Monday, 21 February 2011

Skai’s 1821: undermining national feeling

I’ve been watching Skai’s much-touted series on the Greek War of Independence – 1821. Its revisionism, distortions and political motivation have aroused a lot of outrage, largely justified in my opinion. Nevertheless, the series – and the discussion programmes that take place after each episode – is worth watching, since it’s always valuable to immerse oneself in the most important events and personalities of modern Greek history. (The series and discussion programmes can be seen here and on youtube).

A couple of points emerging from the third programme (first part, above), which concentrated on the siege and fall of Tripolitsa and the events at Agia Lavra that began the insurrection.

Regarding Agia Lavra, the programme was at pains to stress that Bishop Germanos’ raising the flag of revolution surrounded by Greek fighters led by Kolokotronis is a myth. Apparently, such an event never happened; it was an invention of  the French historian of the Greek War of Independence François Pouqueville.

Now, whether the events at Agia Lavra happened as they’ve entered Greek national consciousness, or happened at a different time, in a different place, with different participants, is irrelevant; and for the programme-makers to make such a big deal of this exposes their agenda, which is to cast aspersions on the entire 1821 project and imply that generations of Greeks have been raised on lies.

And on the massacre of 8,000 Muslims and Jews that took place after Greek forces took Tripolitsa in the summer of 1821, it is despicable to suggest that this brutality was equivalent to the massacres against civilian Greeks that took place in Smyrna, Constantinople, Crete, Cyprus, Chios, Macedonia and so on, and that Greeks and Turks are therefore equally culpable when it comes to atrocity and barbarism.

There is no attempt to contextualise the Greek violence, committed by a long-oppressed people seeking to liberate their country; nor any attempt to put into context Turkish violence, which was ingrained in the Ottoman system whose subject peoples lived under permanent threat of massacre and even extermination, their physical existence only being tolerable to the Turks as long as they remained passive.

Permeating the Skai series is an implication that the Greek War of Independence and the formation of a Greek nation-state was not a necessary and righteous enterprise; the suggestion that in their historical relations Greeks and Turks are morally equivalent; and that, and here’s the rub, all this tension and potential for conflict that still exists between Greece and Turkey is artificial and it is only nationalist lies and myths – typically purveyed in more ‘traditional’ Greek historiography – preventing ‘friendship’ between the two peoples.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Greece to offer lessons in democracy

With seemingly no sense of irony, Greece is proposing to establish a Centre for Democracy to teach revolting Arabs and other freedom-loving peoples the virtues of ‘social justice’ and ‘good governance’. Apparently Greece is in a unique position to lecture on rule by the people because, 1. we pioneered this sacred political system 2500 years ago; and, 2. we recently – 1974 – overcame tyranny to establish a paradigm for modern democratic government and society worthy of export.

Now, of course, it wasn’t ‘people power’ that ended tyranny in Greece in 1974 but the Turkish invasion of Cyprus; and the post-1974 ‘democracy’ established in Greece has not only brought the country to ruin on several different levels, but was characterised by a rigid concentration of economic and political power and an absence of civic responsibility and sense of citizens owning the laws by which they are governed, i.e. was a sham and parody of a democratic society.

It is a conceit, therefore, for Greece to regard itself as fit to lecture others on democracy. But since it does, I suggest the first thing the proposed centre’s founders do is read this piece, The Problem of Democracy Today, by Cornelius Castoriadis, given as a lecture in Athens in 1989.

Having done so, they will be in a good intellectual position to tell the Arabs that we (in the West) do not live in democracies but liberal oligarchies; that democracy is about significantly more than electing representatives once every four years; and that the first thing they (the Arabs) will need to do to on their journey towards democracy is throw their korans in the bin.

Below are some extracts from Castoriadis’ lecture. Castoriadis’ analysis of the nature of Athenian democracy is superb and you can appreciate Castoriadis as a great classicist without having to adopt his revolutionary politics.

‘In these developed and relatively liberal countries [i.e the West], what’s happening in reality? Journalists and politicians are talking about democracy. The real form of government is of course totally oligarchic. There are some liberal sides in this oligarchic regime: certain human and citizens’ rights, a so-called free press, etc. But if one examines who is really governing, who really has power in their hands, one will realize that even in the worst periods of the so-called Roman democracy – which was never a democracy, but an oligarchy – the percentage of those who had power in society was bigger than it is today. For instance, in France the adult and voting population is about 35-37 million people. If we [take into account] the so-called political class, the masters of economy, the people who really play an important role in manipulating public opinion, especially by the media, we’ll probably reach a total of about 3,700 people. This is a ratio of one to 10,000. And at the same time there are people criticizing ancient Athenian democracy because a free population of about 100,000 people had maybe at most 100,000 slaves. I’m not saying this to justify slavery of course. I’m saying this to give some perspective on the situation today. I imagine that if you make a similar estimation in [contemporary] Greece you’ll find at most 800 or 1,000 people who are really playing a role in every kind of power…’

‘We must return to the original meaning of the word “democracy”. Democracy does not mean human rights, does not mean lack of censorship, does not mean elections of any kind. All this is very nice, but it’s just second-or third-degree consequences of democracy. Democracy means the power (kratos) of the people (demos). Kratos in ancient Greek does not mean state in the present sense. There was no state in ancient Greece; the Athenian city was a polis or politia. Kratos in ancient Greek means power and probably violence or main force. It is characteristic that when in modem Greece a real state was created, we chose the word ‘kratos’ from ancient Greek. We could have chosen the word ‘politia’ (city). Democracy means power of the people. If we think deeply about these words, some substantial questions emerge. First of all, what is the demos, who is the demos, who belongs to the demos?  Then, what does power mean? And the fact that the very characterization, the very term, that defines this regime produces these questions, shows the special nature of this regime, which is born at the same moment with philosophical inquiry, as opposed to other forms of government in which such questions cannot be born…’

‘Democracy is or wants to be a regime aspiring to social and personal autonomy (to set your own rules). Why are we talking here about autonomy? Because the majority of human societies have always been established on the basis of heteronomy (to have rules set by some other). The existing institutions in general, but the political institutions especially, were always considered given and not questionable. And they were made in such a way that it was impossible to question them. In primitive tribes, for example, institutions have been delivered by the founder heroes or ancestors and are considered self-evident. What is correct and not correct, allowed and not allowed, has been determined once and for all, in all fields. It is not even forbidden to question these institutions. There is no need to forbid it because it is, in fact, inconceivable to question them. People have embodied them. They have initialised them with their very upbringing, their very making as social persons.’

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Turkey makes clear its ‘strategic interests’ on Cyprus

A quick update on some political developments in Cyprus.

It’s reported here that the occupation regime in northern Cyprus is in the process of agreeing the delineation of an Exclusive Economic Zone with Turkey with a view to Turkey beginning a search off the occupied Cypriot coast for deposits of oil and natural gas.

This move – more symbolic than practical since neither the pseudo-state or Turkey have the resources or legal authority to exploit Cyprus’ natural reserves – is a response to the recent EEZ agreement Cyprus signed with Israel and the confirmation that within the year US firm Noble Energy will begin drilling to determine the extent of hydrocarbon deposits in Cyprus’ territorial waters.

These energy and economic developments in the Eastern Mediterranean are changing strategic relations in the region – particularly the burgeoning Israel-Cyprus-Greece axis – and reinforcing Turkey’s determination to keep hold of its northern Cyprus colony.

The fact that occupied Cyprus is Turkey’s colony has only just struck the Turkish Cypriots, who have been protesting the imposition by Ankara of austerity measures and the continuing influx of Turkish settlers. During a so-called ‘Communal Existence’ rally in occupied Nicosia on 28 January, some Turkish Cypriots called for Turkey to leave the island, which prompted Turkey’s prime minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan to call Turkish Cypriots ‘ungrateful parasites’, who should take note that Turkey has ‘strategic interests’ on the island.

Clearly, Turkey’s perceptions of its ‘strategic interests’ on Cyprus and Turkey’s aspirations to establish itself as the pre-eminent regional power means it will not be abandoning Cyprus any time soon and, indeed, will seek though economic and demographic means to enhance its presence in occupied Cyprus.

Of course, Turkey’s determination to keep hold of northern Cyprus has implications not only for the Republic of Cyprus, but for Greece too. Although Turkey has been trying to convince Greece to remove Cyprus from the list of issues that separates Greece and Turkey and to settle for the status quo on the island, the Greek government has not so far proved entirely compliant. On this and other matters, then, Turkey will continue to see Greece as an impediment to its ambitions in the region and, despite the superficial declarations of détente, the state of cold war between the two countries will continue.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Islamic tax imposed on Greeks in occupied Cyprus

I’ve translated below a report from today’s Cyprus Kathimerini regarding the imposition of the Islamic Jizya tax by the Turkish occupation authorities on the few hundred Greeks who since the Turkish invasion have been enclaved in the villages of Ayia Triada/Yialousa and Rizokarpaso in the Karpasia peninsula. The funds are being used for the upkeep of Turkish army camps and the building of new mosques. The report also makes clear that provisions provided to the enclaved by the Cyprus government via the UN are being systematically looted by Turkish settlers.

Jizya tax on the enclaved in Karpasia
The Karpasia Co-ordination Committee has revealed that an Ottoman-style Jizya tax is being imposed on the enclaved Greeks of Karpasia by the occupation army and the [ultra-nationalist] Grey Wolves to pay for the upkeep of Turkish army camps in the region and the building of new mosques.

‘The Ottoman jizya tax [amounting to 10% of the value of goods or 10% of that produced] has been imposed on the enclaved by the Turkish occupation army and the Grey Wolves, who together exercise authority in the peninsular,’ a statement by the Karpasia Co-ordination Committee said.

It added: ‘The Greeks who remain on their land are being forced to endure humiliation and the siphoning of their financial resources for the upkeep of the occupation army and the construction of new mosques in Karpasia.’

According to the Committee, the ‘police’ of the pseudo-state have told the enclaved that their ‘contributions’ are necessary for ‘improvements to the Turkish army camps in Ayios Andronikos and Monargas, near Boghazi, as well as for the building of mosques in all the Greek villages in the region.’

The Committee stresses that the measures are ruinous for the Greek population of Karpasia and are aimed at harming their human and national dignity. As Orthodox Christians, they are being forced to contribute to the building of Muslim shrines and the well-being of imams from Turkey, who have recently flooded the occupied areas of Cyprus.

The Karpasia Co-ordination Committee also adds that Turkish settlers are continuing to reap, in one way or another, the provisions sent to the enclaved by the Cyprus government every Wednesday via UNFICYP.

‘The arrival of the UN trucks is a time of celebration for the settlers, who systematically avoid working, knowing that the Cyprus government will “take care” of them.’

Keeping an eye on Greece’s southern border

Even though I haven’t been following events in Greece and Cyprus that assiduously recently, I suspect both countries are still going. I note that Greek doctors and chemists are on strike and sick people are being deprived of treatment and medication. Seems par for the course. Only two more years of the idiot Christofias and his moronic AKEL government. I’m counting the days, though it’s quite unclear at the moment who will replace him; hopefully, not another country bumpkin pining for the Soviet Union. Interesting what’s happening in Egypt and elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East. A more self-confident and assertive Arab world would represent good opportunities for Greece and Cyprus and challenge Turkey’s neo-Ottoman ambitions, its ridiculous dream of creating an Ottoman Commonwealth. Having Islamists seize power would be a much more dangerous scenario, and probably draw us into ever-closer relations with Israel. Greece’s tardiness in sorting out its EEZ with Egypt couldn’t show up any better the deficiencies of Greek foreign policy.