Fixing the “mistake…” Joining Europe… Doesn’t this sound familiar?

16 Sep

“We are fixing the 350-year old mistake — Ukraine is Europe,” Arseniy Yatsenuk, the prime minister, told the Parliament, known as the Rada.

From a Times article today — Ukraine Moves to Strengthen Ties With Europe, and Bolster Truce — about the Ukrainian parliament passing “a series of laws…meant to cement the country’s Western orientation while strengthening its truce with pro-Russian separatists in the southeast.”

Being considered on the inside of the bounds of European civilization is not just what every civilized nation should aspire to, but being in a position external to Europe was always a “mistake” — a misconception, we really are and always were Europeans — and now we’re righting that misconception.  Nationalism is always creating new fictions that it passes off as the restoration of a pre-Fall condition.  And everybody buys it.

Go to Donetsk or Luhansk, go to Dnepropetrovsk…or Khar’kov or Poltava even, and tell me you feel like you’re in a place that even remotely resembles what you call or think of as Europe!

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(click)

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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Life as an Illegal Immigrant in Greece — from VICE

16 Sep

Or what the Messenger would call my “aiding and abetting the enemies of our Fatherland.”

A great video piece done this past spring by that increasingly brilliant outlet, Vice.

Felt proud, though, at the number of intelligent, articulate, compassionate Greeks who appear in the video taking a stand against this deplorable situation and not indulging in the usual apologetics that have unfortunately become the Neo-Greek man-on-the-street’s default discourse: “We can’t afford to have these people here [wrong…you can’t afford not to have those people there any more than the U.S. can afford to get rid of its Mexicans…your whole agricultural and construction industry would collapse — what’s left of it — and would damage wider economy — or what’s left of that.]…Golden Dawn helps the people, etc.”  Or this one from the Messenger: “If that percentage of immigrants had descended on the United States all of a sudden, wouldn’t the Ku Klux Klan be voted into office the next day?”  Errr…no.  It wouldn’t.  A classic piece of simplistic knee-jerk anti-Americanism touched with his own brand of fascism-lite.

 “Greece has always been a gateway for immigrants searching for what they assumed would be a better life in Europe. But many of those who have crossed illegally into Greece have found that they have traded one bad situation for another. Refugees from war-torn countries like Syria and Afghanistan are finding themselves stuck in a country that is not only battling an economic crisis but is witnessing a rise in anti-immigrant violence—exemplified by the a nationalist political party known as the Golden Dawn.

VICE News’ Alex Miller travelled from Athens to the western port of Patras to find out what it is like to be trapped in a country you never wanted to be in in the first place.”

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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Tripoli, the northern Lebanese town that has become a microcosm of the Syrian civil war

16 Sep

Reblogged from Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish:

Fear And Loathing In Lebanon

Sep 15 2014 @ 7:45pm
 
View image on Twitter

supporters vandalized churches in Tripoli . Graffiti reads: Islamic State is coming

Sulome Anderson checks in from Tripoli, the northern Lebanese town that has become a microcosm of the Syrian civil war and which today “seems to lie in ISIS’s shadow”:

Although the extremist and ultraviolent Sunni group has few open supporters here, the appearance of pro-ISIS paraphernalia and graffiti, the clash last month in the Bekaa, and the fact that Tripoli’s Sunni-majority population has a historical tendency toward radicalism, have raised worries that the group might gain a foothold here and send the city into a spiral of deepening violence.

Local tensions in Tripoli follow essentially the same ethnic lines as those in Syria’s war:

Sunni citizens largely support the increasingly fundamentalist Syrian opposition — ISIS being the most notoriously brutal of the groups fighting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad; meanwhile, the Alawites of the Jabal Mohsen neighborhood are overwhelmingly sympathetic to Assad’s regime (the Syrian leader is Alawite) and its Hezbollah allies. There are frequent and bloody gunfights between Jabal Mohsen and the Sunni district of Bab el-Tabbeneh, which border each other. Fearing violence would engulf Tripoli and potentially spread to other regions in Lebanon, the army moved in, establishing a security zone within the city limits last year. That hasn’t stopped the bloodshed, though, and the situation in Arsal triggered fresh clashes at the end of August, in which an 8-year-old girl was killed.

Also, the local Christian community is feeling threatened in a way it never has before:

Tripoli’s Christian population has been a bit skittish lately. Several churches were vandalized at the beginning of September, their walls spray-painted with ominous threats including “The Islamic State is coming” and “We come to slaughter you, you worshippers of the cross.” Crosses were allegedly burned in retaliation for the #BurnISISFlag social media movement, Lebanon’s version of the Ice Bucket Challenge, in which people have been posting videos and pictures of themselves setting fire to the group’s banner.

Father Samir Hajjar sits in the priest’s quarters of the city’s Syriac Orthodox Church, one of the buildings that was vandalized. He is measured about the incident, but admits it was worrying. “At first, we thought this could just be ordinary vandals, or the work of children,” he says. “I’ve been here 17 years, and no one bothers us. We respect our neighbors and they respect us. But this graffiti on the walls of all the churches, that’s not children’s work. They used stencils. It’s a serious matter.”

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

The model for the new democratic moderate Islam: “ISIS Draws Steady Stream of Recruits From Turkey”

16 Sep

16TURKEY-superJumbo

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, hand raised, and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, to his right, in August, leaving the Haci Bayram Veli Mosque in Ankara, the capital, where the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is known to recruit new members. Adem Altan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images (click)

From The New York TimesISIS Draws Steady Stream of Recruits From Turkey

Selections:

“Hundreds of foreign fighters, including some from Europe and the United States, have joined the ranks of ISIS in its self-proclaimed caliphate that sweeps over vast territories of Iraq and Syria. But one of the biggest source of recruits is neighboring Turkey, a NATO member with an undercurrent of Islamist discontent.”

“As many as 1,000 Turks have joined ISIS, according to Turkish news media reports and government officials here. Recruits cite the group’s ideological appeal to disaffected youths as well as the money it pays fighters from its flush coffers.”

“There are clearly recruitment centers being set up in Ankara and elsewhere in Turkey, but the government doesn’t seem to care,” said Aaron Stein, a fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based think tank. “It seems their hatred for Bashar al-Assad and their overly nuanced view of what radical Islam is has led to a very short- and narrow-sighted policy that has serious implications.”

The Interior Ministry and National Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.

On a recent afternoon in Ankara, Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Davutoglu came to pray at the historic Haci Bayram Veli Mosque, just over 100 yards away from an underground mosque used by a radical Salafi sect known to oversee ISIS recruits.

When news of their visit reached the neighborhood, several residents scurried down the steep hill hoping to catch an opportunity to raise the issue.

At the same time, a 10-year-old boy lingered in his family’s shop, laughing at the crowd rushing to get a glimpse of the two leaders. He had just listened to a long lecture from his father celebrating ISIS’ recent beheading of James Foley, an American journalist. “He was an agent and deserved to die,” the man told his son, half-smirking through his thick beard.

To which the boy replied, “Journalists, infidels of this country; we’ll kill them all.”

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Well, ain’t that just a kick?  Wonder what all the Stephen Kinzers and Christopher de Bellaigues who have been crowing about the new Turkey for 20 years are now going to have to say — maybe have been saying.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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Hmm…interesting etymological observation

14 Sep

The common Indo-European root between “άκρη” in Greek — “akre” — and krai/kraj in Slavic languages…?

From my post, Turkish Alevis and Syrian (or Lebanese…or Turkish?) Alawites — a Twitter exchange:

The “akrites” were the Byzantine border warlords who defended the Empire’s southern frontier — the άκρη or “edge” [akre] — which as I mentioned here is what the word “krai” or “kraj” in Ukraine means, or in Serbo-Croatian Krajina — but were half-Arab culturally and every other way themselves.  The most famous is the ballad of “Digenes Akritas” who was born of a Greek father and Arab mother.   

war_map

The Krajina region of Croatia (in green…roughly…it didn’t include Dubrovnik) where the Hapsburgs settled large numbers of Serbs starting in the 17th century, to guard their “kraj” — their frontier — against the Ottomans.  With Krajina Serbs the bearers of this tradition of armed frontiersmen, this was arguably the tinder-box region of Serbian minority Croatia where the whole war began.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup Final

14 Sep

Started watching.  It turned into a gringo gloat-fest.  So I muted it and just watch the depressing numbers.

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P.S. Just a thought: I can’t stand soccer for a whole panoply of reasons, mostly cultural and sociological and political, but also because it so often seems a boringly low-scoring game to me.  Do I find basketball kind of tedious — despite its beauty — because it’s too high-scoring?  Bounce-bounce-bounce-score.  Bounce-bounce-bounce-score?

Alevis and Alawites addendum: a “p.s.” from Teomete

14 Sep
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“My rejection to the article of just was bcoz of their evil mind on manipulation by distorting the fact about Alevis +
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It’s natural 2 call & ask editorial 2 make correction when they lied or manipulated the facts. U and yr country shld do diz too

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Yeah.  Well.  I don’t have a country, abi.  I’m the citizen of a couple.  And I’m kind of an honorary-guest-citizen of — I think, at last call — about twenty-seven others.  But they’re not mine.  And they don’t belong to me any more than I belong to them.  And I certainly wouldn’t be caught dead running around hiding the truth about any of them and calling it “lying” and “defaming” if others state that truth clearly.  And that’s one thing I honor American society and Protestant conscience and self-examination for having taught me.*  Greeks call what you do “hiding behind your finger.”  In Spanish they have the more poetic phrase: “The sun can’t be blocked with one finger.”

In this blog post of mine:Magnificent Turks’ and the origins of this blog I talk about several Greek brothers who actually think just like you, a Turk.  Imagine.  They think that if you don’t speak the historical truth that it’ll go away somehow.  They think that if you speak that truth it’s because your intent is “evil” — just like you do.  They tell you to “go fuck yourself” when you speak the truth — which you don’t do because you’re Turkish and polite, which I appreciate, and not a foul-mouthed Neo-Greek who thinks he’s oh-so-clever-and-articulate because he’s always got three or four nasty epithets ready on the tip of his tongue to hurl at you.  And they call you κομπλεξικό — that you’ve got ‘neurotic hang-ups’ to translate roughly — because you say and write things that “aid and abet the enemies of our fatherland.”  Who’s got the hang-ups there: me or someone who walks around in 2014 AD using the term “enemies of our fatherland” is up to you to decide.  But I can put you in touch with them if you like, because you all think exactly the same.

Here’s my one country:roosevelt-avenue-jackson-heights-little-india-micro-neighborhoods-nyc-untapped-cities-brennan-ortiz

Photo via Netizen. (click)

…and as you can see most people here have better things to do than be thinking about your kind of närrischkeit.

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Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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* As an ESL teacher in New York City’s CUNY system for over ten years I frequently had the experience of my foreign students simply left perplexed that Americans were constantly rehashing and criticizing their history.  I’d read the devastating attack on American self-righteousness and paranoia that is Arthur Miller’s Crucible with my students; then we’d read his thorough moral trashing of American capitalism in Death of a Salesman.  Then show them Apocalypse Now and parts of the Burns’ documentaries, Eyes on the Prize or New York: A Documentary Film or even South Park’s Team America: World Police or the brilliant documentary about Iraq by Charles Ferguson, No End in Sight; if I were still there I would be taking them to see Twelve Years a Slave.  Till finally a Brazilian girl said to me: “I dunno, teacher…if you came to my country to study Portuguese, no one would ever tell you that anything bad ever happened in Brazilian history…” both amused and baffled at her own observation.

Checking out this post on the nationalism of little countries might add another dimension to this.

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