What has triggered the writing of this article was an event that was staged at the “Hadjihambis” theatre, in Ammochostos, in the year 1954 or, possibly, 1955, when, at the tender age of 10, I found myself reciting a poem by Ioannis Polemis (1862-1924). The poem was titled “What is our homeland?” Sixty years later, I caught myself attempting to respond to the question originally posed by Polemis, in his poem.
I was thinking that – unquestionably – our history and the traditions of our country form part of our homeland. There is little doubt that our homeland comprises the plains, the mountains, the sea and the coastline, the sun, the moon, the stars, the rain and the air we breathe.
Our literary and scientific achievements throughout the ages clearly form part of our homeland. They constitute an inexhaustible source of education, happiness, joy and emotional fulfillment.
No doubt part of our homeland is our ancestors and our “relatives”, i.e. those people with whom we share the same genetic material.
As these thoughts were springing in my mind, I felt happy and content; I felt that I had a home country I could be justifiably proud of.
However, more than anything else, “homeland” is the people who live with me, today, on this land. This thought shed a sense of melancholy or, to put it differently, led to the pride vanishing. In our homeland, moral values have degenerated and philotimo has disappeared. The incidents of bribery have been multiplying. The horizons of our compatriots have been narrowing. Serving sheer self-interest has become the prime goal of most of our fellow countrymen. Hypocrisy and selfishness have become the principal pillars of human behaviour.
Who should be blamed for the miserable situation our homeland has found itself in? No doubt, our teachers do not feel that they are serving a mission; not any more. Their vocation is simply the vehicle that enables them to earn their living. Likewise, the Church has completely lost its missionary role, having refocused its attention on business activities that often fail or on illegitimate political interventions that seek to influence the fate of our homeland.
Certainly, a big part of the blame sits on the shoulders of our politicians, who, in the majority of cases, aim at serving their party political interests and their political aspirations, exhibiting a provocative level of indifference in respect of the common good.
However, the silent majority is also at fault. Primarily, those who have the education and the necessary skills for attempting to put a stop to this downgrading process need to speak up. Journalists, medical practitioners, lawyers, accountants, architects and engineers, teachers and, generally, the “elite” of society, including – alas – the civil servants, find it convenient to keep quiet. The few who voice their views often attempt to mislead and to shift the responsibility elsewhere. Unfortunately, this is our homeland!
Christos P. Panayiotides, Retired Certified Public Accountant, Nicosia