avatar
Of Turks and of Greeks


As a Greek young man I was drafted to serve in the Greek Army. So, I was ordered to sing the usual "martial" songs that soldiers-in-training sing all over this unfortunate planet. The songs I was supposed to sing had words as the following examples: "Sofia, Sofia is our dream…", "I have a sister that is called Northern Epiros…", etc, etc. "Sofia" was and is the capital of Bulgaria. "North Epiros" was and is part of Albania. At that time, early 1950s, the "owner" of the Greek army was General James Alward Van Fleet, of Coytesvill, N. J. and of the US Army. The term "owner" is definitely not an exageration.

 

Panagiotis Kanelopoulos was a Greek intellectual-politician who even today is revered by moderates of the Greek right. When Van Fleet visited a Greek military camp in the late 1940s, Kanelopoulos, addressing him, said: "General, here is your army!" Of course Kanelopoulos was a "patriot" (handing the army of his country to a foreign state). However, that very moment Greeks were executed, under the supervision of Van Fleet, because they were "traitors", that is leftists! 

 

[Parenthesis: However, besides the army one has to take care of the economy. "Top secret State Department memoranda…show clearly that the future of Greek economic development lay exclusively in the hands of the American planners… Dated August 4, 1949, the subject of one memorandum was ‘Capital Investment in Greece for Economic Development’… Parts of the conversation [in the memorandum] are highly illuminating. George C. McGhee, the Coordinator of Aid to Greece and Turkey, remarked that ‘it would be necessary to bear constantly in mind the political consequences of negative decisions on Greek industrial development projects. It might be desirable to reduce the doses of American aid to Greece, so that the standard of living would gradually be brought down to a level which the economy of the country could support. However, this process would have to be carried out gradually and very carefully to avoid violent or unfavorable political reaction in Greece. It would have to be accompanied by some plan for large scale emigration…’ Further along in the memorandum, still another astonishing remark by another State Department official appeared: ‘Mr., Dort commented that Greece will achieve economic viability at some level, and we do have to decide what that level will be.’ " (Memorandum 868.6463/8-449, N.A., pages 2 and 3. Theodore C. Kariotis, Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora, Vol. VI, No. 4, Winter 1979, p.91, 92). Again this was written more than a half century ago and this "process", of bringing "down" the "standard of living" has been going on up to this very moment! Also, note that Turkey is included in the memorandum But, this is not what this article is about. It is about the ordinary Turks and the ordinary Greeks. About the present revolt in Greece, the death of the three bank employees, Merkel, etc there should be a future Commentary by me, after the ashes will settle down. End of the parenthesis]

 

Back to the "lyrical" environment of the Greek army. These songs about Bulgaria, Epirus, etc were sung as ordinary melodies. Today, the "patriotic" songs of the Greek army are sung in the staccato rendition of the… US Marines! Whether this was "copied" from Hollywood films or from other US "cultural" sources is irrelevant. What is relevant is the content of the songs. About 6 weeks ago, during the annual military parade for the March 25 Greek National Holiday (our 4th of July) the "Navy SEALS" sung the following patriotic martial song: "They are called Albanians. They are called Afghans. Our cloths will be made with their hide." Of course, in Greek the rhyming was excellent. 

 

A few remarks: 1. "Mr. R.S. Barham’s father owned a money purse made of his hide." Nat Turner’s hide. Nat was a black Resistance fighter in the US, in 1831. 2. Ilse Koch (the "bitch of Buchenwald") owned a lamp shade made of human hide. 3. Erik Prince the owner and "creator" of "Blackwater" (now named "Xe") learned his "art", of killing women and children, with the US "Navy SEALS".

 

So, if the young Greeks for generations were conditioned almost from their infancy to invade Bulgaria and Albania one can imagine what these children were taught about the… Turks! That is, the barbarians par excellence.

 

"It must not be thought that the Turks at the time of the capture of Constantinople were wild barbarians: their beautiful capital at Bursa was testimony to their skill in the arts and architecture. Also, the Ottomans and the Byzantines had been neighbours for over a century and there had been many cultural and indeed matrimonial exchanges, and even occasional reciprocal military help and alliances." It was impossible in my time that the information in this paragraph from a book such as the book "Everyday life in Ottoman Turkey" of 1971, by Raphaela Lewis could be accessible to me through the official Greek educational system. It is still impossible. 

 

Also, what I never learned through the official Greek educational system is why the Ottomans lasted in Greece for four centuries. Here is an explanation: "Much of the land was held by [Christian!] monasteries and absentee landlords, and as the Turkish conquerors ‘liberated’ it and turned it over to the destitute peasants they were hailed as deliverers." [Lewis, p. 13]. Then when the Turks left, after 1821, the Christian monasteries grabbed back the land. To this day a great part of the choicest Greek land belongs to the monasteries. A few miles from my place there is the "Monastery of Pendeli" at the foot of the Pendeli mountain. The mountain that offered the Greeks the marble to build the Parthenon. Now, this monastery started selling [!!!] the land to the Greeks [!] after the Second World War. The owned surface was and is vast. Also, the money earned by the representatives of God on earth was and is vast. As a matter of fact one of the main economic scandals of the present economic crisis in Greece is the "Vatopedi" scandal. "Vatopedi", of course, is a monastery in northern Greece.

 

My official indoctrination against everything Turkish started at the age of 7, in 1937, at the first grade of the Greek elementary school. It continued and was intensified after the Second Word War, in 1945, under the tutelage of the US through the axiom "Divide and rule". To secure the Middle East oil Greece and Turkey should be enemies.

 

There is an odd personal story from that time. In 1939 there was an 8-Richter quake in the city of Erzincan in Turkey. There were 40,000 deaths. At the time in Greece there was a pro-Nazi dictatorship by Metaxas, a dwarfish dictator, a former officer of the Greek Corps of Engineers. For a not so strange reason, Metaxas decided to send help to the Turks, the enemies. Thus, there was a nationwide collection of money to help the Turks. Of course, the populace knew that most of the money would be diverted to the dictatorship. It had already happened with the collection of money for the Air Force. [To this day in the Greek language there is the expression "for the Air Force"; meaning money stolen from the people for false claims]. Anyway, for each donation a small sticker of a Turkish flag was applied to the lapel of the donor. For no obvious childish reason, I collected about a dozen of discarded little Turkish flags and stuck them on my chest. For quite a few days on my way to school, when passing by the house of a rather psychotic man, in his early twenties, I had to sprint to avoid the bastard who chased me shouting "Hey you Turk." I was nine years old. It seems that psychotic persons absorb the indoctrination shit more easily than normal ones. 

 

Then I grew older. In 1958, while at the University of Illinois, as a graduate student in Civil Engineering, one afternoon I started talking to a girl, a Turkish foreign student. She was friendly and I was friendly. Then, up came her brother, a student of geology, and he was hostile. Was it to protect the "honor" of his sister or was it because I was Greek? My estimate: because I was Greek. 

 

About 15 years later, one morning my wife and I were standing at a traffic light at the sidewalk at the Paradeplatz  in Zurich. On my right side stood three young men talking and waiting also for the green light. I started talking to them and I asked them if they were Turks. They said that they were and I told them that we were Greek and using the Turkish word "kardes" (brothers) I told them we were brothers. One of the three was very friendly and almost hugged me. The other two were definitely hostile.

 

That  there was and is nationalistic indoctrination on the other side, the Turkish side, against the Greeks is a given. Also, that there are assholes in any given population, is also a given. However, the role of the US in the post-WWII life of the two peoples is paramount. Both countries have been governed by local elites that were proxies of the US. Both countries were strangled by US-backed dictatorships, when needed by the US elite, is also part of their recent history. That the police or military torturers in both countries were trained in the US is also a sad truth for the Christian people of America. However, it was an association of democratic lawyers of New York that made public the names of the Turkish torturers and the names of their American instructors more than 30 years ago! In Greece two of the most brutal, US-trained, torturers were executed in the streets Athens. 

 

On May 22, 1947, a Saturday, in Kansas City, "[w]ith a pledge that the United States will act, as well as talk,…, President Truman signed the Greek-Turkish aid bill in his emergency executive office in the Hotel Muelbach… He declared that the legislation constituted ‘a vigorous effort to help create conditions of peace’ in the world… The President regards [the law] as the keystone of the Truman Doctrine to protect free peoples of the world in their right to select their own governments free of compulsion from within or without…" [Harold D. B. Hinton, The New York Times, May 22, 1947].

 

Of course, "peace" has been reigning in the world since then: Greek Civil war (with the use of Napalm by Van Fleet immediately after the announcement of the "Doctrine"), Korean War, Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan, and so on.

 

Also, the US "protected the right" of the Iranian people to  select the Shah through the efforts of Kermit Roosevelt, Teddy’s grandson, of the Greek people to select Karamanlis as Prime Minister [see below], of the Chilean people to select the disgustingly barbarous Pinochet, etc, etc.

 

This was what Truman meant by promising to "act, as well as talk"!  

 

These were the post-World War II "acts" of the Christian West. "In 1918, after the end of WWI, the heads of the victor states: Clemanceau (of France), Lloyd George (of Britain), Wilson (of the US), and Orlando (of Italy), gathered in Paris and started bargaining to divide the spoils of the war. The arrogance, the scheming ,the subverting of one another of these (vacuous) men is monumental. Early in the war these European allies had agreed that after the war Turkey would be divided among them. So, the Italians proceeded to occupy the coast of Asia Minor, which included the coastal port of the city of Smyrna (Izmir). The British and the French used the (more than eager) "patriotic" Greek elites to stop the Italians, allowing them to dispatch the Greek army to occupy Smyrna, in 1919. To justify this act to the British Parliament, Lloyd George stated: ‘The Greeks are the people of the future for the Mediterranean East… They are excellent sailors (and they) will become a naval power. They will be the first guardians of the great route that secures the unity of the Commonwealth’, (Meaning the route to the Middle East oil)." [See, my ZNet Commentary, "Greece: ‘The Odd Man Out’ ", of April 22, 2002].

 

I think that up to now there has not been a serious study of the role of "hate" in the development of the Western Christian societies. It seems that it is time to start thinking about such a study. The hate planted between the Turks and the Greeks after the Smyrna affair is still cultivated by the US. Instruments for this have been in Turkey the "Grey Wolves" and in Greece the neo-Nazis, who already entered the Greek Parliament.

 

Of course, as mentioned above, the assholes (a.k.a. "conservatives") of both peoples contribute to this hate. Take, for example, a civil engineering colleague of mine: He is adamant that in any confrontation between Greeks and Turks, the Greeks will be victorious. When I stated that the Greeks number only ten million versus the seventy millions of the Turks, his answer was that "the Greeks have mettle". This is at the assholes level. However, the real world is different.

 

Years ago, another civil engineering colleague of mine married the daughter of the Chief of Staff  of the Greek military forces who was chummy with the Chief of Staff of the Turkish military forces (obviously, both chosen by the US). So, the Turk invited the newly married Greek engineer, to build an extensive road-network in eastern Turkey, as if there were not Turkish engineers to do that. My colleague retuned to Greece a millionaire and went on building military airfields in Greece for NATO (i.e. for the US)!

 

However, what really made me erase any traces of the indoctrination against the Turks instilled in my childhood was the praise by Noam Chomsky of the Turkish people; the ordinary Turks.

 

Also, the efforts of Mikis Theodorakis, the great Greek composer, were very effective in bringing the ordinary Greeks closer to the ordinary Turks. As a matter of fact, a few weeks ago a Turkish little girl sent a letter to Mikis wishing him to "never die!" So, that more music could come out of him.

 

That the Greeks and the Turks lived side by side for four centuries cannot be ignored. The last name "Karamanlis" (uncle) of the Prime Minister chosen by the US, in the early 50s to "administer" Greece for the US, is Turkish! "Kara" means black in Turkish. Therefore, Karamanlis means: the "Black Ali". [By the way,the younger Karamanlis, the Amherst educated nephew, Prime Minister of Greece for the last six years, who is thought to be responsible for the corruption and the economic woes of Greece, has not been heard for the last 8 months. They tell us he is "hiding"].

 

A brief search in the phone directory of Athens revealed the following:

 

- There are about 43,000 entries of Greeks with last names beginning with the Turkish prefix "kara".

 

- There are about 20,000 entries of Greeks with last names beginning with the Muslim prefix "hadji" . Of course these Greeks are fervent Christians!

 

- There is an unknown (but vast) number of entries of Greeks with last names ending with the Turkish suffix "oglou", which is the ending of a great percentage of the Turkish last names.

 

The population of Athens is around 4 million people, about half of the total population of Greece. That is one in 40 Greeks has a Turkish last name!

 

Compare that to my last name, "Raptis", which means "tailor" in Greek. My ancestors were real tailors. There are only about 2,000 entries. That is one in 2,000 Athenians has this name! 

 

Finally the most recent and devastating "blow" against the Greek-Turkish enmity, came through a Turkish serial on the Greek TV; "1001 Nights" ( "1001 gece" in Turkish).

 

People of my age (born in 1930), have been raised with the "help" of the products of Hollywood. Even at the age of 7 as kids we used to call the game of "cops and robbers" the "stek’aman" game. Which is how the ever present expression "stick ‘em up" in the American westerns sounded to the ears of the Greek kids. Then, as adults up to the early 1960s, it was Hollywood and almost nothing else.

 

The serial "1001 Nights" started on Greek TV early in 2010. Although I had not watched a fictional TV program for almost 40 years I was impressed, in passing, by a few scenes of the Turkish serial. I followed all the 90 episodes of the serial for three months. 

 

Here is my evaluation of it:

 

Let us start with the reasonable admission that even a fictional movie reflects, to a certain degree, the society it describes. Otherwise, it would not "sell". Especially, to the people it describes.

 

The story of "1001 Nights" follows, mainly, the lives of two rich Istanbul families. An upper-class one, whose members are university educated professionals and one whose members come from lower classes but now are rich as business owners.

 

The most prominent characters of the serial are:

 

- "Scheherazad", a young architect. Actress: Berguzar Korel. The epitome of the ideal womanhood on earth. Honest, proud, and kind. She has demolished the "synthetic", surgically and chemically produced "blond" of Hollywood. One fervently expects that the actress is the same in her private life. 

 

- "Onur", a young Harvard-educated economist. Actor: Halit Ergenc. A no-nonsense, rational, and honest male. The same expectation holds for his private life.

 

- "Nadide", the middle-aged wife of a rich businessman. Actress: The Bulgarian-born Tomris Incer. [It is a good thing that the Greek army of my time did not invade Bulgaria. It might have "influenced" the career of one of the best actresses we have ever seen!]

 

- "Burhan", the businessman with roots in the lower classes, husband of "Nadide". The "patriarch" of the family. A remnant of the socio-religious burden of the old Mediterranean societies of yore. Who ultimately lets his rationality conquer.

 

[Note: It is fair to say that the rest of the cast consisted of excellent actors:

 

- "Benu", a Berlin educated architect. Actress: Ceyda Duvenci. An extremely kind and honest young woman with a burdened background of an alcoholic mother and a rather problematic father. 

 

- "Kerem", a Berlin educated civil engineer. Actor: Tardu Flordun. A mild and kind person, with the usual human frailties, but ultimately honest and courageous.]

 

All the above rich humans, in the story, have reached to a common conclusion: Money is shit. What counts is the contact between humans. Especially, with one’s companion in life. 

 

In an unexpected way "1001 Nights" has overwhelmed a quite significant part of the Greek population. A Greek-American lady had to make a trip to New York and she pleaded with me through a friend to copy on DVDs the episodes that she would miss during her trip. 

 

What was in the serial (besides the above truism about money) that had such an effect on the Greeks?

 

- The politeness and the dignity in the everyday behavior of the Turks. Greeks are a deeply impolite people. To test this, all one has to do is stay in a queue at the checkout of a supermarket. Where, some customers (especially ladies) drop and leave their used "Kleenex" in the supermarket basket, for the benefit of the next customer.

 

[Parenthesis: Of course, such behavior allows foreigners, even former German Nazi pigs visiting Greece as tourists, or Vietnam war mass-murderers from Texas, to feel superior to the uncouth Greeks.]

 

- The humanity of the Turkish society of ignoring, in raising an infant or a child, whether it is a bastard, or someone else’s child, or of an unwed mother, etc. Compare that to the US tea party "Palinbans" who ignore the living humans and fight to preserve the onanistic sperm of some Alaskan fisherman, while some young murderer in Nevada aims his drone so as to dismember an Afghan infant, with the blessing of Obama, his wife, and Rush Limbaugh.

 

- That even the invocation of the Deity is done in an abstracted, matter-of-fact, serious manner not in the fanatic, almost psychotic, and saccharine manner of "let-us-love-Jesus" of not only the "Palinban" Americans but of normal Americans. 

 

- The art involved in the serial: The amazing use of the human eyes. It is a bit strange that for an entire century film-makers did not understand the communicative importance of the eyes between humans to the degree that the director of "1001 Nights", Kudret Sabanci, did. The dominant means of expression and of communication in the serial has been the human eyes, speech is secondary. It seems that Korel (Scheherazade) and Ergenc (Honur) where chosen for their expressive eyes. Then, there is the music, by Kirac. It is not only the original compositions that have appealed to the Greeks, but also the variations or adoption intact of Music by Bach, Bethoven, and Mikis Theodorakis at crucial points of the story. One of the most incredibly beautiful cinematic scenes ever filmed of a man on a horse, is Honur on a horse, in the woods under the strains of Bach’s "Peasant Cantata". Compare that to John Wayne on a horse, etc, etc.

 

- The personality of Tomris Incer (the Bulgarian born actress), wife of the rich businessman patriarch in the serial. Greek women were absolutely charmed with her, even though women, in general, are a bit "scrupulous" about their judgment of another woman. Incer, as the wife is "the salt of the earth"!

 

The Greeks have repeatedly demanded that the serial be repeated many times so that those that missed episodes could catch up.

 

A couple of days ago the serial was "bought" [?] by one of the major Greek TV channels from the present broadcaster and will begin from episode one, for one more time!

 

One more development is that US film-makers are in trouble, at least in Greece. After "1001 Nights", Greeks cannot stand any US film product even for a second.

 

However, the most important outcome from the serial is the realization by Greeks of how close the two peoples are. Even the sound of the exclamation a person utters when raising a baby in the air is identical in both peoples; "opa!"

 

By now it is certain that the Turks have understood that Europeanization or Americanization of their people is undesirable. The same holds for progressive Greeks.

 

What then? There is a way out. Of what we know, the human adventure in sizable communities started in Turkey, at Catal Huyuk about 8,000 years ago. The next step was in Bagdad, of George W. Bush, emigrant of Texas and destroyer of that part of human heritage. Then followed Egypt, Crete, and Athens.

 

If these are the roots of humanity, then why not let them nourish once more a healthy tree. A vision for a healthy human society away from Palin, Merkel, Sarkozy, Tony the Blair, etc, could be the creation of a "Community" (possibly of Communes) that starts from Albania, Greece, Turkey, Iraq, Iran,Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine, for the time being. Which will include Egypt and Jordan after they are liberated from US occupation. This can spread to other "Communities" of the planet; Africa, Asia, etc.  A chimera? Not so fast! The knife of the West has almost reached the bone of humanity.

 

To finish this long article. During the Nazi occupation of Greece (1941-1944) the people of Athens were dying of starvation in the hundreds of thousands. Then a ship with cereals arrived in Pireus, the port of Athens, that helped stop the deaths. It was a Turkish ship by the name of "Kurtulus". Even at that time, the Quisling authorities did not translate the Turkish word "kurtulus" for us: it means "salvation" in Turkish.

 

I was one of the saved. I was 11 years old.

Leave a comment