The culturual influence of Greece is undeniable in London. From the democratic foundations of our political system to the architecture of buildings such as the British Museum and the National gallery. Greek cuisine too can be found all over London and Greek plays are performed within London’s theatres.
The Hellenic Cultural Centre situated in Paddington aims to further spread and celebrate this culture through hosting a wide array of events. I visited to hear a lecture by the Greek Ambassador Konstantinos Bikas on Greek cultural influence in Britain, which condensed thousands of years of history into a 30 minute slot rather aptly. Those in attendance were members of the Greek community as well as hellenophiles from the wider London community who networked as wine and delicious sweet baklava were served. I have my own passion for Greek culture myself, from both my father being Greek and a love of Greek art, history and culture which led me to studying a degree in Classical Civilisations.
The nagging feeling I find myself having is the worrying state that Greece resides in at the moment. The Eurozone crisis hit Greece hard and as a result unemployment soared and the ugly face of fascism reared its head. While we have the rise of UKIP, in Greece the rise of Golden Dawn makes them look like childs play. Alleged reports are beyond disturbing. Their symbology is eerily close to Nazi symbol, they idolise Hitler, assault migrants and firmly reject democratic principles that Greek culture so celebrates. They are also the third largest party in Greece.
It does seem very well and good to laud the Greek cultural influence, but how far are people forgetting its significance? People care more about finding work and supporting themselves and their families than they do displays of culture, hence they turn to scapegoats such as immigration and dangerous parties such as Golden Dawn who provide an answer. The works of Homer are no comfort to the very real problems faced.
What’s also easily forgotten is the uglier parts of the ancient Greek culture we celebrate that would be alien to the notions of liberal democracy we have today. The Greeks owned slaves, subjugated their women who had little rights and xenophobia was rampant. Then as we see it now this was due to a narrow focus on the superiority of their own Greek culture against foreigners they saw as barbaric. So while I as much as the next person can appreciate the huge positive impact Greek culture has had upon Western society, there is a danger that it can create that same narrow focus that leads to a xenophobic attitude of culturual superiority, or allow us to stagnate in the glories of the past while we see the future decay around it.