In Greece, it seems blasphemy is a pretty serious crime – with many forms codified in the legal system. It extends even unto those who do God’s work, for example Elder Geron Paisios – a long-dead ascetic monk who is nevertheless still a very popular religious figure in the Hellenic Republic. A 27-year-old Greek bloke found himself arrested by the police for mocking Paisios by using the name “Gerontas Pastitios” when referring to an equally popular pasta dish.
It’s hard to see how one might otherwise order it from a menu, apart from adopting the actors’ approach to Macbeth by calling it ‘the Scottish Play’. But then, saying “I’ll have the monkfish” might order you something entirely different. Either way, one would think that Greek cops had something more pressing to do, like catching tax evaders or protecting Troikanauts from the popular will. Certainly, when the triad’s representatives were last in town, I’m told oaths were rife. As one local blogger recorded it:
“There! There!”, “Here they come!” the protesters shouted when the car with the Troikans arrived at the Ministry. As they could not enter the building with the car, they got out and started to walk close to the wall in order to secure a safety distance to the angry crowd.
“Go F***”, Motherf*****”, “Assh***” were some of the “French” the protesters shouted at the men in black who looked rather confused. As they couldn’t not understand what the people holding Greek flags were shouting and they had wore a rather silly smile on their face.
None of them were arrested for this, the obscenities being entirely secular. But had anyone yelled “May Paisios fill your worthless arse”, the police would’ve assumed the blasphemer had been talking about saints, not spaghetti: he’d have been in the paddy wagon faster than you could say calamari moussaka.
Calling bad language ‘French’ seems to be a universal trait, for here in England we used to say “Pardon my French” when uttering oaths. Having heard an ouvrier doing some work in our house there three years ago refer to a spare part as “Oh quel con le merde, quel merde, merde, merde le con!” I suppose I can understand why. But the logical thing to say, when taking the Lord’s name in vain, I fancy, would be “Pardon my Greek”. Greek law allows imprisonment of up to two years for “one who publicly and maliciously and by any means blasphemes God,” including the provision that, should the Beak be in a foul mood, a penalty of not more than €3,000 may be added to the mix. I’d imagine what happens is that the Judge gives some poor devil 18 months for saying “Lordy Lordy” or such like, and the defendant goes “Jesus Christ, eighteen months?” this counting as contempt of Court.
But if it’s bad news to use your mouth to defile God, the Greek Orthodox Church is also keen that it shouldn’t be used to play the pink oboe either. Last week, the Bishop of Piraeus held forth on oral sex, describing it as “an unacceptably vulgar practice” and quoting recent research suggesting a link between fellatio and cancer. The cleric declared that he was “not possessed by any dastard motives of extreme or fundamentalist disposal, neither of homophobic syndrome”, he just didn’t think it was altogether right.
The chap’s point seemed to be that if God had wanted people to suck willies, he’d have stuck a lollipop in our groins. And he rounded off his denunciation with talk of “the frightening tragedy when body organs are not used as destinated”. I rather hope mine is destined for more of this sort of thing, but you can never be sure. In the meantime, it would’ve been more apt had the good Bishop railed against Brussels for anal sodomy.
I remain indebted to Greek correspondents who keep sending me stuff both serious and hilarious about the Greek plight.