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Guest Viewpoints

Life of the Mind – and Survival

July 8, 2022
By Evaggelos Vallianatos, PhD

I have been writing for a very long time. My hope each time I write an article is that the argument I make will help readers now or in the future see things in a new light.

Influence – what influence?

I know that influence is invisible, taking decades and sometimes centuries to bear fruit. This fact does not bother me. I don’t expect money or recognition for doing things I love. But I am concerned that those in power and even intelligent human beings in general are often blind to deleterious anthropogenic effects on the natural world and society.

Greek-Americans: Restaurants and Real Estate

For example, Greek-Americans seem to be oblivious to their own decline and potential disappearance.

I am a Greek-American, too. I have been watching America for more than 50 years. My brother worked for my uncle’s small restaurant in Chicago and, in time, his own restaurant. He supported his family and did well. He joined the middle class. He retired, moved to Florida, and passed away in late 2020.

Many Greek-Americans have had parallel paths to that of my brother. They work hard in restaurants and real estate for decades. They make money but remain invisible to Americans. You rarely see them in Congress, courts, law, commercial television, radio, universities, national newspapers, or publishing – especially book writing and publishing.

Greek-Americans, of course, have dozens of associations and churches, supporting their own festivals and community services. These are worthy activities, though by no means guaranteeing their continued prosperity and survival. This is because their adopted country, the United States, is no longer united.

America in Dramatic Decline

In 2022, America is on the verge of civil war. It’s like the Roman Empire at the moment of dramatic decline and fall – the fourth century AD, or the Ottoman Empire on the eve of World War I. The forces of disintegration are gaining the upper hand.

The election of President Donald Trump brought a tsunami of superstition to the surface. Trump was more than a real estate merchant. He was an outspoken enemy of democracy who inspired his followers to their unsuccessful effort of overthrowing the government on January 6, 2021.

Americans are killing each other, especially directing their gun fire at children. The Supreme Court and the Republicans are trying to prohibit abortion, as if Republicans, suddenly, became the new philanthropists, ready to protect and bring up all unwanted children.

And the Republicans are determined to destroy America and the world by a mere accident of dismissing climatological science. Like extraterrestrials, or paid agents of the fossil fuel industry, they keep calling climate change a hoax.

Republicans and Democrats are badly divided, fighting a Cold War against each other. Republicans follow the former insurrectionist President Donald Trump and the plutocratic billionaires; the Democrats pursue business as usual and expand their bases by empowering Blacks and Hispanics. But neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have a vision for a democratic and livable America.

They are united, however, in their unlimited support for the military industrial complex and perpetual war. Russia’s war in Ukraine invigorated this temporary and convenient truce between the Republicans and the Democrats. Forget about climate danger. War tops it all. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House, expresses that delusion by her war-mongering declarations that we must defeat Russia.

Hellenic Virtue

This dangerous national division has a silver lining for  Greek-Americans. Their Greek culture makes them different. They care for the viability of their community and society.

Thucydides tells us that Pericles was unhappy with any Athenian pretending he did not like politics because he minded his own business. That, Pericles said, was unacceptable for a citizen. Such a person, Pericles said, did not fit in the polis. He lived a useless life (The Peloponnesian War 2.40).

One has to care about and be personally involved in the workings of democracy.

Greek-Americans should know their business success is not sufficient. That achievement is being undermined by their silence and invisibility. Their survival is at stake.

It happened to the wealthy community of Greeks in Constantinople in the pogrom of September 6-7, 1955. The Turkish government organized the destruction of that prosperous and millennial community.

I am not suggesting that pogroms against the Greeks are likely in America. But I am promoting the virtue of the Athenians. Be involved with the politics and life of your country.

America is Hiding and Attacking Greek Culture

There are disturbing trends in America. Universities and museums are downsizing Greek studies and Greek influence in favor of fashionable and careerist models and multiculturalism. I recently discovered that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is hiding its Greek and Roman archaeological treasures.

There are also pseudo-scholars rewriting Greek history for decades. These myopic professors denigrate Greeks and especially heroes and geniuses like Homer, the teacher of the Greeks for millennia.

This bothers me. Books against the Greeks come from the largest publishers of America. They circulate in thousands of public libraries all over the country and are for sale in thousands of bookstores. Millions of Americans read these books, including college students.

What do Greek-Americans do about this defamation? Probably nothing. They don’t have the means to object and fight such a cultural onslaught and, probably, they are not even aware of the war against them.

The Jewish Model

To fight this attack you need appropriate means: educational, cultural, political. An attractive model for imitation comes from the Jewish community of America. American Jews own universities, research institutes, philanthropic foundations, lobbying organizations, newspapers, televisions, radios, and publishing companies. They are also in Hollywood, a gigantic film industry.

Greek-Americans can do the same thing. In 2003, I urged Greek-Americans to create a university as a gift to their adopted country – and the world. So far, nothing has happened.

Writing My Books

Publishing books is fundamental – and personal to me. Each time I write a book, I spend years looking for a publisher. Like Socrates, I remind people of what they don’t like to hear. I denounce their evil works – in polluting nature, destroying family farming, promoting climate chaos, fighting wars, and defaming the Greeks.

Publishers, especially the large houses, don’t like that kind of talk. I criticize failing government agencies, polluters and the poisoners of our food, and publishers stay away from those controversies. I spent years looking for a publisher for my environmental book, Poison Spring. The book found a publisher, finally, because I had a capable and committed literary agent.

I also denounce scholars rewriting Greek history to fit multiculturalism and globalization agendas. Editors and publishers have no interest in preserving or promoting the integrity of Hellenic civilization. An editor told me Greek blood flows in my veins, by which she meant she had no interest in my book praising the virtues of the Greeks.

What To Do

I would hope Greek-Americans who love their Hellenic culture would buy a publishing company or start their own and give a chance to scholars and writers to defend Hellenism. We cannot afford to lose this war funded by enemies of democracy and free speech.

Hellenism, the virtues our ancient Greek ancestors passed on to the West, is crucial for the survival of America and the West, including the modern country of Greece, a small country that has suffered enormously since 2010. The thoughtless European Union and the United States have used debt as an excuse to loot and starve the country with austerity resembling some consequences of the Nazi-era famine in the country during World War II.

All Americans, and especially Greek-Americans, ought to be outraged and protest such ruthless policies.

Get involved. Run for Congress to defend democracy and environmental integrity. Buy a national newspaper or television station to start a conversation on Hellenic virtues.

These virtues are no magical tricks or golden bullets – they are ideas about how people can live the good life without strife.

The Athenians had direct democracy, a flourishing culture, the theater of Dionysos, the Panathenaea games and celebration of Athena, and the Parthenon. The Spartans had a mixed Constitution that included democracy and monarchy. But militarism consumed the Spartans so much they enslaved fellow Greeks.

Reading Plato and Aristotle give you clues and insights, not a recipe for a good life. They, too, faced difficult times. The strife of the fourth century BC, after all, was the aftermath of the 27-year-old tragic and dreadful Peloponnesian War. That conflict came into being because of the failure of Athens and Sparta to keep talking to each other, strengthening their common Hellenic origins and culture. Instead, after they defeated the Persians in early fifth century BC, they drifted apart for 50 years and, eventually, came into blows.

Democracy is hard work. Protecting the endangered natural world is even more difficult than choosing an honest person for a public office. And stopping climate chaos is a life-and-death struggle against extremely entrenched and powerful fossil fuel institutions and corporations.

So, Hellenic virtues (democracy, the golden mean, love of the natural world, justice for all, and free speech) could inspire the conversation necessary for the closing of the gap between Americans and their political parties.

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