Saturday, 19 January 2008
Έξω οι Τούρκοι από την Κύπρο
Well done to Lleyton Hewitt who showed guts in deservedly beating Marcos Baghdatis in the third round of the Australian Open today in a five-set thriller.
I've always thought Australian Hewitt was a bit of a pipsqueak, but I was wrong. He won the match through mental strength alone; mental strength for me is the most compelling aspect of sport; the test of self-control it offers the opportunity to display. Self-control is one of the fundamental aspirations of Western ethical behaviour – facilitating what it is to be a virtuous and wise person – refusing the temptation to be ruled by our passions, desires, fears and superstitions.
Self-control is tested, Plato says, in extreme situations. Such situations are rare in the safe and secure societies we live in nowadays; so sport is often the only (inadequate) opportunity we get to see someone – or be that someone – battling with themselves, with their demons as the sporting cliché goes. (The word demon comes from the Greek δαίμων [daemon], and is most famously referred to by Socrates who claimed to have a small daemon, an inner voice that 'when it comes, always signals me to turn away from what I’m about to do, but never prescribes anything.')
Self-control is particularly important in sport because a lot of sport is played in a fit of anger, and of course if you can't control your anger – in any situation – then you are doomed.
In fact, the first word in Western literature is Menis (Rage); as in:
'Rage – Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus' son Achilles,
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
great fighters' souls, but made their bodies carrion,
feasts for the dogs and birds.' (Homer, The Iliad).
I recommend Baghdatis read The Iliad, and see how Achilles, the supreme warrior, the ultimate competitor, cold-bloodedly uses his emotions and does what he has to do to secure his glory; while others, notably Ajax the Great, are consumed by their feelings, driven to despair and, ultimately, kill themselves.
As for the phony storm kicked up by the Australian media regarding Marcos' patriotic sing-song with his Greek Australian supporters – see video above – and the ludicrous assertion that the chant ‘Έξω οι Τούρκοι από την Κύπρο’ (Turks out of Cyprus) amounts to an anti-Turkish rant, or refers to anything other than the 40,000 Turkish occupation troops and 120,000 Turkish settlers dumped on the island since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, let’s be generous and not accuse the Australians of ignorance or bigotry, but put their sudden interest in the Cyprus problem down to typical Aussie sledging – testing your opponent’s mental resolve through verbal abuse.
If the affair revealed anything, it wasn’t Marcos’ Greek Cypriot chauvinism but the bitterness, jealousy and resentment of Turkish Cypriots, whose representatives in Australia jumped on the media bandwagon and called for Baghdatis not only to be thrown out of the Australian Open but also to be deported. At no point, it should be stressed, did Marcos or anybody else sing: ‘Τουρκος καλος, Τουρκος νεκρος’ (The only good Turk is a dead Turk). Now that would have been controversial.