old Continent – and the entire world for that matter – Hellenism/Romanity will need to rediscover its “cultural otherness” that it shared with the world on so many occasions and prepare to lend its voice and unique ecumenical perspective to the shaping of the new tomorrow. It must do this for its own survival and likely for the survival of civilization as we understand it.

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