By George Koumoullis
One of the most popular labels used by nationalists, conservatives and the clergy to describe those supporting rapprochement in articles, interviews or texts on social media is ‘Tourkosporos’. It means Turkish spawn.
Looking up the definition of the word in a dictionary, we find two meanings, one literal and one metaphorical. The first describes someone who has a Turkish father and Christian mother while the second is also a derogatory term that was used in reference to the Greek refugees from Asia Minor. In the last few years, however, a third meaning has emerged in Cyprus that a modern dictionary of the Greek language should include. ‘Tourkosporos’, as used at least by the lumpen elements of the right and the rejectionists, means an anti-Hellene, Turk-lover, traitor, agent of the Turks. I foresee a rise in the use of this word after the electoral contraction and ideological and political humiliation of the far right, which ridiculously poses as the ‘centre’.
The ‘Tourkospori’ in the Cypriot sense are all those who dream of a united country and not a divided one. A Cyprus, in which everyone – Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Armenians – would move freely everywhere; a Cyprus that would safeguard human rights; a Cyprus in which we would all feel like brothers and embrace ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’; a Cyprus that would stand for freedom, humanity, democracy, political equality, equality before the law and critical thought. But no! Such a noble vision would make someone a strong candidate for the ‘Tourkosporos’ label.
A ‘Tourkosporos’ is also anyone that has irreverent views about the history of Cyprus. If you dare express the opinion that the aim of Enosis was the root cause of the tragedy of 1974 or that the term ‘Turkish revolt of 1964’ was wrong because the first to undermine the Cyprus Republic were the Greek Cypriots, you will be categorised as a ‘Tourkosporos’ by the well-known circles.
The people that make up this group of nationalists consider themselves ‘pure Greeks’ and ‘genuine patriots’ in contrast to the rest who are ‘Tourkospori’. Their unwavering conviction is that they are the Greek Cypriot elite and as such have the right to decide politico-economic developments in Cyprus. A very recent example was the declaration signed by supporters of a ‘nationalist’ football club expressing their disapproval of the agreement of the name Republic of North Macedonia, on the grounds that they were “by nature superior”. What a joke.
Such self-aggrandisement and posturing underline the big problem existing in Cyprus society. There is a culture that creates people with a fascist mentality and feeding the illusion that their beliefs are the healthiest, the purest, the most just and most human. What must we do to exterminate the monster of fascism and not to resort to abuse when we radically disagree with someone? How will we learn to use arguments instead of abuse? How will Cypriots develop free will and not will guided by political parties, the extreme right, the archbishop, the football clubs, the ‘educated’ friend, the ‘nationalist’ teachers and one or the other official? We need, in other words, to acquire spiritual freedom so that our thought and ideas do not depend on the weight of the prejudices and superstitions of these so-called authority figures.
These thoughts must go through the minds of many people when they see on social media, especially Facebook, the obscenities, insults and slander that are fired against all those who express – according to the abusers – a heretical view. The answer to these questions is educational reform which would introduce critical thought.
As the thinker Peter Facione wrote: “The ideal critical thinker is habitually inquisitive, well-informed, trustful of reason, open-minded, flexible, fair-minded in evaluation, honest in facing personal biases, prudent in making judgements, willing to reconsider, clear about issues, orderly in complex matters, diligent in seeking relevant information, reasonable in the selection of criteria, focused in inquiry, and persistent in seeking results which are as precise as the subject and the circumstances of inquiry permit.” These are the citizens we want to have, not narrow-minded fanatics incapable of having a civilised debate and resorting to insults and abuse.
It is easy to identify a social ill but difficult to fight it. My suggestion would be to introduce classes in critical thought into the curriculum of secondary schools, or at least upgrade the classes in citizenship. For this to be possible, the religious instruction classes should be replaced with religious studies because the former is propaganda for Orthodox Christianity and as such promotes dogmatism while rejecting dialogue, questioning and research. The reality is that religious instruction and critical thought classes cannot co-exist – it would be grotesque, schizophrenic educational policy.
I am not at all optimistic about realising this objective because of two major obstacles. First, I do not see how religious studies could replace religious instruction because of the reaction from theologians and conservatives. Second, the shadow of the archbishop looms large over the education ministry and he would never allow the implementation of such a radical change.
It will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, in the near future for the ship of educational reform to sail between Scylla and Charybdis without being obliterated.
George Koumoullis is an economist and social scientist