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16 January 2008

Comments

Margaret

Stavros, you don’t say what you think. I’ve probably got a death wish, but this is what I think.

I’ve read the Joseph Farah article and the Turkish article he links to. He’s hardly an independent journalist is he? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Farah). His position seems to be simplistic at best. Christians good (which includes the Russians because of their Orthodox heritage): Muslims bad. A short-sighted view which is not going to lead to progress.

I wonder if he has ever been to Cyprus? I doubt it somehow. I spent a week in Cyprus (the Greek part) – only a week, I know – but it was not a week spent on beaches. I think that time spent in a country can be worth an awful lot of reading. Our visit was, however, only weeks after Cyprus’s accession to the EU and it is possible that the situation has changed greatly since then. My strong impression was that the country was, at the top and bottom end, over run by Russians and that those at the top end were not necessarily very nice Russians. I found the atmosphere disconcerting and menacing even. I took my daughters to a riding stable in the mountains where the President brings his grandchildren for riding lessons. As far as I could ascertain none of the staff spoke anything other than Russian, not even a smattering of Greek, though I’m sure that the manager was away at the time (we didn’t ride). Our hotel was full of Russians. Notices were written in Russian. Strip joints advertised in Russian. Hotel staff, and even the housemaid in the mountain house we stayed in, were Russian. Why assume that the close links between Greek Cyprus and Russia are a good thing (as Farah does): it didn’t look like that to me, and Russia does not have a good record for philanthropy. In fact, it would not be beyond our imagination to conclude that the EU was quite unhappy about the degree of financial and political control exerted by Russia over Greek Cyprus, with its strategic geographical position that is both its strength and its downfall. Like wise Serbia. I think the power play is much more likely to be about Russia than about Muslims versus Christians. Besides that, the stalemate in Cyprus may be in the best interests of the Greek Cypriot part, but is it really in the best interests of the Turkish Cypriots? Doesn’t the same go for Serbia and Kosovo? Isn’t Russia dictating the policy of the Greek Cypriots and the Serbs and trying to make a solution, any solution, impossible?

I couldn't get your last link to work - but it seems to be from the same news organisation owned and run by Farah, and he doesn't seem like the kind of guy to include opposing views on his web-site...

Scruffy

If anyone wonders about Serbia and Kosovo, they should see a wonderful film entitled "Behind Enemy Lines" staring Owen Wilson and Gene Hackman. It's the true story about an American pilot shot down in Serbia and how the Serbs were trying to cover up their mass killings and graves.

Ok, well it may not be based on a true story but it's supposed to based on heresay.

Well, alright, it's total fiction but it still shows the Serbs as bad guys as they are right?

Oh alright, Hollywood and the Jew controlled media made the movie against the Serbs.

OK, everybody happy now!

demonax

Πολλι σωστο αρθρο, Σταυρο, που εκθετη την Τουρκικη σταση στο Kυπριακο. Συντομα θα γραψω κατι γι'αυτο το θεμα.

Hermes

Margaret, your comments are absurd. The Russians do not have two soveriegn bases on the island like the English. Do the English have a record of philathropy?

Margaret

Thanks, Hermes. I have long strived to be a true existentialist, and it's good to know that I've arrived at last. Go and visit, and make your own mind up. Mind you, it's a long way from where you are. And to think I bothered defending you.

Scruffy

Margaret, at least the English know what the word (Philanthropy) means. In Greece, people think you are stupid when you mention the word philanthropy, with the exception of the 1% (Latsis type) families, or maybe the 2004 Olympic Games. Other than that, no one works or does anything for free in Greece. That's philanthropy for you!

Margaret

's alright, Scruffy. I'm not bothered by Hermes. He dismisses all my comments as absurd, but doesn't offer anything else in their place. Which is only what I expect. I mean, do we know what Hermes thinks about this (apart from that my comments are absurd)?

Besides, I'm only solid ground in relation to the Cyprus-Russia axis. As at the end of September 2006, the total amount of accumulated investments in Russia was $130 bln out of which $28 bln or 21.6% came through Cyprus. That is ******* amazing. I would say that we (in the UK) are less worried by Turkey than we are by Russia. Possibly because we have lots of Turkish people living here and we tend to like them a lot. They don't seem that frightening. Whereas the Russians ...

Stavros

Margaret,

You are always up front about how you feel on issues and I don't fault you for expressing your views. I am puzzled a bit by your comments. I realize that politically Farah may not be your cup of tea. He is a conservative who holds some views that even I may not ascribe to. I find this article however, refreshing in that Mr. Farah approaches the subject very logically and with a much better grasp of the realities on the ground. The other article does the same. BTW, I fixed the link. Just because we in the Anglosphere seem to be fed a steady diet in the mainstream media in which Serbs are demonized doesn't make it so.

Remember our exchange regarding history? American and European foreign policies in the Balkans are an excellent example of the lack of a historical memory about what has transpired there. Everyone has blood on their hands. The Albanians in Kosovo who were supposedly victims of human rights abuses can hardly be held up as models. They have effectively cleansed Kosovo, not only of Serbs but also other minorities such as Gypsies. Rewarding them by recognizing the independence of what is still technically a part of Serbia establishes a precedent for other like minded minorities that can only result in a cascading effect that will make Europe a cauldron of discontent.

As for the Russians, I worry very much about their present government under Putin and his authoritarian methods. Frankly I don't understand why you find Russians living and working in Cyprus any more disconcerting than Pakistanis living in London or Turkish settlers living in Occupied Cyprus. Please read your comment again. It smacks of the same type of opinions that you abhor in others. Describing Russians as "menacing," or "not very nice" is certainly a generalization, is it not?

Why would you think Russia is dictating the policy of the Serbs or Greek Cypriots simply because it is supporting the positions of those countries any more than the UK and US for supporting the Turks at every turn. If Russia should withdraw its support then I suggest that Britain stop coddling the Turks and Albanians and do the same if they want a solution in Cyprus/Kosovo.

Scruff,

Your constant tirades against Greeks get tiresome. You have become the consummate ugly American. Nobody likes immigrants (or are you just visiting) who complain all the time about how much better it was in the "old" country.

Hermes

Margaret, it’s not about defending the person, it’s about defending a good argument. If I disagree with you it’s not because I have anything against you personally. Likewise, if I agree with you it’s not because I am strongly favourable towards you. I might have negative/positive sentiments towards which may alter my stance in an argument a little bit but we would hope, for the sake of truth, it does not have a great influence on my position. And I have not dismissed all your comments as absurd.

In regards to your comments on Cyprus and Russians, with all due respect they smell of Anglo arrogance. The English were also crawling around the island many years ago and they are still there with their two bases. What resulted directly and indirectly from this English visitation? Occupation and division. Can you point out to me English philanthropy in regards to Cyprus? On the other hand the Russians have supported the Greeks in the UN security council. Obviously, there is a price and the Greeks must be vigilant because the Russians may ask for too much.

Why are the Russians so frightening to you? In the mid 1990’s the English went into their country, lectured them and stole a large part of their natural resources. They have decided to get their act together somewhat confronted the English. Is this wrong? If you were Russian, wouldn’t you do the same?

Scruffy

Stavro, in my defense, I believe that long ago Hermes and nationalists started the anti US/UK tirades and my responses are reactive.

I hope that MGO has not become a posting board for Greek nationalists to remain unchallenged. If so, I apologize and this will be the last time I post. Just let me know.

Margaret

“My strong impression was that the country was, at the top and bottom end, over run by Russians and that those at the top end were not necessarily very nice Russians. I found the atmosphere disconcerting and menacing even.”

Stavros, my comments have obviously upset you, and equally obviously (I hope) that was not my intention. It is true that a week in a country hardly gives me the authority to speak about it, so perhaps I should have said nothing. What I gave you was my personal view. I do not – for even a nanosecond – think that the corpulent men staying in our 5* hotel, each surrounded by several gorgeous blonde diamond encrusted women, were “typical” of all Russians or even represent all Russians. It it much more likely that I envied the women their bikini figures, and that the spectre of this group contrasted with a large number of British lawyers specialising in European law was humourous if nothing else. The group that I belonged to belonged to a different world. The riding school experience was “menacing”, as it happened. I was driving alone with my two daughters and was given the firm impression that I should not have been there. Nobody else was there, nobody spoke a language I could understand, and nobody was being friendly. We didn't ride. But I certainly would not extrapolate from this that all Russians bear any particular characteristic, nor do I find all Russians menacing. But that was my personal experience in Cyprus. I was shocked, but mostly because it was not has I imagined it would be, having spent several weeks in Greece (not Athens…). The comparisons with the UK and asian immigrants may appear apt to you, but it does not seem appropriate to me: I was talking about the "top end", the very wealthy, those wielding the power. I very much doubt that those Russians were doing anything more than visit. They did not belong to Cyprus, but they appeared to be living off it.

Nor do I have anything at all against the Serbs, as individuals or a group. I had an opportunity at Christmas to discuss Kosovo with a Serbian family friend (still living in Serbia), and I suppose her views have coloured my thoughts as have the experiences of close family members over the last ten years, sitting as trustees of organisations specialising in Eastern Europe, or monitoring former Soviet countries for the Council of Europe. Still doesn't mean I'm right, I grant you.

What I intended to convey, and clearly failed, was that I think it is more likely that the resolution of the Kosovo situation is governed by the respective interests of the US and Russia, not the people who live in those countries, and that I am not convinced that the Russians have anything other than their own interest at heart (though the same possibly goes for the UK and US?). I don't think it is about the Serbs, or even about the Greek Cypriots.

The amount of Russian money washing through Cyprus amazed me, though explains those Russians in the hotel. I don’t know if this is still the position, but it was the case that Cyprus corporation tax was between 4 and 10%, whereas in Russia it was nearer 25%. A double taxation treaty meant that profits taxed in Cyprus could not be taxed again in Russia (hence the huge sums), but left me wondering what autonomy the Greek Cypriots had to resolve their own political difficulties when they faced the potential loss of such a huge amount of tax revenue – billions of dollars. Have a look at the US government report on the economy of Russia and see where Cyprus fits in.

Yes, I do let people know what I think. Perhaps I should do so less. I very sorry if my comment appeared prejudiced. I have no prejudice against the Russian people or the Serbian people, though I am unsure about the Russian government.

Margaret

Hermes, there is a word missing from your comment. Not sure if it is "you" or "Anglo Saxons" :). My comments were not absurd simply because you did not agree with them. Saying that they are absurd implies that no reasonable person could hold those views, which is, in turn, absurd.

I think I am a bit frightened/wary of Russia (the Russian government), actually. Is my fear misplaced? You say "In the mid 1990’s the English went into their country, lectured them and stole a large part of their natural resources". Sorry, I must have been asleep through this bit (or tied up bringing up small children). Fill me in on what you mean.

Hermes

Margaret, I think you are being overly sensitive.

Anyway, can you explain to me why there are two British bases in Cyprus? And why this is any better than a few fat Russian mafia types interupting your horseriding? You seem to have ignored this. Do Cypriots have autonomy over those two bases? Are they allowed to come and go as they please? Why have the British explicitly supported the illegal occupation of the north? Why did Tony Blairs wife support real estate transactions of former Greek Cypriot homes in the north?

About the 1990's you seem to have selective memory. Why don't you remember? You also seem to have had experience at NGO's. Frankly , I fully support the Russians in shutting many of these organisations down including the creepy British Council. I wish the Greeks had the gumption to do this but we do not have large oil and gas reserves. The Russian government appears to be a rational actor. The British appears to by hypocritical and arrogant.

I hear the Russians will be setting up election monitors in Britain to monitor elections over there. Good on them.

Margaret

Hermes, seriously, between 1993 and the end of 1997, there could have been a World War out there and I probably would not have noticed. I didn't do any work outside the home in that period and I am sure I became very boring. I found bringing up two children with a largely absent husband was very hard work.

So, fill me in. And, for the avoidance of doubt, I am not saying that the British got it right. You are moving the conversation onto your preferred ground again. I wrote about the Russians.

And I do not believe what you say about monitoring elections either.

Stavros

Margaret,

I'm not upset at anyone. I expect people to disagree with me and they should expect rebuttals (a good lawyer word). I felt there were some inconsistencies in your comments which I tried to point out and I was a little taken aback by the tone which sounded out of character.

It's true that Russian business poured into Cyprus in the 1990s attracted by a secure banking system, a double tax treaty with Moscow, a flat tax of 4.25 percent on offshore firms, and a lax regulatory environment. It was a popular place to stash hard currency profits during the fire sale privatizations that took place in Russia in 1995-6. Cyprus has also become one of the largest foreign investors in Russia, due mainly to Russian money re-entering the country. Since then, of course, Cyprus has joined the EU and implemented tough new legislation on money laundering. It still remains a highly competitive tax haven for offshore companies because of the island's low taxes, skilled human resources and sophisticated service sector.

I'm not sure that the Greek Cypriots are any more beholden to the Russians than say the Germans, who are dependent on the Russian gas pipeline, nevertheless, Cyprus has always been at the mercy of dominant powers. At least the Russians are supporting Greek Cypriot interests for a change, something which the US and the UK have traditionally failed to do.

That said I do have reservations about the Russians, who, like all countries, are looking out for their own national interests. In the case of Serbia/Cyprus those interests coincide with those of the Greek Cypriots and Serbs. Why fault the Serbs for accepting Russian help when they are faced with an EU rush to dismantle their country?

As for Muslims in the Balkans, I have plenty of reservations about the US/European proclivity for portraying them as the aggrieved party that must be saved from the clutches of the bloodthirsty Orthodox Serbs. Americans and Europeans want to be seen as being "even-handed" by backing the creation of a Muslim state in Europe. Be careful what you wish for.

I must confess that for a long time I saw the goal of American policies as being the prevention of genocide in the Balkans. After doing some research I have come to the realization that these policies, if well intentioned, are misguided. They are misguided because we do not understand the history or dynamics involved and because we have abandoned traditional allies for short-term opportunity. We are setting the stage for another conflagration in the Balkans.

Scruff,

I don't like knee jerk anti-Greek rhetoric, just like I don't care for knee-jerk anti-Americanism. I believe I have taken others to task for the same thing. If I didn't want you to post I'd ban you from MGO so obviously that was not my intent. Nor am I trying to censor your comments. I think there have been many times in the past where I have agreed with you. Your statement bothered me so I said so. You have to admit that your comments about Greeks are usually very negative. Maybe you have been in Greece too long. You are certainly entitled to your opinions but I think I can take exception to some of them when you post on MGO.

If Hermes and others are Greek nationalists perhaps you would concede that you are an American nationalist? Are you asking me to choose sides?

If anything I said to you or Margaret sounds like I am angry, I assure you that I am not. I am older than all of you and as we age we begin to understand that things are seldom black and white, even if we would like them to be.

Semper fi

Margaret

Stavros, I do not mind having my views rebutted (it seems to happen quite a lot), though it always helps if they are not merely rebutted, but something else proposed in their place. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is a good thing, which tests my thinking like nothing else. I hope I did not appear to be whingeing about a robust reply.

I felt you had not read my comments but had jumped to the conclusion that I was against the Serbs and against the Greek Cypriots. Sometimes it feels as if it doesn't matter how many times I say that that is untrue, I will still be taken to have prejudices because of the my nationality.

I, too, am old enough to know that things are rarely black and white, and am glad that you addressed that comment to Scruffy because I would have found it patronising. If you play the age card, how can we put forward our views as deserving equal respect (at least) with yours?

I am genuinely interested ... what do you think should happen in relation to Kosovo? The more I read, the more it seems that Tito set the scene for independence decades ago (which is what our Serbian friend said). I wondered if your Orthodoxy (I understand that Kosovo represents the cradle of Serbian Orthodoxy) was an important part of your thinking that independence was a bad thing?

Kevin McEvily

What wonderful controversy! The Russians would be very proud of themselves.
Margaret’s honest reporting of her impressions from a trip to Cyprus several years ago reminded me of the some even more dated observations made by the Cubans regarding the Russians who lived and worked among their Caribbean hosts/clients in varying numbers during the Cold War.
Of course, in the more northern latitudes of this hemisphere we found the periodic increases in those numbers to be “disconcerting” and “menacing,” just as the provocateurs intended. During the Carter Administration, however, we learned that the Cubans themselves used these same terms to describe the swelling population of Soviet “consultants” and technocrats. But, of course, the islanders’ discomfort was on a very different level, although perhaps in part aroused by a similar perception of ethnic traits.
That more intimate irritation the Cubans experienced gradually wore away when the Russians began to venture out to sample the local nightlife. The concerted effort to make the Cubans feel inferior could not be sustained afterwards because watching the rhythm-challenged Russians try to dance became one of the most popular and affordable forms of local entertainment.
Certainly there are different classes of Russians in the Mediterranean than those who traveled to the Caribbean. Nevertheless, Margaret’s several comments here seem to show her concern about their presence in Cyprus on a number of different levels. (And maybe across several classes. Do we read the words “top and bottom end” to be a geographic or a socio-economic reference?) On one level at least, she might have had a Cuban-like experience had she persisted on her mission and actually watched the Russians recreate. A Russian speaking Cypriot there might have overheard this conversation just prior to the vignette Margaret gives us:
- Sergei, I’m sorry to bring you bad news for your ride. I overheard our concierge giving driving directions to this facility to a group of three British equestrians staying at our hotel. They’re on their way here now.
- Damn! Couldn’t you scare them off? Did you knead your brow? Strut? Talk loudly, spitting out your phrases? Glare? Act rudely? Did you run through all our standard tactics, Boris?
- Ineffective. Totally ineffective. I’m afraid the senior rider is the mother and the others are her daughters. They appear to be on holiday.
- A mother and her two children? Well of course you’re right, Boris. She won’t be intimidated. Anatoly, forget the caviar run; go hire out all of the horses.
- All of them, Boss? That will be a considerable expense.
- Tol, … or should I start calling you “comrade” once again? Your concern is so 20th century! Money we have. Buy the whole stable if you must. An English woman on a horse is just like a Cuban on a dance floor! Can we afford to be laughed at?!!
.... Or maybe not. Anyway, those nagging more serious levels of concern remain and we still have to ask ourselves whether we can afford to laugh or to ignore.
Margaret, thank you for provoking thought. You see, I am not so local or as well traveled as many of those who comment here. And my experience confirms your admonition that there is no substitute for what can be learned from an actual visit when you can talk to folks, look them in the face (and if you possess the American president's purported powers of observation, "see into their souls") to get a real feeling for a place and its people. That is not available to me. Aside from being shown lovely photos taken by beach going tourists, the most recent first-hand reports I had from Cyprus came from two fine Turkish marine officers with whom I trained in 1974 and '75. Both had just returned from participating in the invasion following the coup on that island. Neither had anything to say that would be well received on these pages (although I think Stavros might have some grudging admiration for the efficiency of their landing operation from a military standpoint). Even now neither of those reporters could be as detached or insightful as you have been.
But I appreciate the comments you excited from others as well.
Coincidentally, Scruffy, the movie you panned was on TV last night. The scene I saw was as hackneyed as you suggested so I continued to search for a college basketball game that might hold my interest. Was that supposed to be based on the experiences of Capt. Scott O’Grady in Bosnia? Chris Gunther, a dear friend to both Stavros and me, was the commander of the land element of the Marine Expeditionary Unit which rescued O’Grady out of the woods. Another coincidence -- it was this same unit, the 24th MEU, whose barracks was blown up in October of ’83 in Beirut.
221 of our brothers perished on that peace keeping mission. That debacle underscores Stavro’s caveat about having a thorough understanding of the history and dynamics of a region before we commit to policy or action – anywhere. Among those lost that day, Stavros, was Bill Winter, a series commander I worked with at Parris Island. Didn’t he serve with you in 2/4 during Frequent Wind? He was a good man and, like all the others, he “came in peace.” I think of Bill often. His sacrifice causes me to pay very close attention to the comments recorded here, whether delivered gently or otherwise.
And Stavros, I won’t take it as patronizing if, when you chide me for the stereo-typing in my little attempt at levity, you remind all that I am very much younger than you!
Semper fi,
Kevin

Stavros

Margaret,

I'm sorry if I jumped to conclusions and misunderstood your objections to the article in question. It sounded like you were in favor of independence for Kosovo and opposed to Russian support of the Serb position. I assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that your opinions mirrored the position of the British government. That was my perspective.

I realize you are trying to understand these complex issues and that you don't have some of the baggage the rest of us carry. I don't expect you to support the Serbs or Greek Cypriots as I do but I respect your intellectual curiosity to find out why we think the way we do.

When I mentioned age it was not to give others the impression that I am somehow older and therefore wiser. I only wanted to express the fact that with age one learns not to be so sure of himself and the ultimate correctness of his/her beliefs. I am trying to learn more about these issues as well. Occasionally I have to adjust to new information and analysis.

My Orthodoxy does not teach me to hate others. Orthodox Christians have been coexisting with Muslims for centuries. To characterize these conflicts as religious is incorrect, it goes much deeper. The Serbs have a deep seated fear of the Croats and Muslims. It is a direct result of the genocide perpetrated against the Serbs during WWII. These wounds run deep. I would recommend looking at a map of Kosovo in 1999 and one in 2007 which depicts Serb majority areas. You will realize the extent of ethnic cleansing that has taken place. The only viable solution is the one that the Serbs are offering: autonomy within Serbia.

Try reading Serbiana, for additional background that is not always available in the Western msm.


Stavros

Kevin,

Did the Turks tell you about the Turkish destroyer the Turkish Air Force sank by mistake? Or the fact that they were unable to take Nicosia airport from a small band of Greek commandos despite having air superiority? I think I will have to write a post to cover the military aspects of the invasion which are interesting but not exactly a saga of Turkish military prowess. Then again, I am not impartial.

I have to concur with your assessment of the movie. The O'Grady's story is here:

http://www.f-16.net/varia_article10.html

I don't remember Bill Winter from 2/4, although he may have been in the 4th Marines. May he rest in peace along with a friend and fellow Greek-American, Major John Macroglou, who died that day for dubious reasons.

BTW, I will readily admit that you are younger, smarter, faster, a superb orator, and dazzling writer.

I am, however, better looking.

Semper fi, Stavros

Kevin McEvily

Stavros,
With friends in both camps and "no dog in the fight" you get to hear a great many things! (You should hear what my Mexican friends say about the Battle of Chapultapec.) But I heard enough from my Turkish friends to convince me that I needed to renew my stores of salt. In fact, because one of our class-mates was engaged to a superb communicator who worked at the UN headquarters in NY, Mustafa and I got invited to take a tour there while the engaged couple took some time to catch up. The tour we joined included several groups of pleasant folks from the hinterlands who were most attentive to our well informed guide. When we got the the room where the Security Council meets our guide reminded us that "The Security Council currently maintains three peace keeping forces in the world; two in the Middle East and one on Cyprus."
At this Mustafa let out with an audible "harrumpf" of disdain. Mistaking the interruption, the guide asked if he had a question.
"I have just come from Cyprus," said my friend as all eyes turned toward him. "This is some peace keeping operation that takes for its principal mission the pinpointing of Turkish military positions to send to the Greek Cypriots who use this intelligence to mark Turkish units for artillery practice!"
You can imagine that he recited this grievance with what he took to be appropriate rhetorical flourish. Sensing that he had hijacked the audience, he started on his next point. Our guide and I realized the potential consequence at the same time and she took the group off in one direction as I took Mustafa off in another. Who knows what may have happened if he had really warmed up.
The path is simple and sure for the passionate believers... a truth which I think was part of Margaret's original point.
Few of us are without bias. But if the mere recognition of bias turned off our information receptors, we'd be far more ignorant than we are, right?
Faithfully,
Kevin

Stavros

Kevin,

After digesting your last comment I feel compelled to give you a well deserved, honorific title by appointing you as MGO's one and only official REFEREE, with all rights and privileges thereunto pertaining. Your job is a difficult one, the sacrifices many, the pay non-existent, and your duties hard to describe. It's sort of like herding cats. I can think of no other human being more qualified to take on this challenge in light of the way you were able to mold Mustafa like silly putty in your hands.

Congratulations!

Scruffy

Stavro, Ok, thanks for clarification.

Margaret

Purrrr.

Kevin McEvily

Thank you.
Play on.

Margaret

More seriously, thank you for providing an opportunity to think not only about Kosovo and Cyprus, but more theoretically about the conflicting rights on the one hand of self-determination for a people, and on the other hand of territorial integrity for a nation. I confess to a bias towards self-determination as justification for secession in general. Scotland, I suppose, is a case in point. If a large majority of the people were to decide that they did not want to be part of the UK any more, I cannot see any point in forcing them to stay. I would hope, however, that they would not want to leave, and that the value of the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. It would be nice to believe that that was the case in Kosovo, but apparently not since secession seems a done deal, shortly after the elections. In which case, the more important question seems to be what the international community does about the newly independent Kosovo. Does it recognise it (and thus perhaps shift the emphasis away from territorial integrity towards self determination) or does it refuse to recognise the will of the Kosovan majority? Again, taking Scotland as my cue, I'd opt for recognition, with a measure of sadness. Good friends of ours have decided this week to get divorced because one party wants out. There would be no point making him stay, he doesn't want to. So all of us have to accept it, I think, however sad that makes us.

Stavros

Margaret,

I'm going to play devil's advocate here. What if the Scots had moved in large numbers into the English provinces adjoining Scotland and they wanted those provinces to become part of Scotland when it became independent. Would you still be willing to give up parts of England? And what if you family had lived for centuries in the part that the Scots wanted to annex?

Margaret

Stavros, I guess you are implying that the situation you have set up in the north of England would mirror the migrations that occurred in Yugoslavia. So, in that case, we have to presume an area that had - by 1921 - become occupied by a majority of Scots and that they had a centuries old hatred of the English and a different religion to boot. That the UK government had encouraged this particular minority, giving it political power, and partial autonomy from the mid 1970s. That the English population - for various reasons - chose to move further south so that by 1980 at the latest the area was occupied, with the full consent of the national government, by the Scots in a 90% majority. That the English turned against the Scots big time from about 1995, fed up with them hogging the power, and that there had been a war with terrible things done on both sides that made reconciliation very unlikely.

If that was the situation, and I believed that it was unlikely in the foreseeable future to imagine these two peoples living happily together, then I would prefer two separate states to emerge, both either supervised by an international force in the short term, and/or brought within the EU fold in the long term as a measure to guarantee peace for their peoples. The situation, after all, did not grow up overnight, but had its roots many centuries earlier and othing in the history suggests that there is much likelihood of peace of these two peoples within the same country.

Now, if I lived in this disputed area, my decision to stay at this point would depend on many factors - the degree to which minorities were properly protected by non-discrimination provisions, the availability of employment, how many friends I had, where the rest of my family lived. But primarily on the first of those things - especially if I had children to think of. Which, oddly enough, I remember saying before elsewhere, and it got me into trouble then.

The fact that I hadn't already moved, suggests that I was incredibly attached to the land that my ancestors (presumably) had settled, so I expect I would stay, or leave. I may or may not be bitter about that. Both outcomes are possible, I believe. But whether or not this disputed area achieved secession would not, I guess, be down to me in my minority.

We're not going to agree, are we?

I found two versions of history on the web:

http://www.iacenter.org/warcrime/23_migr.htm

http://www.friendsofbosnia.org/edu_kos.html

which seemed to agree about very little.

So, perhaps, we'd better agree to disagree, and move on?

Margaret

Have you seen The Kiterunner yet? I really recommend it, for the whole family. The four of us went to see it yesterday. It is a wonderful film which I think would touch you for many reasons, and which I would wish everyone to see. Even if you've already read the book, it won't disappoint (she says confidently).

Stavros

Margaret,

I wonder if your fellow countrymen would be as readily willing as you to give away portions of merry old England? OK we'll disagree, however, I'm not done with this particular subject just yet.

Yes, there may be different and conflicting interpretations of history. This is called historical revisionism, which may or may not be legitimate. Historical facts,however, cannot be changed as easily. Before we can interpret the facts we must learn what they are. That is certainly doable these days, as long as we are careful about our sources of information.

I haven't seen Kiterunner. I've heard good things about the book and the movie. Sounds like a good opportunity to take in a movie and spend some elusive family time together. I'll let you know what I think after I see it.

Margaret

Stavros,

Thank you for responding, and for continuing the conversation. I did not intend to shut it down unilaterally.

I tried to find out the facts, but it seemed to be very difficult to sort out (from internet sources) what the facts were, particularly with regard to the ethnic cleansing issue which seemed to be an important part of your support for retaining Kosovo within Serbia - not rewarding the Kosovans for having displaced so many Serbs. Trouble was, I kept coming across sites and maps showing all the atrocities that the Serbs supposedly committed, and little evidence of the opposite except for frequent mention of the extraordinarily high birth rate among Albanians in Kosovo. The only book we have here at home (Misha Glenny [ex-BBC reporter - seems to be well regarded on Amazon], The Rebirth of History: Eastern Europe in the Age of Democracy) supports what you describe as the British position, and that Serbs left the area of Kosovo voluntarily for economic reasons.

Where are those of us who are interested to find the facts? Here, in my provincial town, I am reliant on the news that comes back to me from London via my husband, my trusty Guardian, Prospect, and on the internet.

I'm sure you're right about many of my compatriots not liking having to leave the land their families have occupied for centuries. I tried to imagine how I would feel if the change had been gradual over such a long time. If it were sudden, if we were suddenly invaded and overwhelmed by people who were not like me, my feelings would be very different. I would be very angry. I do not know whether I would get over it or not. I cannot know.

Stavros

Margaret,

I was only trying to say that I planning future posts on the subject, not necessarily that I wanted to keep the thread going. Actually I was interested in commenting elsewhere on a post about dinner parties which revived some long lost memories about the subject. I will leave that for tomorrow.

You make some valid points about the search for truth which always seems to be an over-arching theme around here. I think both of us come from a tradition of education where critical thinking was still in vogue. So at least, unlike many younger people today, we don't take things we read at face value. A great deal of what we read is based on dubious information that is filtered through the preconceived notions of the writer/observer. When I worked in military intelligence I was often confronted with an overwhelming amount of information coming from different sources. The trick in being able to come to reliable conclusions came down to comparing the information you were getting with the facts you already knew. If a source was unreliable it became apparent when they start feeding you information that you know is incorrect. Fact checking is sometimes difficult but it is amazing how much information we have available to us even in remote corners of the world.

My own views have been evolving on this subject. Here's one of the articles that made me start thinking that we might be on the wrong track:

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1112681/posts

I recommend reading the following and then cross-checking some of the "facts" presented: http://lamar.colostate.edu/~grjan/kosovohistory.html

You're right of course, most folks other than type A personalities like you or I would not be bothered. It so much easier to buy into what "conventional wisdom" tells us.

Margaret

S, Thought you might like this - if you have a spare moment, that is - "God moves to the left", an account of Christianity in the US:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,2254508,00.html

Margaret

Somebody trying to tell me something ...? The first three letters of your anti-spam code for my comment this morning were "f K u".

Stavros

Margaret,

It appears Typepad is having a bad day.

I haven't had time to digest this article completely although I was able to skim through it. It appears that the author somehow once believed that Christians in the US were all reading off the same sheet of music. Something that was never the case. I'll try to read it more thoroughly tonight and give you my unscientific perspective.

BTW, I am curious about your poor opinion of the Archbishop of Canterbury. What gives?

Margaret

Stavros,

Typepad's bad day gave me a long lasting smile!

As for the Archbishop, he's proposed that we have Sharia law in the UK - which has made an awful lot of people choke and splutter over their morning coffee and newspaper. I'd almost say "over my dead body" because I am vehemently against different laws for different faiths/cultural relativism. When the head of your church starts saying things like this, you utterly dispair. He has not had a lot of support (understatement) which is a good thing.

I'd like to hear what you think about the article, though I was being a bit provocative sending it - I've always thought Jesus would have been a socialist.

Half term beginning here - dinner guests late. Have a good weekend. M

Pirro

Poor stavros !!! Kosovo is not like Cyprus, Kosovo was, is and will be ALBANIA, and so on, ÇAMERIA!! We are the nation of Homer, great Aleksander, Pirro, Gjergj Kastrioti - Skenderbeu, and Mother Theresa. The only ability of you so-called greeks is to rob everything.... do you really belive you can purloin even the Germans money, HAHAHAHAHA !!!!!

Stavros

Before you decide to enlarge Albania, try fixing the country you have first. The last thing the Balkans needs is a small country with a big appetite.

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