Lenten Lessons in Politics and Civics

Aside from its spiritual parameters, Great Lent contains a plethora of political paradigms that Hellenes worldwide should contemplate – especially this year, as we celebrate the modern Greece’s Bicentennial. In the traditional Hellenic worldview, politics possessed a metaphysical nature. The concept of a total separation between the secular and spiritual is an outlook spawned by historical materialism of the West; but foreign to Greek thought.

On the Sunday of Orthodoxy, it is declared that icons are honored and venerated “relatively and not adorationally,” and that “the honor toward the icon proceeds to the prototype,” which reinforces the tremendous importance of symbolism both in the life of the Church, as well as in the mindset of the Greek people. These are the same people whose sense of ‘philokalia’ (love of beauty) was famously praised and immortalized by the great statesman Pericles in his funeral oration some 250 centuries ago.

On this bicentennial of the ‘miracle of 1821’, the enthusiasm surrounding the street art produced by the artist Evrytos, who adorned the walls of Athens with the heroes of1821, is a hopeful sign. With little else going on due to the coronavirus pandemic and the official state committee commissioned to lead the bicentennial celebrations doing an underwhelming job, this street art represents a pleasant surprise. It also proves that the sense of philokalia remains ingrained in the heart the people, who are capable of filling the void and missteps of the domestic ‘elite’ seamlessly and naturally.

Unfortunately, along with the positive feelings elicited by the widespread reaction to this artwork, there is also disappointment and anger arising from the polemic launched by contemporary iconoclasts, intent on imposing their cacodoxy most irreverently. Evrytos’ artwork has become a target for anonymous vandals, who, unable to advance some sort of counter-proposal using art or dialogue, choose the preferred method of all those who succumb to the inferiority complex produced by their lack of skill.

Ethnonihilism and ideological ankylosis have led some to embrace the destruction of all things they oppose. Hence, their intolerance for images and the respect that the citizenry shows for the historic figures they depict, has led them to take on the role of modern day iconoclasts, or more correctly barbarians, because their actions are not merely motivated by some perverted form of piety, but pure nihilism.

The same could be said of protestors who recently destroyed sacred ecclesiastical icons, thus insulting the faith and religion of millions of their fellow citizens. There was even a university professor among them, proving that one’s level of education is not always reflective of their paideia or per capita cultivation.

Other examples of this iconoclastic behavior can be found elsewhere (i.e., Greek universities, whose campuses are an eyesore for the average citizen due to the endless vandalism). Essentially, most people supporting the current government proposal of establishing a university police force would likely cite the disrepair of university buildings and sites to justify their position. If all those opposed to this measure would show the ‘philotimo’ to preserve the aesthetic beauty of the university grounds and demonstrate even an elementary sense of philokalia and respect for public property, the policing of universities would be rejected as an unnecessary measure.

Meanwhile, Cross-Veneration Sunday highlights Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, a precursor to the triumph of the Resurrection, as well as the significance of the offering up of one’s self as a leadership trait. This quality was embodied by many Greek heroes and heroines from classical times, but ever since it was adopted by Jesus Christ Himself, it has become a divine paradigm as well. The emulation of this self-sacrifice – even unto death – has been repeated many times throughout Greek history, and there are many instances of heroes from 1821 who exhibited this virtue.

General Theodore Kolokotronis notes characteristically, in his speech to the youth at Pnyka, that “when we decided to start the Revolution, we didn’t take into account how many of us there were, or that we had no weapons, or that the Turks controlled the garrisons and cites. No prudent voice told us ‘where are you going, fighting on these grain ships?’ but instead, our desire for our freedom poured like a rainstorm, and all of us – clergy, elders, captains, intellectuals, merchants, young and old alike – agreed on this goal and started the Revolution.”

Similar sentiments were echoed by General Ioannis Makrygiannis, Governor Ioannis Kapodistrias, and so many other seminal heroes and heroines who fought that Hellas might be free.

Things are different today. Most Greek politicians fail not only to distinguish themselves for their spirit of self-sacrifice, but appear to try and outdo one another in offering the greatest services to foreign powers and auctioning off the most national capital in exchange for personal gain. Greece is enduring memoranda, treacherous deals like the Prespes Agreement, the forced modification of its population, the operation of a parallel state controlled by NGOs, and many more dangers due to the common practice of politicians placing their personal agenda over the national interest, and their inability to stand up for the country, as they are obliged by the common interest and their historical duty, for fear of losing their seat or the privileges associated with it.

The social and political problems that plague Greek society today might be current, but they aren’t new. Hellenism has confronted them during its long historical journey and adopted a definitive position on them. Those who foment and rekindle these problems express viewpoints that are foreign to Hellenism. All of us who love the blessed slice of land that belongs to Hellas must espouse the culture bequeathed to us if we are to share in its inheritance.

Follow me on Twitter @CTripoulas


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