Phylax Blog

March 10, 2007

Phylax Blog tries to keep head above water…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ted @ 2:04 pm

Blogs are like loved pets. You just can’t get rid of
them. I am indebted to Stavros for trying earnestly to keep PB alive.
My situation is evolving in a rather negative direction, which robs me
of the stamina you need in order to blog (yes, it is, primarily, a
question of stamina, intellectual as well as daily calendar). I find
myself often during the day thinking "That’s a good one for a post…"
and then reality strikes and I’m again sunk in the muck I find myself
in currently.

Stavros put forth some valid
topics in his last post and the comments that followed. If PB is to
survive, I’d like it to do so along the general "editorial" lines that
I established early on. I’m the last to advocate or exercise
censorship, yet PB does have an ideological hue, if you like, and the
hue is conservative (although the term is becoming misleading these days) as well as patriotic and anti-Turkish
since Turkey remains the one most significant threat to Greece’s
sovereignty and territorial integrity despite all the monkeying by our
government seeking "Greek-Turkish friendship" as it pees in its pants
at the mere thought of ever needing to defend this country.

If
this basic condition is not met, I think PB should be terminated and
its always able and willing guest authors continue, if they wish, under
a different guise.

The need for a Greece-based author is
indeed crucial. There’s little hope for anyone trying to cover national
politics and domestic affairs of any country if he does so from a
distance. Going into Athens every morning, for example, is alone a
source of many potential posts, which were never written because I
simply did not have the time to do so. Finding though a person who can
carry on in English and at reasonable speed re. political and other
developments is not easy. At least, I, as I told Stavros already, do
not have a candidate to suggest.

I am really indebted to all of
you for carrying on with the effort to keep PB alive and going. This is
proof that PB became a (small) forum of useful debate and for conveying
information you all apparently found worth return visits to the site.

This
site will continue to be available until the subscription to Typepad
expires — that is until March 25, Greek Independence Day. My PB email
address will "die" around that time also.

And before I finish:
the question of where the local author was educated is of no real
consequence if this author has his head screwed on right. I went to
school in the US with people who were, and remain, ardent communists
and who would cut down America every turn of the way. And I have met
people locally, who got their entire education here and are among the
staunchest supporters of what most watchers would identify as
"americanized" views. In the end, it is much more about being able to
survey the battlefield and catch the nuances rather than having
fixations about the past, present, and future. And if there was one
thing I learned in America that thing was never to judge people on the
fly by means of labels attached … Hell, I wouldn’t do that even to
Turks!

March 6, 2007

Does Phylax Have a Future?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ted @ 2:34 am

Dear Phylaxians,

Like many of you I would rather not contemplate a blogosphere without Phylax. As a blogger I can tell you that creating a blog and nurturing it is a time-intensive job. Ted has made a superb effort in reaching out to Greeks worldwide, making them think, engaging them in serious issues that affect us all and for that alone he should be admired. Perhaps Ted’s rightful preoccupation with more pressing issues in his own life at this point may give Phylax an opportunity to go to the next level and evolve. Ted and I have discussed options for putting together a framework to keep Phylax up and running, however, there are a number of difficulties involved. The driving force behind Phylax has of course been Ted. At this point we do not know how involved he will be, if at all for awhile. I suspect that eventually he will be able to return to the blogosphere and to Phylax, if only only as a guest author or to comment occasionally.  Demo and I will be able to continue to write but only at the level of approximately one post per week.  I’m hoping Hermes will  also continue to contribute.  Unfortunately the three of us can’t do it alone. In order to make Phylax viable we urgently need more contributors, in particular some who actually live in Greece. The intent behind Phylax has always been to bring together Helladic and Diasporan Greeks as well as PhilHellenes together in one blog. Based on the comments I read on Phylax many of you write lucidly and have a great deal to say that is worthwhile. If you are interested in keeping Phylax alive, please send me an email at snashi@maine.rr.com.  Continue to check back periodically.  I will try to keep everyone posted on our progress.   
                                                                          Semper fi,   Stavros

March 3, 2007

Migration and curtain

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ted @ 10:42 pm

I’ve migrated Phylax Blog to the new site here. I will keep this site up until the end of next week, at least. Following that time Phylax Blog at Typepad will make its exit and this site will be cancelled. Thank you all for writing, contributing, and commenting. It has been a good two years. Incidentally, Phylax survived a bit beyond the average for most blogs, which is 15 months.

February 28, 2007

A Few Minutes with John Cassavetes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ted @ 7:57 pm

Scorsese and Cassavetes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ted @ 7:00 pm

Demonax writes:

Martin Scorsese has his Oscar. The poor Sicilian’s been pining for the silly little statue for the last 10 years, compromising his work in the process, abandoning the anti-Hollywood aesthetics of Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, King of Comedy, Goodfellas and Casino for more conventional and palatable dramas, deploying, in pursuit of the widest possible box office appeal, the hopeless and vacuous Leonardo DiCaprio as his leading man in his last three films.

Scorsese is a long-time admirer of Greek filmmakers; particularly Theodoros Angelopoulos, in whose film Ulysses’ Gaze, Scorsese persuaded Harvey Keitel to take the main role; and Pantelis Voulgaris, whose film Nifes (Brides) Scorsese produced. Scorsese also readily acknowledges the influence on his work of Elias Kazan, his films’ willingness to push at social and cultural boundaries, their innovative acting techniques, their fascination not with realism as such, but with the ‘truth behind the posture’.

The Greek filmmaker most pivotal to Scorsese, however, is John Cassavetes.
‘I saw Citizen Kane and [Cassavetes’] Shadows and I’ve been trying to combine the two ever since,’ Scorsese has admitted.

Scorsese describes Cassavetes as a ‘guerrilla filmmaker’ ‘fearless’, ‘a renegade,’ and Cassavetes’ films as ‘epics of the human soul’. Indeed, for his admirers, Cassavetes is not only the most important American filmmaker of the last 60 years, but ‘one of the most important artists of the twentieth century’.

Cassavetes’ obsession with making the films he wanted, resisting overbearing interference from producers and studios, hassling him about cost, time or what the audience was used to or wanted to see, meant he worked in opposition to Hollywood and its values, only seeing fit to compromise with the system, taking acting jobs in films such as Rosemary’s Baby and The Fury, films he detested, when he needed to make money to fund his own projects.

It was this sense of artistic integrity and dedication to personal expression regardless of the consequences, art as a way of life, that Cassavetes tried to impart to Scorsese when the younger man came to Los Angeles from New York in the late 1960s, looking for a break in film and who Cassavetes, regarded since Shadows and Faces as a pioneer of a new and radical American film aesthetic, took under his wing, having loved Scorsese’s first film, Whose That Knocking at My Door? declaring it to be as good as Citizen Kane, better even, ‘it’s got more heart’, offering Scorsese work as a sound editor on Cassavetes’ Minnie and Moscowitz, ‘paying me $500 a week for doing nothing. I even lived on his [Cassavetes’] set for a week and, when he required sound effects for a fight, I held John while someone punched him.’

A mutual friend, Jay Cocks, describes Cassavetes as loving Scorsese ‘like a son’, and indeed when Cassavetes saw Scorsese’s second film, Boxcar Bertha, made for Roger Corman, a specialist in exploitation movies, Cassavetes took Scorsese aside for some advice: ‘Marty, you’ve just spent a whole year of your life making a piece of shit. It’s a good picture, but you’re better than the people who make this kind of movie. Don’t get hooked into the exploitation market, just try and do something different.’

Scorsese turned down the chance to direct another Corman picture, I Escaped from Devil’s Island, a rip-off of Papillion, and The Arena, a gladiator movie, and concentrated instead on making Mean Streets, a story of aspiring gangsters in New York’s Little Italy.

Three years after Mean Streets, Cassavetes, who shared Scorsese’s love of gangster films (Cassavetes’ favourite actor was James Cagney), made his own unique ‘gangster’ film, Killing of a Chinese Bookie, the inception of which Cassavetes describes as follows: ‘Martin Scorsese and I were talking, and in one night made up this gangster story. Years later, when I didn’t know what to make, I thought we’ll do that story about this nightclub owner who owes a lot of money, and is talked into killing someone.’

Killing of a Chinese Bookie is a great film – many regard it as Cassavetes’ greatest – but it was also a commercial failure and was savaged by some of America’s foremost so-called film critics, as was Opening Night, Cassavetes subsequent film, and Cassavetes was now finding it harder than ever to raise money for his projects.

As for Scorsese, he followed the success of Mean Streets with Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Taxi Driver, New York, New York (an attempt by Scorsese to reproduce a Cassavetes film) and The Last Waltz, during which time Scorsese had also become a cocaine addict, fond of telling everybody that he wouldn’t live past 40, prompting Cassavetes to confront Scorsese at a Hollywood party: ‘What’s the matter with you? Why are you doing this, ruining yourself? You’re fucking up your talent. Shape up,’ which Scorsese did, making Raging Bull.

As well as disapproving of his lifestyle and his willingness to compromise with the Hollywood money machine – which, with the advent of filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas (the two men who handed Scorsese his Oscar), had become more voracious and hostile to the cultural values Cassavetes represented – Cassavetes also began to resent what he saw as Scorsese’s stealing of his ideas, particularly from Minnie and Moscowitz for use in New York, New York.

Ultimately, as Raymond Carney puts it, Cassavetes and Scorsese had by the late 1970s more or less reversed places within the American cinematic pantheon and ‘Cassavetes felt personally betrayed by a man he had considered to be his friend. Scorsese was now too busy to talk to him and Cassavetes felt that, after all he had done to help and encourage the young filmmaker, now that the tables were turned, Scorsese didn’t reciprocate.’

In 1982, Cassavetes approached Scorsese with an idea about a film about filmmaking. Cassavetes would play a director who has a nervous breakdown; Scorsese his assistant. It was, at this point in Cassavetes’ life, Carney says ‘a desperate attempt to get something going in the way of a film. Cassavetes presented Scorsese with the script and made a passionate pitch, but Scorsese turned him down’.

Not that Cassavetes’ sense of betrayal or increasing difficulties getting projects off the ground diminished his desire to create or made him doubt his art or weakened his resistance to prevailing tastes. Cassavetes, like the characters in his films, never quit.

Following a brief venture into theatre, Cassavetes once again managed to attract financial backing for a film project. Cassavetes describes the way he sold Love Streams – Cassavetes’ last film – to the prospective producers: ‘I found myself going to Menachem [Globus] and saying, “We have a story. This absolutely will not make any money. Probably no one will want to see it, but it is a wonderful film”.’

Globus backed Cassavetes, and, indeed, Love Streams, as Cassavetes predicted, didn’t make money, failed to attract an audience, but did turn out to be an extraordinary film, ‘psychologically dangerous, lonely, terrifying’, as Cassavetes says.

While making Love Streams in 1983, Cassavetes was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and given only six months to live; he lived for another six years. As for his relationship with Scorsese, Cassavetes reflected: ‘I’ve watched Marty as the complications in his life grow, and the frustrations grow, and I hope he can survive the mass hysteria of success. Your way of life is a hell of a lot more important than anything else, and by the time you realise what success will do to you, it has taken you away from everything you were saying, doing and enjoying, and thrown you into areas of lawyers and accountants that want your success more than they want your music. I never had that, but I never wanted it.’

Martin Scorsese wanted it and got it, and now he has his Oscar too.

February 26, 2007

Update.. or where is Phylax Blog going?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ted @ 7:22 am

I’m back — kind of. The past two weeks have been extremely busy, with a distinct aspect of a roller coaster ride. I have little faith in large organizations solving problems “on the ground,” and, for yet another time, I have been right and the managers have been wrong. But this is a different story that would require starting a new blog to cry on each other’s shoulder.

To put it briefly: I have now added duties without added pay. Nice one. I also need to re-arrange certain family situations to suit the new schedule. Not a pleasant or easy prospect, but one that I will need to address sooner rather later.

The emerging daily pattern has devastated my various free-time activities. The latter are few and cherished. Phylax Blog is among them and it, just like so many other things, will need to bend to the wind and take its leave in a quiet dignified way.

I will be transferring the entire present body of Phylax to a free service, most likely under the existing old Phylax on WordPress.com. That being said, I need to find the time to do that and until then the paid hosting on Typepad will continue.

As for administering Phylax, I’ll be happy to pass on the baton to any of our trusted guest authors, so Stavros, demonax, hermes, drop me a note, if you’re interested and think you have the time to pursue this.

Right now, I’m doing all types of writing as part of the new arrangements which, fortunately, aren’t entirely focused on the tired issue of Greek politics. I enjoy most of it since it addresses a variety of international and social issues. I only wish I could work from home. If I could do that, I wouldn’t mind “being available” for 12-hour days. The way things are right now, I am available for 12-hour days anyway and I break my back doing it.

Oh, well … I trust you’re all well and happy with life and the state of the universe. As for the state of Greece, we won’t touch the open wounds.

February 19, 2007

Barbarians vs. Hellenes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ted @ 12:06 am

300_spartans_1
For most Ancient Greeks, a fundamental distinction divided all men into two unequal groups: barbarians and Hellenes.   Even Plato
had reservations about dividing the world into two distinct parts,
nevertheless, the difference became a common and often used measuring
stick for the Greeks. Language was a key element of the divide. The
word barbaros
is an expression for those who speak with difficulty,
with harsh sounds, that is, those who speak
inarticulately.  Another element was the incoherence of barbarian
speech. A language that was not Greek was not much better than no
language at all. During the fifth century, the dividing line between
civilized men and barbarians was predicated on a knowledge of the Greek
language.  Greek became the "lingua franca" and was so pervasive that Ovid and Saint Paul both observed, that when they speak in words that their
hearers do not understand, they become barbarians for their listeners.

The experiences of the conflicts between Greece and Persia brought  out all of the
prejudices  toward barbarians that Greeks
had felt up until that time. Hostility toward the invader and his poor performance  in the field,
were a combination of factors that solidified and reemphasized the
differentiation of Greek from barbarian. The Persian Wars,
in one sense, never ended. Indeed, the only possible war is that
between Greeks and barbarians. Wars between Greeks and Greeks were merely civil strife as expressed by Plato in the "Republic." The reason for this never-ending struggle is that barbarians are
essentially different from Greeks; they are made to be mastered. The
natural condition is that Greeks should be free and rule barbarians, not the reverse.
There were voices to the contrary that occasionally called for a more
moderate or more generous view of other nations, but they came to the fore only later.

The Persian Wars had settled the
question of the superiority of Greek citizen hoplites to barbarian
troops, at least in the eyes of the Greeks.  The superiority of the disciplined but independent, well-trained but
spirited, Greek hoplite, to the excitable but spiritless, massed but
poorly directed, barbarian army, was evident in numerous engagements. The appearance, numbers, and shouting of
barbarian troops may be intimidating and look formidable, but it’s deceiving. Once barbarians engage a group of
Greeks who stand their ground, the barbarians are no  match for the
well-organized and self-reliant Greek warrior.

The second fundamental superiority that the Greeks felt toward non-Greeks was intellectual.   Heraclitus
attests that "eyes and ears
are poor witnesses for men with barbarian souls," that is, what a man
senses requires interpretation by an intelligent mind, which a barbarian
lacks.  The other major feature of the barbarian
character that finds its way into Greek thinking is their
lack of a Greek education.  Besides the barbarians’ ineffectiveness as soldiers and their general
stupidity, Greek theater, for example,  gives us  a gallery of stereotypes
of particular nationalities.  Not only are barbarians inferior to Greeks, but individual ethnic
groups show definite characteristics that account for a particular group’s  failings and
express in one trait of character the reasons for the repugnance Greeks
feel toward other nationalities. The ancient world was no more immune than
the modern to assigning a particular attribute(s) to an entire ethnic group. These  national stereotypes run up against the ideas generated by the Hippocrates and by Aristotle.  Humanity is, according to these emerging scientific theories, the same
in all races, but it has been tempered differently in different
individuals. The superiority of Hellas and the consequent virtues of
Greeks as opposed to barbarians are caused by the moderate climate in
Greece that allows for an optimal development of both the mind and the
body, potentially existing in every human being, but waiting to be
determined by the environment.  In
the warm climates of Asia the air and water have produced a human type
too willingly and easily subjected to tyrannical rule.  Asia, for all
its grandeur is the continent of kings whose people are  ready to
submit to them in every way.
Conversely, the northern climates begin with the same human material,
but the environment there has forced men into survival mode.  The
effect has been to produce the "wilder" races
of men, and they become a source for stereotypes also, but of a
different sort.  Men there are larger, coarser and untamed.

By the end of the fifth century, the first traces of feelings that all
men are in essence similar had begun to make themselves felt and began chipping away at the entrenched
thinking about barbarians and Hellenes. By the time of Aristophanes, there were
not only reservations  that might
lead one to a more balanced view of the barbarian, there was also an
increasing body of scientific and philosophical thought that stressed
the similarities of Greeks and barbarians rather than their
differences. There is an inkling of Cosmopolitanism in
Democritus  when he says that the wise man can
live anywhere, implying that a life among the
barbarians is as possible as a life among the Greeks.  It must have been
a simple conclusion for a student of Pythagoras to surmise that the common bonds of all
living things meant that there was also a bond of some sort that
connected Greeks and barbarians. The medical writers argued that there was no fundamental physical difference
between Greeks and barbarians.  The sophist Antiphon emphasized the similarities, not the
differences, between Greeks and barbarians. Both breathe through their
noses, both take nourishment through their mouths. The
fundamental nature of each is the same, and Greek and barbarian are
made in the same way.

These are all
hints of a new era of thinking that eventually reigns in the age of
Alexander the Great, the period of cosmopolitanism. This era is characterized by the acceptance of the
notion that Greek and barbarian are equal, and a society more open and
accustomed to the free movement of Greeks among barbarians and
barbarians among Greeks. They were also ideas that were certainly not
universally popular at the end of the fifth century and the beginning of the
fourth, but in Thucydides and Euripides they found their adherents and
supporters. The developments of the early fifth and fourth century were only a
prelude to the livelier and contradictory philosophical movements of
the later fourth century. On the one side stand the schools of
Isocrates and Aristotle. For Isocrates, the barbarian was the natural
enemy of the Greek, and Greece wants only a leader who will lead it
into a struggle that will avenge the offenses of a century. The Persian
enemy, like all barbarians, is slavish and cowardly. At the same time,
the orator sets the cornerstone of Atticism, a rhetorical movement that advocated a return to classical methods,  by proclaiming that being
Greek is a matter of education and not of birth, and a matter more of
being an Athenian than of just being any Greek. Athens is, after all,
the home of the great orators. What on the surface may appear to be nonrestrictive, to recruit
from the outside and to make of Greek culture an adoptive rather than a
genetic criteria, was certainly in practice more restrictive than
relaxing.   


It is hardly different with Aristotle. In the first book of his
"Politics" he struggles
against the new teaching of equality and promulgates his theory of
natural slavery. Just as the human race is superior to the animal, so
the race of naturally free men is superior to the race of natural
slaves. And the natural slave is easily enough identified. He is the
barbarian. On the other side, the voices that had
first been heard in the sophists and the Hippocratic school have not
been completely silenced. Plato contradicts himself. On the one hand he
stands in horror at the race mixture that would have resulted if the
Persians had defeated the Greeks and intermarried with them but he knows that the customary division of the world into
Greeks and barbarians is philosophically unsound and prefers a division
on the basis of virtue, not nationality. Theophrastus  is sure that  there is a kinship between all men. For the Stoics, the universality of   mankind is a direct result of the logos
that directs the universe. The Cynic’s "Natural Man" could be either
Greek or non-Greek, and self-sufficiency is an ideal that can be lived
out anywhere in the world. The Greek polis is no longer essential, and
the wise Anacharsis, a Scythian, becomes a Cynic saint.


Even between teacher and student there was no agreement regarding
exclusiveness or inclusiveness. Aristotle is said to have advised
Alexander to rule the Greeks as a leader
but to govern the barbarians as a tyrant, as if they were animals or
plants. The young conqueror did not follow this well meant advice. Like
Plato, he was dissatisfied with the old division of the world and
relied instead upon a division based on virtue. The most interesting
new emerging use of barbaros
at this time is the ethical one, in which a barbarian is a person whose
feelings, or
lack of them, put him beyond the Greek pale. He is in his emotions more
of a barbarian than a Greek, and it is usually a question of an excess
rather than a deficiency
of emotion.  One does not specifically
attack the other person on the grounds that he is foreign, for often
the person to whom the failure of character is
attributed is in reality a Greek. Instead, he calls upon an accepted
picture of the barbarian character, by now  no longer
bound to nationality, and uses it as an accusation.  He who is Greek,
is he who participates in Greek education and who lives up to
the Greek ideal or in other words a person is barbarian whose character
demonstrates that
he is in thought and emotions a barbarian. The members of the human
race are therefore not divided according to ethnicity but more
accurately one based on ethical reality. This is a
conception of Atticism that is embracing rather than excluding, that
makes of the Greek ideal a door by which many can enter.

The other interpretation of Atticism, as preached by Isocrates and  conceived during the fourth century, is exclusive. Participation
in Greek education is not a point of entry for outsiders into the Greek world, but a stumbling block.  It is an obstacle that makes the number of "Greeks" smaller rather than larger. It
excludes many who may appear to be Greek because of birth and background and forces them out rather than being an attempt to pull other in.  Language, education, character become part of a list of
qualifications that the Greek must live up to in order to remain a Greek and not slip into barbarism.

The debate
over this conflict between the Greek and the non-Greek and the
gradual movement from introverted intolerance to cosmopolitan tolerance
is one of the liveliest and most central topics of Greek philosophy. If
comments by Phylaxians are any indication, it has not lost any of its
emotional appeal in the modern world nor is the debate over by any means.

February 16, 2007

The limits of philhellenism

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ted @ 8:57 pm

Demonax writes:

Disappointingly, Corfu municipality and its mayor Ioannis Trepeklis last September acquiesced in renaming Boschetto Park in Corfu Town, Boschetto-Durrell Park, as a tribute to the Durrell brothers, Gerald and Lawrence, British writers who lived on the Ionian island in the 1930s.
The commemoration plaque describes the brothers as ‘writers and philhellenes’.

Referring to Lawrence Durrell as a ‘philhellene’ is ignorant and islanders should be concerned that part of their island’s physical and cultural landscape has been officially connected to a man described by the poet George Seferis as ‘cynical’ and ‘self-interested’ and by Cypriot painter Adamantios Diamantis as ‘not a straight person’.

It is true that nearly everything Lawrence Durrell wrote – Prospero’s Cell, The Alexandria Quartet, The Dark Labyrinth, Reflections on a Marine Venus, Bitter Lemons of Cyprus, The Greek Islands – drew on his experiences of Greece and Greek culture; that Durrell was a fluent Greek speaker and a talented translator of Greek literature; and that in the 1930s and 1940s Durrell was part of the intellectual circle led by George Seferis and George Katsimbalis and which included (along with the American writer Henry Miller) Nikos Hatzikyriakos-Gikas, Dimitris Antoniou, Theodore Stephanides, Seferis’ sister Joanna and her husband Constantine Tsatsos; a group of friends that spent their evenings in Athenian tavernas, toured the Greek countryside and islands, discussing Greek culture and the Greek way of life, ‘inventing paradise’.

In 1953, Durrell moved to Cyprus, still then a British colony, but in the grip of a campaign to unite the island with Greece, where he took up a position as an English teacher at the most prestigious school on the island, the Nicosia Pancyprian Gymnasium, at the time a hotbed of nationalist, Enosis agitation.

Using his reputation as a friend of Seferis and as a philhellene, Durrell also ingratiated himself with leading figures in Cypriot intellectual and cultural life, such as Nikos Kranidiotis (Archbishop Makarios’ personal secretary), Adamantios Diamantis, Constantine Spiridakis, as well as Rodis Roufos, Greece’s consul in Cyprus from 1954-56.

It came as a surprise to Durrell’s Greek friends both on and off the island, therefore, when in 1954 he accepted the post of Director of Information Services for the British colonial administration on Cyprus. This sudden conversion to colonial administrator made them wonder about Durrell’s real role at the Pancyprian Gymnasium and his real motives for seeking out their friendship. Suspicions of Durrell increased when it became clear that his main mission as the colonial government’s chief spin doctor was to persuade the Greeks of Cyprus ‘of the moral and material benefits of the Commonwealth connection’ and contrast this to the political and economic disadvantages of union with Greece.

A key part of Durrell’s strategy to convince Cypriots of the folly of Enosis and to accept continuing British colonial rule, was to try to foster among Cypriots an exclusively Cypriot identity stripped of its Hellenic essence, a process the British admitted needed to be ‘handled discreetly since Cypriots will certainly shy away from any suggestion that the government is forcing an artificial and non-Greek growth upon them’.

(The other side of Britain’s dehellenisation policy was the active encouragement of Turkish nationalism on the island and the inducement of Turkey to enter the fray on Cyprus and show it was serious about thwarting Greek interests, one consequence of which was the anti-Greek pogroms in Constantinople in 1955).

As the colonial government’s chief propagandist against Enosis, Durrell was also responsible for briefing local and international journalists on the British position on Cyprus; publishing the government magazine, Cyprus Review; issuing government leaflets, such as: Why Are We in Cyprus? and The Monopoly of Enosis, and producing programmes on Cyprus Radio, such as: The Consequences of Enosis for Cyprus, The International Consequences of Enosis and The Alternative to Enosis.

Durrell’s propaganda campaign against Enosis found its ultimate expression in his book, The Bitter Lemons of Cyprus (1957), an unequivocal justification of British policy on Cyprus and denunciation of the Enosis campaign, which Durrell portrays as a terrorist movement with limited popular support aimed at a benevolent colonial administration.
(Extracts from Kostas Montis’ Closed Doors and a discussion of Rodis Roufos’s The Age of Bronze, both direct refutations of Durrell’s version of the Enosis campaign, can be found here and here).

Naturally, Durrell’s behaviour in Cyprus appalled and angered his Greek friends, who began to disown him.

In 1954, explaining to George Savvides, the editor of the Anglo-Hellenic Review, why he was declining to submit work to the publication, George Seferis reveals his contempt for Durrell and his role in Cyprus.

‘It is true that works of intellect have no country. I agree and have no objection as long as others try to serve the intellect without self-interest and do not attempt to make it serve alien causes.

‘These weighty gentlemen of the [British House of] Commons who claim that Cypriots are not Greeks, and that it is not in their interest to be Greeks, but have simply fallen out of the sky and must see that they can lead a good life only by licking the boots of their master who was sent by God Almighty – the Lusignans, the Venetians, the Gransignori and the colonial shepherds of Tanganyika – these weighty gentlemen are no intellectuals…

‘But when I see intellectual institutions placed in the service of these gentlemen, I tend to become suspicious. And when I see intellectuals and friends become propagandists for these gentlemen and use the friendships they had in Greece in order to infiltrate and enslave consciences, then I become absolutely suspicious.’

And in a letter to Seferis from Adamantios Diamantis, the Cypriot painter says of Durrell:

‘What a tragedy it is when one realises that their love, enthusiasm and visions of Greek faith and life were only stimulating games, merely helping them to write poems and express ideas, that friendship and openness for them were nothing more than a ploy for systematic research and cool classification of ideas and feelings to be canned and served at the right moment.’

Far from a philhellene, then, Lawrence Durrell emerges as a hypocrite and a parasite and it is a pity that the Corfu authorities accepted at face value Durrell’s own exhortations regarding his love for Greece and Greek culture and decided to honour a man who gravely injured Greece and Greek interests.

This is doubly shameful since one of the greatest figures of modern Greece, Ioannis Capodistrias, the founder of Greek independence, the first president of Greece, was from Corfu, a man who detested the so-called philhellenes, their arrogant assertions about their role in the Greek war of independence and sought to remove them from positions of influence in the newly independent Greek state and society; a man who loathed the British and deeply resented their seizure, annexation and rule of the Ionian islands; and, indeed, whose maternal family roots are in Cyprus, the island which in his book The Greek Islands (1978), Durrell, no doubt conscious of his guilt and treachery, now described as ‘the most Greek of all the Greek islands’, and whose tragedy Durrell contributed to in no small way, as he belatedly admitted in an interview with the Aegean Review  in 1987:

‘But I’ve been progressively disgusted with our [British] double-facedness in politics over situations like the Greek situation. Remember I’ve worked as an official in Cyprus on that disgusting situation which was entirely engineered by us, do you see?’

*Acknowledgment to Theodora Pavlidou, whose piece ‘Cyprus: Another Dark Side to Durrell’, appeared in Cyprus View, October 1991.

February 14, 2007

Hiatus

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ted @ 10:07 pm

Things are happening around here … things that aren’t easy or pleasant. So, I’m going on a short hiatus … there’s so much to be done and so little time to do it. Changes will have to be made, including a career shift. We’ll see…

February 12, 2007

Catching up

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ted @ 7:20 am

I was away for the last three days attending to business that could not wait any longer and had only very brief access to a computer. Staying offline for some time is a recommended exercise. In fact, if it is combined with a relaxation opportunity, it can really recharge your system and bring you back with a fresh look at things.

So, the IKA governor’s death was a crime of passion. A 66-year old playing funny business with a married woman, mother of three 20 years his junior. Not a healthy scheme. The governor will be buried later today and the husband turned killer is in irons. I wonder: was the woman worth it? My yellowing, old book with lots of dog ears says that once a woman takes this road, she must be rejected and ejected outright. No fuss, no drama. Certainly, no murder.

I talked to some friends over the last three days. They are all people who have done well in their pursuits, and you won’t call them “poor.” Their universal conclusion was far from the rosy picture that Karamanlis paints in his speeches. They all pointed out that the perceived “improvement” in the numerical data of the economy is all due to external factors (interest rate decisions by the ECB, an upturn in the European economy, EU subsidy inflows) and has nothing to do with a domestic “locomotive” that is suddenly pulling us away from stagnation.

We should plan for early elections in the fall. With Giorgo prisoner of his in-party opposition, and unable to strike an agreement with Karamanlis on the principles of constitutional amendment, there’s little reason to wait. Karamanlis should not have any trouble getting re-elected, although I don’t think we’ll see again a majority of 164 seats.

There’s disturbing silence on the foreign relations front. The Turk has gone into overdrive at the prospect of Cypriot oil, but, to his credit, Tassos Papadopoulos seems less than concerned (outwardly, at least) and he’s certainly not blinking. The Turk foreign minister’s trip to Washington did not turn out entirely to Ankara’s liking, especially over the Armenian Genocide. Although the American establishment is hopelessly caught in the pro-Turk bias, jolts like this are always welcome. If the Turk is to be undermined, that will come through a combination of a cumulative process of small cuts and a major crisis, like the one that’s looming over northern Iraq, a place that the Turk will be stupid enough to invade, sooner or later.

My nephew, just like tens of thousands of other university students, has missed yet again the examination period at the university thanks to the complete chaos surrounding our “education” system. A couple I know are hastily selling some real estate to send both their children abroad although they are both excellent students who entered Athens University with ease and at the top of their classes.

On a lighter note, I’ve been able to obtain a bunch of episodes of Dad’s Army, one of the best BBC comedy sitcoms ever. The series run from 1968 to 1977 and was a smash hit then. Curiously, there isn’t much on DVD and I was surprised when I found through an American source this BBC release of four DVDs that was apparently made in the late 1990s. There’s lots of good laughs in watching the trials and tribulations of a Home Guard platoon deployed and waiting the Jerry invasion of England. If you’ve served in any armed forces, you’ll catch the nuances, too!

Another week, another handful of nearly worthless cents …

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