On this March 25th, many of us lament the inability to fully celebrate Greece’s Bicentennial. In our hearts and with our families, we consider modern Greece’s 200-year odyssey with no shortage of pride and awe.
Still, the virtual celebrations COVID has forced on us have fortunately made quality programming provided by Hellenic organizations world-wide available to us all. We have been given an opportunity to focus less on the spectacle of celebrations and turn our attention to the substance of what we are celebrating.
The Greek Revolution launched two centuries ago succeeded against all odds. The democracy that was established thereafter survived against longer odds. And after a decade of crippling austerity, an unprecedented migrant crisis, geopolitical turmoil, political uncertainty, and the effects of the COVID pandemic, Greece has emerged as the most stable, reliable Western democracy in the region, the world’s 52nd largest economy, and is ranked 27th on the Social Progress Index.
This March we should take at least the time we would have spent participating in parades or galas and use it to reflect. We mark this holy Bicentennial (remember, March 25th is both a national and religious holiday in Greece) at precisely the time we can clearly see the light at the end of the dark tunnel we know as COVID. As we start to conceive of a post-COVID world, it would be worth thinking of the new world that was born on March 25, 1821.
As I try to draw a line from the world of 1821 to the world of 2021, I find myself recalling The Colossus of Maroussi, which Henry Miller wrote after visiting Greece in 1939. Describing his soul awakening trip to Epidauros, Miller fixated on one word: REVOLUTION.
There is so much in Colossus that is inspiring, and Miller describes Greece in an enchanting manner. But his declaration that Greece itself inspires a feeling of “revolution” is particularly inspiring. Miller was not celebrating 1821, or OXI Day, but a spirit of revolution that is as relevant today as ever:
A world-wide revolution from top to bottom, in every country, in every class, in every realm of consciousness. The fight is not against disease: disease is a by-product. The enemy of man is not germs, but man himself, his pride, his prejudices, his stupidity, his arrogance.
We have enslaved ourselves, by our own petty, circumscribed view of life. It is glorious to offer one’s life for a cause, but dead men accomplish nothing. Life demands that we offer something more – spirit, soul, intelligence, goodwill.
Today we celebrate the beginning of an unlikely revolution, one that gave birth to modern Greece. To honor the Bicentennial of that revolution and the nation-state it birthed, let us all resolve to offer that something more – our spirit, soul, intelligence, goodwill – as we embark on our post-COVID journey and the next 200 years of Greece.
Endy Zemenides is the Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council.
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