Anthony Quinn’s staggering syrtaki steps proved a powerful boost to Greek tourism in the days of Zorba. Indeed, Nikos Kazantzakis’ lascivious figure became so popular that Greeks gladly adopted the persona of tzatziki-eating, freedom-loving, plate-breaking puppets.
And all was fine because this is how the world wanted us to be and how we wished to see ourselves...passionate people with a ravenous appetite for earthly pleasures!
The Zorba stereotype only went awry when he swivelled up in a Porsche Cayenne. Indeed, Greece boasts the highest per capita ownership of this luxury car. Naturally, foreigners began to wonder how Zorba’s lavish lifestyle was being financed in a country so near the brink of bankruptcy that Standard and Poor’s demoted its bonds to “
A recent front-page headline in German Bild showed Greeks frollicking in the sun (thank goodness we still have that) with their frappes accompanied by a subtitle suggesting that this is how Greeks bide their time while waiting for a solution to their debt crisis. (I guess Germans shut themselves up in their miserable little rooms when facing financial tragedy.)
Truth is, we are not a nation of Zorbas as we would love to believe. If anything we are circus elephants dancing to the tune of the EU and US.
You may wonder how a huge circus elephant can be held docile while tied to a little pole. "Why doesn't he escape?" you ask, knowing that all he needs to do to be free is to swing his trunk. The truth of the matter is that, when first pegged, this powerful creature was still young. He pulled and resisted with all his might and found that nomatter how hard he fought he could not escape. He continued this struggle for some time without success. Eventually, he stopped trying and accepted his condition as fate. By the time he was in a position to succeeed his spirit had already been crushed. In his eyes, he is still the baby elephant he used to be.
And that’s Greece, folks – Tonnes and tonnes of powerful, all-consuming rage hinged to a pole. We have been reduced to nothing more than a nation of obedient onlookers watching our leaders and bankers lie, cheat, steal and swindle. Beyond the debt crisis there is a moral deficit that has yet to be addressed. (Sound familiar maybe?) So when judging us, remember, you should never define a country by its politicians and bankers alone.
But what of the circus elephant that holds all the people of Greece and is being lead by the rope by a swaggering group of swindlers? Perhaps Zorba has the solution to the problem, if only we would listen. Yes, Kazantzakis' Zorba, who said, "You have everything but one thing: madness. A man needs a little madness or else - he never dares cut the rope and be free."
So, it's time to get mad, I guess...