Europe?

February 17, 2009

Ironically, I have been given more to genuinely think about in this last week and a half here at ACT than I have at times throughout whole semesters of certain courses at BC.  The workload is comically light and I thought that would mean I wouldn’t learn anything, but so far it seems to be the opposite.

One of the most interesting things I’ve been given to think about so far is the question of Greece as a European nation.  Certainly it belongs to the EU, it lies on the continent of Europe and it has shared in some of Europe’s greatest modern challenges and successes.  But the average Greek, from what I have learned so far, does not consider him or herself a real European.  Many older Greeks, the study abroad coordinator told me, will still say they are “holidaying in Europe” if they go to France or Germany on vacation; they do not consider themselves or their country apart of this group.

And in a way they have a point, Greece’s history was divided from Europe’s for a very long time while they were under Ottoman rule (nearly 400 years, and nearly 500 up north here in Thessaloniki).  Another interesting thing some of my teachers have observed is the bitterness many Greeks sitll hold towards the Turks for this.  One of my professors observed, however, that this is quite absurd.  The Germans, she said, did ten times as much damage in two years of occupation than the Turks did in four hundred years.  “Why don’t we hate the Germans?” she asked.

In a way I think some of the hatred/prejudice against the Turks was best described by a native Greek classmate of mine who pointed that not only were they neighbors with the Turks, and thus there was more interaction between the two, but also some Greeks feel as though the Turkish occupation held them back.  The Western world (the great powers of Europe in the last half of the millennium) moved forward, using GREEK ideas of government, philosophy and science, while the Greeks themselves were trapped under Ottoman rule.  Though it was not particularly violent (though of course there are accounts of quashed rebellions and isolated brutality) the Greeks entered the 19th and 20th centuries far behind the other nations of “Europe” and they are still playing catch up today.

In their Declaration of Independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1821 the Greeks emphasized strongly their desire to be a part of the West and reject their Eastern heritage and past.  The two are still not completely reconciled today, though the influence of both spheres is undeniable.  I don’t know if I would even call Greece “Europe” without qualifying it as at least ‘Balkan’ or ‘Eastern’ anymore.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this I just wanted to get all the thoughts out as a naive observer.

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