Monday, 23 December 2013

The Art of Eternity: The Glory of Byzantium

Above is a good BBC documentary from 2007, The Art of Eternity: The Glory of Byzantium, presented by art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon, which looks at the meaning, purpose, technique and changing nature of Byzantine art and iconography. In his quest to understand Greek Orthodox art, Graham-Dixon visits Constantinople, Thessaloniki, Ravenna and the Osios Loukas monastery in Boetia and correctly points out that the Byzantine artistic tradition is not just a historical phenomenon but a living cultural (and spiritual) experience.

*ADDENDUM: After posting the above, I watched a film Andrew Graham-Dixon made in 2004 on the dispute between Greece and Britain over the return of the Parthenon Marbles.

The film – provocatively called The Elgin Marbles – contains all the usual pathetic and specious arguments against the Marbles’ return; such as, the Marbles are not just part of Greek culture, they’re a part of world culture; the sculptures don’t have a national identity; Greek attachment to the Marbles is contrived, a product of Hellenic jingoism.

Indeed, Graham-Dixon suggests at one point that Greece’s desire to have the Marbles returned reflects an unhealthy nationalistic obsession with the fifth century BC.

‘There is a danger,’ Graham-Dixon says, ‘of plucking this one moment, this fifth century BC moment, out of the vast multicultural continuum of the history of the Greek lands and elevating it to canonical status. By wiping out the intervening two thousand years of history, there is a risk of disenfranching all sorts of modern Greek citizens – Jews, Muslims – whose cultures have also made a contribution to the history of modern Greece.’

After that nonsensical outburst, it’s hard to take Graham-Dixon’s film on Byzantine art seriously.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Byzantium: a tale of three cities, episode three

I wasn’t intending to watch or post on the third and final part of Simon Sebag Montefiore’s series, Byzantium: a tale of three cities, which deals with the history of the city under Ottoman occupation, but I succumbed. Montefiore’s not much of a historian and he trots out the usual nonsense about the Ottoman empire being a beacon of tolerance and multiculturalism, a claim made even more absurd by the overwhelming evidence he himself presents that reveals Turkish rule and rulers to have been mind-bogglingly perverse and sadistic from beginning to end.

* Click on links for episodes one and two.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Byzantium: a tale of three cities, episode two

Above is episode two of Byzantium: a tale of three cities, in which we are taken on a tour of Byzantine history from the Great Schism in 1054 through the Fourth Crusade in 1204 to the fall of the City in 1453.

* Click on links for episodes one and three.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Byzantium: a tale of three cities, episode one

Above is the first part of a three-part series currently being shown on the BBC called Byzantium: a tale of three cities. Episode one concerns the founding of the city up until the Great Schism of 1054. What’s striking about the show isn’t Simon Sebag Montefiore’s take on Byzantine history – which is fairly traditional – but the sight of the barbarians, and their barbarian ways, now occupying and disfiguring the city and the warning this should provide to any thinking Greek.

* Click on links for episodes two and three.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

On Athenian propaganda and the Battle of Plataea

Above is a video with Professor Paul Cartledge recently lecturing at the Hellenic Society on the Battle of Plataea (479 BC) – at which, a year after Thermopylae and Salamis, Greek forces routed the Persian invaders. Cartledge wants to explain why the massive barbarian empire was so determined to conquer tiny Greece and how it was that tiny Greece managed to defeat the Persians. Cartledge – a Spartan expert – is also interested in how Athens, as part of its aim to become the pre-eminent Greek state, usurped the glory associated with the victory at Plataea when it was the Spartans, as the leaders of the Hellenic Alliance and the most renowned Greek warriors, who deserved the most honour and credit for Greece’s salvation.

Monday, 9 December 2013

The phantom economic benefits of a bizonal, bicommunal federation for Cyprus

Below is a piece I came across here, which adds some flesh to the bones of my concerns, expressed in my previous post, arising from the attempt by the UN, EU and USA to sell an Annan-type solution to the Cyprus problem by suggesting the economic advantages that will accrue. The essential point is this: a bad, undemocratic solution – such as a bizonal, bicommunal federation – will create tension and conflict and prove an economic disaster.

The Cyprus Chamber of Commerce sees phantom economic benefits in an undefined solution
By Dr Aris Petasis*

The Cyprus Chamber of Commerce (CCC) inaugurated a campaign to inform us of the economic benefits of a ‘just and lasting solution’ [to the Cyprus problem]. The campaign is supported by the Development Programme of the United Nations (UNDP-ACT) and by the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce.  For the sake of brevity I will refer to the above three as CCC/TCCC/UNDP.

It appears that all three are in favour of a bizonal-bicommunal federal solution which is well-defined in the Annan plan that was supposed to solve the Cyprus problem; otherwise the United Nations (UN) would have not agreed to participate in this project. This campaign could have had any or more of the following aims: a) to simply promote the economic merits of a democratic solution; but, there is no logic in launching an expensive campaign to convince people that are already convinced on a common sense matter; (b) to convince those that, in the eyes of the above three, are ‘anti-solution’.  Again, it makes little sense to labor trying to convince rational people that a democratic solution that would see the occupation army leave Cyprus is better than no solution; and (c) to promote a bizonal-bicommunal federal solution as ‘fair and viable’ using phantom economic benefits as the thin edge of the wedge.  Only the third objective justifies a campaign.

The chamber of Psychiatrists & Psychologists of Cyprus could have easily mounted a similar exercise to explain the psychological benefits of a democratic solution; but they did not because they already know that people have enough common sense to understand the obvious (angst reduction with occupation troops departing, etc.) As professional psychologists they also know that rational people prefer freedom to occupation and security to insecurity. So, no need to mount a campaign.  

The ‘just and viable solution’ of the CCC/TCCC/UNDP campaign is confusing seeing that the term has been misused with varying and arbitrary interpretations and has now become cliché.  Indicatively, even the Annan plan was promoted as ‘fair and viable’ and in the process insulting people’s intelligence. To Turkey and the UN ‘just and viable’ has nothing to do with democracy (reminds one of chalk and cheese.)

Developed and viable economies rest on democratic polity, (for example, as in Germany and Switzerland) and not on racist concoctions of the bizonal-bicommunal federal type that fail to meet even the most basic democratic requirements. A bizonal-bicommunal federal solution will not generate any economic benefits to Cyprus. On the contrary, it will destroy Cyprus’ economy because of the uncertainty and the deadlocks that such a solution will constantly unleash leading to emigration from all communities. 

The CCC/TCCC/UNDP campaign supports that ‘a solution to the Cyprus problem will create conditions of security and stability’.  The opposite is likely to happen.  The constitutional provisions of a bizonal-bicommunal federal solution deliberately divide the country on ethnic and racial grounds through the creation of racially-based constituent states where one’s racial origins determines his/her position rather than ability and performance that are so critical to a well-functioning economy.

The CCC/TCCC/UNDP campaign adds that ‘access of vessels under the Cypriot flag to Turkish ports will result in the strengthening of Cyprus’ position’. Turkey is already obliged, through its own signature, to open its ports to vessels flying the flag of the Republic of Cyprus. Yet, Turkey refuses to recognize the Republic of Cyprus. Turkey’s position is that the Republic of Cyprus is a non-entity that needs first to dissolve itself and then morph into a federal union of two constituent ethnicity-based states within a bizonal-bicommunal federation. Also, Turkey never ceases to repeat that the only plan on the table is the Annan plan which has the dissolution of the Republic of Cyprus as central tenet. 

The three say that a solution will lead to the growth of areas such as ‘agriculture through the transportation of water from Turkey to Cyprus’. As Turkey will never abandon its ‘guarantor’ status within a bizonal-bicommunal federal solution, transporting water from Turkey will put Cyprus’ water supplies under threat.

The Cyprus Chamber of Commerce promotes phantom economic benefits for an undefined political solution (reference to ‘a solution’ is not enough.)  The CCC can better help Cyprus by leading a campaign to promote a democratic solution to the Cyprus problem on which we can then build our economy which for certain will provide prospects for all Cypriots.  

*Dr Aris Petasis is member of the Board of Trustees, International Fund, Moscow State Aviation University

Monday, 2 December 2013

A vision for the end of Cypriot Hellenism

The video above is part of a recent concerted effort from the EU, USA and UN to stress to Cypriots the alleged economic benefits of a so-called Cyprus solution, particularly in these times of economic malaise affecting both the free and Turkish-occupied parts of the island. In the video, Cyprus is imagined as a kind of Eastern Mediterranean Dubai, a base for multinational companies looking to penetrate the Middle East, a holiday and holiday home island, in the latter case offering up its land to wealthy northern Europeans, Arabs, Russians and Chinese. In particular, the video argues, Cyprus could take advantage of Turkey’s growing economic power by seeking to attract Turkish investment and importing Turkish goods. There appears to be no place for Greece in this vision of a globalised Cyprus, significantly tied to Turkey, in which Greeks would soon become a minority on a multinational, cosmopolitan island.