“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ochi Day: Nay, Nay And Thrice Nay

On October 28th, 1940, the Italian ambassador to Greece, Emanuele Grazzi, delivered an ultimatum to the Greek prime minister (and erstwhile dictator) Ioannis Metaxas: Greece allowed the Italian-German Axis forces to occupy strategically important Greek bases, or suffer the consequences.
  1n 1940, Greece was no more an international powerhouse than it is today. Metaxas knew with certainty that were he to refuse Grazzi’s ultimatum, the consequences would be dire. Even if the Greeks managed to repel Mussolini’s invading army, which they did in some style, the Germans were waiting impatiently, jackboots tapping.
  Legend has it that Mextaxas offered a single, laconic ‘No’ (‘Ochi’). What he actually said was, ‘Alors, c’est la guerre.’
  Nowadays October 28th is celebrated in Greece as ‘Ochi Day’ - ‘No Day’.
  The Guardian runs an editorial today on the Irish referendum on the EU Fiscal Treaty, summing up the Yes and No vote as Fear and Anger, respectively. It’s not quite that simple, but it strikes a chord.
  It certainly strikes a chord when the Irish Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, who disgracefully dismissed Ireland’s links with and concerns for Greece as no more than a waning appetite for feta cheese, attempts to bully the electorate into voting Yes.
  Today I think Ireland will vote Yes to the Fiscal Treaty. It will vote Yes because it is afraid, and it is afraid because it is being bullied, and because it has been conditioned by 800 years of colonial oppression to take bullies seriously, and because the Famine still haunts the darker shadows of its subconscious.
  Today, and despite the fact that Sinn Fein are urging a No vote, I’ll be voting No. I’ll be voting No because I refuse to be bullied and to live in fear and to accept that I must live the rest of my life to the rhythm of impatient jackboots tapping and according to the whims of the utterly inept gamblers of the international markets, those laughably self-styled ‘Masters of the Universe’.
  I’ll be voting No because dignity matters.
  I’ll be voting No because Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail - all of whom have miserably failed this country since its Independence, and will continue to do so for as long as we give them a mandate to do it - want me to vote Yes.
  I’ll be voting No because, contrary to what the Fat Fool Noonan might believe, I have far more in common with the vast majority of the Greek people than feta cheese, not least of which is a very healthy suspicion of the ruling classes, this on the basis that a desire to rule should be in itself sufficient reason to bar any man or woman from ever taking power.
  I’ll be voting No in solidarity with the Greeks on the basis that if you tolerate this, then your children will be next.
  Ochi, Ochi, Ochi, Ochi.
  I’ll leave you, if I may, with a soupcon of WB Yeats:
What need you being come to sense,
But fumble in a greasy till,
And add the halfpence to the pence
And prayer to shivering prayer, until
You have dried the marrow from the bone?
For men were born to pray and save:
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

1 comment:

Kevin McCarthy said...

best editorial i've read on the referendum anywhere. the result was a foregone conclusion. amazing to think that dev, despite his many faults, had the stones to say 'ochi' to churchill (whether right or wrong to do so) when he made the same request to open irish ports to british navy. made of sterner stuff back then...