It was the summer of 1974 when the Turkish military invaded Cyprus forcing Greek Cypriots out of their homes with thousands of Greeks worldwide taking to the streets of many cities protesting the invasion.
One such march took place in Washington, D. C. I remember my mom dragging me and my sister onto one of the buses along Powell lane by St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Upper Darby for the ride down I-95 to join other patriotes in a march at the nation’s capital. That was it, I was officially indoctrinated, I became a Greek protester.
In this country those who attend demonstrations join hands or raise signs and even hold lit candles in the palms of their hands as they march. In a tea party rally once some protesters even had tea bags hanging from their hats. Those that are brave enough will even sit in the middle of a street just waiting for the approaching officers to handcuff them and even put their hands around their back just to make the officer’s job easy. Watching such a protest on a news channel recently I gave the tv a “mountza” and turned to my wife and said “Americans”. “What’s wrong with you?” she asked and then started telling me that we live in a civilized society where people are polite and get their message across without violence. “In Greece, they always have to break stuff and cause mayhem” she said and then goes on about our rebellious nature and how we must learn to settle our differences in a humane manner. “Κλάιν μάιν” said I and for one more time, I have pain in my neck the next day from sleeping on the sofa.
Sorry, but these people need some lessons from our fellow Hellenes who take protesting to a whole other level and take to the streets in a moment to notice whether the reason is justified (like the invasion of Cyprus) or not (getting social security at the age of 65 instead of 45).
Candles? Signs? No way Jose. In their backpack they have:
- a gas mask
- bottled water
- Molotov cocktails
- Marlboro cigarettes
- a bullhorn
- steel chains
- metal pipes
- a baseball bat (even though they don’t play baseball!!)
And finally, knives you buy at the panigiri with the little plastic handle that cut through a steel pipe, a tomato and then can be used to pick horta at a park near you (take that ginsu). Where else in the world do you have a dog that marches right alongside the people and is ready for battle? Only in Greece.
Storefronts and car windshields don’t stand a chance and that’s only when PAOK loses.
Many think that it’s the structure of society, corruption and the non-enforcement of laws that allows everyone to do what they want to, but I think there’s more to it and I’m not making these assumptions based on the Greeks taking to the streets. I think it’s in our DNA with fighting being in our blood since Leonidas at Thermopylae. Simply put, we Greeks don’t take any crap and I don’t care who you are and what you do for a living or how much money you have. When push comes to shove and the blood rises to your head, “mou anevike to aima sto kefali”. We are ready for battle and I’m not just talking about the young and unemployed, or the yiayia or pappou with a cane who use it as a weapon better than Bruce Lee. I have witnessed this rebellious nature even in educated professionals like Greek doctors, college professors, and attorneys. “Do you know where I’m from?” said one Greek doctor to a colleague over a dispute. “I’m from SPARTA” holding his fist up in the air just waiting for a reaction so he could punch the other doctor in the face.
You see the Americans call the police or their attorney when trouble arises and we Greeks do the same but there’s a major difference: We call the police AFTER we punch the other guy in the face and knock him out. You don’t believe me? Just ask our attorney friend Harry K. who spends most of his time defending our people in court.
We Greeks also close down highways for hours. A few years back when the cabbies in Athens went on strike they shut down the road to the airport and left travelers stranded on the road.
When we go on strike we go on strike as well also and we strike first when we feel that were wrong. I see union people with “on strike” signs wrapped around their necks walking up and down the sidewalk. “SHAME ON YOU” read one recently. Are you kidding? What are these people doing? Everybody is ignoring them.
You see a Greek would put into motion “operation coal mine” where he would go in the middle of the night and burn every piece of machinery the company owns and that’s AFTER he deflates the tires on every single truck. The next day as the crew would come to work they will find nothing but coal forcing the higher-ups to rethink who they hire next time That’s what a Greek would do.
“You know what the problem with us is” a good Greek friend told me once, “mas pnigei to dikio, we get stuck and can’t move on” to which I replied “ai sto diavolo re” and he hasn’t talked to me since.