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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 2 June 2018
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 2 JUNE 2018 25 OPINION regime, even as we were out at the so-called bouzoukia, my answers being received with a stock «εμείς στην Ελλάδα γλεντάμε» only to have them ask for a loan the next day." "Stop twisting my words," the apostle of kefi enjoined angrily. "Just because you were obviously born without a funny bone doesn't mean the rest of us can't have a good time, Mr Killjoy. Sheesh. Obviously it is you who aren't Greek, otherwise you would understand what I'm talking about. Xeftila." Some months after this exchange took place, I found myself attending a Greco-Lebanese wedding. Seated providentially to my right was, my kefi-advocating friend. I watched her intently, her face frozen in horror as the newlywed couple entered the reception, thronged by ululating and dancing relatives obscuring the photographer. I watched her cluck her tongue in disapprobation as the MC vainly implored the Lebanese guests, too intent on dancing and having a good time, to sit down, in order to allow the speeches to take place. Upon the advent of the moustachioed genius Tony Hanna's classic Yaba Yaba Lah, my Greek Australian composure deserted me and surrendering to kayf, I threw myself into the dance, ululating with the best of them. As I did so, I noticed that all the Greeks in the room were still seated at their tables, glaring at the dancers contemptuously. Eventually, when the musical mood switched from Lebanese to Greek, I observed that of the Greek guests, only a very small proportion were going through the motions of a stately and rather lacklustre kalamatiano. They did so defiantly, as if staking an important cultural claim upon the floor, in a somnolent manner, utterly devoid of joy. Leaving any sort of void on the dance floor among the Lebanese is perilous, for kayf abhors a vacuum. Instantaneously, the floor was flooded with ululating dancers, first attempting the intricate steps of the kalamatiano and then, finding them of little interest, discarding them for infinitely more lively steps of their own, the sound of the ubiquitous dawla dictating the beat. Exhausted and covered in sweat, I found my way back to my table, only to see a distressed Mrs Kefi in the process of being forcibly removed from her seat and dragged towards the dance floor by some exuberant Lebanese beauties. She looked at me pleadingly, one perfect eyebrow raised in a mute cry for help, fingermarks of enthusiasm leaving their marks obtrusively upon her fake tan. "Surrender yourself to the kayf," I advised gravely. "Aiwa habibti, shushla!" Fall of Constantinople a victim of culture wars It is a good time for Cory Bernardi and Osman Faruqi to hit the history books FOTIS KAPETOPOULOS On Monday 28 May, Cory Bernardi tweeted “Mourn/ Commiserate the Fall of Constantinople to the hands of the Islamic takeover”. The leader of the Australian Conservatives suggested people visit a “Church (or Cathedral in your vicinity)”, or “watching a film featuring the ancient city such as, the James Bond film Skyfall, … or From Russia with Love …” ABC journalist Osman Faruqi then tweeted an oblique retaliation which, from my paranoid extrapolations, is code, ‘the west it’s bad’. Constantinople fell on 29 May 1453 to the Turkish Ottoman forces. Bernardi though, did not direct us to mourn the sacking of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade of 1204 from which the city never really recovered. Jonathan Phillips highlights the “brutality and determination; depravity and avarice, political and religious zeal” of these nutters. The Byzantines kept the Crusaders outside the great city walls for months. They may have been Christians but were uncouth, uneducated, extremists, like ISIS. Once they were let in they went berserk, killing, raping, and looting. So depraved were they, that Bernardi’s spiritual leader, Pope John Paul II in 2001 issued a formal apology to the Greek Orthodox Patriarch and Greeks, for “the massacre and pillaging of the heart of the Byzantine Empire, beginning in 1204”. Roman Emperor Justinian, named Constantine, built the ‘the city of the world’s desire’ on the site of the ancient Greek trading city Byzantium. The location protected it from attacks and opened it to trade between Europe and Asia. Byzantium’s Greek history reaches back to 700 BCE and the Greeks left their homeland, modern Turkey, in 1921. Istanbul, the name, is an amalgam of three Greek words, is tin poli, (ΕΙΣ ΤΗΝ ΠΟΛΗ) or, ‘to the city’. Bernardi’s ‘West’ did not come to the city’s rescue in 1453 and a common saying among Greeks to Eastern and Western music canons while our iconography influenced Hindu and Muslim art. After the Fall of Constantinople many of our political, business and creative classes fled to Europe where they sparked off a little thing called the Renaissance. Others found sanctuary in the academies and courts of the caliphates, China and India. Others stayed to administer the Ottoman Empire’s politics, military and economy. We did the boring admin work while they colonised the Middle East and Europe up to the gates of Vienna. We still have impact; Dolce & Gabbana in 2013 presented a range inspired by the Byzantium. is, “Better the Turkish turban than the Papal tiara.” Three days after Mehmed the Conqueror took Constantinople he ordered his men to stop looting, slaughtering and raping. He issued a proclamation that Greeks could return to their homes without fear to be treated with respect and maintain their previous status. Agia Sophia the daunting 1,480-year-old cathedral where Byzantine emperors were crowned was converted into an imperial mosque. It served as pride of place under Ottoman rule for five centuries thereafter and still stands as a wonder. John Julius Norwich, a pre-eminent Byzantine and Turkish history scholar, writes that the Ottomans “considered themselves destined to rule a great empire.” They were “demons at war and angels at peace, equally heroic and humane, they were destined to rule the world.” To Europeans, Byzantines were ‘oriental’, conspiratorial and hedonistic. We loved luxury, arts, food, wine and bling and we avoided war, if we could, through alliances, marriages and payoffs. Byzantines created the first stock market using purple silk as the measure of value. Theodora, Justinian’s wife, c. 500–548 CE, a Cypriot born in Syria, (we think), and a dancer by vocation, became an imposing empress who wielded astonishing influence and power. She worked with Justinian to organise a mess of laws into a unified legal system, thus ‘Justinian’s Code’ guaranteeing fair treatment for all citizens regardless of faith or culture. She also helped him wipe out 30,000 of those that conspired in a revolution to get rid of him. The clergy disliked her, and Dora was slutshamed. They accused her of having orgies with men and women. I like her. Constans II c. 641–668, or Boduoli as the Chinese called him after his nickname Constantine the Bearded, was the first to set up an embassy in 643 CE at the court of Emper- or Taizong the second emperor of the Tang Dynasty. Business is business. Our peers were in the east, they were not the Franks and Saxons in the west, who burned our city on the coin of the Venetians in 1204. We had a big a family bust-up with the Italians when Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne, King of the Franks, as Holy Roman Emperor in 800 CE. Between 378 and 718 Constantinople had withstood more sieges than any city of its time by Goths, Huns, Persians, Arabs, Russians and others, and what the Pope did to his kin was not cool. Relations between East and West deteriorated rapidly after that. The Greek Orthodox Church in 1054 severed all ties with Rome and the Catholic Church – from the pope to the Roman Emperor on down. They could no longer hang with us. The Byzantium is part of our intangible cultural heritage. Even atheists, like me, take part in Byzantine traditions. Byzantine music gave rise The wars between a revolutionary Greece in 1821 and a collapsing Ottoman Empire ended in 1921 in a bloody fashion. Over two million Greeks were expelled, and hundreds of thousands died, as part of modern Turkey’s ethnic cleansing program. Modernising Greeks inflicted equal horror on five hundred thousand Turks living in Greece. The ‘Population Exchange’ was similar to the catastrophic mass transfer of Hindus and Muslims during the Partition between Pakistan and India after 1947, facilitated by the Brits. Turks and Greeks, we, share history, culture, music, family values, and food; and should not be played off each other. Belligerent statements from the Turkish PM Mr Erdogan now, and the call by right-wing Islamists to turn Agia Sophia into a mosque again, make us all very nervous. Greeks did not suffer occupation by Nazis, Civil War, and leave a devastated nation, to be called ‘wogs’ for 60 years, and now be coded as ‘white’ Christians by fascists, and in undergraduate narratives. Bernardi is elected to the Senate; I can’t do much about that sadly. On the other hand, hundreds of thousands of Greeks pay for the ABC, so a little bit of our cash can go to educating journalists on the history that formed both the modern west and east.
26 May 2018
09 June 2018