To be Greek in 2014…


June 1, 2016

Greek, Greek-American, Greek citizen of the world … no matter how I seem to define myself, Greece is of paramount importance to my identity.   To date I call Thessaloniki my home, even though I spent my formative years in New York and still teach there on occasion.  Different trails and different stays have led me to reside in ten cities and three continents over the years with Athens being the current one and Doha the most distant.  All places have left their mark, even those I have not experience firsthand like the lands of my grandparents across the Aegean.  In retrospect, these journeys appear to be my searching expedition for our common heritage and its place in the world.   During these past five years of our nation’s collective times of challenge, self-doubt and perseverance, I often returned to this quest and subconsciously felt that providing an honest answer to the question of what constitutes Greekness, was and still is the key to breaking this cycle of self-blame, to creating the required societal consensus for necessary reforms and subsequent investment and in so doing assisting all our dreamers and all our doers elevate to new heights.  So, what does it mean to be Greek in the 21st century?

The answer will certainly not be found in either ancient worshiping obsessions that injure and abuse our rich heritage or in servitude complexes that conservatively flatten out what we bring to the modern globalized world.  It resides in a never-ending quest for our collective strengths and weaknesses as they are developing throughout our history.  It remains hidden as long as we do not decide to submit this identity question to the judgment of a nation that more often than not drifts somewhere between our originally intended, rooted in antiquity, destination of European enlightenment and our emotional, oftentimes religious driven, attraction towards the Balkan inland.

A Greco-Roman Professor once wrote that the archetype of the torn man at permanent odds with his human condition, and therefore at a permanent quest for happiness and liberty, was born on the stage of the Dionysus theater.  Greeks seem to still be torn between tradition and progress, between standing still and moving forward, between arguing in favor of a long lost glorious past and embracing an uncertain future…  Over the centuries of Greek history and certainly during these past five years, what constitutes tradition and what constitutes progress have changed.  Clarity was clouded by foreign rulers, religious doctrines, and local flatterers.  Trust in our collective potential was gradually lost.   But what has remained constant, what carries truth to this date, is the necessity for an authentic welcome to external competition–the gravity of genuine extraversion, that relies on our youth and invests in their education…  Whenever we individually or collectively focused on these, we were successful.  The honest communication with the rest of the world requires the development of mechanisms of collective self-awareness and self-criticism as a means of achieving sustainable reform of our management systems and our social institutions which in a nutshell means that we need to enable creative forces to operate in a friendly environment.  This is what makes the work of the Hellenic Initiative and the OneGreece campaign so significant.

As individuals, we have shown through the years an amazing ability to adapt and operate successfully abroad.  There are numerous examples of Greeks who achieved significant results in business, arts, sciences, sports, education and research. As a community, there is no point in hiding in a cocoon because of the crisis.  There is no reason to fear the comparison with others.  We need to equip and educate ourselves and each other, move forward in an extroverted fashion excelling in ingenuity, planning and quality output.   We need to believe in ourselves and work together.  Then we will trust our community.  And when we find reasons to believe in our community, then others will believe in us as well.  We will no longer attempt to invoke our glorious past or   make up excuses due to the difficult present.  We will rely on individual and collective accomplishments to claim our role in the global world and in so doing proudly re-define what it means to be Greek in this global world.

Panos Minogiannis earned his PhD in Sociomedical Sciences from Columbia University in 2001 under the tutorship of Eli Ginzberg, the Dean of applied Economics.  He is α 1999 Onassis Foundation scholar and the recipient of the 2001 Marisa de Castro Benton Award for outstanding dissertation for his thesis on European Integration and Health Policy.  Since 2009, he is also a visiting lecturer at the same institution.  After serving as the Health Services Coordinator for the ATHENS 2004 Olympics, he worked in the health sector in Greece, the United States and the state of Qatar.  He served as the CEO and President of the Board for the Athens Oncology Center “St. Savvas” from 2010 to 2013 and is currently an independent health care consultant.  He has published five books and multiple articles on health policy issues