Tag Archives: Balkans

Frequency of Italian family names Greco and Spagnuolo by region — And Greeks and Albanians in Italy

13 Jan

“Greco” in all the obvious places, maybe some distant Magna Graecia leftovers, but followed by the much, much more recent and numerous waves of refugees fleeing Ottoman conquest in the 15th and 16th centuries from the western Balkans and Greece and the religious persecution that followed in those same areas (Because, apparently, there actually is compulsion in religion?). The prevalence of the name around Milan and Turin and scattered throughout Liga Norte regions in the north probably is just proof of the huge post-wave migration of poor Italians from the south to the industrial areas of the north.

Whereas here there’s reasons to believe that western Lombardy and Milan and Turin had the name Spagnuolo because those corners of the north were Aragonese and Imperial/Hapsburg for significant amounts of time.

Given the heavily mixed populations of the regions on the Balkan coasts of the Ionian and Adriatic seas, and that many of them probably were of mixed Albanian-Greek stock, it’s hard to calculate the separate number of each group “ethnically”.

But today, while in the handful of still Greek-speaking villages of Pugliese Salento, the language is fast dying out: there are classes that are trying to teach children both the regional “Griko” dialect and making them proficient in Modern Greek, a thankless job; in the Albanian-speaking towns of Calabria and especially Sicily, the culture and language are flourishing, is taught in primary schools and there are very strong personal and institutional bonds with Albania, educational exchanges at levels of both younger school children and higher academic programs and tourist activities. Cool!

One just has to assume that after a few Sicilian Albanians take a group trip to Albania, they must mumble to themselves: “welll…shshshsh…but good thing our ancestors left”

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Jordan Peterson calls out West’s ignorance of Stalinist/Communist repression: “…the fact that we don’t know that deep inside our bones is a testament to the absolute rot of our education system.”

12 Jan

“Well…Solzhenitsyn estimated the deaths in terms of repression inside the Soviet Union at something approximating 60 million between 1919 and 1959.  Now that doesn’t count the death toll in the Second World War by the way.  He also estimated that the same kind of internal repression in Maoist China cost a 100 million lives.  One of the things that is really surprising to me and that I think is absolutely reprehensible, absolutely reprehensible, is the fact that this is not widespread knowledge among students in the West, any of this, and it’s because your historical education, if you started to describe it as appalling you would barely scratch the surface.  These are probably the most important events of the 20th century and they’re barely covered at all in standard historical curricula.  …my experience with students is that none of them know of anything that happened as a consequence of the repression of the radical left in the 20th century and I believe that the reason for that is that the communist system had extensive networks of admirers in the West, especially among intellectuals and still, in fact, does, which is also equally reprehensible and I believe that one of the consequences of that is that this element of history has been…underexamined…  And that there’s absolutely no excuse for that.  It was the worst thing that happened in the 20th century and that’s really saying something because the twentieth century was as bad as it gets and the fact that these deaths on a massive scale occurred and the fact that we don’t know that deep inside our bones is a testament to the absolute rot of our education system.”

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Today is International Basque Language Day — who knew? 😳 …And another diatribe on the destructiveness of identity politics

6 Dec

Yesterday was “The International Day of Persons with Disabilities”. Soon it’s going to be like the Orthodox Church calendar and there’ll be a long list of “International” days on each and every one of the year’s 365, all commemorating identity till the point where all identity just “melts into air”.

I’ve been unfriendly to Basques in the past, not for any reason particular to Basques but because I’m against the wild reification of any social or cultural group’s self-perception (“identity”) and the pointless violence and other costs that leads to.

These are some of my money quotes:

And then there are the Basques.  Do you know how many inhabitants of the Basque regions of Spain who identify as Basque actually speak the language?  Some 18%!  And yet, this practically identity-less identity has been the motivation for decades of violence and terror.  There’s no more twisted example of post-modern identity foolishness than I can think of.  A violent political struggle to save a museum culture.  When 50% of you have bothered to actually learn the devilishly difficult language you’re so proud of, then go ahead and engage in any kind of separatist resistance — violent or non — that you feel like.

And…

There are more dangerous and toxic manifestations of that kind of localized-identity nationalism as well, most noticeably the Basques.  Less than 25% of the people who claim that they are Basques ethnically in Spain can actually speak the language at all — at all.  I once caught a hysterical comedy skit on Spanish television where a man in San Sebastian was trying to pull off a bank robbery in Basque — on principle.  And it wasn’t working because the teller couldn’t understand him.  Then the neighboring teller chimes in about the robber’s grammar and that it’s incorrect according to the teacher at the night-school Basque classes she goes to and the other customers on line start arguing with him and the tellers about noun declensions and whether his use of the subjunctive is correct or not.  And the robber starts to scream, frustrated: “I’m in Donostia (San Sebastian in Basque) goddammit!  Not Burgos!  And I can’t even hold up a bank in my own language!”  Finally, the cops arrive and instead of apprehending him, they get caught up in the one-upmanship of the group of barely Basque-speaking Basques’ grammar arguments and the robber, frustrated, makes his escape.  It was hilarious and it was on YouTube for a while but I haven’t been able to find it again.  But that’s not all a joke.  People killed each other in the hundreds for decades for an identity with only the most fragile of real footing and a language that none of them spoke; and in post-Franco Spain, one of the most liberal, progressive on social issues nations in Europe, where you’re free to learn any language you want and maintain any kind of culture you like.  So, at the risk of sounding glib, make the effort to  learn the language first — BE a Basque first —  before you start killing people.

And a quote where I lump Basques and Catalan together with the twentieth century’s most vicious and destructive separatists, Croatians; I’ve often referred to Croats as Balkan Catalans, and referred to Catalans as Iberian Croatians:

I have a serious repellent reflex towards Catalans. This is largely because I love Spain so much, and their anti-Spanishness really gets my goat. I find their Gallic delusions that they’re so much more European and Mediterranean and civilized than the rest of Spain to be insufferable. (And some day I’ll get around to dismantling the cult of “Mediterranean-ness” itself that’s grown since the 1980s and that I find a completely false and fabricated pop-multi-culti identity that grew out of tourist literature, the public relations campaigns of olive oil companies and a popular sprinkling of Braudel, and nothing else. When even Turks start acting and feeling like they’re “Mediterraneans,” you know that a discourse is b.s. and needs to be taken apart; the extremeness of the hype surrounding Barcelona is part of this, and is why I love the gravitas and even crudeness of Madrid and Castille so much more deeply.)  I find Catalans’ ‘noli me tangere’ squeamishness about how they shouldn’t have to suffer by being a part of this barbaric country of monarcho-fascists and Catholics and gypsies and bull-torturers to be racist pure and simple. They’re Iberian Croatians, in short. There are plenty out there who will get the analogy, I believe.

And more:

All of us on the periphery, and yes you can include Spain, struggle to define ourselves and maintain an identity against the enormous centripetal power of the center.  So when one of us — Catalans, Croatians, Neo-Greeks — latches onto something — usually some totally imaginary construct — that they think puts them a notch above their neighbors on the periphery and will get them a privileged relationship to the center, I find it pandering and irritating and in many cases, “racist pure and simple.”  It’s a kind of Uncle-Tom-ism that damages the rest of us: damages our chances to define ourselves independent of the center, and damages a healthy, balanced understanding of our self culturally and historically and ideologically and spiritually…

Spain — in part because it’s felt it had to compensate for the darker elements of its past — has transformed itself in just a few decades, and in a way I find extremely moving and mature, into perhaps one of the most progressive countries in Europe on a whole range of moral and social issues and especially in being open to regional autonomy and regional, cultural rights.  There is no way you can’t be happily and solidly Catalan, and maintain your culture and language to the fullest degree, within the Spanish state.  Objections are nonsense.

But they had already lost me when they banned bullfighting.

Thanks for letting me rant and re-rant. 🙂

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Write us: with comments or observations, or to be put on our mailing list or to be taken off our mailing list, contact us at nikobakos@gmail.com.

Nostalgia for Yugo-land — and curses on those who destroyed it

6 Dec

When tomorrow or the next day or the day after that all the statelets that were once part of the noble — and largely and movingly successful — experiment in south Slav unity come together again as EU nation-states…then we’ll have to give posterity an answer when it asks what all the blood was for.

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Write us: with comments or observations, or to be put on our mailing list or to be taken off our mailing list, contact us at nikobakos@gmail.com.

Huah! Shout out to my homeboys in Lezarati!

3 Dec

If you want to read more about the centuries-long friendship between my village of Dervićiane and neighboring Lazarat — famous pan-Balkanly for its marijuana cultivation and trade — read here: New Year in Derviçani: loving to come; dying to leave; fireworks; hate that won’t die :

But soon, I think, the European Union got wind, no pun intended, of what most of the Balkans had already known for years and a huge police operation moved in, burst into every family’s compound and burned everything they had growing to ashes – “even their basil,” said one cousin of mine from Derviçani with glee. And her glee was made even greater because Lezarates’ humiliation was augmented by the fact that the police operation had entered the village through the upper mahalladhes of Derviçani (see map above), and — don’t quote me, what the fuck do I know — but I’m pretty sure with info from Derviçiotes who had been doing business – of some sort – with them for quite some time.

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Write us: with comments or observations, or to be put on our mailing list or to be taken off our mailing list, contact us at nikobakos@gmail.com.

Serbia: “и Бог је са Балкана”, “God is from the Balkans.” Saša Matić: “Sto Svirača”

15 Oct

These two kids are gorgeous…

“As an Orthodox Christian…” & us and the West and Romans and Otto, the Habsburgs and a Balkan Afghanistan

19 Jan
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This is kind of a silly question, but if I think about it, parts of me belong to all of these, and part of Orthodoxy’s beauty comes from being able to be all of these at once.  “Roman/Byzantine” takes precedence by far; it’s pretty much one of the most important theses of this blog, and if people understood what I meant if I said “Roman” or didn’t just think I was crazy, I would call myself a Roman for sure, just as my ancestors did down to my grandparents, or the tiny remnant Greek minority of Istanbul still does.

“National Church?”  Clearly I’m more attached to the rites, imagery and music of the Greek Church through the sheer fact of being brought up in that space, even though Russians are far more professional in their production values than we are and that does affect my mood (just how much textual illiteracy, vocal feedback and mediocrity can one bear at key moments in an office?)  Otherwise, though I may feel some honorary precedence for the Patriarch of Constantinople — and yes, even the Pope — no one Church takes priority over another for me.  And I think it’s of utmost, urgent importance that the national Churches stay out of political life everywhere.  The first cool thing Tsipras did when he was sworn in as Prime Minister (when I was still super-hopeful about him and Syriza) was to have no clergy present at the ceremony.  The Church needs to know its place: in church.

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At one with the “Eschaton” (ἔσχατον) bre koumbare?! the Infinite, the Ultimate, that Beyond beyond which there is no Beyond?!  Aren’t you asking a bit much of us with that one?  :)  To keep things short and in keeping with Orthodoxy’s traditional apophatic theology, I have to say that I wouldn’t know if I were at one with the Eschaton, even if I were.

I may have written this before — can’t remember — but if I could have somehow been a conscient embryo who could choose what religious tradition to be born into, it would be Hinduism, because it functions on the most sophisticated dialectic spectrum between unity and plurality than any other religious tradition, though we can see these days in Modi’s India how questionable it is to romanticize polytheism — as I have in the past — as inherently tolerant and open-ended. You can have one God that’s an insufferable prick like that of the Abrahamic trio and a thousand gods that are just as much insufferable pricks, though there’s a tiny bit more wiggle-room with the latter.

So, if you ask me about my religious affiliation, I guess I’ll tell you I’m Greek Orthodox — which I guess I am.  If you ask me what I really “believe” — though I’m not sure what that word means precisely — I’ll have to tell you I’m a Jungian (I know, it’s the cop out of every Jungian: I don’t know what ‘believe’ means really).  And that’s as close to a religious identity and the Eschaton I think I’ll ever consciously get to.

Finally, “anti-Hellene.”  If I’m 99% Roman, I’m 150% anti-Hellene.  The term “Hellene” is…essentially…a lie, a resuscitated neologism, an oxymoron that gives away its own falseness, and the impulse behind its creation since the Greek Enlightenment is childish and embarrassing.  I understand: if you’re an impoverished Albanian statelet and you’re told you’re the heirs to Pericles and Alexander, with a 17-year-old scion of the looney Wittelsbach royal family of Bavaria as king, you’ll dress up as Alexander the Great at Apokries (Carnival) and take that myth as better than nothing.*  With “Hellene” today more than unquestionably established as an endonym — though all Greeks still know what they’re talking about when they say Roman or “Romioi” or “Ρωμιοί” — themselves — there’s not much one can do.  It’s the campaign now to abolish “Greek”, which has served the West as an exonym for us for more than two millenia, and make foreigners say “Hellas” and “Hellene” that makes me start to grind my teeth whenever I see it.  Like, starting at the airport…

Answer your questions Byz?

I’ve promised a “Why I’m a Roman” post for years now but haven’t gotten around to it because the issue is so convoluted, but I promise soon.

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* I never knew that Otto was so handsome.  Look up the Wittelsbach; they’re a fascinating cast of characters that would make The Sopranos or Breaking Bad seem like The Brady Bunch; the family that produced Elizabeth of Wittelsbach, consort to Kaiser-und-König Franz Josef, their son Crown Prince Rudolph Habsburg, who committed suicide with his lover at Mayerling, and that produced Ludwig II of Bavaria, the nephew of our Otto and the great patron of Wagner throughout his career, who were cousins with Elizabeth through the Wittlesbach line and most intimate best friends till his assassination; they adored each other. He probably gay; she on planet Wittelsbach, but with an intense fascination for Hungarians, who she romanticized as wild and sexy (chuckle to myself because that kinda sounds like me and Serbs), and as a foil against the stuffy court at Vienna.  The only Habsburg who ever bothered to learn Magyar, she made herself queen of Hungary and even the most anti-Habsburg Hungarians loved her back and it’s probably not an exaggeration to say that she was a major factor in keeping German-Hungarian animosity from tearing the empire apart for as long as it did.

Sorry for the mangled and probably confusing historic summary there.

Plus, the Bavarians gave us an Athens that’s still beautiful despite all the destruction inflicted on it.

Prinz_Otto_von_Bayern_Koenig_von_Griechenland_1833I always had a genuine affection for Otto and his consort Amalia.  They were crazy German Romantic Philhellenes of their time in the purist sense so you can imagine how he felt upon being crowned King of Greece.  They adored their new kingdom and its people and didn’t treat it as their personal çiftlik, expending instead much effort in creating a new Euro-Greek social and political culture that would match their times.  But in what was essentially a Balkan Afghanistan, run by Albanian warlords, that proved too much of an obstruction.  They were ousted and shipped back to Bavaria in 1862.

Isabel_da_Áustria_1867See Elizabeth von Habsburg of Austria née Wittlesbach, for an account of Elizabeth’s tragic life and assassination.

Probably the most famous image we have of Elizabeth (below), a great beauty, most famous for her long wavy chestnut hair, though you can imagine that she rarely got to wear it this way at the Hofburg.

Rudolf_Crown_Prince_of_Austria_LOCRudolf, Crown Prince of Austria, the son of Franz Josef and Elizabeth, who committed suicide with his lover Baroness Mary Vetsera, below:

Mary Vetsera

De_20_jarige_Ludwig_II_in_kroningsmantel_door_Ferdinand_von_Piloty_1865Ludwig II of Bavaria, major patron of Wagner

Glamorous, elegant and crazy as a loon every one of them.  You can see in late 19c. Vienna, the slow growth of the Teutonic dementia that would eventually wreck Europe twice, though a united pan-German constitutional monarchy under the Habsburgs or Wittlesbachs and not the Prussian Hohenzollerns might have kept the forces of nationalism and militarism that led to later fascism at bay. But Vienna was just too psychologically tired to try for that too hard at that point. See Arthur Schnitzler’s haunting short novel, Traumnovelle, (Dream Novel) made into an unfortunate film by Stanley Kubrick in 1999, (Eyes Wide Shut), with Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise of all actors — he overlooked Ben Stiller. Or read any of the poetry or the librettos Hugo von Hoffmanstahl wrote for Richard Strauss‘ operas — Elektra, Salomé, Der Rosenkavalier, Ariadne auf Naxos

Or remember von Hoffmanstahl’s perhaps most famous — and Piscean — quote: Reality lies in the greatest enchantment you have ever experienced.’ This was not a culture with the spirit or force to hold a disintegrating Europe together. A curious foil to the the Serbs.

Back to Greece. What’s really curious to me is the intensity of Greek anti-monarchical sentiment towards the Danish Glücksburgs, who were installed as kings by the European powers after the outing of Otto and the WittlesbachsThey seem, from my perspective, at least, like a bunch of innocuous nebeches — certainly without the nutty flair of the Habsburgs — more passive than anything else as kings of Greece, and making everything worse when they did take an active political role — or try to — in things.  I probably don’t know enough.

Achilleion_in_KerkyraElizabeth’s Corfu palace, the Achilleion, a getaway from court and her insufferably cruel mother-in-law Sophie

In the intro to the blog, I look back and see that I wrote, in: Jadde — Starting off — the Mission“: 

“What I hope this blog accomplishes, then, is to create even the tiniest amount of common consciousness among readers from the parts of the world in question.  A very tall order, I understand, maybe even grandiose.  Time will tell if it all ends up an unfocussed mess and I end up talking to myself; it’s very likely.”

I’ve gone in this one post from whether I’m Orthodox or not and Orthodox Church rankings to Rudolph II of the Habsburgs and the double suicides at Mayerling.  I hope I’ve succeeded in the kind of tall order I’ve set for myself in making connections for people that they didn’t know existed.  Maybe for others it’s just another weird NikoBako Piscean stream of consciousness türlü.  But maybe even for them there’s an unconscious level on which things hook up with one another on some other road through the universe.

But I bet you didn’t know that the connection between “Στου Όθωνα τα χρόνια” — “In the time of Otto” — by Stavros Xarhakos and Richard Wagner ran through Munich, did you?

An odd poem/document to the struggle to establish order and form a new Greek state.  I don’t know why the English translation given here says “cruel guards” when in Greek it’s “Bavarian guards”.

In the Time of Otto

One afternoon
around the Acropolis,
The heartless thieves
made toy hot rocks
their hangout.
At Monastiraki,
the cruel guards,
In front of the king
are dancing
sirtaki
(REF:)
To Crete and Mani,
We will send a decree,
In cities and in villages.
We will send a decree,
For the policemen to come,
To kick out the brutes.
(INTERLUDE)
Down at the port,
The policemen are dancing.
They came but
their hearts are still
in Mani.
On Tuesday the guys
came in from Psiloriti.
They drink tsikoudia,
But their hearts are still
in Crete.
To Crete and Mani,
We will send a decree,
In cities and in villages.
We will send a decree,
For the policemen to come,
To kick out the brutes.
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Στου Όθωνα τα χρόνια

Ένα μεσημέρι
στης Ακρόπολης τα μέρη
άπονοι ληστές
κάναν τις πέτρες τις ζεστές
λημέρι
Στο Μοναστηράκι
Βαυαροί χωροφυλάκοι
μες στην αντηλιά,
χορεύουν μπρος στον βασιλιά
συρτάκι
(REF:)
Στην Κρήτη και στη Μάνη
θα στείλουμε φιρμάνι
σε πολιτείες και χωριά
θα στείλουμε φιρμάνι
να `ρθούν οι πολιτσμάνοι
να κυνηγήσουν τα θεριά.
(INTERLUDE)
Κάτω στο λιμάνι
τραγουδούν οι πολιτσμάνοι
ήρθαν τα παιδιά
μα έχουν ακόμα την καρδιά
στην Μάνη
Ήρθανε την Τρίτη
τα παιδιά του Ψηλορείτη
πίνουν τσικουδιά,
μα έχουν ακόμα την καρδιά
στην Κρήτη
Στην Κρήτη και στη Μάνη
εστείλαμε φιρμάνι
σε πολιτείες και χωριά
εστείλαμε φιρμάνι
κι ήρθαν οι πολιτσμάνοι
και διώξαν όλα τα θεριά.

https://lyricstranslate.com

nikobakos@gmail.com

X. doesn’t like my post on “The insufferable entitledness of bikers” — or lots of other things I’ve written

12 Nov

…or, how does one react to the tiring self-righteousness of certain left-dudes.

bikes

X. (I want to respect anonymity) is a journalist who I generally like personally, whose work I respect, and whose opinions and judgements about the Middle East I value and find extremely useful; he’s my go-to guy, especially about Lebanon, a country I find particularly fascinating.  But he’s called me a few times too many on what are supposedly my biases, which generally consist — sorry to be crude — of my not being “brown enough”, in a way I find not just a little offensive.

I call it “not-brown-enough” because though his criticisms seem to indicate that he believes I’m on the right side where the oppressed are concerned, he also seems to think that I’m not on the side of those he considers the really and truly oppressed.

For one, he’s patently impatient and irritated by my concern for Middle Eastern Christians — though that’s par for the course when dealing with post-Christian Western intellectuals who, at best, have only traumatic memories of growing up Catholic or Lutheran and see any defense of Christianity as a racist and irrelevant leftover piece of creepy reaction. So for X., someone worrying about the survival of Eastern Christianity seems to be tantamount to being Pat Robertson.  For my part, I don’t think that, being Greek Orthodox, I should have to apologize for caring about the losing battle that eastern Mediterranean Christians are fighting.  (I would take a guess and assume X.’s unspoken attitude basically consists of: “Oh, so many millions are truly suffering and displaced and dying and you’re worried about 60 old Greek ladies in Istanbul”; well, yeah, somebody has to worry about those old Greek ladies in Istanbul too, ok?  No apology).  Nor do I think that I should have to apologize for believing that that battle for survival is real — or apologize for believing that it’s an ancient battle that dates back to the glorious entry of Arabs and Islam into the Greco-Roman-Christian and Sasanian worlds — or apologize for believing that that “entry” was anything but an unalloyed good — or apologize for believing that sectarianism in the region has a long and bloody history way before any blood-letting was caused or provoked by Western colonial powers.  I should probably send him a copy of one of Walter Dalrymple’s early and brilliant books: From the Holy Mountain: A Journey among the Christians of the Middle East.

Holy Mountain

But in an exchange about this issue, he had the gall to refer once to what he calls “elite minority supremacism”.  Remember that phrase; it’ll come back to haunt us all.  This means that it’s racist, on some level, and politically incorrect of me, to care about the rights of minorities — Orthodox Christians, Maronites, Jews, Copts, Armenians, the Alawites of Syria, the Shiites of southern Lebanon and the Bekka — when it’s really the Sunni majority of the Levant and Iraq that are the true victims.

Sorry.  The Sunni Muslim majority of the region were the politically, socially and economically privileged majority group until the late nineteenth century and specifically 1918 — that tragic year when Turkey capitulated and the Ummah and Caliphate were humiliated by the boot of the kaffir West.  That tragic humiliation is what left us with the likes of Sayyid Qutb and Osama bin Laden and Mohamed Atta, all so enraged and humiliated and boiling over with rancid testosterone.

Granted, not much sympathy from me there.  And the fact that the non-Sunni or non-Muslim minorities of the region might have found that “humiliation” to have been a liberation of sorts, after centuries of discrimination by said Sunnis, seems perfectly natural to me.  There’s a reason Maronites and Syrian Christians turned to France in the mid-nineteenth century and especially after 1860.  There’s a reason Syrian Alawites became the French Mandate’s mercenary force.  There’s a reason Serbs looked — somewhat ambiguously, with their typical wariness and sense that they don’t really need or think they should trust anybody else’s help — to Austria, and that Bulgarians and Armenians looked to an Orthodox Russia for most of the last two centuries of Ottoman rule in the Balkans and Anatolia.  They took a route that they believed, rightly or not, would give them protection from the ethnic and religious groups that had systematically marginalized and persecuted them.  So the result is that the 20th century and modernity come around and Syrian Alawites become the dominant military and therefore political force in that country.  The 20th century and modernity come around and most Maronites and other Christians in Lebanon are generally better educated, more connected to the outside world and better-off economically than most Lebanese Muslims.  And there’s a whole set of reasons that the 20th century came around and Ottoman Greeks, Armenians and Jews were also generally better educated, more connected to the outside world and better-off economically than most Ottoman Muslims except for a small elite.  Is the colonizing West entirely to blame for that too?

What fantasy world do intellectuals and journalists like X. live in, where everyone in the Near East loved each other and lived in harmony until the evil West and its divide-and-conquer policies showed up?  I would love to believe that but it’s just not supported by the historical record.  It’s a common academic trope of intellectuals from the region because it jibes with leftist anti-colonial discourse and it absolves regional players of any responsibility.  (See Ussama Makdisi‘s Aeon article Cosmopolitan Ottomans: European colonisation put an abrupt end to political experiments towards a more equal, diverse and ecumenical Arab worldor Ottoman Cosmopolitanism and the Myth of the Sectarian Middle East, or any of his other work for classic examples of this fictional genre; it’s his forte; he’s made a career of the argument.)

Screen Shot 2019-11-12 at 7.35.58 AM“European colonisation put an abrupt end to political experiments towards a more equal, diverse and ecumenical Arab world”

And wait a minute; let’s backtrack: you discriminate against a minority group; you bar it from conventional access to power and wealth; you confine it to the interstices and margins of your society, and in those interstitial niches they develop the skills and the talent that enable them to survive, and not only to survive, but to come out on top once they’re emancipated — and then that only makes you hate them even more — I’m sorry, but is that not the fucking textbook definition of anti-semitism??!!  Call it “elite minority supremacism” if you like.  It’s the same thing.  And just as nasty, racist and toxic.

Then there was a persnickety exchange about minorities — again — in Turkey this time.  X. disagreed with an eccentric but actually quite informed and smart Byzantinist Brit on Twitter, because he tweeted that “the state of minorities in Turkey is not a good advertisement for dhimmitude”.  “Dhimmi” in Arabic, or “Zimmi” in Turkish and Farsi pronunciation, is a term that specifically — and very specifically — means the non-Muslim subjects of an Islamic state.  X. thought that it was “epistemologically sloppy” of him to refer to the now practically vanished Christian and Jewish minorities of Turkey and ignore the intra-Muslim (for lack of a better word) minorities, like Kurds, Alevis, Zaza-speakers, or the Arabs of the south-east and Antakya (X. calls it Hatay, but I refuse to use the place-names of Turkish science-fiction nationalism).  Again, the Byzantinist Brit was supposedly being biased because he lamented the fate of Turkey’s non-Muslims and ignored its persecuted and more deserving of pity Muslim “minorities”.  But that’s his right to do and feel — and mine.  And, in fact, there was absolutely nothing “epistemologically sloppy” about his analysis.  By simple virtue of the fact that he used the word “dhimmi”, he made it unequivocally clear that he’s talking about Turkey’s non-Muslim minorities; he’s not using a “dog-whistle to mean Christians,” as X accused him of in one tweet.  He’s stating it very loud and clear that that’s what he’s concerned with.  But for X. that makes him biased and probably an Islamophobe, while all that he — and I — were doing was simply pointing out the fact that there was/is a qualitative and taxonomical difference between the status of non-Muslims in Turkey and sub-groups within the Muslim majority in Turkey.  And proof of that qualitative difference is born out precisely by the fact that the Christian and Jewish groups have practically vanished; “elite minority supremacism” apparently didn’t save them.  Tell me what X.’s objection was, because I can’t make heads or tails of it — talking about “epistemologically sloppy”.

Then we go to New York.  I post this piece: The insufferable entitledness of bikers :

“The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that helmets be required for all bicyclists in the U.S., but some advocacy groups say putting the recommendation into law can have unintended consequences.”
[Me]: How ’bout we let them crack their heads open, and then maybe they’ll think about how biking — in a city like New York at least, not Copenhagen — is a deeply ANTI-URBAN, elitist, yuppy phenomenon that makes our cities’ centers more and more inaccessible to borough dwellers who can’t afford to live there, to street vendors, to truckers, to commercial traffic, to theater-goers and to everything that makes New York New York and not Bruges, all dressed up in the pedantic Uber-Green self-righteousness of a bunch of rich vegan kids from Michigan?
Walt Whitman would be turning in his grave.
Blows me away that more people don’t see that.
I immediately get a response from X., because he’s one of those people who always has a pre-printed ravasaki in his breastpocket with an analysis and a supporting, supposedly proof/text for almost any political issue.  You’re concerned with Christians in Syria?  X. is right there on the barricades to call you an elite minority supremacist.  You suggest there seems to have been a shortage in the Arab world of leaders able to successfully create a solid civil society and functioning democracy, X. immediately has a long list of names for you, even if that list includes more than a few murderous dictators.  You wonder what suddenly caused Syrian Sunnis to stand up to the despicable Assad regime, X. tells you part of the issue is agriculture and water supply.  You accept the fact that environmental conditions might have been what literally and figuratively sparked the civil war, and then X. tells you water and drought have nothing to do with it.  You articulate an opinion on the mating habits of homosexual penguins in Antarctica and…well, you get the point.
Hey, maybe that’s what makes a good journalist, but it also leads to dizzying instant analyses and superficial opinions, without a single “well…” or “maybe…” or “Shit…I never thought of that” or any even remotely multi-facetted take on things.  Sorry to be channeling Sarah Palin — never thought it would come to this — but so many exchanges with X. immediately degenerate into “gotcha” discourse.
So, he responds, with lightning speed:
Actually most bicyclists are low-income immigrants. Which is why upscale white people love to shit on them.
Not everyone can afford first-world privileges like taking taxis. Even riding public transportation is too expensive for a lot of folks.
With an informative link attached:
Except, I don’t know any upscale white people who shit on bikers.  As far as New York is concerned, I don’t have statistics, but my visual gut observation is not that there are multitudes of immigrants riding bikes around, but almost exclusively young white guys — the “upscale white people” who supposedly shit on bikers.  ?
And here I think it’s important to point out that it’s a bit disingenuous of X. — if not just a total misrepresentation of facts — or maybe even a teeny-weeny bit of what we used to call lying — to send this particular article because it refers almost exclusively to Houston and totally exclusively to Sun-belt cities and southern California: all cities that are of radically lower density than New York, which is the city the discussion was about, and that, incidentally, have kinder weather.  Bikes there may not cause a problem or may be mostly for lower-income city-dwellers.  But in New York they’re a nuisance.  And I see and know very few poor people using them.
I wrote back:
“Very possibly low-income immigrants, ok, but do we have and how exactly do we get statistics about that?  [As it turns out we don’t; we only have statistics from Houston]  But even if that’s true, they don’t demand that a modern, industrial city, built and designed to be a modern, industrial city, change itself and cater to a mode of transportation that such a high-density city [like New York and unlike Houston] is not designed to accommodate.
“And as for taking taxis, or even the subway, I am and have always been a borough-boy, who couldn’t and can’t afford to take a taxi to get into Manhattan, nor could I tolerate a commute to and from a two-fare zone, which is what we used to call neighborhoods where you had to ride the subway line to the end and then pay a second fare to take a bus, like Whitestone, where I spent my teens and twenties.  I used to drive into Manhattan (20 minutes instead of 2 hours on public transport) and parking was easy to find even on a Saturday night in the East Village.  And while we’re on the subject of poor immigrants, have you asked a Sikh cab-driver how he feels about the pedestrianization of Times or Herald or Madison or Union Squares?  Or — while we’re weeping for the working class — have you asked a truck driver who has to negotiate backing his truck up into Macy’s loading platform with Herald Square blocked off and 35th street narrowed by a biking lane how he feels about that?
A superfluous number of pedestrianized zones, biking lanes, Citibank bike stops, farmers’ markets, happy piazzas for office workers to eat their $15 prosciutto sandwiches from Eataly, Bloomberg’s unsuccessful plan to put tolls on East River bridges — a flagrant fucking attempt to keep the non-rich out of Manhattan — because his constituency wanted less traffic and less noise in their neighborhoods, have all contributed to making Manhattan less accessible for me, because I, like your immigrants, can’t afford to live there.
“And even if there are more Mexicans delivering Chinese food on their bikes than there are entitled pricks from Indiana using bicycles, the Mexicans don’t give me attitude about how I’m not respecting their hobby.  They’re too busy working.  Plus it’s hard for me to imagine that taking care, storing, maintaining and protecting your bike from theft or vandalism in New York is cheaper than taking the train.
“You know that long passage between the E train at 42nd Street that connects to the 7 train?  Would you, at rush hour, let a toddler free there?  Obviously not.  Because you wouldn’t let a being of radically different size and speed go free in a space where he’s more likely than not to get trampled.
“Nor could you possibly ask NYers rushing to work to watch out for that toddler.”
Again, I’m progressive but not quite progressive enough for X.  Poor, brown immigrants should be entitled to ride their bikes anywhere at any time, though that’s a sociological type that barely exists in New York.  But a white, working-class, ethnic-American kid from outer Queens like me can go fuck himself (the implication that I was ever rich enough to take a cab into the city on a regular basis is infuriating) and I can be denied access to the pleasures and resources of Manhattan, even as Manhattan becomes a sterile playground for the rich on one end and and hip enough to let hipsters and X.’s poor immigrants ride their bikes supposedly on the other end.  No room for me, who falls in the middle of that spectrum.
Density, up-close, claustrophobic even; maddening; density is the essence of a city like New York.  If you’re from there you know that; if you’re not, it might make you a little nuts and you might long for parks and greenery and bike-lanes.  And it’s almost always non-New-Yorkers who are clamoring for these pleasantries that will remind them of Madison, WI.  Density; it means cars and street traffic too — and noise — things that give access to the maximum amount of people, cities you can get to easily and that let you in.  Not obnoxious, exclusive enclaves like Georgetown or Cambridge, MA, where you need to prove you’re a resident to even park on one of its streets.  Look at what pedestrianization has done to Istanbul, where Erdoğan has transformed Taksim, Tâlimhane and the upper Cumhurriyet into a concrete wasteland with all the charm of a Soviet plaza in a city like, let’s say, Perm’. 
A city needs to breathe, even in its crowded chaos.  That’s why I posted the Whitman poem in my response to X.:

City of the sea! city of hurried and glittering tides!

City whose gleeful tides continually rush or recede,
whirling in and out, with eddies and foam!

City of wharves and stores! city of tall façades of mar-
ble and iron!

Proud and passionate city! mettlesome, mad, extrava-
gant city!

“Mettlesome, mad, extravagant…” 

More later — maybe.  This gets exhausting.

4a08193u.jpgMulberry street, c. 1900 — “Density, up-close, claustrophobic even; maddening; density is the essence of a city like New York.”

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Macron: «᾽Ιδού ὁ νυμφίος ἔρχεται…» Not happy with his Balkan policy, but he’s the only man on the world political landscape today with anything even remotely resembling a redeeming vision.

10 Nov

The future of the EU — Emmanuel Macron warns Europe: NATO is becoming brain-dead

America is turning its back on the European project. Time to wake up, the French president tells The Economist

Macron20191109_eup502

During the hour-long interview, conducted in his gilt-decorated office at the Elysée Palace in Paris on October 21st, the president argues that it is high time for Europe to “wake up”. He was asked whether he believed in the effectiveness of Article Five, the idea that if one NATO member is attacked all would come to its aid, which many analysts think underpins the alliance’s deterrent effect. “I don’t know,” he replies, “but what will Article Five mean tomorrow?”

NATO, Mr Macron says, “only works if the guarantor of last resort functions as such. I’d argue that we should reassess the reality of what NATO is in the light of the commitment of the United States.” And America, in his view, shows signs of “turning its back on us,” as it demonstrated starkly with its unexpected troop withdrawal from north-eastern Syria last month, forsaking its Kurdish allies.

In President Donald Trump, Europe is now dealing for the first time with an American president who “doesn’t share our idea of the European project”, Mr Macron says. This is happening when Europe is confronted by the rise of China and the authoritarian turn of regimes in Russia and Turkey. Moreover, Europe is being weakened from within by Brexit and political instability.

This toxic mix was “unthinkable five years ago,” Mr Macron argues. “If we don’t wake up […] there’s a considerable risk that in the long run we will disappear geopolitically, or at least that we will no longer be in control of our destiny. I believe that very deeply.”

Mr Macron’s energetic recent diplomatic activity has drawn a great deal of interest abroad, and almost as much criticism. He has been accused of acting unilaterally (by blocking EU enlargement in the Western Balkans), and over-reaching (by trying to engineer direct talks between America and Iran). During the interview, however, the president is in a defiant but relaxed mood, sitting in shirt sleeves on the black leather sofa he has installed in the ornate salon doré, where Charles de Gaulle used to work.

The French president pushes back against his critics, for instance arguing that it is “absurd” to open up the EU to new members before reforming accession procedures, although he adds that he is ready to reconsider if such conditions are met.

Mr Macron’s underlying message is that Europe needs to start thinking and acting not only as an economic grouping, whose chief project is market expansion, but as a strategic power. That should start with regaining “military sovereignty”, and re-opening a dialogue with Russia despite suspicion from Poland and other countries that were once under Soviet domination. Failing to do so, Mr Macron says, would be a “huge mistake”.

Dig Deeper

Cover leader (November 7th): “A continent in peril”
Briefing (November 7th): A president on a mission
Transcript: Emmanuel Macron in his own words

The Intelligence podcast: “He talked about Europe in almost apocalyptic terms”— Macron’s interview

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Me and the Stormfront bros, VII: Kristos, how I’m wrong and Carly Simon: “I bet you think this song is about you…”

4 Nov

Here’s another dude who doesn’t like the premise of this blog.  I love when people like this write to tell you that you’re wrong, ridiculous, and that 99% of the world will ignore you because that’s what you deserve — and feel obligated to take the time and energy to write a 762-word email in order to tell you that.  (Full email of Kristos posted below)

It’s like Carly Simon’s “You’re so vain”.  I bet you think this post is about you, don’t you?! Don’t you?!?!

Carly, in all her 70s burnt-bra glory:

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

Enjoy:

“good evening

“My name is Chris, I am from Greece and accidentally fell in your blog today, as I was reading news and things about the latest situation in Kurdistan. I noticed your title “FROM BOSNIA TO BENGAL”, then  “I’m Greek” and finally “What I hope this blog accomplishes is to create even the tiniest amount of common consciousness among readers from the parts of the world in question.”.

“I was sure what the blog is about before even open “Jadde — Starting off — the Mission”, as you are not the first person (of Greek roots) who supports such views. For example Dr Kitsikis would probably mastrubate to “It’s about that zone, from Bosnia to Bengal that, whatever its cultural complexity and variety, constitutes an undeniable unit for me”.we partied well together”

“I am not going to start with arguing wether your statements are or not right, let me ask you some things first: Do you realize the difference between “natural choice” and “enforcment” which (the second one) in many cases ended in 1821? Or the difference between 1819 and 2019 and how many changes have occured during these two centuries? Like you said, the area that your father called “our places” was Pogoni, a valley close to Greek-Albanian borders, which remained under ottomans till late 1912. Can you realize how different your father’s experiences are from a next-door Corfiot or an Athenian whose ancestors were expriencing Bavarian rule since as early as 1830s? Can you understand how many Greeks in the new world, are attracted by South Italians, Irish, or others by Eastern Europeans (like Russians or Ukrainians) depending upon person and for different reasons, the exactly same way that you are attracted by the ethnicities you mentioned above? By “attracted” i obviously do not mean physically attracted, but even in that case, how many marriages have been done between Greeks and Italians in the US and how many between Greeks and Bosnians, Arabs or Indians? From all of my relatives there, nearly half of Greek Americans married to a “foreigner” are married to an Italian person (funny fact is that even for Greeks of Smyrna it was much more possible to get married to a Person from French or Italian communities of the city than a turkish or Arabic person). Yes, you are a person from pogoni (where if i am not mistaken Greek was even not spoken till recently, instead of it Aromanian and Aravnitic were spoken), your ancestors have interacted much more with all these people you mention and until very recently. Can you understand that I and many other Greeks come from places where social  and cultural norms were very, very different?

“You call yourself a Roman, I guess considering yourself as a successor of Byzantines. In what way were the Christian Romans of Byzantium closer to Arab muslims than to Christian Romans of Western Europe?

“You will certainly find some (because 99% of “neo-athenians will probably not even pay attention to your work) “offended Athenians” but did you ever consider the possibility that Athens, being a multicultural city today, has ALL of the ethnicities mentioned above, with neither of these ethnicities attracting Greeks in the way you describe?

“You have the right to associate yourself with whoever you want, and feel confortable as well. Just let us know, why do you put a whole nationality, with different experiences from class to class and from region to region into the same basket, when the majority of our 10 million people have different experiences from yours? You mention enlightenment and the way nation state is perceived by it in a part of your text. As long as Greeks have chosen since 2 centuries ago to live this way (as an independent nation state and fully part of Europe-we had even revolted 150 times to gain independence from the ottomans before 1821) why don’t you at least respect that and seperate yourself and people with similar views to yours from us? No, we are not part of such a “zone” from Bengal to Bosnia, we have never been even if most of our ancestors were FORCED to interact with these people until 1821.

“Do not take my message as offensive, but as an invitation to open your mind and do not put whole groups or nationalities into basket which they don’t feel part of, because they are not part of them (and don’t take yourself as the “chosen one” to know the absolute truth among millions of “delusional” Greeks who “want” to be European)”

See alsoStormfront​ I​: Just so we know what we’re dealing with in Giannis and — probably — Kristos,​Me and the Stormfront bros, post II: Yavrum, ηρέμησε…, Me and the Stormfront bros, III: Gianni calls me by my Albanian name, Me and the Stromfront bros, IV. A reader, my podruzhka M, from Novi Sad, says:, Me and the Stromfront bros, V. A reader, C. from Italy, says:,   Me and the Stormfront bros, post VI — A reader writes: nonsense born of fear

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

 

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