It is a strange experience to spend a night in some remote mountain-village of Greece, and see Americanism and Hellenism face to face. Hellenism is represented by the village schoolmaster. He wears a black coat, talks a little French, and can probably read Homer; but his longest journey has been to the normal school at Athens, and it has not altered his belief that the ikon in the neighbouring monastery was made by St. Luke and the Bulgar beyond the mountains by the Devil. On the other side of you sits the returned emigrant, chattering irrepressibly in his queer version of the ‘American language’, and showing you the newspapers which are mailed to him every fortnight from the States. His clean linen collar and his well-made American boots are conspicuous upon him, and he will deprecate on your behalf and his own the discomfort and squalor of his native surroundings. His home-coming has been a disillusionment, but it is a creative phenomenon; and if any one can set Greece upon a new path it is he. He is transforming her material life by his American savings, for they are accumulating into a capital widely distributed in native hands, which will dispense the nation from pawning its richest mines and vineyards to the European exploiter, and enable it to carry on their development on its own account at this critical juncture when European sources of capital are cut off for an indefinite period by the disaster of the European War. The emigrant will give Greece all Trikoupis dreamed of, but his greatest gift to his country will be his American point of view. In the West he has learnt that men of every language and religion can live in the same city and work at the same shops and sheds and mills and switch-yards without desecrating each other’s churches or even suppressing each other’s newspapers, not to speak of cutting each other’s throats; and when next he meets Albanian or Bulgar on Balkan ground, he may remember that he has once dwelt with him in fraternity at Omaha or St. Louis or Chicago. This is the gospel of Americanism, and unlike Hellenism, which spread downwards from the patriarch’s residence and the merchant’s counting-house, it is being preached in all the villages of the land by the least prejudiced and most enterprising of their sons (for it is these who answer America’s call); and spreading upward from the peasant towards the professor in the university and the politician in parliament.
Will this new leaven conquer, and cast out the stale leaven of Hellenism before it sours the loaf? Common sense is mighty, but whether it shall prevail in Greece and the Balkans and Europe lies on the knees of the gods.
RUMANIA: HER HISTORY AND POLITICS