Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cultural Observations Thus Far

Before delving in to some of my more insightful cultural observations I’m going to recap the concert. Check out the pictures and if you’ve got Facebook you can check out the videos I posted of some of the R.E.M songs. Anyway, the concert was a great time. MTV was launching a specifically MTV Greece channel, hence the free promotional concert. With the main MC of the night being an American VJ, most if not all of the commentary was in English. In fact the only Greek spoken was done by the first singer, C: Real, who is a Greek pop star. Other then that, no Greek was spoken.

So, the concert opened with C:Real who the Greek teenagers around us seemed impartial too. They were not standing up and singing along, more just listening to her as background music. After her came Gabreilla Cilmi, who seemed semi-popular with the crowd. She is a 17 year old Aussie superstar that has some big hit at the moment. Next up were the Kaiser Chiefs, a rock band from the U.K. The crowd loved them. The pit was going nuts, especially when the lead singer decided to climb the stage frame and perform while hanging on to the metal frame. R.E.M was last and definitely the most well received. For the first time all night the teens around us were on their feet singing along and dancing. This is obviously totally different then any concert I have been to in the states where you stand from the moment the main act comes on until the end of the encore. Anyway, seeing R.E.M. perform was just a really cool experience. I am not a big fan but I do know their hits (It’s the End of the World, Losing My Religion, and Man on the Moon), all of which they played. All in all, a great night.

O.K. so my first cultural observation comes to via my Catholic / American upbringing. Here in Greece, the Greek Orthodox Church works very closely in connection with the State government. There is no official separation of church and state. Thus, religion is a part of public education and the clergy are even paid by the state. In fact the two are so intertwined, that Greeks often associate being a Greek citizen with being Greek Orthodox. The official numbers are somewhere up to 95% of the Greek population is Orthodox. There is a growing number of Muslims in the country as well as in Athens, yet due to the Orthodox strong hold Athens is the only major city in the EU that does not contain a Mosque.

Anyway, a few years back there was a huge uproar over including a person’s religion on their I.D. card (similar to our drivers’ license). Up until this point, one had to include their religion on their card. The law was changed due to pressure from the EU, but not without a huge uproar in the Church. The Church argued for it, saying it was a way to keep track of how many Greek Orthodoxy’s there were in the country. Those opposed simply said it was a means of profiling.

This leads to my next observation, one of race. Greece is currently experiencing a large immigrant influx from Albania. These individuals are highly discriminated against and most often described as criminals. From what we have been told in class and from my own observations, Greece as a country has never had a conversation about racism. Unlike in the United States, where we have grown up talking about it in school, in the media, with our peers, such things have not yet happened in Greece. For example, when we met the Canadian model, Anthony the other night, we were with the Greek guys we had met previously. Anthony introduced himself to us because he heard us speaking English. When he extended his hand to the guys we were with they refused to take his hand. Feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable, I waited until Anthony excused himself to ask the Greek guys why they refused his hand. Their response: “you can not trust the blacks”. When I asked my anthro professor about this in class this morning the only connection she could draw was to the Albanians.

I understand that immigration is a big issue here, as it is in the States. However, I would say that America is more “politically correct” when it comes to racism. We have learned and in some cases are still learning from our past and because mainstream society today does not accept it. Since there has never been a national conversation about race there is no political correctness.

When we asked Anthony about it at the beach he said that in the both times he has been to Greece he has experienced it about a handful of times. He did say that earlier this week he was stopped by the police when he was walking home and asked to show his passport. It strikes me as odd that in a country that is so liberal, compared to America, that there is not a great sense of acceptance.

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