Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Blasphemy, blas-for-you, blas-for-everybody...

He spotted the warning signs straight away.
Maybe it was the steam coming out of my ears, or the sparks flying from my eyes, but after all these years together, the Ovver Arf can tell when I'm about to clamber up onto my high horse and start ranting.

Poor fella, I could almost hear him groan internally before I even let out an outraged "What?" at my computer screen.

He's not the only one. There's many a soul sistah or bruvva over the years that have dragged me away from confronting bar-fly bigots when we're supposed to be out for a 'nice, quiet drink'. To be fair, I probably owe the fact that I've reached the grand old age of (ahem) umpty-um relatively unscathed to them judiciously removing me from possible confrontations.

I'm pretty easy-going, tolerant and generally lovely (or so I like to think). But I do have some strongly-held views. I also know that plenty of folk diametrically disagree with me, so I usually take a 'live and let live' stance and avoid rocking the boat by challenging them.

There are times.
Times when the steam starts flying and the sparks start shooting, and I just have to let out some of the righteous indignation boiling up within me.

The latest case in point came last night when my evening's trolling of the internet landed me on the news that a 27-year-old Greek man had been arrested and charged with blasphemy.

Blasphemy? Didn't that go out with the Spanish Inquisition?

I check the calendar. Sure enough, it IS the 21st century. And yet a man has been arrested, in a modern European country, for blasphemy.

His crime? Creating a satirical Facebook account for the persona of 'Gero Patstitsio' (pastitsio is a popular Greek dish of layered minced meat, pasta and bechamel sauce) in parody of the late 'Gero Paisios', a monk revered by many of the country's faithful for his piety and wisdom.

So what? you might say (especially if you spent your teen years reading 'Private Eye').
So what? indeed...

But here's the nub. 'Gero Patstitsio' has been trolling various websites, including those sympathetic or supportive of the extreme right nationalist Golden Dawn party. And it seems he's touched a raw nerve along the tentacles of influence they use to reach out to many Greek folk for whom their Orthodox Christianity is as much a clan allegiance as it is a matter of faith. 

Let's not forget something here. These are the same people who viciferously claim their right to freely express their diatribe. The ones that gained a degree of respectibility since winning votes in the Greek Parliament. Their opinions offend me, and many others, to the core - and yet we have to respect their right to spout them if we truly believe in the freedom of speech.

Am I the only one to see the heart-aching irony in the criminalisation of someone whose crime is creating a parody of a dead monk to satirise modern Greek society? This is, after all, the birthplace of satire - thanks to Aristophanes et al all those years ago.

In nearly a quarter of a century that I've lived here, I've learned that religion is woven into fabric of Greek society. And believe me, you don't want to take on a determined God-fearing Greek yiayia (granny). They've lived through a lot and they're a lot tougher than they look, despit their litany of aches and pains.

I have no faith. So, like a cuckoo in the nest, I'm the odd one out. But like a smart cuckoo, I don't make an issue of it beyond politely declining when encouraged to genuflect and kiss icons on Holy Days. I try to respect others beliefs but hope they will grant me the same courtesy.

Religion is still strong here, and the relatively crude humour of Gero Pastitsio is not going to bring about the fall of the Greek Orthodox Church. Just like the antics of Pussy Riot were never any threat to the Russian Church. Surely, both are robust enough to survive a little ridicule? 

OK, I promise to climb down from my high horse now.
I've come off the boil and the red mist is clearing.

But if you care about the freedom of expression of opinions (yes, even the ones you abhor) and think that blasphemy laws are out-dated, you might want to consider signing this petition http://www.change.org/petitions/greek-parliament-free-geron-pastitsios-and-abolish-greek-anti-blasphemy-laws?utm_campaign=petition_creator_email&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition


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