Archives For Athens

A few quick news notes for you today.

Trademarking the Gods: Video game company Nintendo just received permission from the Japanese Patent Office to trademark the name “Amaterasu” in relation to video games.

And you thought it was bad when Nintendo filed to trademark the phrase “It’s on like Donkey Kong.” The Japanese Patent Office recently revealed that Nintendo trademarked the kanji “Amaterasu” as well as the katakana form in relation to video games. ”Amaterasu” certainly seems to refer to the Shinto goddess, but the full name for the deity is Amaterasu Omikami. This name was not trademarked, as it’s unlikely that the Japanese Patent Office would allow Nintendo to copyright an actual god or goddess.

While this may seem like no big deal to some, it could set a troubling precedent. If corporations and private businesses start grabbing trademarks to the names of deities within different contexts, what will that mean for the religions that worship and revere those figures? This is especially true as video games, art, and social interactions start to blur within contexts like Second Life. If someone can trademark a god’s name in one context, there’s little to stop them from doing it in others.

The Birth of Freedom: City Journal features an essay by Andre Glucksmann concerning the birth of the idea of freedom, and the differences between the “epic freedom” of Hegel or Marx and the “tragic freedom” of Athens and Socrates. Glucksmann notes that polytheism creates a more “radical” idea of freedom than most monotheistic conceptions.

With the Athenians, however—and this is an important difference—the gods are as imperfect as human beings, and the divine words are consequently doubtful and impure. In this sense, the Greek experience seems more radical than that of the monotheisms, since it presupposes no adherence to a unique word that would dominate the thought and freedom of men and women. For the Greeks, there was no way around the permanent crisis that constitutes the existence of a free human being.

Glucksmann also credits ancient Greek thinkers with providing the framework for the separation of church and state, and our modern ideas of “human rights.” The whole text is worth a look.

Telltale Signs of Santeria? What happens when you mix “occult experts” with animal parts? You get assertions that the dead animals are a “telltale sign” of Santeria.

“Don Rimer, who spent 30 years as a law enforcement officer and now provides training in the fields of ritual crimes and the occult, said the decapitated animals are telltale evidence of people who practice a faith known as Santeria. Followers brought the faith with them to the New World when they were taken from Africa during the slave trade, first establishing themselves in the Caribbean region, he said. Santeria is a blend of ancient African religion and Catholicism, Rimer said. A Utah state agency alerted Rimer to the Park City cases, he said. Rimer, who lives in Virginia Beach, Va., said the circumstances of the Park City discoveries resemble those of Santeria practices elsewhere. Rimer said people who adhere to the faith sacrifice animals and then place the carcasses close to transportation corridors like pathways, railroad tracks and streams in honor of the means slaves used to move about.”

Yes, you read that right. The expert was Don Rimer, who also happens to be an expert on Paganism, Satanic crime, and vampires. One wonders where he gets the time to become so knowledgeable when he’s so busy traveling the country giving talks. No doubt Rimer thinks his influence was positive because he asserted that animal sacrifice was legal and the alleged practitioners of Santeria meant no harm, but instead he verified the for many the idea that leaving dead bodies lying around is a normal practice for Santeria (instead of acknowledging that there could be other explanations).

The New York Times has report on a rising tide of violence against Muslim immigrants in Athens, Greece.

Immigrants have been beaten and stabbed near central squares, and several makeshift mosques have been burned and vandalized. In the most grievous attack, at the end of October, the assailants locked the door of a basement prayer site and hurled firebombs through the windows, seriously wounding four worshipers. “The attacks are constant — I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Naim Elghandour, who moved to Athens from Egypt in the 1970s and now heads the Muslim Association of Greece. “I used to be treated like an equal. Now I’m getting death threats.”

The Greek media are linking the rise in violence to Chrysi Avgi (“Golden Dawn”), a neo-fascist Greek organization that, like several European racist groups, embraces a National Socialism-tinged brand of Pagan occultism. While Chrysi Avgi’s ideology nows tolerates Greek Orthodox Christianity (most likely out of political necessity), their continued embrace of Paganism has alienated some Hellenic Nationalists. Nor is this simply a small band of  thugs with dreams of a Fourth Reich, this “Golden Dawn” have gained political clout and popular support on a wave of discontent over Greece’s fiscal meltdown, getting their founder, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, elected councilman in the Athens Municipal Council on November 7th.

The party appears to have fed off public anger against illegal immigrants in central Athens, a sentiment that has been rising partly because of the troubled economy. “Chrysi Avgi is still marginal, but it is not a welcome development,” says [University of Athens political science professor Kostas] Ifantis. “When things in a society are not going well, there is room for demagogues.”

Meanwhile, politicians who criticize this troubling trend, like current Republic of Cyprus president Dimitris Christofias, are defensively criticized and ridiculed when they dare to speak out.

Christofias became the first Cypriot president to address the Hellenic Parliament to mark 50 years of the Cyprus Republic. During his speech, he made reference to the coup by the Greek junta, and subsequent Turkish invasion, saying that some had not learned from the past. He referred specifically to the appearance in Cyprus of “destructive” mentalities of extreme organisations like Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) and others.

“Every democrat feels indignation and outrage when they see on the internet the unrepentant grandfather teaching his three-year-old grandson the slogan ‘Long live the junta’ in front of the framed shield of the fascistic junta hanging on the wall…the child holding the pistol and being taught to kill Turks and communists,” Christofias said. He was referring to a video posted on Facebook by a civil servant in a senior position made public last week. An opinion piece in Phileleftheros yesterday accused the president of taking an isolated incident of “blatant perversion” and using it in the most historic speech ever given by a Cypriot president.

What’s clear is that violence and tensions continue to rise, and extreme right-wingers are growing ever-more bold.

“A large mosque with minarets in the city center will be a provocation,” said Dimitrios Pipikios, the head of a residents’ group in Aghios Panteleimonas, where Chrysi Avgi drew 20 percent of the vote in recent elections. Mr. Pipikios said the only way to ease tensions was to deport immigrants. “There is no room for us all,” he said, adding that extreme rightists were patrolling the area “because the police are not doing their job.”

The tactics, beliefs, and rhetoric of Chrysi Avgi are a stain on Athens, and on the reputation of Pagans living in Greece that are fighting for equal treatment in the Orthodox-controlled country. No matter what the true depth of their connection to modern Pagan worship is, neo-fascist appropriation of pre-Christian symbolism, thinkers, and beliefs harms us all. Giving ammunition to those who would brand fascism as an outgrowth of “pagan” belief systems. There can be no alliance or sympathy for those who twist and appropriate our faiths in this manner, who think that violent thuggery is the proper response to immigration or poverty. One can only hope that the election of Michaloliakos was an aberrant political blip that will soon correct itself.

If any of my Greek readers can give me further insights on Chrysi Avgi, the election of Michaloliakos, and the current anti-Muslim/anti-immigrant tensions, please leave your thoughts in the comments. Also, as a warning, comments that sympathize, endorse, or apologize for racist thug fascists risk immediate deletion. There are plenty of places to engage in thinly-veiled pro-fascist sophistry, but this isn’t one of them.