Antetokounmpo Absolves the Hellenes: The Beginning of an End

By Anastasios M. Tamis*

Greece has a long period of cohabitation and coexistence with metikoi, foreigners, slaves, settlers, foreigners, refugees, xenomerites and immigrants to name the different categories of foreigners who settled and lived with the natives, the native Greeks. In most cases, local chauvinism had been and remained prominent and deeply rooted in the consciousness of Greeks from the years when the city-states of ancient Greece were established and flourished. Locality was so ingrained in the identity and consciousness of a city’s inhabitants that they considered “outsiders” even their compatriots, who had the misfortune to be born in the nearest neighboring city. They were considered xenomerites, “outsiders” and intruders until today. I remember that in Perth, the Kastellorizians called their Mytilenian priest a “foreigner” (“he’s a xenos, but he’s good,” they said); and the Cytheres of Sydney and Canberra numbered in their assemblies five Tsirigotes and ten Greeks. The local chauvinism of the Greeks of the world, which gave birth to the thousands of local associations and fraternities in the vast Greek diaspora and fragmented the power of Hellenism into thousands of communal organizations, was the main reason for the non-existence of a united union. Hellenism, a strong global alliance. This local chauvinism among the Greeks, caused the ordinary Greek to foresee and even treat his compatriots in the neighboring village as an “outsider” and therefore inferior, in a sense of devaluation and trivialization.

Of course, things had changed when ancient Hellenism broke the city-state barrier and began, for mainly social and economic reasons, to meet and communicate with foreign, extraterrestrial and foreign-speaking neighbors. This category also included all the Greeks who were born in Ionia and Caria and in the other cities of historical Hellenism, who lived in ancient Athens, without being natives, working there as migrants, as settlers. The Athenians, on the recommendation of Pericles, had voted and decided on a law which gave the right of citizenship only to those who had two Athenian parents. When, at last, Pericles had a son with an intelligent and beautiful hetaera, Aspasia of Miletus, who was even several years his junior, their son was not considered an Athenian, at least as long as Pericles lived. Finally, the Athenians stipulated that it was enough for one parent to be Athenian, so that their son, years later, acquired Athenian citizenship and became the recipient of his parental property. Demosthenes turned his hatred of Philip of Macedon into a science and “adorned” him with dozens of cosmetic adjectives to prove that he was not a pure-blooded Greek in his “philippic orations”.

The aforementioned situations caused a strong prejudice against non-natives and consequently provoked intense racism towards foreigners and migrants, who, in addition to the nickname “barbarian”, were adorned with other adjectives, which indicated racism and discrimination, with marginalizations and inequalities against others. peoples. Younger Greeks who did not live with foreign peoples in the same historical-political or national environment, without experience of cohabitation, limited to the taboos of their ethnotopic chauvinism, for example as Macedonians, Tsirigotes, Samians, Arcadians, remained with a deep prejudice against foreigners. This prejudice has often been interpreted with racism, phyletic violence, inequalities, exclusion, marginalization, even forced displacement and exile.

Many years have passed for modern Greeks to overcome the prejudices of their in-laws from Tirana, to accept the contribution of Polish immigrants in Greece, as well as the contribution of the economic migrant and the political refugee. I have also personally experienced and witnessed incidents of insulting foreigners in Greece (not to mention the Roma, who live in their own world), instances of violent behavior, inhumane treatment, unequal conduct and exploitation of immigrants by our Greek compatriots. Prejudice and racism have largely become a way of life for thousands of far-right fascist elements in Greece, and often interpreted with salary withholding, emotional abuse, coercion, threats and generally derailment of behavior human from its moral basis.

Fortunately, dense random events often come to redeem us from our bad behavior. In this case, Greece benefited from the presence of an African family, which fortunately found itself a refugee in our country. A family from Lagos, Nigeria emigrated to Athens in 1991, leaving behind their eldest son, Francis. In Athens, Father Antetokounmpo, a former footballer for the Nigerian national team, and his wife, a high jump champion, raised four other children together, Giannis, Thanasis, Kostas and Alexis. Their four children were baptized Greek Orthodox, attended a Greek school, grew up in the neighborhoods of Athens, and received a Greek education. The first three, for the time being, are becoming ambassadors of Greek culture and sports. They enter the basketball court to play and make their center; when we hear the national anthem of Greece, they sing it with pride (other “Greeks” are ashamed to play the words in their lips); they had the right to choose between their original homeland (Nigeria) and the homeland of birth (Greece) and preferred Greece with the absolute consent of their parents. They identify as Greeks, declare their Greek identity and promote it, providing unlimited prestige and substance to Greece around the world.

The Antetokounmpo brothers and their parents entered the hearts of Greeks all over the world. They became the redeemers of Hellenism. They redeemed the Greeks from a pure racism that they and their ancestors may have experienced from ancient Greece to the present day. Most Hellenes have had the opportunity to reconsider and reassess their position towards those born in Greece, regardless of their racial background and feel proud of their Giannis, Thanasis and Kostas Antetokounmpo. They feel gratified and despised. Greece and the Greeks owe a lot to the Antetokounmpo brothers, not so much for their performances on the basketball courts, but even more for their contribution to shaping the consciousness and identity of their fellow Greeks, emancipating them from the prejudices of the past. After all, Isocrates always regarded as equally Greek all foreigners who were willing to adopt and use the Greek way of life.

*Professor Anastasios M. Tamis has taught at universities in Australia and overseas, was the creator and founding director of the Dardalis Archive of the Hellenic Diaspora and is currently President of the Australian Institute of Macedonian Studies (AIMS).

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