Greek and Australian flags held proudly at the Greek National Independence Day march in 2012.
Disconnection and Re-engagement. The following article is in response to all those who are currently finding being of Hellenic heritage a problem and are seeking methods of transport to a safe haven of cultural identity without having to justify their existence in an Australian environment. Australians are naturally a tolerant lot and are well known for sticking up for the underdog, fighting the good fight and helping a battler get back on his feet.
Australians don’t care where a person comes from as long as they can integrate into the Australian environment, abide by its laws and institutions, contribute to the welfare of its people and lend a hand when its society may find itself at odds with another country. The article also covers in brief, a question that is of concern to those Australians of Hellenic heritage, that of the status of future generations and their attitudes towards the maintenance and reinforcement of Hellenism in Australian society. Have we disengaged from the mainstream of Hellenism? Are we disconnected from our Australian Hellenic communities? Are our youth on the right track regarding their Hellenic roots? Are we doing the right thing to reinforce the positive Hellenic traditions, language, religion and cultural aspects that make us who we are and do we readily identify ourselves as Australians of Hellenic origins?
Although the article does not cover the experiences of Hellenism in America, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Great Britain, Russia and Egypt where Greeks are known to reside in some numbers, the concepts being explored in this article mirror the Greeks in those countries with some exceptions. The article therefore can be examined at the same level of understanding wherever Hellenism is found. Australian Hellenic justifications Those of us who may find themselves at crossroads regarding their Hellenism need not worry as long as they do not need to justify their existence or the fact that they have chosen a path that may be at odds with their Hellenic past. So what if many have married outside the Hellenic community? Will these mixed marriage effect the retention and handing down of traditions from one generation to another? Is it all that important and how does it effect the elderly or the parents?
What if the children are not brought up in a Hellenic household, this does not mean that it’s the end of the world. So what if some of them end up as guests of the Commonwealth as a result of their misdemeanours. So what if others enjoy a community that espouses gay and lesbian rights and that they enjoy their company. Do we forget and don’t support those on drugs? What if people don’t go to church and listen to the priest give out his sermon in Greek? Who cares if Greek music is not played at home or that children stay out late at night? Is it right that the youth do not respect their elders and look down upon them? Who does it effect if a child is out of wedlock? What is being done to those who have separated and divorced? What action is being taken to re-engage them with the Australian Hellenic community? Is there any harm in not knowing how to dance in Greek? Is it all right to place the elders in an old age home because the children are unable to care for them? Will the children visit their elderly parents if they are placed in a home for the aged? Is it wrong to emulate our Anglo-Celtic and Saxon brethren? Is it not right for an Australian of Hellenic heritage wanting to serve in the Australian Defence Force? Where is it wrong to integrate the best of all cultures and live in harmony within an Australian society?
Questions that may or may not need solutions can only be found by those seeking them. What are the solutions if any? The above and below questions beg to be answered not only by the current generations but also involves the current youth of today and also that of the emerging youth currently still studying at school. How do we re-engage the people? How do we reconnect to our heritage? How do we retain our culture religion and language in a society that is tolerant and welcomes the positive aspects of different cultures? Are we to be absorbed and embedded within Australian society without some form of identity that we can point to and say that this is where our we came from? Australians many times in the past 200 hundred years had to face the same dilemma as the Australian of Hellenic background is facing today, but they in their wisdom were able to rise above the questions that vexed them by embracing Australia as their own and thus were able to retain their Anglo-Celtic and Saxon traditions and heritage that our Australian society is based upon today.
We as Australians of Hellenic heritage are now faced with this same paradox that previous cultures faced in the past. When being Greek is not a dirty word. How many of us growing up in Australia have shied away from our “Greekness” so to speak? How many of us tried to hide our origins in order to blend within the Australian environment? How many of us have neglected our heritage and belittled our origins because it was cool, because we wanted to belong to our peer group (whatever that may be?). How many of us have Anglicized our names because our Australian friends could not pronounce them? We have all been guilty of it at one time or another, even by Anglicizing our children’s names to ensure that they are not ridiculed at school. Names such as Panayiota, becomes Patty, Pamela or even Betty. Panayioti becomes Peter or Petros and in some cases Panos. Bistolas – Pistol, Andreas – Andrew, Charalombos – Harris, Kyryiakos – Ken, Kyryiaki – Kyrie or Kerry, Mavros – Black and the list goes on and on, it is endless. Mind you there is nothing wrong with this as it makes life easier for everyone, but as time goes by the Hellenic aspect of the name loses its descriptive meaning.