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  • George Kyriazidis

OPINION: What we can Learn from the Greek Revolution of 1821

A reflection on the notions of “freedom“ and “patriotism“ in the 21st Century.


This year Greek people all over the world celebrated the first bicentennial since their National Uprising in the year 1821, the famous “Greek War of Independence” against the Ottoman Empire: The beginning of the ultimate fight of a people for its freedom. A revolution that marked the rebirth of the modern state which we all perceive and recognize when we hear someone mention “Greece”.

But what do words such as “Motherland”, “Freedom” or “Revolution” actually mean to us now?

What did they use to mean to people, two, or even three centuries ago?

If we would want to be perfectly truthful, we would admit that in our frenzied, hurried, fast-paced lives, we would probably consider these terms to have remained identical and unchanged. Although, for someone who would be willing to let themselves stop for a while and just observe the world surrounding them, then the falsehood of such a claim would occur to them as very clearly. That is because life itself often tends to give us the answers we so hopelessly need, in forms of lessons of our mistakes.

Today patriotism is perceived in a negative sense, and its bright side is overshadowed by evil nationalism. The feeling of “belonging” to a certain homeland, is vitiated by a predisposition to hate, versus someone that would likewise “belong” to another homeland. There is shame in being in awe, feeling moved when commemorating the sacrifice of someone that existed before you. There is shame in being proud. You never chose to be born among these people. Likewise, there is shame in loving your family. In being proud of your mother, of your grandfather or your brother. You did not choose to be born among them either. So why would you defend them? And what is the homeland, if not an extension of the family? What is the family, if not an extension of the one’s self?

The people are free to act as they please. They are free to protest. To protest against the new estabilishment. But they are not really free, they mistakenly think to be rebelling. Though are not willing to fight for their ideals, for who they are. Sure, the sultans and the pashas and the kodjabashis no longer exist. In their place is now found a new system. A life, increasingly faster, getting more and more out of hand. There is no time for feeling, there is no time for mother, there is no time for the motherland. What better rebellion, if not that of choosing the warm, comfortable hug of ignorance, of disoriented rage and superficial, materialistic hedonism, over passion, over love. To no longer care: That timely meaning, we so bloodlessly attach to the notion of freedom. To cast out all those things, all those people that keep you in an unending circle, that keeps writing the same history, again and again. And what could possibly make history move in circles, if not the stubbornness of the person who refuses to learn from it, to live through it. Of the person that chooses to ignore it.

Cohesively, we are bound to live through our history, to turn it into paint for our cloth, the cloth which we must carry, as a part of our identity, our flag. Not an identity that we chose to bear, but one we should honor. Since that is what this peculiar life held for us

«Νόμιζε την πατρίδα οίκον, τους δε πολίτας εταίρους»

-Think of your country as your home, and its citizens as your partners.

Xenofon, 430-355 b.C., Ancient Greek Historian

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