For any conscious Greek, in Greece and the Diaspora, for Philhellenes all over the civilized world or for any educated person familiar with the glorious history of ancient Hellas, the behavior of a country called FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) is absurd and outrageous.

FYROM was a tiny province of former Yugoslavia, situated in a mountainous region that hosts the sources of river Axios or Vardar. Demographically, it was made up of a strange mix of linguistically diverse groups: Albanians, Southern Slavs, Bulgarians, Turks and Gypsies. These peoples are in constant conflict with each other, especially the first two and populous groups.

Yet FYROM, in 1991, dared to claim as its own not only the name, but also the glories of Hellenic Macedonia, its great kings, Philip and Alexander, and their national symbols. Even the famous "Star of Vergina" was appropriated for the flag of this new country. All this is simply absurd and outrageous to the Greeks and their friends around the world.

To make the situation even more confusing and unbearable to Greeks and their friends, one country after another unwisely recognized this Balkan creation as "Republic of Macedonia," since it declared its independence in 1991. It arbitrarily chose for itself this name, in spite of Greece's vehement objection to such abuse of the historic name, by which most of Northern Greece is known to the world, since the time of Philip and Alexander the Great. Finally, the unexpected recognition of the so-called "Republic of Macedonia," by the newly re-elected Bush Administration, with this illicit name in 2004, took the Greek Government in Athens, as well as the Hellenes and Phil-Hellenes everywhere, by surprise. How could such an absurd thing happen?

The Greek Government maintains that this new Balkan creation should be named simply FYROM, until another and agreed upon name is found through on-going negotiations sponsored by the UN. These have been going on for several years now without any positive results. So the situation is bound to be confusing to ordinary persons all over the world, who may have an interest in peace and stability in the Balkans, but are puzzled by its many complexities, ethnic conflicts, and appalling poverty. For they see that, in the acronym of FYROM, which the Greek Government accepts, the last three letters stand exactly for "Republic of Macedonia," which the Greek diplomats vehemently reject, as the official name of this "created" Balkan State.

Given the great instability in the Middle East, the aggressive and mostly irrational behavior of Turkey in the Aegean and its potentially unstable internal situation, the uncertainty regarding Turkey's EU aspiration, and the unresolved Cyprus problem, Greece must keep its attention to these issues undivided. It cannot, therefore, afford to open another front in the North, from where it may expect to gain nothing at all. Greece can only hope that, with the resumption of talks for a proper name for FYROM, its diplomacy will be more "diplomatic" this time. With good luck, it may be able to persuade FYROM to accept a compound name, which perhaps will have as a component the word "Macedonija," spelled possibly in a Slavic manner for distinction.

However, the unexpected eruption of the FYROM fiasco at the end of 2004 has shown, not only the lethargy of Greek diplomacy, but also the lack of political organization of the Greek-American community and the ineptness of its self-eulogizing "leadership." It is time, therefore, for the Greek-Americans to wake-up to the challenge of our times, and to act accordingly, that is, with determination and foresight. The recommendations that follow are only certain initial steps.

First of all, His Eminence (the Archbishop of the Americas) should be left alone to perform his spiritual duties undisturbed. He should not be dragged to lead pathetic delegations to Washington any time there is a "Greek Crisis," and there to chat with the Head of the State Department about anything but matters of serious policy, which may affect Hellenism in Greece and in global Diaspora. Such pitiful spectacle is certainly reminiscent of slavery and Turkocracy. It is not befitting for free Hellenes, who live and prosper in the land of the free and the brave, the great Democracy of Thomas Jefferson and the other Phil-Hellenic Founding Fathers. The Greek-American community has much to learn in this regard from other well-organized and politically effective ethnic groups, especially the Jewish community.

Second, a Central Political Action Committee (CPAC), with two distinct branches (Democratic and Republican), should be formed soon. It should consist of actively engaged Hellenic and Phil-Hellenic politicians, distinguished and concerned academicians, and major fund-raisers and contributors. Both branches should be united on certain long-term goals, in the service of historic Hellenism. Each of the branches of the CPAC should be "respectively" energized according to the electoral results of every presidential election, but both must be active all the time, especially before each congressional or presidential election. The American Hellenic Institute and the Hellenic American National Council should be incorporated in the new structure, for they can be constructive. Certainly their leaders can serve positively in promoting the goals of the CPAC. They can also help this new effort greatly with their political experience and wisdom.

Third, through good, generous scholarships, the affluent Greek-American community should train a number of journalists, and other public relations specialists and mass media managers. They should be placed and maintained in key positions in the American public media, or in key political positions close to policy making appointees of each American Administration. In this effort, they should take as model the Jewish Lobby, which has been very successful. These special Hellenic/Phil-Hellenic persons should be well-educated and accomplished individuals and relatively young, full of energy and enthusiasm to serve the goals of Hellenism, as an ecumenical force devoted to serving democracy and freedom, through a philosophic Hellenic paideia for the peace and prosperity of the world. These dedicated individuals should be supported by the full combined power (that is, moral, economic, and voting power) of the Greek-American community and the reorganized SAE. The political results of this intelligent enterprise can be amazing indeed.

Fourth, and perhaps most important, the Greek-American community through its CPAC should try to identify and support (morally and economically) all professional Greeks or persons of Hellenic descent as well as Philhellenes, who hold prominent academic positions at American colleges and universities. With communal wholehearted support, each of these valuable persons can become an "ambassador" of Hellenic paideia and enlightenment in America and the world.

As a first principle of policy, therefore, no Greek-American Community should build a second church in the same city, before it has endowed a chair or funded a center of Hellenic Studies in the regional colleges and universities. When other countries and small ethnic groups fund endowed chairs and establish cultural centers of Ethnic Studies on campuses in America, it is absurd and unpardonable that (not to mention the Greek Governments) the prosperous Greek-American community has done so little in an area vital for its survival.

After the spectacular success of the Olympic Games in Athens 2004, the world at large expects much from the Hellenes in Hellas and the ecumenical Diaspora, especially in the sphere of the arts and Hellenic political paideia. The above steps, if taken seriously and methodically, can be helpful in the long run. At least, they may spare us from future surprises similar to the recent recognition of FYROM simply as "Republic of Macedonia" by the Bush Administration.

Dr. Christos Evangeliou is Professor of Hellenic Philosophy at Towson University, and author of several books including the latest, Hellenic Philosophy: Origin and Character

(Posting date 26 December 2007)

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