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Friday, June 02, 2017

Narratives of a Greek Tragedy

Tragedy is all too human. The Greek word "tragedy" is derived from "goat-singers", and it seems the dramatisation of our human narrative - in Greek form at least - may have come from dance and sacrifice.

This feels apt when I take a look at the Cyprus issue. Dancing around the issues and stubbornly refusing to compromise: I am reminded of singing goats as both sides played the blame game with the long expected and highly anticipated collapse of the Cyprus talks process.

The Turkish Cypriot president placed the blame on the shoulders of his Greek Cypriot counterpart who responded in kind; but the process has been in deadlock for decades. It will remain this way because the Cypriot reality today is a microcosm of the world at large.

When I first started this blog I was working in Cyprus, and I saw firsthand how the human narrative is good at fostering a historical grudge. The blame game is a much accustomed traditional final game of each and every Cyprus exercise since the first talk in Beirut in 1968, and with the global situation less conducive than ever towards peaceful solutions, if it didn't happen then, there is even less inducement for it to happen now.

It doesn't matter that, as former Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Rolandis put it many times over the past decade, each time it was always the Greek Cypriot side that killed and buried prospects of resolution on Cyprus. I saw that for myself when in April 2004, just a week before their unilateral EU accession and with a clear upper hand, Greek Cypriots flatly rejected a UN-sponsored peace plan.

During the most recent talks, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias was blamed for derailing the Cyprus talks, after he "went rogue" and disrupted fragile talks in Geneva. It was reported that he would be kept out of future negotiations to reunify Cyprus, but the island, like the world, will be entering an explosive period with any peaceful solution left on paper.

This isn't cynicism talking, it's realism. It's a human narrative that says differences should divide rather than be used as an opportunity to unite.

Fabula Crepidata

The human narrative is a very fucked up one. It is often irrational, delinear and delusional, not to mention eccentric and ego-centric. But it can also be moving, loving, compassionate and kind. Sometimes it can be a bit of both in an interwoven tapestry of tragedy: Loving mothers can spout hateful narratives, caring brothers can turn theirs into murder.

Marina Hyde, writing in The Guardian has taken Katie Hopkins to task over her hate peddling against Muslims at every opportunity, and most recently with the Manchester terror attack. To Hyde, Hopkins is not being very British, because to her British values encompass facing adversity with humour and dignified resolution.

In that, Hyde says, Hopkins could take a leaf out of the book of Martyn Hett's mum and brother. While Hopkins continues with her persecution mania and Christ complex and preaches hate from her Twitter pulpit, Hyde is saying look at this Turkish mum and her son who lost a loved one in the Manchester bombing. Their humour and dignity in the face of such great loss is what our British values is all about.

Hyde is wrong, sadly. It is Hopkins' reaction that is the more British of the two - just look at Manchester bombing victim Georgina Callander's family. They hit out at the Government over her death, saying it must "open its eyes" or more parents will lose children to terror. The media focus is on Hett's family because it makes for a better story than the one where almost every other British family who has lost a loved one in an attack is baying for Islamic blood.

Naturally these are families in mourning, and the grief process holds a lot of rage, but the Britishness Hyde thinks is encompassed by dignity is a myth. The human narrative doesn't work that way. As a community, Turkish Cypriots are small - there is just over a million of us across the world, and we were seen as threat even in our own country, to the extent our Greek neighbours tried to eradicate us over a British policy of partition. The dignity of the Hetts comes from the viewpoint of the minority: the understanding that difference is not the threat, but seeing difference as the threat is.

There was another Turkish victim in the recent terror attacks, this time the one in London two months ago. One of the victims of the terror attack at Westminster was identified as having a Turkish Cypriot father and a Spanish mother. Aysha Frade, mother-of-two, was as special and loving as Martyn Hett by all accounts, and her family's response just as dignified, if somewhat more muted. Her devasted Portuguese husband and two young daughters must feel unbelievable rage at their loss in their private moments - but nowhere have I read of Frade's family calling for the British public to rise up against a certain creed of people.

Does it take people of minority status to showcase the Britishness Hyde holds so dear? But this converseness isn't a white person thing, it's a majority thing. Countries where white people are not in the majority feel the same thing. An insightful article by actress Meghan Markle on finding her voice as a mixed race woman reveals it's common ground for anyone with minority status, to know what it feels like to be an outsider with a label attached to your skin.

The xenophobic rhetoric against Islam and Muslims employed by Hopkins and her cult, is the same one used by the so-called Islamic State against Christians. The Manchester bomber's sister - if her public statements are anything to go by - is under the same delusion.

Acta est Fabula

The sister of Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi believes her brother carried out the Manchester attack because he wanted revenge for US air strikes on Syria. Jomana Abedi said in an interview her brother was "kind and loving" and that she was surprised by what he did, but thought he was driven by America's military attacks in the Middle East.

I think he saw children - Muslim children - dying everywhere, and wanted revenge ... He saw the explosives America drops on children in Syria, and he wanted revenge. Whether he got that is between him and God."
- Jomana Abedi speaking to the Wall Street Journal

It's obvious that Jomana Abedi needs to watch Adam Curtis' film HyperNormalisation in which the cult doc-maker explores the falsity of modern life to actually learn a little about her own religion and what it says about revenge. The "eye for an eye" is Old Testament mojo and suicide bombing a 20th Century sect creation: committing suicide - for whatever reason - is a sin in Islam.

Abedi wasn't acting out of self-defence. His life wasn't threatened. The acts of taking his own life and the lives of children, no matter the reason, from a strict Islamic reading, are prohibited and it's clear where his belief says he is now. The dictats of Islam say mercy might be shown if he wasn't in his right mind, but else his soul is suffering its own private hell until the appointed time it goes to Hell proper. It sounds like it's just up Hopkins' street.

But as Curtis shows, corrupt a meaning or coin a mistaken phrase enough times and it becomes a reality. It doesn't matter how many times the word "jihad" is mentioned in Islam's bible (none) or its prophet's teachings (over a thousand), once you know its proper definition and context, you realise today's "jihadis" are not even that in name. But when reputable media sites like the BBC use the word to describe these maniacal killers, because this is how those deluded psychos see themselves, it plays into their fantasy. And it creates more modern day "jihadis".

This isn't a defence of Islam, it's a prosecution of the human narrative that makes it indefensible. What connects the majority of hate peddlers of every persuasion is the number of inaccurate, controversial, and untested assertions they make. In this the Manchester bomber's sister and Hopkins are bedfellows. The "kind and loving" people are invariably always the ones that are the victims of attacks perpetrated by people like Abedi or are the focus of verbal attacks like Hopkins.

As much as Abedi and Hopkins may both show human feelings to their "own kind", it's their lack of empathy towards difference that unites them in their extremist and narrow viewpoints. A kind and loving person doesn't kill kind and loving people. A kind and loving person doesn't peddle hate against a whole community. You won't find Hopkins lashing out at white extremists or mourning for the death of Muslim children.

But what bothers me the most is that so often it's the good people who are the victims. It's losing people like Martyn Hett and Aysha Frade that really stick in my gut. Or like the US man who died protecting two young women from anti-Muslim harassment. His mother rightly called him "a hero" who "will remain a hero" after his death. Or when I read about Turkey's first woman gendarmerie commander, Lt. Col. Songül Yakut, who lost her life in a recent helicopter accident along with 12 other soldiers.

Yakut was a Turkish lady devoted to duty, and well-known for her efforts over domestic violence against Kurdish women and young girls. She often visited Kurdish villages and listened to their problems regarding the issue and ran educational drives to better the lives of women.

As bad as losing good people like them is, filling the vacuum they leave with the vacuous rhetoric of Katie Hopkins and her ilk rubs salt in the wound. It's offensive, it's inhuman. But it's all too human, too. That's the real tragedy.

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