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Letter from Athens: Parthenon Marbles Not Coming Back

Here we go again.

There’s a reason why ruthless, remorseless, conscienceless people prosper – it’s because they are ruthless, remorseless and conscienceless and always count on good people not to be and get their way almost every time.

So now, more than 200 years after a Scottish diplomat, Lord Elgin, stole nearly half the Parthenon Marbles – with the permission of the occupying Ottoman Empire which didn’t own them – people with good intentions think they can reason with the British government and British Museum, which holds the stolen goods, to return them.

All that’s missing is a folk song about how wrong it is for the Parthenon Marbles, which the British call the Elgin Marbles, to be returned but you can sing until your face turns blue and those marbles are never coming back to Greece.

Greece had its chance. The New Democracy government could use used a veto power when the United Kingdom was leaving the Eunuch Union but didn’t because there was no political will and never will be because politicians like to only talk a good game.

At one point, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, before someone gave him a hot foot, even said he was willing to loan the British Museum some other Greek treasures to get the Parthenon Marbles on a loan.

Before that, the then-ruling Looney Left SYRIZA gave up a court case that had Greece use UK attorney Amal Clooney – wife of actor George Clooney who is a champion of their return. SYRIZA said the marbles weren’t Greek but belonged to the world.

What the well-intention, good-hearted people who want the marbles returned, including groups in the UK and around the world, never understand is that the people they dealing with don’t listen to reason, history, or rationale.

This is the kind of case that Woody Allen said in Manhattan, standing with a bunch of polite socialites at cocktail party who were complaining about a planned appearance by a KKK member in New York City to tell them that, “a brick through the window is better than a harshly-worded letter to the New York Times.”

That’s what Greece needs here: the nuclear option. Go back to court, use real diplomatic pressure, not the phony kind like watery EU sanctions, and squeeze the hell out of the British Museum and the Stooge who is the UK Prime Minister.

Greek Culture & Sports Minister Lina Mendoni, on tour in Australia, confirmed the country’s support to Greece for the return of the Parthenon Marbles. That and $5 will get you a cup of coffee – small – at Starbuck’s because it’s utterly meaningless.

We’re talking about the soul of Greece’s history here so Mitsotakis’ government has to do whatever – whatever – it takes or he will go down in the history books as another in a long line of Greek leaders who turned into amoeba when it came to this issue.

The Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University held a symposium to discuss the return of the marbles – the British Museum declined an invitation to be there because, you know they’ve already won. There was a distinguished panel of hot air guests for sessions that sounded about as exciting as watching paint dry and one provocative panel entitled: Should the British Museum Return the Collection to Athens?

They wouldn’t even spit out the phrase Parthenon Marbles and what these people needed was a thunderbolt like the late, great actress and former Culture Minister Melina Mercouri to breathe some life into these tedious exercise that was forgotten as soon as it ended and you could hear the laughing in the British Museum.

This is butt-kicking time, not a time for symposia or panels or discussions or talking it over with a nice cup of tea because the Greek government is being humiliated and taking it.

The rather brilliant British author Stephen Fry has taken up the cudgel too and Greece could use him if only he would be more demonstrative than a cold piece of marble on this, his idea being to persuade the British Museum to have 3D-printed replicas made of Pentelic marbles an computer-generated artificial reality to show visitors how the genuine pieces were returned.

The late, great British writer Christopher Hitchens – where’s all the Greek writers on this issue? – was the best at skewering the British Museum which long had said it was the only place the stolen marbles could properly be shown because Greece didn’t have a proper museum.

After the new Acropolis Museum was built the British Museum officials fumbled for another reason and then British Museum Director Hartwig Fischer – leave it to a German to defend stealing other country’s treasures – said the theft was a “creative act.”

So Greece needs to get creative to get them back because Hitchens isn’t around any more to carry the water on this although his words still ring that the theft was akin to this: There are no Babylonians left, there are no Hittites, there are no Aztecs,” he argues, “whereas the Greeks still speak a version of what you can read in the inscriptions in Athens. There’s a continuity to the claim there, and that temple is still their national symbol, as it is of the European Union. So, I think it’s a very unique case — a live one, rather than a dead one.” He’s still more alive than anyone pretending to really want the marbles back.

 

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