The only thing necessary for the persistence of evil is for enough good people to do nothing

Becoming Greek

From the Athens News

MORE THAN 1,000 people became Greek citizens during a ceremony at Athens’ Sporting stadium on February 29. Athens Prefect Yannis Sgouros and Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos presided over the event, which was the first and the biggest naturalisation ceremony of the year. They led the 1,131 citizens through the oath of allegiance: “I swear to be true to my homeland, to obey the constitution and the laws of this country and to consciously fulfil my duties as a Greek citizen.” The vast majority (1,106 of the 1,131 people naturalised) is ethnic Greek from Northern Epirus, Albania. One Filipino, one Ethiopian, three Egyptians, one French national, two Americans, four Poles and three Turks were also among those naturalised. The vast majority of those naturalised is also Christian Orthodox. Only five said they are Catholics and two are Muslims.

I find the subject of the oath of allegiance very interesting. Some people here on this blog have told me that people should basically give up their own cultures if they want to become Greek. Of course, people can no sooner do that than give up their eye or skin colour. Their cultural backgrounds are as much a part of them as anything else. So when I read that part of the oath was

I swear to be true to my homeland

I thought… yes of course ! Right. Well. Hmm. What does that mean ? My roots are in England, as you know. I have never had to swear allegiance to my homeland. Only immigrants have to do that ! (Although there is talk that that is going to change and we might be introducing a more American approach to the subject of allegiance). I refer to being English rather than British (which is on my passport) because there are other more complicated issues in being British. (another post)

Be true to my homeland ?

I cannot, and do not wish to, undo being English. That was where I happened to have been born by some twist of something or other. But what does being true to my homeland mean ? That I swear that I will drink endless cups of tea (definitely liking this one) until the day I die or does it mean loyalty to the crown (definitely not liking this one) on pain of death ? Does it mean preserving my customs or traditions? If that is the case, which ones are necessarily English ? We are a multi-cultural society and what might be a natural custom or tradition for me might not be for the next English person.

I know I seem to be making light of this but I do like to question things. If being English was one thing, then it would be easy to say I accept or reject it. But it’s not. So if I was to swear to be true to my homeland what would that mean ?

I love many things about England. Its incredible greenness. Its vibrancy. Its humour. Its darkness and hidden passion. Its intelligence and innovation. Its frivolity and depth. There are also things I don’t like about England. Its propensity to violence. Its arrogance. Its delight in gossip and the misfortunes of others. Its consumerism and shallowness. And dare I say it… its weather !

So again, I ask what does it mean to swear to be true to my homeland ?

And why am I asking this question ? (How I love sticking my neck out…) If you are Greek and were swearing to be true to your homeland, what would that mean ? There are a lot of (humorous) posts out there based on stereotypes… you know you’re Greek if… 50 things English people like… etc. As it says in the article, there are many people who are now Greek but they might be very different from you. Some of them have different traditions and customs to you, some have different religions, different identities. They swear to abide by the constitution and laws of this country and to be good Greek citizens and they also swear (in some part) to be true to who they are.

Greece WAS a fairly homogeneous country but that is changing. What does being Greek REALLY mean to you ? For those who have become Greek citizens, what is important for you to hold on to ? What does the oath mean to you ?

I’m not going to post this.

Yes, I am.


Technorati: , , , mulitcultural


  1. March 20, 2008    

    I don’t know… I guess you’d just say whatever but not really mean it. I mean, when I was at school I almost never joined in with the British National Anthem. Just too far removed from what I believed in. God save the Queen? God save me instead!

  2. Xenos
    March 20, 2008    

    There is a big row going on in the UK about a government proposal to make schoolchildren swear allegiance to the Queen. It contradicts the historical trend of devolution of political power, secularisation and emergence of individual-based rights; on the other hand it fits in with the new trend of the state as Big Brother…

  3. George
    March 20, 2008    

    I think that people should have the right to choose whether to say the pledge.

  4. Papa Duck
    March 21, 2008    

    This is confusing. Are you sure that the homeland to which the person refers is not their adoptive homeland i.e. Greece? It would be odd if the Greek State required naturalised citizens of, say, Turkish origin to be true to Turkey, a country with which Greece has come close to war on numerous occasions in my lifetime.

  5. March 21, 2008    

    Papa Duck,
    Homeland means the place where you where born, as far as I know.

  6. Xenos
    March 22, 2008    

    Contrary to the opinions of many Greeks, across the world there are tens of millions of people who have more than one “homeland” [which I suppose is a translation of patrida]. American Greeks, for example, have to swear allegiance to the USA but will also be conscripted [and have to swear allegiance to Greece] under certain circumstances, even if they did not acquire a Greek passport or taftotita. This is a matter of multiple homelands, created by Greece, which considers the homogeneia to be Greeks with a homeland of Greece. They were born in the USA and elsewhere, though.

  7. Papa Duck
    March 22, 2008    

    DD: that is not how I understood it, some dictionaries define it your way but quite a few extend the definition using the concepts of residence and belonging.

    Xenos: your post is interesting but I am still puzzled – what do the ‘many Greeks’ think – that you can only have one homeland (I can understand that even if it makes a mockery of those many states that admit dual nationality) or that you can only have one homeland and that is your place of birth? (which makes a mockery of the Greek practice of not even issuing birth certificates to ‘foreigners’).

    Anybody: how would most Greek speakers understand the term (patrida?) used in the ceremony?

  8. Xenos
    March 23, 2008    

    I think Greeks understand patrida always as being Greece…

  9. March 23, 2008    

    I was trying (in a fairly clumsy way, I suppose) to ask a more general question about allegiance and what being true to any homeland means. Let me put it this way, If I was pledging to be true to Greece, what does that mean to me as a person born and brought up in England ? If you as a Greek person was swearing to be true to England, what would that mean ? Or if it means I am swearing to be true to the place I was born, again what does that mean ?

    I think if you ask most Greek people “patrida” means Greece, no matter where you reside or were brought up ? As in the fatherland/motherland. Am I right ?

    I’m simply curious…

  10. John Crysanthakopoulos
    March 23, 2008    

    True for most Greeks homeland is Greece. Take me for example. I am a couple of decades in UK. It could have been infinite more easy If I had taken the UK nationality and passport. Instead I chose NEVER to relinquish my Greek Passport and Nationality. I am as Greek as I always had been. Both in the official sense as in true reality
    I believe that in practice I love and respect my host country perhaps more than some of the indigenous people here! In many ways I have become British in certain aspects of life. But my ultimate allegiance is to my Patrida! It is to the small, weak, poor perhaps corrupt and often disorganised Greece! For better or the worse this is my PATRIDA! This will always be!
    If I would had taken the British nationality as far as I am concerned it would had a flavour of dishonesty and opportunism. This concept applies to me as anybody else. I came to the UK invited never tried to cross the border illegally never try to gatecrash always obeyed the laws and procedures, never try to force my existence to the locals never ask them to change their customs and practices to accommodate me. Never stupidly criticised me as part of the cultural shock of change! It was me that I have to do the adaptation NOT THE OTHER WAY ROUND! I respected them and they respected back my effort my attitude and honesty! It is a very happy case.
    Of course the case of US, Canada, S Africa, and Australia is somehow different as they had become countries from colonies of other states with well established sense of NATIONALITY and these very concepts have to be flexibility in their definitions.
    In conclusion I believe that in time when the idea of multiculturalism becomes a dogma used by some as a steam roller to iron and stretch out differences, a concept imposing drastic changes to established nation’s identities, used as instrument of blanket imposition of globalisation from above, when masses of population are moved around not from their own free will but from purely financial rationale, the idea of HOSPITALITY (FILOXENIA) becomes the BEST ALTERNATIVE. I offer Filoxenia and this is a gift! A gift that can work beneficially both ways! I gift who will make those offering it in touch with core human values and a gift that will translate as respect for those accepting it. A state that instead of creating the murky differences and allegations of today can create lasting FRIENDSHIPS!
    Of course if I cannot afford to offer this gift NONE should force me to do so! And those receiving the gift of Hospitality and after some time feel that have become one , in love with the place and its people to the point they truly and honestly feel their allegiances have fundamentally shifted they will then have to openly accepted to cross the other side! A marriage of love and devotion NOT a marriage of convenience!

  11. Kat
    March 23, 2008    

    Birthplace is the place you were born, and I suppose homeland is technically where you consider to be your home, so I would agree with whoever said you could have two (or even more) homelands. I have a friend who was born in Switzerland, but he’s lived his whole life in the USA and does not has Swiss citizenship, and his ethnicity originates from another country.

    Greek citizens who are born here and those who claim citizenship later in life through an ancestor do not take an oath. The latter are supposed to, however I know dozens who never did; they just picked up their paper and that’s it. Much as I didn’t have to take an oath when I was born in the USA, but we did need to recite the pledge of allegiance in school every day until I was 12.

    So, as you said, only immigrants take an oath that I know of. This is true here and in the USA.

  12. George
    March 23, 2008    

    To John C: I believe it is much more easier to adapt to Britain and the USA then Greece.

    In the UK, if you are nice, and polite, people treat you the same.

    In Greece, if you are nice and polite, people take advantage of you on many occasions. As an American in Greece, I’ve learned you have to be aggressive to get anything done here in Greece, and this makes me feel bad because I’m not like that, and am forced to adapt in this negative way.

    A good example of that is the Greek commercial of Agean airlines where the Greek couple are screaming at each other in London and the caption at the end says “(Just what we need), more Greeks in London.

    At least the Greeks are starting to laugh at themselves.

  13. John Crysanthakopoulos
    March 24, 2008    

    Excuses Excuses George!
    Anyway my contribution I believe is food for thought to you all!

    I am not intended to post any further so …

    Bye Bye to all!

  14. March 24, 2008    

    Nationalism is so odd. Is there any country where you don’t have to swear allegiance to become a citizen? Pretty certain the U.S. requires such, among other things.

    and yeah, the saluting the flag, we used to have to do that in school. I always thought of William Tell, you know, he got in trouble because he didn’t salute the hat on a stick.

  15. Oath taken
    March 30, 2008    

    It’s amazing to me how a bad translation of a standard oath (variations of this oath are used in the army by conscripts after their basic training, in schools by newly appointed teachers and elsewhere and in all those cases apply to all Greek citizens, not just naturalized immigrants) can give rise to such nonsense (true to the practice of drinking tea…). I’m even more surprised that someone who has been living in Greece for more than a few years can misinterpret the whole meaning of the oath so much. Of course patrida in the context of the oath does not mean one’s original homeland but the common (new in this case) homeland of the people taking the oath, ie. Greece. And it’s not “true to my homeland”, it’s “faith to the homeland”, that is an oath of fealty or allegiance. Of course some people would say that a citizen’s only obligation is to obey the laws and this allegiance story is nationalistic crap but they are the same people your average Greek (or Brit for that matter) would dread to have to depend on in times of national crisis. Then again there’s nothing stopping someone who wants to be naturalized from taking the oath and completely disregarding it.

  16. March 30, 2008    

    Oath taken, this was not my translation. It is from the Athens News. I do not have the text of the oath in Greek.

    Anyway, enough of this thread. I was trying to ask a general question about allegience and how people felt about it.

    Never mind…

  17. April 9, 2008    

    DD, I think this is not the first time you have something specific in your mind about the direction that you would like to see the discussion unfolding, and your visitors seem to have a different opinion. I’d suggest you quit hoping. It is like trying to herd cats.

  18. Nikos
    July 14, 2008    

    Sorry for the (very) late response.

    On the homeland/patrida subject. We have a saying here in Greece, you may have heard it, “Opou gis kai patris”. It means “Wherever there’s a land there’s a home”. To some it may sound opportunistic, to others it may show signs of adaptiveness. But it’s a motto we Greeks adhere for about 3 thousand years.