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Happy 200th Anniversary of Greek Independence 25.03.2021

From A British Feminist in Mykonos

By Lia IkkosPublished 3 years ago 8 min read
Happy 200th Anniversary of Greek Independence 25.03.2021
Photo by Patrick on Unsplash

The women in charge of our future, the mothers of tomorrow's world are the likes of Kamala Harris - Vice President of The United States, Esther Perel - Author and Therapist, Kathrin Jansen - Head of Vaccine Research and Development at Pfizer, Jacinda Ardern - Prime Minister of New Zealand, Melanie Perkins - Co-Founder and CEO of Canva, and Christine Lagarde - President of European Central Bank. The future is truly inspiring and women are charging forward with grace across all sectors of society.

Once a little while ago, on the 8th of March, I dared utter the words "Suck my dick international womens' day." Rest assured I was met with the adequate rebuttle from my closest friends. They were outraged that I undermined the fight our mothers and foremothers fought for us.

Was I brazen to say such a thing? Yes. Is it an absurd statement? That's why I said it. Was it unjustifiable? I still don't really think so. To me, what is absurd is that the power of woman kind has been socially denied for so long, and that's what my metaphor of a dick stood for. I have always had a dick and so have my mothers and foremoters. The reason I wanted the pink champage swashlers to 'suck it' is because I never want to indulge the patriarchal narrative that men have ruled this planet and that women's time is yet to come. We have always had and weilded power. This is no statement denying the sacrifices made by the suffragettes, no justification of the "witches" who were burnt at the stake for their gifts of intuition, nor a 'whatever' to the contemporary women who are subject to the same racism, sexism, agism, educationism, and every other ism which applies to humans of all sexes, creeds, and backgrounds. The violence that has stifled not just women, but entire races was and remains real and abhorent. All these attempts to deny such Others' power is finally futile. It was always futile trying to deny it, because the act of oppression lends power and shows fear in the eye of the perpetrator. The act of oppression indicates just how fearful the oppressor is of their silenced and handicapped victim. Today it is even more futile, because the decentralisation of power is irrevocable. Perchance thanks to the internet, there's no going back.

Yet, let's look back through the lense of the day. Today, March 25th, is the 200 years anniversary of Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire. Curiously, Turkey is threatening once again to attack, under the tyrrany of Erdogan - who just this past week revoked women's rights in Turkey, giving serious cause for grave concern about the wellbeing of all women in Turkey. To call him a barbarian would be a compliment.

This seems like a good moment to recognise one of the heroines who liberated Greece from the Ottoman Empire 200 years ago. Her name was Manto Mavrogenous. Have you heard of a little island called Mykonos? I write to you from the island, (where I accidentally adopted a family of 12 horses, 10 chickens, 5 cats, and 3 gheese - the pandemic has put life and what matters in perspective) and from the very place that Manto liberated.

Manto was actually Italian, and the relationship between Greeks and Italians is as thick as it is delicious. She was an educated aristocrat during the Age of Enlightenment. As one did, she studied Ancient Greek Philosophy and spoke Italian, Turkish, French - and presumably Greek, although her Wiki page hasn't mentioned it. There's no need to rely on Wikipedia to tell her story, because here in Mykonos she is a legend.

This noblewoman personally armed and financed the resistence. Living in Tinos when the Greek Revolution was being mounted after a 200 year occupation under the Ottoman Empire, she defended the Cyclades with her family's fortune, later costing her place in the family itself. Not only in Cyclades, but in the Peloponnese as well as in Samos, did she send support. Beyond paying for the arms, she paid for relief for soldiers and their families. After financing and directing an infantry of sixteen companies of fifty men at the campaign in Chios which failed to prevent a massacre, she resorted to selling her jewelry so that two hundred soldiers were equipped to defend the Cyclades. Her army fought battles at Pelion, Phthiotis and Livadeia. The Mykonos you know today, with the extravagance and luxury that is gorged on by the ultra rich and powerful (I swam next to what was rhumored to be Stephen Hawking's boat last summer) worldwide, exists thanks to this woman who liberated Mykonos and played a crucial role in the liberation of Greece from Turkey. While Turkey's culture is radiant - it's artists and people spiritually rich - as women's rights are revoked and Erdogan's rule continues to pose a global threat, I am humbled today on the day of Greek Independence, and grateful to be in a place where the liberator was a woman, in the 1800s. I will have to stay a lot longer to understand the matriarchy in Greece, and when I do I will write about it. As I write, the news announces that Turkey has today invaded the Greek skies, flying on the day of independence as a threat of near futur invasion.

For now, I can reflect on what is on TV. Global leaders including Biden (whom I quote "the relationship between Greece and The United States, will be closer under my administration than it has ever been" ) and Prince Charles have paid incredible respects to Greece on this day. I can't help but assume this is in part as a warning to Erdogan. Unlike most of the Western super powers, Greece does not have a colonial history. I'm not sure on the realtionship between Ancient Greece as we know it and the African history that preceeds it, and I suspect that democracy is attributed to the Ancient Greeks in a conveniently white-world-kind-of-view way. I am not an ancient historian. I'm a Londoner with Spanish Greek parents who is aware of as much as I am aware of. Today, that brings to my attention the friendly Russian fleet in Piraeus, Athens' primary port.

Is there a war lurking below the surface of our global skin? It's been a long time of relative peace, and recently we have all experienced a lot of turmoil. Like all human behavior, the longer we hold something down, the sharper the teeth when the head is reared. Is our optimistic slogan "the future is female" strong enough to temper this turbulance and sanguine appetite?

Manto Mavrogenous wrote to the women of Paris, appealing to them "The Greeks, born to be liberal, will owe their independence only to themselves. So I don't ask your intervention to force your compatriots to help us. But only to change the idea of sending help to our enemies. The war spreads the horrible death..." Maybe there is a chance of prevention as cure in the world at large, with an increasing number of female leaders in power.

War is always founded on economics and benefit. It doesn't matter who is on what ideological side, because we're all in a bind of powers. If Turkey buys better weapons, Greece will be forced to do the same. If the Spanish are selling arms to the Turks, well, history writes itself at the end of the day. So what about the citizens? What do us little people do?

How does one manage powerlesness? Making bold moves, in my experience, and taking a principled risk on the unknown, for what you believe in. It has been a little over 6 months that I decided to move to Greece from the UK. The decision was based on a few factors:

1. I can't go along with Brexit - I always wondered as a child, if there was heightened nationalism in my country which indicated the emergence of a dictatorship, would I bow to it or react? This question festered in me since school GCSE history studies. I was fortunate enough to study the Nazis for 3 years straight because of changing school for 6th form. No girl at 16 can be expected to stay at an all girl's school. I digress. I always wondered, if I was in Nazi Germany, would I have gone along with it? I'm not comparing Brexit to Nazi Germany or even drawing any parallell with the Nazi occupation in Greece, whose traumatic effect is to this day a disease in the collective subconscious. I'm describing why I couldn't accept Brexit ; on the basis that being party to government decisions of such trickery and magnitude was always a question I had towards myself. Would you have let it suck you in? Our governments make all sorts of decision for the public. Even under the guise of "democracy" and electoral voting systems. All we can control is our own life, so I left England and came to Greece.

2. I want to learn Greek, because my grandmother is still turning in her grave and will be until I finally speak the language, my fathertongue. You can't imagine the look on my aunt and uncle's faces when they heard me speaking Polish. It took 2 years of living in Poland to pick up the basics. They were outraged. I can't learn language from books. So I had to come.

3. The moment to act on gut feelings became available when the world ground to a halt in 2020. It was then or never. I could either be the person who acts, or the person who doesn't do what they say they will do. Face to face with the words I had said and the toughts I had thunk, I knew I had to do it or I would not have this chance again. So, do it I did.

4. I was absolutely broke in the UK. I had no time for my professional life to really take off, because the balance of being a creative and living as a creative is really, truly difficult to strike when rent is extortionate. For 600GBP / month, I had a hovel of a space. The people I lived with? Incredible. The conditions we lived in? Rank. For the same price you can have a whole appartment on the beach in Athens. No brainer.

5. Art and the Arts in Europe are valued entirely differently than in the UK. In London the production/ the artist has to rent space from the landlord and take a cut from sales made by the house from their name. In Europe, the cultural house invite the artists to exhibit, paying them a fee, selling tickets on their behalf and supporting their evolution. Rather than profiteering from the artist as the landlord, the objective of the house is to co-create a space for citizens to take pleasure in.

From Athens to Mykonos, in the most unsuspecting way. You might think Mykonos is a luxury island for tycoons and cheap thrills. It is a place where I have experienced - in this strangest past year of stuckness - that people will willingly, happily and without thinking of it as a favour, help one another and be in it together.

In childhood I was embarassed to be Greek, because they're so proud, so greasy and hairy. All those features I hated in myself. As an adult I'm struck by how moving it is, how full of humanity. In its chaos is serenity. Happy 200th Independence Day, Greece. You still have the magic. Long may independece of ideas, culture, and democratic rights live worldwide.


About the Creator

Lia Ikkos

The Singer Wrong Writer; London born, world raised. Lover of languages, liquorice, and horses.

Theatre Maker, Performer, Writer. See performance work at www.liaikkoscreative.com

Follow me @liaikkos

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