Tag Archives: Al Jazeera

From Al Jazeera: “A star-studded protest in India” — Finally someone speaks up against Modi and the BJP

12 Nov

FINALLY…  It had to have been Al Jazeera, of course.  I’ve been watching the BBC for days here and all it is is praise and gushing: he’s creating economic confidence in India around the world, which is all the business-world whores care about.  I’m not impressed the Indian diaspora is mad about him.  There hasn’t been a single report on whether any one in the crowds he draws for his cheap Bollywood-like spectacles in Britain and soon to go to the U.S. is Muslim.  And the even cheaper use of Hindu love-and-namaste imagery that the West is such a gullible child about as a cover is doubly repellent: spread enough saffron and marigolds around and you think everyone is going to forget your horrendous, sectarian, nationalist background and how your holding Prime Minister’s office is only strengthening its poisonous effect on Indian society.

23a4f30b7f404637b3587fd8b764b297_18

Indian Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan [AFP]

And who finally calls out the emperor’s new clothes but Bollywood itself?  We’ve always known that Bollywood is a slightly disproportionately Muslim industry and seen as suspiciously so by Hindu conservatives — like Hollywood and Jews — to the point where in the past many Muslims often changed their names to save their career (Dilip Kumar was born Yusuf Khan in Peshawar, malaka), but you also expect Bollywood to generally have the principles of a pack of weasels, so that this standing up to Modi from SRK and others is pretty impressive.

Read “Chandrahas Choudhury” whole opinion piece here.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Varoufakis, a dead Greek cosmopolitanism, and a Greece that now has nothing else

8 Feb

bdec44f200d445ceb018834ba071fe73_18(click)

From Al Jazeera by Iason Athanasiadis: The Greek Varometer: The irreverent, shaven-headed, motorbike-riding academic’s arrival is viewed in messianic terms.

I’m posting this for completely tangential reasons.  Because as I’ve said before, I’m not in the least capable of any political economic analyses, and, though I’m instinctively and emotionally happy about SYRIZA‘s victory, I really can’t tell how things are going to turn out.

(This Guardian article paints things as pretty dire, though of course that might just be more bullying and threat masked as “inevitability”: Tsipras favours Greek jobless over creditors in defiant policy speech:

The British chancellor, George Osborne, admitted the UK had already embarked on contingency plans in preparation for a Greek exit from the single currency. “This standoff between Greece and the eurozone is increasing the risks every day,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday, adding that Athens’ departure from the bloc would not only send European financial markets into a tailspin, but cause “real ructions” in the UK.

Earlier, Alan Greenspan, the former head of the US Federal Reserve, said it was only a matter of time before the country left the eurozone. He said it was difficult to see why anyone would be willing to lend Greece more money and that without additional loans, the country would be forced to default and leave the euro.

“It’s just a matter of time before everyone recognises that parting is the best strategy,” he told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend. “It is not a decision where they are going to come to an agreement. All the cards are being held by the members of the eurozone.”

Greenspan also conceded that a Greek exit might trigger a meltdown in global financial markets: “I don’t think we have a choice.”)

But that’s not what was most interesting to me in Athansiadis’ article.  What was most interesting — and most gratifying, though it confirms a sad truth about the Greek statelet — is that Athansiadis chooses to portray Varoufakis as a product of a giant Greek Diaspora that the twentieth century, and twentieth-century nationalism, destroyed:

“He [Varoufakis] is also a kind of Greek largely eclipsed from the international stage since the 1960s; polyglot, adventurous, and hailing from a lively and vibrant Greek diaspora before it solidified into small-minded communities nurturing a parochial definition of Hellenism fossilised sometime circa 1950. Varoufakis’ father was born and grew up in Cairo’s fabled Greek community, directs a major Greek metallurgical interest, and maintains an interest in Hellenistic civilisation on the Mediterranean seaboard.”

and

“Varoufakis seems to hail from another Hellenism, the one defeated at the end of the 19th century when politics and circumstance conspired to ensure that the Hellas that entered the 20th century was narrowly defined by national borders, rather than the spread-out Greek-speaking cosmopolitanisms of North Africa, the Levant and Anatolia.

“Always a protectorate of the West, modern Greece was trapped by small-minded nationalisms (including its vendetta with post-Ottoman Turkey), resulting in the homogeneous and small-minded parochialisms from which the Golden Dawn impulse springs today.”

[my bold emphases in all of above]

Yes, thanks, Iasona…  For stating so clearly what the essential thesis of this blog is: that Hellenism was, and is, doomed in many ways since it contracted into an EBSN (ethnicity-based nation-state).  The sad truth is that the economic and cultural loci of the Greek world were always outside the Helladic peninsula (see my: Upon escaping from Greece… from this past September and myriad other posts) from early Classical times until the 1960s.  The modern Greek kingdom/state was always an economic basket-case from its beginnings and dependent on the Greek diaspora for its economic existence and, in fact, its cultural wealth and vibrancy as well.  There has rarely been a time that modern Greece was not teetering on the brink of insolvency or bankruptcy and the credit-backed 80s and 90s were simply smoke-and-mirrors that obscured that reality.

The reality is that Greece itself has nothing.  And never did.  “Φτώχεια, καλή καρδιά”…and mostly γκρίνια…*(1)  Its dying agriculture doesn’t and never did produce anything that its Mediterranean or even Balkan neighbors don’t produce in greater quantity and often better quality.  (Even my mother used to buy Bulgarian feta when I was a kid.**[2])  Its industry was always rudimentary and not particularly competitive — certainly not for export — and has practically disappeared.  If Greece ever had the potential of becoming a regionally important service center economy, like Singapore or Hong Kong or, closer to home, Lebanon before its civil war, that potential has never been realized — except in Cyprus to a certain degree — for a whole panoply of reasons that I think I’m not qualified to get into.  And whereas the great Greek financial magnates and industrialists and merchants of Alexandria and Odessa and Constantinople and Smyrna and Bucharest and Constanța and Iași in the nineteenth century liberally poured their wealth into building the institutions of the new state,***(3) the Greek families that today control our one potentially and traditionally great economic resource, commercial shipping, largely choose to keep their wealth off-shore.

I’m sorry to say that I can’t see what could possibly change this picture.  More tourism?  Neither reforms of the the Troika or the SYRIZA type will change fundamental material realities.  I’m afraid that Hellenism only flourishes when it’s part of a larger regional political economic network and I’m not sure that Europe is that network.  But then who?  A Turkey we always choose to respond to with hostility****(4) — to which it obligingly reciprocates?  Or the Balkans, which we denigrate, while Turkey is busy building commercial and economic and cultural ties with Balkan Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo?*****(5)  Or the total basket-case countries of the Arab world?  Or Russia in its current pariah-state condition?

And yet those were the parts of the world where the most dynamic communities of Greeks always existed.  Modern nationalism destroyed them.  And not just Greek nationalism, of course.  But Turkish and Egyptian nationalism and that of everyone else in the region.  Every one in their own box.

I’m just afraid that that contraction cost us more than it did anyone else. 

And I don’t see how it can be reversed.

Med19304(click)

**************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

*(1) The lyrics from a famous Xarkakos song: “Poverty, a good heart, and lots of kvetching…”  Here’s the great Bithikotses’ recording of it.

**(2) And being from a village and region with a largely pastoral economy, she knew her feta; but the Bulgarian product tasted more like the hard, fattier, well-brined cheese she was used to, as compared to the cream-cheese mush Greece used to export in those days.  Granted, the quality has improved greatly since then.  As has that of Greek wines.  Especially the whites.  Build an economy on that.

At some point in the late nineteenth century, the economy of the Greek kingdom was deeply dependent on one thing: black (often called “Zante”) currants.  Forget Cuba and sugar or the Gulf states and oil.  This was a mono-crop dependency that rested wholly on prayers that Brits would continue to use copious amounts of these currants in their plum puddings at Christmas and not find another source for them.  When they did, or when demand for them stopped for whatever reason, the Greek economy collapsed.

***(3) One of the most obnoxious traits of the Neo-Greek middle-class is their denigrating, mocking, condescending attitude toward what constitutes the Diaspora of today, mainly Greek-Americans and Greek-Australians.  The dynamics of cultural assimilation in both countries and in the modern world generally will assure that New York or Melbourne will never become a Greek Constantinople or Alexandria, of course.  But that Neo-Greeks choose to look at their compatriots that left the country in the twentieth century, not as tragic victims of the country’s material limitations and war-time chaos, nor as an incredibly dynamic and enterprising group of Greeks who left for foreign shores and “spun gold out of thin air” there, in Patrick Leigh Fermor‘s famous words, but as rubes and hicks to be made fun of, while they sat home on their asses waiting for a growing welfare state to feed them, is just one of the most infuriating manifestations of Neo-Greeks’ blinkered worldview.  Snobs in a way that only the truly provincial can be — which I always say.  Much more to say about that.

****(4) Of course, there is the phenomenon of the so-called “Neo-Polites,” the considerable number of young Greeks who, for economic, or intellectual, or historic, or cultural, or sentimental reasons, have recently started to migrate “back” to İstanbul — though the extent to which we can call this a reconstituting of Constantinopolitan Greek life is pretty questionable.  It’s much more likely that a Roman life of sorts in İstanbul will ultimately be given a new lease by the Syrian Christians who have moved to the City in large numbers in the past decades.  Also much more to say about all that.

*****(5) Now, many Greeks in Albania, who are strikingly uninterested in Greece, have started to extend commercial and manufacturing networks into the rest of the country from the small pocket of territory they inhabit in the south; I have close relatives who, out of nothing, have built a phyllo/yufka manufacturing company, based in my father’s village of Derviçani, that sells throughout Albania and is looking how to expand into neighboring countries as well.  How far that will go is also to be seen.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

 

 

Syrian Christians

13 May

Short Al Jazeera report that follows up and answers some questions I had in previous post: April 23rd, “Turkey and religious freedom: Wooing Christians — ‘We are ready to face the past, to make amends.'”

Christ, I hope they end up on the right historical side of this one.  Not that they may have a choice — as Iraqi Christians didn’t.

 

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Egypt: The Other Homeland

6 Apr

Another people’s exodus from Egypt… 

I always feel like smirking a bit when I come across the title of Mark Mazower’s 2005 book: Salonica: City of GhostsIt’s not just that “our parts” with their ‘ancient, tribal hatreds’ always seem to be ‘haunted’ in the Western imagination; it’s just that, truly, which of our cities isn’t a city of ghosts?  Salonica, Sarajevo, Istanbul, Izmir?  Beirut, Alexandria, Lahore, Delhi?  Which?

Well, Al Jazeera has produced a beautiful little documentary by Giorgos Augeropoulos about the story of Alexandrian Greeks.  Augeropoulos is apparently the director of a highly praised Greek documentary series and has been pretty vocal in Greece’s recent political and fiscal crisis/rezili, but I had never heard of him before.

Al Jazerera, by the way, has now become my primary source of news.  It’s the only place one can get any serious international news, run from the idiocy of American politics, escape from MSNBC’s twenty-four hour liberal catechism class, and catch genuinely original and — I don’t know how else to put it — sincere documentaries like this.  Watch it when you have the chance.

Below are the complete texts of the two Cavafy poems used at the beginning and end of the documentary, “Candles” and “The City” in both Greek and English.  Single-accent Greek (the appropriately named “monotonic”) literally causes me visual pain — like, I can’t look at it, actually have more trouble reading it — and when used for Cavafy the pain reaches excruciating levels, but I couldn’t find the poems in polytonic versions anywhere on line; those who know what I mean, please forgive me.  And this from “The Official Website of the Cavafy Archive,” malaka: http://www.kavafis.gr/index.asp   …criminal, ntrope.  And I’m beyond certain Cavafy himself, so much of whose work was dedicated to memory, the past, and the continuity of Greek civilization, would have agreed

The English translations are by Edmund Keeley and Phillip Sherrard, still the best around, despite the attempts of many others.  Under the Greek version of “Candles” is the Greek actress Eirene Pappa’s performance of the poem set to music by Mimes Plessas.  Below the Greek version of the “The City” is a gorgeous reading of the poem by the truly great actress Elle Lambete, whose stunning Greek face I think readers should have a photo of as a visual reference:

Patricia Storace,  in her Dinner with Persephone: http://www.amazon.com/Dinner-Persephone-Travels-Patricia-Storace/dp/0679744789/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1333821533&sr=1-1, the first book I recommend to anyone who wants to get Greece and Greeks (along with Patrick Leigh Fermor’s classic Roumeli: http://www.amazon.com/Roumeli-Travels-Northern-Greece-Classics/dp/159017187X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1333821635&sr=1-1), writes:

“Greek is not a voluptuous language, or a lilting one, but stony and earthy, a language full of mud, volcanic rock, and glittering precious stones…”

Listen to Lambete and you’ll know what she means.

Κεριά

Του μέλλοντος η μέρες στέκοντ’ εμπροστά μας
σα μια σειρά κεράκια αναμένα —
χρυσά, ζεστά, και ζωηρά κεράκια.

Η περασμένες μέρες πίσω μένουν,
μια θλιβερή γραμμή κεριών σβυσμένων·
τα πιο κοντά βγάζουν καπνόν ακόμη,
κρύα κεριά, λυωμένα, και κυρτά.

Δεν θέλω να τα βλέπω· με λυπεί η μορφή των,
και με λυπεί το πρώτο φως των να θυμούμαι.
Εμπρός κυττάζω τ’ αναμένα μου κεριά.

Δεν θέλω να γυρίσω να μη διω και φρίξω
τι γρήγορα που η σκοτεινή γραμμή μακραίνει,
τι γρήγορα που τα σβυστά κεριά πληθαίνουν.

Pappa and Plessas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0DiYKzHHdY&feature=related

Candles

Days to come stand in front of us
like a row of lighted candles—
golden, warm, and vivid candles.
 
Days gone by fall behind us,
a gloomy line of snuffed-out candles;
the nearest are smoking still,
cold, melted, and bent.
 
I don’t want to look at them: their shape saddens me,
and it saddens me to remember their original light.
I look ahead at my lighted candles.
 
I don’t want to turn for fear of seeing, terrified,
how quickly that dark line gets longer,
how quickly the snuffed-out candles proliferate.

Η Πόλις

Είπες· «Θα πάγω σ’ άλλη γη, θα πάγω σ’ άλλη θάλασσα.
Μια πόλις άλλη θα βρεθεί καλλίτερη από αυτή.
Κάθε προσπάθεια μου μια καταδίκη είναι γραφτή·
κ’ είν’ η καρδιά μου — σαν νεκρός — θαμένη.
Ο νους μου ως πότε μες στον μαρασμόν αυτόν θα μένει.
Όπου το μάτι μου γυρίσω, όπου κι αν δω
ερείπια μαύρα της ζωής μου βλέπω εδώ,
που τόσα χρόνια πέρασα και ρήμαξα και χάλασα.»

Καινούριους τόπους δεν θα βρεις, δεν θάβρεις άλλες θάλασσες.
Η πόλις θα σε ακολουθεί. Στους δρόμους θα γυρνάς
τους ίδιους. Και στες γειτονιές τες ίδιες θα γερνάς·
και μες στα ίδια σπίτια αυτά θ’ ασπρίζεις.
Πάντα στην πόλι αυτή θα φθάνεις. Για τα αλλού — μη ελπίζεις—
δεν έχει πλοίο για σε, δεν έχει οδό.
Έτσι που τη ζωή σου ρήμαξες εδώ
στην κώχη τούτη την μικρή, σ’ όλην την γη την χάλασες.

Lambete: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y32nzLanljY

The City

You said: “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,
find another city better than this one.
Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
and my heart lies buried as though it were something dead.
How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
Wherever I turn, wherever I happen to look,
I see the black ruins of my life, here,
where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”
 
You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
This city will always pursue you. You will walk
the same streets, grow old in the same neighborhoods,
will turn gray in these same houses.
You will always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
there is no ship for you, there is no road.
As you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
you’ve destroyed it everywhere else in the world.

 

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

%d bloggers like this: