Yeraltý Notlarý, 6 Haziran 2004

Sevgül Uludað

 

`My village Cyprus!…` (*)

Sevgul Uludag

I spend a week in Athens, away from the `Cypriot agenda`, among the journalists of the world… We are at the 25th congress of the International Federation of Journalists and as we sail on a cruise last Wednesday towards Sounion we sit on the deck, talking about different agendas, definitely not about Papadopoulos, Denktash, Talat or Akinci…

We form a group of our own on the deck: Eddy from Indonesia tells me of the time he spent underground working against the military regime… There’s still more than 100 journalists in jail in Indonesia whom they are trying to set free… The military regime is not there anymore but the remnants will remain for a long time… Because change does not happen overnight… It takes years to change the `culture` that’s planted with the efforts of a military regime… Journalists from Japan, India, Korea are at our table and as the folkloric dance group from Crete dances, we join in the fun…

Later, after dinner at the restaurant of the cruise I go up again to look at the lights of Pireus…

The cruise sails quietly and a seagull flies next to the ship… Its white wings are spread out and I watch it passing and circling and diving… Soon there’s another one and then another and it’s like a prayer of nature, a call of life, something precious that we fail to see everyday…

I am so far away from the `Cypriot agenda` as I connect with the world and the nature…

Cyprus is a village – once upon a time we had a social anthropologue who had attempted to define this problem…

Philip Snyder had come as a facilitator of our `Trainers Group` and he had been very quiet for six months… We had started getting restless as Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots… Why wasn’t he active? What was he doing?

After six months of observing Cyprus, he came up with his findings…

`You are all villagers` he said, `Whether you’re Greek Cypriots or Turkish Cypriots, whether you live towns or villages, you are all villagers… Whether you drive cars or use computers, whether you have mobile phones or not, it does not matter. Because you all have a connection with villages. You have a plot of land or a relative… And what does it mean to be a villager? It means that you are not open to change… Any change is threatening for you. You try to protect what you know and what you have…`

He had other observations… That as Cypriots we had the `Pasha syndrome` or `Colonial syndrome`… Having lived under colonialism, we couldn’t care less if the Pashas were hurting others amongst us, so long as it didn’t hurt us… Because of this syndrome, we never claimed responsibility for what was happening in our lives, the history, the past and even the future… We would `blame` outsiders for all the ills and we would wait for `solutions` to come from `outside`…

Philip went further to talk about the idea of `limited good` in economics… He said this was `relevant` in Cyprus… He said `People think that there are a few cookies on the table and if one of you tries to take one, everyone would try to stop him or her since they assume that those are the ONLY cookies on the table…They don’t realize that the warehouse is full of cookies… That they can also rise up to claim one…`

He was implying the Russian saying that once a Russian diplomat friend, Alexander had told me:

`You can’t be a prophet in your own country`… People would mock you, laugh at you, try to humiliate you and see you as a threat if you said or did something different – if you were not in the mainstream but followed your own agenda… If anyone is successful, first there is disbelief, then rumors, gossip of all kinds… We can’t believe that `one of us` can make it and it’s difficult to digest his or her success… No one deserves anything! Because we think that he or she is taking something away from us!…

Philip had to pack and go back to his country long before his time was due because some people in our `Trainers Group` didn’t like his observations and believed they were not true… A lot of people were shouting in the meeting that `We are not villagers! We are not villagers!`

I stand on deck and smell the sea, thinking of our broken dreams for the future… I look at the seagulls flying next to the ship – they come so near me… Only a few people are on deck since there’s a strong wind and it’s cold but I don’t care… The lights of Pireus is approaching, the sea is dark, the sky is full of stars…

On Friday night we go to the Theodorakis festival at Acropolis… As I sit in the antique theatre and listen to his music, look at the bits of film where he made the music and really feel what he had tried to achieve all his life, I realize he’s universal, not a `villager` with just the agenda in his town or surroundings… He had an agenda of the world – he was concerned with Crete just as much as he was concerned with Northern Ireland, Chile, Argentina, Guatemala and Afghanistan… That’s why the junta was hunting him…

Only if you connect with people around the world, your `agenda` would make a difference, you would be speaking the same `language`… You would be sharing your uniqueness, embracing the uniqueness of the `others`…

When will `my village Cyprus` reach that level? And how?

Perhaps Europe will change all of us, will show us that `nationalism` is `outdated`, that we are `unique` but our `uniqueness` will only count if we are also `universal`…

It will take years to realize that `our Cyprus village` is not the center of the world, that there are other peoples with similar sufferings, similar experiences and very different agendas from our own… That we can connect and maintain our identity, as well as being part of everything happening around the world… That we can only contribute if we can go out of ourselves without selfishness, with a curiosity to learn rather than try to `impose` our agenda of `our village Cyprus`…

(*) Article published in ALITHIA newspaper on 6th of June 2004.

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