Here is some interesting news coming out of Greece: an independent MP, Nikos Nikolopoulos has tweeted a nasty message about the Prime Minister of Luxembourg who has just announced his plans to marry his gay partner. The twit or tweet seems fairly innocuous in English: “From the Europe of nations, to the Europe of queers. The Prime minister of Luxembourg has been engaged with his special one!” In Greek however, “Από την Ευρώπη των εθνών στην Ευρώπη των πουσταριών. Ο πρωθυπουργός του Λοξεμβούργου αρραβωνιάστηκε τον αγαπημένο του!” The word “των πουσταριών” is particularly offensive, a derivative of the word, Pousti, street-language in Greek for “gay”.
The Prime Minister somehow heard of this tweet but did not speak enough Greek to know what was being said and contacted the MP, “Hello, I heard you want to tell me something, but I don’t speak Greek. Sorry” – now for the juicy bit that exposes the full rump of this silly man, Nikolopoulos. He said the message had been written by Kyriakos Tobras. He then modified his original tweet. What a twit!
Here are the two tweets. The understated graciousness of the second is such a contrast to the nastiness of the first.
Here is Nikolopoulos’s replacement twit (it is almost as bad but does not sound as “chavish” perhaps):
I remember when I tried to register as self-employed in Athens back in 2001. I had been working for a company called Grivas which refused to pay me until I changed my employment status. Apparently, it was then impossible to do more than one particular type of job for any single company, and Grivas had me writing editorial, illustrating and recording vocals for their various English teaching materials, their decision, not mine. It was a horrible experience and a week of going from office to office in the then-labyrinthine bureaucracy was soul-destroyed. On the final day, with minutes to go before the tax office shut, I was asked for yet another pointless bit of paper. I am afraid I began to cry. At this point, the thug of a tax-manager started to assail me in Greek from across the room, saying that all english were “pousti”, and then listing (improbably but I remember this precisely) Thatcher, Blair, Clinton, as examples of gays in public office. This was about the time of the Monica Lewinsky affair. Incidentally, I knew that the man was the boss because he was overweight and had nothing on his desk save for a cup of coffee and a glass of water. Also, I knew enough Greek to understand what he meant, but I turned to the official next to me whose desk was heaving beneath paperwork and asked him what the word “pousti” might mean. “For example,” I added in my best Greek and as loudly as I could. “is that nice gentleman there who has so much to say about the english, also a pousti?” It shut the man up, and I got my papers quite quickly. I cannot recall if Grivas ever paid me what they owed. Probably not. Some of the other people working there seemed to have been driven to insanity and visits to an asylum in Dafni; others attempted suicide, taking a kitchen knife to their wrists. I know. I had to call the ambulance! It was tough living in Greece back then! But also rather exciting.
I think I had found myself in the “wrong crowd”. There is certainly a “right crowd” in Greece. There was then and there clearly is now, and that crowd would wholly condemn Mr Nikolopoulos and all his fascist cronies, clerical and lay. I am very proud that I made good friends in Greece and that we remain in contact. Like me, they believe passionately that the “wrong crowd” is firmly on the way out, but like cockroaches, that wrong crowd takes its time going.
Here is a picture that was printed in the Greek newspaper eleftherotypia at the time- It shows what I looked like then!! (the article is about the shows that were on in the West End, and the closure of “Cats”)
I had hoped that institutionalised homophobia was a thing of the past in Greece, but apparently not. It is a shame. The younger generation of Greeks, among whom I count many good friends, are shocked by the story of Niko Nikolopoulos. But he is a dinosaur and they need to make sure his political career is rendered extinct as soon as practically possible. I have a small cartoon for this story which I will post later: my computer is in general melt-down as I write this!
Meanwhile, my hearty congratulations to the Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and his partner, Destenay Gauthier who are to be married on January 1st. He is not the first openly gay Prime Minister in Europe. Iceland’s Johanna Siguroardottir and Belgium’s Elio Di Ruppo beat him to this!