Nikos Dimou: The agony and the ecstasy of being Greek

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A completely normal being (such as Star Trek's Mr Spock) would say that we're insane. In analysing our behaviour, Adler would have referred to an inferiority complex and our inherent need for compensation. Marx would have said that football has become "the opium of the people".

A completely normal being (such as Star Trek's Mr Spock) would say that we're insane. In analysing our behaviour, Adler would have referred to an inferiority complex and our inherent need for compensation. Marx would have said that football has become "the opium of the people".

At any rate, the overreaction of the Greeks has shown that we were desperately seeking reassurance of our existence as a nation - no matter if this proof was sought on a football pitch. But why?

Greece is a small country with an immense ego. Its people are burdened with history and myths. Always at the top of the polls measuring national pride in Europe (97 per cent), we believe in the "devilish Greek cunning" and in the cleverness that outsmarts every European. We also have at our disposal our own, private god ("The God of Greece"). We view ourselves as the chosen people.

This clash between our inflated, mythical ego and the harsh everyday reality is a constant source of depression. We feel that we should receive special recognition and treatment and when we don't get it, we feel disappointed. We become insecure and have "underdog" feelings. We start believing in conspiracy theories and feel threatened. In our splendid isolation we remain a brotherless people living in a world of enemies. It is in this way that we become trapped in nationalistic solipsism. Our "national rights" become a source of irritation and nagging for an entire nation. Foreign policy is approached in an entirely emotional manner (they love us - or no? Are they philhellenes? Antihellenes?).

We thirst for recognition, acceptance and admiration. Even the slightest success of a Greek academic or athlete, which in other countries would be left to occupy the space of the relevant columns, is guaranteed to become front-page news here.

And now recognition, acceptance and admiration is being lavished upon us wholeheartedly. How could we not be deliriously happy? Let us enjoy the euphoria that this distinction has allowed us. But let us not forget that we gained it thanks to the strategic genius of a German coach who was able to develop and bring the best out of the Greek team at his disposal. It was thanks to him and the Western experience and education of his footballers that this result was possible.

Those who maintain that it was simply the "Greek soul" that lay at the root of victory are unrealistic. The soul was always there in the past - but we had permanently devastating scores.

And once the initial excitement and enthusiasm is gone, a useful lesson could be gained ... Nothing happens as a result of "soul" alone. But if it is combined with rationalism, Greeks can go very far indeed.

Translated by Henrietta Roussoulis. Nikos Dimou is the author of many essays and poetry. His collection of aphorisms: On the Misery of Being Greek has been reprinted 22 times

Comments