May 20, 2015
Disclaimer – I am not Greek, so everything I am writing below might be a load of rubbish. Similarly, I know that in Britain, there are many enlightened individuals, who understand the issues surrounding the Parthenon Marbles and want to see them returned to Athens.
A few weeks ago, I looked in detail at the varying levels of support for return of the Parthenon Marbles from different political parties in the run up to the UK general election. Now that the election has been and gone, I will soon be re-visiting this article, seeing how its results vary based on the current make up of Parliament.
One thing that I noticed while conducting this survey, much of which was done over Twitter, was that many of those who are against the return of the sculptures did not really understand what the issue meant to the Greeks. Not only were there those who dismissed the issue as unimportant and not worth worrying about, but others who merely responded that they were quite happy with the current situation and saw no need to change it. Still more spoke out against return of the sculptures, but when asked further questions realised that they did not actually know many of the details of the case.
All too often, the British press love to portray restitution requests by Greece as nationalistic tub-thumping – something that amounts to its critics as little more than petulant whining having changed their mind over a past decision. Hopefully those reading this website have a more enlightened view, but it does not take long reading the comments below many press articles, to find this flawed understanding is all too common.
A big part of the problem is that we only see the situation through our own eyes – we feel that as we are happy with it, that anyone who wants to change it is disruptive. We do not even attempt to look at the story through the eyes of a Greek – how they feel every time we think about it. The fact that many see the case as too insignificant to have opinions about compounds the issue – the Parthenon Sculptures really do not mean that much to the average person in Britain, whereas from a Greek perspective, the emotion attached to the case is very different.
George Zacharopoulos is a Greek comedian based in the North East of England. Some of his shows contain a sketch on the Parthenon Marbles – which while good for its amusement value alone, does offer a good way of starting to understand how their story is perceived by many in Greece. Looking at the situation in a different way helps to understand just how galling it feels to Greeks to hear mealy mouthed commentators trying to argue that rather than complaining, Greece should be thanking Britain for looking after the sculptures for them.
His show is next on in London at Top Secret Comedy Club on Drury Lane on July 12th 2015.
In the meantime, you can see a clip off him talking about the Parthenon Marbles here (Start watching 6:20 into the clip). He tells me that he has since further developed that part of the act, so it is longer than what you can see here.
Watch the video, and remember to see him while he’s in London if you are able to.