Greeks find humor a panacea for crisis

Greeks find humor a panacea for crisis

 “I am not a public service worker, I do not drink ouzo, break plates, or say “opa” in my daily life, my country is a democracy, it actually invented the concept … Greece’s heritage goes far beyond geographical borders, it invented the West, the whole world aspires to its ideas. And if I owe any money today – and by the way I am not the only one – it is because I invented the idea of the “free market,” and if you critique me today it is because I invented the idea of critique, I believe in freedom and if I need to, I protest … I can swim in the waters of over 6,000 islands, my country is of exceptional beauty and tradition, and my family is a sacred institution, and I am not a Greek but a Hellene; my name is Katerina and I am a Hellene.”

We came to know her in Turkey as Stella from the TV series “Yabancı Damat” (The Foreign Son-in-Law) which in 2005 became the springboard for a lasting love affair of Greeks with Turkish TV soap operas.

Her passage from Turkey was temporary and she had stopped being a TV face in her own country as she had decided to pursue her acting in Los Angeles since 2008. But her sudden outburst on camera, which she posted on the internet days ago, became the center of unprecedented reactions in Greece, just a week before one of the most unpredictable election contests in the country’s recent history. 

There were positive reactions to Moutsatsou’s show, but most were negative. Many more were caustic, satirical and funny ones. This minutes-long avalanche of well performed nationalistic clichés by this pretty Greek actress injected a generous shot of humor into the psyche of confused and depressed Greeks to do what they know well: to use humor as the best defense for life’s calamities. 

The calamities that hit Greece for the last two years have already been publicized enough through foreign media. They promoted Greece as a country where people “do not work but demonstrate, who lived beyond their means but now starve and some commit suicide, where children go to school hungry etc,” but they have missed another necessary element to complete the picture: the use of humor as a tool for survival. 

The crisis inspired an abundance of all forms of social and political comedy which sprang up in theater, TV, music and the Internet. Comedy found new material in the face of a political system in deep crisis, political leaders fell victim to the harshest satire; folk songs were revived with new, scathing lyrics where the criticism of the eurozone took the shape even of Cretan “Mantinadas” or resurrected “rebetiko” songs. The Internet became a platform of wider adventures as it offered space for anyone, professional or not, to beat the hell out of politicians. I am sure any talent hunter with some of knowledge of Greek would find many promising performers among the hoards of the anarchic personal videos flooding the Internet since the start of the recession. 

And as most traditional values like motherland, history, religion and family are up for challenge in a country where democracy still holds well, Katerina’s personal video could not but give a new opportunity for more inspiring comic attacks. I had difficulty selecting the funniest as the choice was wide, but I did find one which works almost as an exact counter punch to the original.

“Hey, my name is Manos, I am not a public worker, I am a TV host, and I do not drink ouzo. I prefer scotch and sometimes vodka, my country is a democracy, it invented the concept but with a lot of slaves which is for me far better … Greece’s heritage went beyond its geographical borders, it invented the West and the theater and homosexuality and frappe and … I can swim in the waters of 6,000 islands but I am kind of afraid of the water so I will not.”

In a society with humor and democracy, there is always hope.