By George Koumoullis
WHEN anyone engages in self-criticism over the ways we have behaved over the last 60 to 70 years in terms of the Cyprus problem, a section of Greek Cypriots immediately dismisses this as “masochism” or “self-flagellation”. I cannot think of another democratic country in which self-criticism is considered taboo and is disparaged.
If we had a lexicographer and linguist of the authority of Giorgos Bambiniotis living in Cyprus, he would have included another meaning to the word “masochism”, namely a negative reaction towards self-criticism. Masochism is a word that those, mainly of the “political centre”, repeat like parrots. On hearing a view that is not in line with the conventional understanding of historical events, the person uttering the heretical view is instantly described as a “masochist” and other derogatory terms used such as “Turk lover”, “traitor”, “collaborator” etc.
As the Chinese philosopher Confucius used to say, “when someone is strict with himself, he very rarely fails.” We have failed miserably as the current situation makes evident. Not only are we not strict with ourselves, but, on the contrary, we consider all our leadership’s actions as “wise” and are obliged to applaud them. If we exclude the last 20 to 30 years – certainly with reservations – our political system was run by priests who cultivated (and still do today) nationalism and exterminates at birth any critical or questioning voice. Professor Eleni Ahrweiler’s remark that Greece never knew the Enlightenment because of the church, also applies to Cyprus.
Masochism, therefore, is to believe that the priests of Cyprus inspired, funded, supported and reinforced the struggle for Enosis, without taking into account our Turkish Cypriot compatriots and Turkey’s reaction. Masochism is to claim that the root cause of the indescribable misfortune of 1974 was the Eoka armed struggle. Masochism is to dispute the term “Turkish mutiny” which implies that the Greek Cypriots faithfully adhered to the 1960 constitution and never undermined it, in contrast to the Turkish Cypriots. Masochism is to say publicly that we also killed in cold blood 85 Turkish Cypriot prisoners in Tochni and 126 women and children in the villages of Aloa, Maratha and Salandari.
These heinous crimes may have been committed by uniformed and non-uniformed irregulars, but still constituted war crimes as the state failed to do anything about them, despite knowing the perpetrators. Nobody was imprisoned, nobody was arrested, nobody was even questioned. As Solon the Athenian used to say tolerance is tantamount to guilt.
I wonder whether, perhaps, the real masochists are those who take pleasure from the partition of Cyprus. Such people unconsciously take pleasure from the Turkish occupation and an army of which, after mobilisation, would be 350 per cent the population of Cyprus. Such people take pleasure from the gradual Turkification of Morphou and Famagusta. Their line that divided Cyprus would attain great heights and incur such a political and economic cost for Turkey that she would agree to withdraw can only be taken as a joke. Our protests and the resolutions we might secure would provoke some platonic mumbles before eventually ending up on the international rubbish tip. Someone must explain to them that what they seek is nothing more than a Sisyphus-like act that would cement partition in the medium term and lead to the Turkification of the island in the long-term.
The prevailing culture within Cypriot society stems from and is fashioned mainly by Greek Orthodoxy and the education system as a way of life, worldview, thought and religion. It does not tolerate any criticism. Nobody should be surprised that the political parties, apart from Akel, greeted the intolerance which featured in the archbishop’s Christmas message with respectful silence and polite acceptance. Nor was it a surprise that the archbishop recently described Politis as a “Greek-speaking Turkish newspaper”, in response to some critical comment it had published.
If you criticise the Greek government, you risk being viewed as an “anti-Hellene” even if your criticism is based on indisputable historical facts. Perhaps this is why very few publicly say that Greece caused Cyprus’ greatest misfortune with its indefensible invasion (during which people were buried alive, according to primary sources) on July 15, 1974. The politically correct way of referring to these events is as a junta coup is extremely misleading. It was not a coup but an invasion, and the members of the junta were born and bred Greeks.
The cause for this anomaly is the practice of confusing Greece with the government of the day. Greece is not the Greece of Tsipras, of Mitsotakis, of Karamanlis or of Papandreou. Greece is the humanist values – freedom, democracy, justice and peace. As the German poet Goethe would say, “what the mind and the heart is for a human being, Greece is for humanity.” If there are “anti-Hellenes” among us, they are those nostalgic for the fascist dictatorship, as we were recently reminded by a banner about the Athens Polytechnic uprising held by football fans.
The exponents of totalitarian Messianism threaten the democracy that tolerates them and the people they do not tolerate. These are the anti-Hellenes.
George Koumoullis is an economist and social scientist