Recapitulating Alterity,: Hellas as subaltern crossroads

  • Posted on: 3 November 2017
  • By: Anonymous (not verified)

reproduced from

[PDF] An iterative process of territorial conquest, political and cultural exchange engenders a singular phenomenon wherein the Greek national consciousness and political economy remains in perpetual polar flux: Greece, Urheimat of Eurocentricity–aptly lionized type specimen of democracy (isomorphic with its self-proclaimed [post]modern heir liberal nation-states in the hierarchization of participation and access along a gendered and ethnocentric stratigraphy), now faces again the predicament of those three alternatives to political subjugation by external empire(s) presented by Lord Byron in his letters from Missolonghi of 1824.

To wit:
[Lord Byron] says he must frankly confess, that unless order and union are consolidated, all hopes of a loan, and of any succour which Greece might expect from foreigners, will be suspended and checked; and what is more, the great Powers of Europe, none of which was an enemy to Greece, and seemed inclined to favour the establishment of an independent power in Greece, will be persuaded that the Greeks are unfit of govern themselves, and will take some measures to put an end to your disorders, which will destroy at once all your hopes. “Allow me to add,” he says, “once and for all, I desire the welfare of Greece, and nothing else. I will do my utmost to secure it, but I will never consent that the public or individuals in England shall be deceived with respect to the real state of Greece.”

[…] “Greece now has three ways to choose–to re-conquer its liberty; to become a dependent on the sovereigns of Europe; or to be again a Turkish province. There is no alternative between these three; but civil war seems to lead only to the two last. If you envy the fate of Walachia or the Crimea, you may have it tomorrow [emphasis added]; if that of Italy, the day after to-morrow; but if Greece will become free and independent, she must decide now or it will be too late.”

The contemporary Greek scenario, now seven years into crushing austerity imposed by external powers in Brussels (read: Frankfurt [ECB], Berlin [Wolfgang Schäuble {Finance Minister, Germany (CDU)}], Washington [IMF]) chillingly recapitulates those prior interactions characteristic of relations of late Hellenic civilization with neighboring/transecting ethnocultural planes, wherein the Greek is always already necessarily “other”/marked/subaltern: neither Eastern nor Western, neither Asian nor European, neither white nor black, Hellas ever always interstitially iterates its vexing ethno-ontological amorphism.

The Ottoman Empire laid claim largely to former provinces of once vast preceding Hellenic, Persian and Arab civilizations, integrating pre-existing administrative apparatuses where appropriate, including whole sections of formerly Byzantine territory occupied and predominated by Hellenic/-ized peoples. Against such a backdrop, insurgency and irredentism can only be described as de rigeur, especially as marks the intense ethnopolitical rivalry which has long broadly characterized the often-fraught historical relationships between peoples identified as, respectively, Hellenic or Turkic. This phenomenon can only have intensified subsequent to later superimposition of an intra-Abrahamic sectarian rivalry upon the already existing rhythm of intermittent, iterative (territorial/ecological) conflict.

Contemporary, neoliberal, post-Hartz IV grand coalition Germany epitomizes Max Weber’s Protestant work ethic, and this frugal, centrist, productionist ideology undergirds the European Union terms of Greek debt settlement through social austerity implementation. Once again, a subjugate Greece must hop to at the beck and call of a foreign power whose will supersedes the desires and ambitions of Greek people for their autonomy and themselves. What once took the form of early resistance to Ottoman empire quickly escalated to the anarchic conflagrations that have today driven the state’s emissaries from their police station in Exarchia as insurrectionists militate against borders, technoscientific ecocide and the globalized cisheteropatriarchal capitalism it equips. The German condescension directed toward the Southern “other” euphemistically extends its embrace around the Greek heart through the dry technocratic punishment of bureaucratic language, the simulacra of diplomacy and the heretical pretending to that exhausted European stereotype, “solidarity” bereft of any empathy for the lived experience of that “other” to whom the North, especially Germany, politically condescends. Galpin observes that, with respect to post-2009 discourses in Europe, “reference to ‘foreign’ debts places Greece and other debtor countries as external and therefore not a legitimate recipient of a German guarantee or German money.” Further, Galpin finds “that Germany’s Nazi past [has] in fact provided a constitutive ‘Other’ for European identity construction with the result that Germany linked its national identity closely to Europe, and its national policy interests consistently with European ones in order to deal with its past.” Given such an existential investment in the European ideal as Germany itself since 1955 has helped to construct it, little is surprising about the German overreaction to any threat to the European project, and, given Germany’s status as the world’s third-largest exporter, its common currency in particular.

Lord Byron extricated himself from troublesome affairs in England only to locate himself in the midst of the tumult which through a meandering and violent history inevitably gave rise to the extant Greek state. On observing the tensions along which the impulses of conflict resonated, Byron entered the discursive fray in the sympathy of the Greek nation as it sought its severance from Ottoman rule, writing the passages above from Cephalonia on the 30th of November, 1823, published along with other pertinent doings and sayings of Byron in Telegrafo Greco, an Italian language weekly of the period published from Missolonghi, where Byron had taken up residence.

Byron’s missive identifies the predicament then faced by Greeks which remains clear today: those scant resources which might be obtained to purchase the future of the nation (whose growth, from its foundation upon ecocidally erosive agropastoral land use, has always been organically limited,) rested in the hands of cultures Eastern (Turkish) and Western (Germanic, Francophone) which viewed the Greeks largely as inferior relics, typically tolerated solely as political means to various connivances of ends. Charlotte Galpin identifies the homologous postmodern problematic, which during the Greek sovereign debt crisis of 2009-10:

engendered a (re)definition in the public sphere of how Europe and European solidarity are understood, of what “being a good European” should mean. The “good European” complies with the rules and ordoliberal values of the community and often results in the exclusion of Greece from an imagined “Northern” European community.

An implicit identification of fiduciary responsibility with frugality and moral rectitude underlies the Northern attitude to which Galpin refers, emanating from Weber’s aforementioned Protestant ethos, which not only informed the attitudes of Northern governments and populations but also, given their greater numerical weight in both GDP and population relative to Southern EU member states, informed the development of the treaty-based requirements to which ECB member states generally and Eurozone members in particular are subject. Similarly, in Byron’s day a northerly Protestant concern for the plight of the Greek was lensed by the prejudicial interpretations of the variant Mediterranean attitude toward resources and capital which very likely reflects the transience of any resources accumulated at all in such a marginal ecology of scarcity.

The marginality of Greece and Mediterranean neighbors, both ecological and economic, participates in the ongoing refugee crisis of the EU which is ever in dialog with the German response to Greek sovereign debt. A quid pro quo is implied in the German assumption of the mantle of responsibility for the vast majority of incoming refugees from 2015 forward, advocating on behalf of Greece and Italy in European debates concerning evolving political responses. Once again, Greece embodies a cosmopolitan subaltern crossroads where the concerns of disparate and often distant social planes intersect chaotically in the froth and ferment of semiotics which bore Western origins from the residues of Sanskrit and Semitic upon the sloping and subsident soils under the southern European sun. Indeed, it may even be suggested that the refugee crisis of Syria in particular itself arose out of the ecological degradation wrought upon the region by preceding Hellenic civilizations and in particular the legacy of the Byzantine hegemony now proceeds upon the scorched lands of pale sands. As unarmed German bombers relocate from a once-friendly Turkey to Jordan to further bear witness to the scenes of human struggle below, relaying positions to the pilots of allied combatant nations, Russian fighters strike militant and civilian indiscriminately as Putin slowly secures that long held aspiration of greater Russian access to the Mediterranean, particularly the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, undergoing construction under the supervision of the same Chancellor who oversaw the implementation of German austerity years prior to the crisis under the reforms of Hartz IV (named for a since-disgraced technocrat), Gerhard Schröder himself. Lord Byron’s words apply as readily to the situation of today as to that of his own time, particularly his injunction to beware the fate of Crimea, which has once again played host to inter/intraethnic (whether Russians and Ukrainians comprise a single ethnicity depends upon who you ask) violence in the service of irredentist and imperial ambitions. As Turkish accession to the EU appears permanently foreclosed and Europeans everywhere reflect upon solidarity and identity, Galpin’s meditations bear consideration:

The Eurozone crisis is presumed to have exacerbated this shift away from the European interest. The assumption in the more recent normalization literature is that discourses more avidly promoting Germany’s economic interests and national identity were strengthened and its European vision weakened particularly during the Greek bailout negotiations. Germany’s reluctance to contribute significant sums of money in order to protect the Euro has been interpreted as revealing an absence of European solidarity.

Rule by fiat (currency) has literally usurped solidarity in the European project, led by the tendentiousness of none “Other” than Germany, which seeks with astounding lack of reflexivity to once again impose its rule upon Greece from afar, echoing the long ago letters of a poet lost to the world too soon.



Difficult but interesting read. I've been fascinated by the Greek opposition to austerity for a long time, and this enriched my understanding. I have to admit that although I did not believe the dominant narrative that Greeks are 'lazy' and want handouts and early retirements, my understanding of the situation was shaped by an assumption that Greece was being 'stubborn' about not participating in the European Union. This piece definitely helped me situate the scenario in a larger historical context--that authoritarian state forces have crafted a narrative of austerity and the 'protestant work ethic' as normative and Greece as an aberration from this unified goal, which is ironic given that Greece is basically the cradle of democracy. No doubt those state forces transcend Europe itself, which is also ironic given that we over here in the U.S. were one of the only countries to tell England to fuck off and yet now both states are in bed with each other.

what is this garbage? it sounds like an alt-right libertarian trying to use social science entryism/soft perspective shifting. WTF?

lol, what?

care to offer a coherent critique?

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