Friday, 8 March 2013

Image (Φήμη)

Image is very important in the market-driven world that we live in. We can create an image of ourselves, but it's not always the intended image that other people will see of us. Image-making is very hard work, and certain moves can send out the wrong messages. The truth is that most people are ignorant of how others live, and even though no one knows us as well as we know ourselves, even we are not truthful to ourselves when we deliberately try to create our image.

Most of the time, we concentrate on creating our 'outer' image, the one others can see, colouring it, touching it up, keeping it looking shiny, so that others can judge us positively on it. Hair, face, weight, clothes, shoes, accessories, cars, accommodation and gadgets all play a part in our outer image, as does being seen in various places with various people. Although we can also try to improve our 'inner' image, it's much harder to make this visible to other people. People who don't know us very well will not see this inner image; it is much harder to see it anyway, by its very nature.

Once our image is tarnished by a controversial opinion, a misguided action, an intolerant gesture, the outer image will play no role in upholding a formerly good inner image. It's the inner image which needs to be re-created before the outer image will start to have any effect on the blissfully ignorant.

Greece faces this very image dilemma at the moment. To make things even more difficult, Greece is often confused with Greeks. But Greece and Greeks are not the same thing. Those who do not know Greece or Greeks very well - apart from what they hear on the news about Greece - will not be able to tell them apart. But that isn't actually their fault - they were ignorant to begin with, and the only messages they are getting are not very good ones. Their opinion of Greecey Greeks will be affected mainly by those messages. In the end, it's ultimately up to the greasy Greeks to change their image to a more positive one, because in the end, they will be the only ones to benefit from such a change.

This ad - for Westpac, a bank that operates in NZ - is being shown to Kiwi television audiences at the moment. 

Let's take an example of someone who doesn't really have any opinion of Greece or the Greeks because they have never had much contact with either of the above-mentioned. Their opinion of Greeks will probably be based on what they see/hear/read about Greece, and these days, I am sure no one will refute my claim that a lot is seen/hear/written about Greece. Take the average New Zealander, for example: they are most likely to regard Greece as a poor country, and hence, by extension, the Greeks are poor, because they spent all their money lavishly, without making any plans for future savings and investment. And if they aren't poor, then they must be tax evaders.

The video depicts a man recklessly spending his money on things that will not give him any return on his initial investment. He doesn't look particularly Greek at all; one can only surmise that he and his entourage are all Greek, from the music being played in the background. I was wondering whether the average Kiwi would actually recognise the music: sirtaki and Zorba are, well... kind of old-fashioned, and even obsolete remnants of Greek identity in the minds of many Greeks. They weren't even invented by them, having become popularised by the film of the same name. The average Kiwi is more likely these days to have travelled to Bali and Thailand than to Greece. So they will not have spent so much time at a Greek taverna in the Acropolis region where they may still hear this music, unless they are old enough to remember the Beatles.

So what can we surmise as being the national identity of the man dressed up as a tennis player? I can only think that he's Romanian or Bulgarian, while his newly acquired partner is English; she had originally been married to the Greek man, but left him when he became bankrupt. She went back to the UK, where she could claim benefits, as did the Romanian/Bulgarian, for the same reason. She's probably come back to see the Greek man to claim maintenance payments.

As a Greek, I can see why my compatriots could easily be offended by the video. But we have to remember that this video is an ad, and ads are made for one purpose: to sell something. If we put ourselves in the shoes of that poor man (ie Greece), we know we wouldn't want to ever end up like him (ie the Greek). I certainly wouldn't - and I'm Greek.

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