Flat White

What’s Greek for ‘chutzpah’?

9 October 2017

12:12 PM

9 October 2017

12:12 PM

Cockiness to the point of crazy-brave has been a Hellene characteristic down the ages (the Greeks were Hellenes before they were Greeks).

Remember Leonidas and his 300 Spartans? When the warring Persians sent a herald with surrender terms, to tell the Spartans they lay down their weapons, the answer was , “Come and get them,” .

When the Persian persisted “Our arrows will darken the sun” Leonidas replied, “Good, then we fight in the shade.”

World War II saw Greece answer first the Italian then the German invasions with “Oghi” (No!) and Cretan partisans and British intelligence managed the feat of kidnapping and smuggling the German General Kreipe off the island and into a waiting submarine.

Senator Nick Xenophon’s “Watch me go!” actions last week were perfectly in sync with his Cypriot heritage, stealing a political march before even his party colleagues knew quite what was happening. In Canberra we’re used to political surprises, but this was one out of the box.

And yet, it all made sense, sort of. By declaring his new political ambitions and intentions, the good Senator has effectively taken the heat off any adverse decision the High Court may have made regarding his dual citizenship (and yes, Greece takes dual citizenship seriously – Greek-Australian families blessed with teenage sons wishing to make a family trip to the Old Country usually checked in with the Greek consulate to ensure the boys would not be copped for national service when they landed.).

A dual-citizenship – even inherited from a parent – would make ineligible a parliamentarian to sit in Australia’s national parliament; the law may be more opaque where State legislation is concerned, according to constitutional law experts in Canberra. 

Of course moving to contest a state seat is a gamble, as Xenophon himself admitted from the US, where he has embarked on yet another mission, with a herd of sheep, to fight for the Australian Ugg boot brand.

Well, politics is a mostly gamble and the Fates spin the wheel – another Greek image.

South Australia’s Liberals have cause for concern, more so than Labor; people who would normally vote Liberal might be tempted to vote for Xenophon because, as someone, interviewed, said this morning “he seems to get things done.”

Well, actually no, but he is awfully good at deal making, at squeezing the most from an offer, as PM Malcolm Turnbull found out when he wanted Xenophon’s vote.

Watch a Greek fisherman batter his just-caught octopus against the stone sea wall and you get the idea, he’s smiling broadly but the calamaria ends up limp and ready for the pot.

The next South Australian state election will be held on 17 March next year, in less than six months.

Senator Xenophon seems to be signalling that he can both run for a State seat and lead the party he founded, now renamed SA Best (“ Quick, people, think of something the electorate can remember!”). And the good Senator is quite confident he can wear both hats simultaneously.

What’s the Greek word for ‘chutzpah’?

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