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  • Writer's picturePhilip Ammerman

The reverse of the medal

An idle thought this morning. This year is the bicentennial of the Greek revolution. On 25 March 1821, the Revolution broke out (earlier in some areas).

I came across a 30 Drachma coin celebrating the 1863 - 1963 centennial. It occurred to me that the sense of national identity was probably a lot clearer (and certainly much more restricted) in 1963 than it is today.

Am I advocating for a return to a patriarchical monarchy? No, of course not. But I am wondering what holds the nation of Greece together today.

It seems to me that we have replaced a sense of immediate national symbolism with a technocratic lowest common denominator and equivalency. Part of this is probably 40 years of caviar socialism and τα κεκτημένα μας.

Part of it is the European Union, with its incessant bleating for policy harmonisation and cohesion and scoreboards. It's inevitable, perhaps, in an area of shared sovereignty, where every country has a veto on essential legislation. We no longer accept diktats -- we accept policy papers and votes in the European Council and Parliament. (Certainly the diktats are hidden better).

But at a very far remove from the average citizen. This tension between the old way of doing things and the new is also seen in our coinage. What is the Euro, after all, but a collection of abstract infrastructural images that theoretically tie together Europe?

In the past we had a king and hyperinflation. Today we have moules-frites and infrastructure kickbacks and villas in Mykonos.

Some of us -- including myself -- thrive in this post-national environment (I still don't have a villa in Mykonos but never mind). Others, perhaps the majority, do not. Or can't see what they need to do in order to so.

And that, my friends, is really the issue.

I really wish we made a greater fuss about the bicentennial. We deserve it.

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