|Greek History Week: Greek Ego
||[Sep. 15th, 2005|03:36 am]
Supreme Master Chief Road WarriorPoet Taffin, M.D.
|||||Avenged Sevenfold - Remenissions||]|
This entry in Greek History Week is late by anyone's standards. It's being written off the cuff and very little effort is being put into it. Yet I am confident you will enjoy it and shower me with praise and adulation for it. That sentiment alone perfectly encapsulates Greek Ego in practice (if not origin). I could leave it at that and let it self-referentially define itself in and endless loop of a lonely man who finally managed to suck his own penis. But that would be disappointing by anyone's standards (the part where I leave it at a few sentences, not the subsequent simile).
Greek Ego. It's a term I've heard a lot, but one others might not be so familiar with. A Google search for it produces nothing but Biblical translation results (since all Romatic translations of it flow from Greek manuscripts). Fuckin' Judeo-Christians. You can't get away from 'em. Neither could the Greeks, I suppose, who traded Zeus and his churlish pantheon for Jesus just like everyone else. But back to those disappointing Google search results (the cornerstone of all post-internet scholarship). We're well into the fifth page of results (ever been desperate enough to go that far for something that wasn't related to porn or piracy?) before we get at what I was talking about- the common feeling among Greeks that they are at the center of the universe, not only as individuals, but as an ethnic group.
Cat Stevens, that most apostate of Greeks, describes the feeling of "nothing is as perfect as I am," simply as, "You know, Greek ego." Of course Islam washed all that away and that's good for him. I don't know any Greeks who haven't totally disowned him, because the only thing more foreign to the heavily Christian Greeks than fucking Islam is admitting, or even bragging about the tempering or even dissolution of one's ego.
A well-written paper (by well-written, I sarcastically refer to the constant use of "me," "I," and "Here's what I'm going to tell you in the next paragraph"- I didn't even write like that in fifth grade!) is kind enough to reprint the following quote, because I never would have read the book that contained it:
The Greek tongue (of Homer's time)...cannot frame words to express that "I" am one thing and the tradition is another....The Greek ego in order to achieve that kind of cultural experience which after Plato becomes possible and then normal...must separate itself out and by an effort of sheer will must rally itself to the point where it can say "I am I, an autonomous little universe of my own, able to speak, think and act in independence of what I happen to remember." (Havelock: pp. 199-200)
This of course couches in philosophical terms a concept that I am trying to understand purely in, y'know, slacker intellectual terms. The way that college freshmen talk to each other in dorm halls after a long night of drugs and booze. But it's still interesting to think of what we jokingly refer to as Greek Ego arising as a rebellion of sorts against tradition, almost as if the "Me First" '80s of America sprang forth fully formed from the head of "The nail that sticks up gets hammered down" Japan. Greeks are clannish and fond of tradition, but like America (some of the founders of which were enamored enough of the Greeks to consider making Greek our official language), individualism is strongly encouraged. Bold strokes are favored and as long as you do it confidently enough, you can go ahead and do something other than your father did.
But your father did do some amazing things (if you were Greek). As did his father and his father's father all the way back to Kronos. It's pretty obvious that the Greeks are stuck in the past, drawing so much of that arrogance from it, and why not? It's probably the best past anyone has, aside from perhaps the Egyptians. Not a whole lot has gone on in Greece since the classical times, but much of our society is based on the foundation they laid. Much like the Muslims who feel like the Crusades happened yesterday, most Greeks think the Pelopennesian War happened last week. Who can blame them? America is a young country, so all our great victories are relatively recent and honestly fresh in our memory (the defeats cleverly revisioned into slightly lesser victories). Germany's most recent claim to fame is a cause for nothing more than shame. We cling to the good moments and if we didn't, we'd probably feel like shit. To paraphrase Shinji Ikari, what's wrong with living in the past if the present sucks?
What have we learned about Greek Ego? Not a heck of a lot. Like most of my high school writing, I set out to prove one thing and ended up proving nothing, thanks to some quotes that had fuck all to do with my plan for this entry in Greek History Week as well as a general lack of direction and focus. But I'm not going to go back and start over or even read back and try to improve this academic abomination.
Because it's fucking perfect the way it is.