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Columnists

Seeing Off a National Icon to the Neighborhood of the Angels

September 15, 2021

World-renowned composer Mikis Theodorakis left for the ‘neighborhood of the angels’ earlier this month. His passing deprives Hellenism of a firmly spirited and familiar voice, an indefatigable valiance that will truly be impossible to replace. Especially over the past 15 years, as his physical strength began to fade with his advanced age, his spiritual presence seemed to shine more radiantly than ever before.

Theodorakis, a lifelong fighter for causes that far surpassed his own personal interest, played a leading role in two contemporary issues of major importance, setting the tone for Hellenism’s fighting spirit, like a maestro conducting an orchestra. He fought against the memoranda that were imposed by a malevolent gang of international profiteers through his ‘Spitha’ movement, along with the disgraceful Prespes Agreement, which he denounced, together with its perfidious designers, through his inspired speech at the monumental rally held at Syntagma Square in the spring of 2018.

Of course, both his ‘Spitha’ movement and the struggle against the Prespes aka the ‘Mistake by the Lake’ agreement did not end as he would have hoped.

Greece has been overrun by its lenders, unable to even feign sovereignty. The forces of domestic corruption hastened to align themselves with the loan sharks that now command the fate of the nation, offering up Greece’s national assets to their newfound suzerains in exchange for vassalships and nominal rule over the colony.

Public debt has reached dizzying heights, far worse than before, as if the years of sacrifice and deprivation imposed on the people of Greece – unprecedented for peacetime – were merely an exercise in futility. Partisanship and all the perverse governance that it begot and insists on upholding continues to plague the country, since the end goal of the memoranda appears to be the sacking of Greece, not its recovery.

Similarly, the Prespes Agreement was signed and subsequently ‘passed’ amidst an unprecedented recital of political corruption, foreign intervention, and the cynical trampling of the Constitution and democracy. Despite the irregularities, the agreement became reality and Greece now suffers the duplicity of Skopje regularly, humiliated by the latter’s repeated breaching of the agreement.

Still, Theodorakis’ struggles over the past few years were not in vain. For the moment, they may not be justified by the results, but that doesn’t mean that these struggles should not have been undertaken. Greece’s long history teaches us that the mode or ‘tropos’ of doing something often carries greater significance than the outcome itself. The Hellenic ethos does not suffer opportunism or utilitarianism. This is central to the concept of ‘archontia’ (loosely translated as a classless sort of nobility deriving from one’s actions, not their station) and self-determination. And those walking this uphill and sometimes lonely path preserve elements of Hellenism’s ecumenical and cosmopolitan nature.

Mikis Theodorakis was a torchbearer of this ancient, longstanding, and unbridled ethos. He shouldered and led movements of resistance that one would logically expect to be assumed by younger people, with greater physical strength and endurance. Nevertheless, even in his advanced age, he seemed to be able to outdo those much younger than him in both bravery and boldness.

This is certainly due to the greatness of the man. It may also be partially due to the era in which he came of age, when ideals and role models gravitated toward spiritual gallantry and left no room for the weeds of social loafing (the quintessential ‘je m’en fous’ attitude), wannab-ism, and fear – almost terror – of losing one’s comfort zone.

Theodorakis lived in an era when musicians were still inspired by poetry and public figures sought to win the ‘praise’ of the Demos or that ‘hard-won, priceless acclaim.’ They weren’t prefabricated by nonsensical talking heads on TV (which the people once wisely referred to as the boob tube) and fake profiles on social media.

Nowadays, we seem to be producing a dearth of fighters and leaders, prominent members of the citizenry with spiritual gallantry. Instead, there is a glut of hooded vandals, political nobodies, entitled scions who seek to rule based on inheritance, and media scarecrows who come apart with the first strong wind.

For all these reasons, Theodorakis’ paradigm was well worth it and stands as a national inheritance. And like every great artist, the hope is that his work will remain long after his fleeting passage from this world, to inspire, teach, and serve as an example for generations to come. Just as Theodorakis’ music can be heard all over the world, may the example of his ethos and valor also travel across the globe and serve as an example for the citizenry; for Greece, which has been so blessed by God and so hated by its enemies, and for the entire world.

The Greek people, enslaved by the memoranda and humiliated by the treacherous Prespes Agreement, will one day be called to reckon with the actions of their ‘Ephialtes’. Either they will fight, as they did at Thermopylae, the Macedonian Struggle, 1940, or the National Resistance against the Nazi invaders and walk the path to immortality, writing new golden chapters in the history of Hellenism, or they will “take the road for Susa” in search of another King Artaxerxes to offer them a place in his court, on the outside chance that he might even offer them “satrapies and things like that.”

But the warning of the poet pierces the conscience: “how terrible the day that you give in (the day you let go and give in)!” Fortunately, such a day never dawned for the ever-memorable Theodorakis, who offered hymns to the “Sun of Justice” and “glorifying myrtle” (Christ and the Panagia). As seminal as his music was, his life, which was a constant struggle, was perhaps even more significant. It was a beautiful, valiant, Greek struggle, worthy of the history of his homeland. May all his fellow compatriots have his blessing and may the younger generations give rise to those who would emulate him and carry on his legacy.

Follow me on Twitter @CTripoulas

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