Today, the Globe and Mail ran a terrible cartoon by the otherwise brilliant Brian Gable that perpetuates the “lazy Greek” stereotype. You can see the cartoon here. I have never sent a “letter to the editor” before, never contacted a newspaper to complain. I’m just not that kind of person. But maybe it’s my exhaustion after seven months of very intense work that have culminated in three hellish work-weeks (the last week having put in more than 12-14 hours of work daily) to write three academic papers, that I feel really touchy about being called …lazy. So this time, I sent a letter:
Dear Mr Gable,
I am contacting you to express my indignation regarding your September
30th, 2011 editorial cartoon (http://is.gd/XUTpu1), that depicts a
laid-back, apparently lazy Greece, lying on a recliner besides a pool,
getting handouts from an oh-so-laborious Germany in a work suit.
Please do not get me wrong: I deeply believe in editorial and artistic
freedom, but this freedom also means that you should be open to
I feel deeply frustrated by your cartoon’s stereotyping of an entire
people, who is facing austerity so tremendous that for the first time
in generations has led middle class citizens turn to dumpster-diving
to find food… It makes me wonder whether you would feel as
comfortable promoting similarly racist stereotypes about other ethnic
and religious groups or maybe even entire races.
I am also deeply saddened by your cavalier disregard for reality and
facts regarding the “laziness” of Greeks. For this, I refer you to the
05/19/2011 article by Sven Böll and David Böcking in the German
magazine Spiegel “The Myth of a Lazy Southern Europe: Merkel’s Clichés
Debunked by Statistics” (available online: http://is.gd/WTcAEe).
In the introduction of his momentous book “The Balkans: Nationalism,
War & the Great Powers, 1804-1999”, Misha Glenny writes: “[…]
generalizations about the peoples who inhabit the region, and their
histories, were spread by media organizations, that had long ago
outlawed such cliches when reporting from Africa, the Middle East or
China. The Balkans apparently enjoy a special exemption from the rules
I hope you have the honesty and courage to reflect on how you have
insulted my struggling family, my unemployed relatives and my friends
and colleagues who are pushed to either poverty or immigration just to
make ends meet.
Department of Computer Science,
University of Toronto
Just to be clear: this is not a “good Greeks” versus “evil foreigners” case. We Greeks have many faults and are often more than happy to turn a blind eye to them. But lazy? Fuck no.
If you plan to write yourself to Mr. Gable, I urge you to not send a verbatim copy of my email. There’s no point in that, it only serves to dilute the message. Rather write down your own thoughts and feelings, write a real, personal email. And keep it respectful, of course.