August 07, 2007

THE CYPRIOT BLAME GAME

The article below appeared on August 5th, 2007, in Toplum Postasi, a London-based Turkish Cypriot daily.

The article (irreverently copied and pasted here on the assumption that the original author would not mind) could also have been written by a Greek Cypriot. The only difference would have been that Turkish would have been replaced by Greek in what follows (and also "640,000" with "200,000", "up to 1974" with "since 1974", "enosis" with "taksim"). As far as I can tell, no further changes would need to be made, but the message would be exactly the same.

Enjoy.
The Cypriot Blame Game: Playing With Our Future

By Alkan Chaglar

Every day Greek and Turkish Cypriots attempt to analyse the Cyprus problem. Most attempts normally involve a trip down memory lane, but although history can be useful to help us understand what is done and dusted, most who are unaware of the experience of the ‘other’ grow angry when thinking of the past and never get out of the past. So entrenched in their interpretation of the past are some that any attempt to encourage us to be responsible for our own past, while planning the future are dismissed without trial. Attacking out of desperation, the blame is routinely attributed to the ‘other side’ with the hope that one can simply be proven ‘right.’ But, how far has the quest for being ‘right’ contributed towards reconciliation and peace to date? And what effect is this having on the future generations of Cypriots?

HATE AND THE BLAME GAME

Last week I argued that for us to invent peace as a possibility, Turkish Cypriots need to drift away from exceptionalism but towards responsibility by dealing with our interpretation of past events. In response, one reader argued that: “Turkish Cypriots suffered first,” “Turkish Cypriots suffered more” and that they the “Greeks” actually hate the Turks and Turkish Cypriots and therefore cannot find it within themselves to live with us or share power. Justifying collective punishment and claiming the Greek Cypriots secretly harbour centuries of enmity towards the Turkish Cypriots and have discriminated against Turkish Cypriots, the reader went back in history some 500 years to try to prove his point. Referring to ‘them’ as one as if all Greek Cypriots are carbon copies of each other, as if they think identically and act identically, he was actually discriminating against those from whom he claimed to be the victim of discrimination.

In a bout of finger-pointing, the reader launched into a historical lecture, chronologically and meticulously describing events in Cyprus up to 1974, with the Greek Cypriots as instigators of every event. I must admit I admire his historical knowledge. The reader spoke of “Greek Cypriot aggression,” “non-wavering demands for enosis” and then reminded me: “don’t forget they voted against the Annan Plan.” Convinced that he knew these people so well that he even expressed surprise that I had not noticed it before, taking the time to call me a traitor and recommending that I change my name to a Greek name.

While I respect anybody who reads history, what is important is not to use history to pin blame in an unsolved ethnic conflict, experience has shown no community responds to being accused, in fact it has the opposite effect. Instead one should strive through history to understand all parties in a conflict to invent the possibility of peace. As for the charge of enmity, I confess I have not noticed this hate from Greek Cypriots before – the Greek Cypriots I know have the exact hot-blooded, hospitable, and kind qualities as Turkish Cypriots, they are a mirror of us. But what troubles me more is the philosophy behind the reader’s generalization, which preaches that: “we hate the Greeks, you are pro-Greek, therefore you must be Greek and because Greeks are our enemies we hate you.” The reality is, I am not pro-Greek or pro-Turkish and it is these very people who complain about Greek Cypriot discrimination against them who are themselves discriminating against Greek Cypriots. Similarly, the same philosophy exists among certain Greek Cypriots.

The tone of argument, which this reader presented, is far from alien to me. I have heard it time and time again in both communities, sometimes expressed politely, other times not so politely. Personally I find it really quite sad and demoralizing. I genuinely feel for these unfortunate people who have convinced themselves that 640,000 Greek Cypriots are out to get them. I feel truly sorry for those whose daily existence is so consumed with hate and anger that they feel they cannot break from their interpretation of the past, forever convincing themselves with the same interpretation.

COMPETITION TO BE THE VICTIM

By assigning each community to the role of sole victim and seeking a five minute pity from the entire world, one will not achieve any steps towards rapprochement, a prerequisite to peace. A brief five-minute pity from Bolivia, Czech Republic or Malaysia will make little impact to their lives. Besides, who can say that a woman who loses her son who happens to be a Greek Cypriot suffered less than a Turkish Cypriot woman who lost her son? Can we not just accept that we as Cypriots have all suffered from the past conflict?

Self-victimisation is a terrible way to live; it is hardly inspiring and from what I can see it will only lead to feelings of helplessness and self-pity. Is it really healthy to raise one’s children, constantly reminding them that as Greek or Turkish Cypriots they are victims and preparing them to hate the ‘enemy’ who made them a victim? Who wants to live the life of a victim to their dying day?

WHO IS RIGHT? WHO IS WRONG?

Always presenting a one-sided historical lecture, there are those in both Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities who seek to prove the ‘other’ side wrong as if such an action would change anything. Rather than encourage reconciliation, their mission is to convince young Cypriot people into believing that Greek and Turkish Cypriots cannot live together, by selectively recounting history and accordingly distributing their compassion to their fellow man based on their ethnicity. So consumed with their own past suffering that they cannot imagine the experience of the ‘other,’ nor do they care to. Hearing what they want to hear, reading what they want to read and speaking to who agrees with them, they believe they are right until their dying day.

But supposing they are right. Supposing Greek Cypriots did inflict greater suffering and pain on us Turkish Cypriots. What good will come out of being right? Will it ease the pain families still suffer from the effects of war? Will it being justice? Will it change anything in the status quo and bring us closer to grasping peace?

My own view is that the concept of right and wrong has little to do with the dimensions of the Cyprus problem. Regardless of who is right and who is wrong, the human pain of those who suffered from 1974 and before will always be there. A mother who lost her son will always remember her son to her dying day; nothing will ever alter her feelings for her son. Being proven ‘right’ will not influences the status quo, as a solution requires a political settlement, which involves negotiation and agreement between all parties. Legal justice too can only be achieved through the appropriate law courts, so even if you convince 180 countries in the world that you are right, ultimately you have to make your peace with those with whom you share your island home.

MAKING PEACE TAKES RESPONSIBILITY

To achieve peace is to take responsibility for own your past and to deal with your own omens before expecting the same from those with whom you seek peace. Until we can do this, there is little hope for peace in Cyprus. The trend in proving to be right or wrong amounts to wasted energy, as the bottom line is nobody cares if we Greek or Turkish Cypriots are right or wrong. There is no judge or jury to convince and neither Greek nor Turkish Cypriots will stop and realize: “Hold on! You’re right and I’ve been wrong all this time.” This is just wishful thinking of a ‘some day’ that will never come.

Failing to acknowledge that you need to be responsible to find peace, the effortless never-ending blame game that is used to justify any attempt to prevent meaningful dialogue between Greek and Turkish Cypriots will only fuel and prolong the current cycle of hate that persists among both communities. As usual those who will suffer from this are the future generations of Cypriots.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

T/C traitors' articles are always more eloquent, daring, and well articulated than ours. Damn Turks...

08 August, 2007 10:54  
Blogger nekatomenos said...

"...even if you convince 180 countries in the world that you are right, ultimately you have to make your peace with those with whom you share your island home."
First time I saw this point put in print so clearly. You never know, maybe some of our "traitors" can eventually learn to stop posing as discontents and actually try to help others change their perceptions.

08 August, 2007 22:43  

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