Monday, 14 March 2011

Cyprus crisis: conspiracies, cock-ups and political agendas


Manthos pointed me in the direction of the talk above by Andreas Constandinos on the junta’s coup against Makarios and the subsequent Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The talk emerges from Constandinos’ PhD thesis, published in book form as America, Britain and the Cyprus Crisis of 1974: Calculated Conspiracy or Foreign Policy Failure? which seeks to disprove the so-called conspiracy theories that predominate in the discourse on the events of 1974 – i.e. that America and the UK conspired with Turkey and Greece to bring about the downfall of the Republic of Cyprus as a prelude to partition of the island; and instead assert the cock-up theory – i.e. that the US and UK were largely caught unaware by the coup and the invasion and responded as they did not out of malice or careful calculation but because they failed to read Greek and Turkish intentions correctly. All in all, Constandinos says that, as far as the US and UK were concerned, the coup and invasion were far from a conspiracy to destroy the Republic of Cyprus but rather a foreign policy failure.

Constandinos’ thesis is flawed and implausible. In fact, it’s so flawed and implausible that it’s reasonable to conclude that he’s pushing a dubious political agenda. I’ll just make a few points, mostly about his attempts to exonerate the US from blame in the coup and invasion. I won’t go into his equally dubious effort to whitewash the UK’s role in the partition of Cyprus.


1. There is no Cyprus conspiracy theory in the way Constandinos thinks there is. Christopher Hitchens, who Constandinos accuses of being one of the main exponents of the conspiracy theory, prefers in his book Cyprus: Hostage to History to use the word  ‘collusion’ and not ‘conspiracy’. At no point does Hitchens argue that Kissinger or the British gave explicit instructions to the Greeks to overthrow Makarios or to the Turks to invade the island. Rather, Hitchens, as well as insisting on ‘collusion’, characterises US and UK policy as ‘careless’, ‘arrogant’, ‘cynical’ and infused with ‘imperial caprice’.


2. Asserting as Constandinos does that Kissinger was unaware of Greece’s coup plot and Turkey’s determination to invade is naively generous to the US secretary of state. The fact is that it was an open secret that Greece, for years, going back to 1964, had been considering a coup against Makarios and that Ioannides was more committed than his predecessors to bringing this plan to fruition. It was just as much an open secret that Turkey was itching to invade Cyprus and had nearly done so in 1964 and 1967, only stopping, not as Constandinos says – in another attempt to exonerate the US in Cyprus – because of pressure from Washington, but because the Turkish armed forces were not ready to launch such a major operation. It’s worth pointing out that in 1964, some American officials were actually urging the Turks to invade and assuring them that they would not face US censure. (See here for discussion of the Acheson plans and the US encouraging Turkey to invade Cyprus).


3. Despite the well-known role of the US and UK in the 1960s in destabilising the Republic of Cyprus in an effort to bring closer the implementation of the Acheson Plan, i.e. the partition of Cyprus, giving one part of the island to Greece and the other to Turkey, thus securing the whole for Nato and reconciling Greece and Turkey, Constandinos insists that with the Nixon administration this paranoid cold war mentality dissipated and that America and Cyprus had developed a modus vivendi – as exemplified by Makarios acquiescing in America’s use of the UK bases on the island for its U-2 missions in the Middle East. The earlier plans for a coup, invasion and partition had, according to Constandinos, apparently been forgotten by the Americans, by Kissinger et al.


This is not credible. There is no evidence that from 1968 the Americans were now favourably disposed to Makarios or that they had ceased to regard an independent and essentially non-aligned Cyprus, with its large and slavishly pro-Moscow communist party, which routinely opposed the presence of British and US military bases and listening posts on Cyprus, as a continuing threat to Western security interests. Nor would any supposed US rapprochement with Makarios have deflected the Americans from their more substantial interest of mollifying Turkey and Greece. In the case of Greece, this mollification involved  preserving the Greek junta in power and to this end, since Makarios was an affront to the junta, the Americans were more than happy to go along with Athens’ plans to do away with the ‘red priest’. It’s also worth stressing that EOKA B, the paramilitary group established on Cyprus in 1971 to further the junta’s goals on the island, was supported not just by Athens, as Constandinos says, but by the CIA.


4. We also know that the Americans viewed the coup against Makarios with sympathy not only because they did not see fit to condemn it but, in fact, the US began the process of recognising the new government and state of affairs created in Cyprus by Ioannides. It matters little whether Kissinger gave direct orders for the removal of Makarios – Constandinos’ anti-conspiracy theory heavily relies on his failure to find documents in the US archives that show Kissinger giving such orders; because we prefer to judge Kissinger and America’s role in the 1974 events not by what was said but by what was done – and whether what was done was in line with long-standing and known US policy, which it was, i.e. all American efforts in 1974 paved the way for the coup, the invasion and partition – and as such were the culmination of a policy initiated by the US State Department (with the support of the British) in 1964. Thus, we can say with certainty that despite knowing that the junta was in the final stages of plotting to oust Makarios, the US did not urge them to abandon their plans – which they would have done if, as Constandinos says, the Nixon administration was well disposed to Makarios. We also know that the coup having failed, with Makarios alive and able to claim to be the legitimate Cypriot head of state, the Americans, still determined to see through the dissolution of the Republic of Cyprus, decided to back Turkey, implicitly and explicitly, in its ambition to partition the island. So even though Constandinos wants us to believe that the Americans were caught unaware by the Turkish invasion, thought the threat of invasion was only a bluff, we know not only that US efforts to dissuade the Turks from invading were, at best, half-hearted, but that at the Geneva talks that followed the first invasion on 20 July, Kissinger spoke openly about Turkey’s legitimate interest in ‘protecting’ the Turkish Cypriots who, Kissinger helpfully added, deserved more ‘autonomy’. As such, the US did not condemn the second Turkish invasion on 14 August and, in fact, expended most of its diplomatic energy during this period urging Greece not to respond to Turkey’s advances on the island.


What then are we to make of an analysis like Constandinos’ that seeks to exonerate the US and UK from the events of 1974 and his efforts to heap all the responsibility for the tragedy onto the Greek junta – which he portrays as acting on its own or, Constandinos does concede (without, for some reason, it affecting for him his overall thesis), in collaboration with trusted Greek-American CIA agents? What we make of such an analysis is that it is part of a trend in certain British academic circles that busy themselves with Cyprus to portray Britain, in particular, as having a benign or neutral role in Cyprus, show America as a blundering imperial power manqué and trace all Cyprus’ woes to Greece, Greeks and Greek nationalism.

25 comments:

lastgreek said...

If this PhD thesis is accepted (has it been?), do we have to refer to this clown as "Dr Constandinos"?

This is Ground Control to "Dr." Constandinos. Do you copy "Dr." Constandinos? The Greek junta was the American government, dummy. "It [was] the best damn democracy since Pericles", for potato's sake.

In any case, PhDs in the social sciences should not be taken seriously ... nor social "scientists", for that matter.

John Akritas said...

I don't know if Constandinos is a clown, LG, and yes he is Dr Constandinos. But you are right, one of the flaws in his argument is to underestimate how fond the Americans were of the junta and how they were prepared to do pretty much anything to protect and enhance it – including going along with the overthrow of Makarios. Still, some of the more interesting bits in the talk are the references to the the venality of the junta – we forget these people were thieves as well as all the rest – and the paranoia of Ioannides. Constandinos suggests this paranoia meant he was beyond the control and influence of Kissinger and the State Department and relied instead on contacts with Greek-American CIA agents – but Constandinos, for some reason, doesn't seem to regard the CIA as part of the US government or of carrying out its policy. It also seems to me he wants to stress that these agents were Greek Americans in order to pile the blame for the coup on Greeks.

Hermes said...

Further to this, the machinery is working overtime to disconnect the Greeks of Cyprus from the rest of the Greeks:

http://infognomonpolitics.blogspot.com/2011/03/blog-post_3066.html

lastgreek said...

... but Constandinos, for some reason, doesn't seem to regard the CIA as part of the US government or of carrying out its policy

Exactly.

Has the good "Dr." been living in a cave the last two months? Has he not heard of the capture of CIA agent Raymond Davis who gunned down two Pakistanis in broad daylight in Lahore, Pakistan? The U.S. State Department has gone out of its way to demand diplomatic immunity for Davis, claiming him as one of their own officials--a U.S. government official!

Ground Control to "Dr." Constandinos: The U.S. has been conducting espionage operations against sovereign nations using the CIA before you were even born.

There, John. I said my piece :-)

John Akritas said...

Yes, H. I believe there is a long war being waged in Cyprus that aims at the dehellenisation and demoralisation of Cypriots. AKEL has always believed that Cypriots are not Greeks. I've heard them say that despite sharing the same language and so on we are no more Greeks than Australians are English. And certainly part of this process is seeking to interpret the coup and invasion as something to be pinned on Greece, and not on the British and Americans. Still, AKEL only manages to wield power because it has the support of (Tassos Papadopoulos') DIKO. I come from a family of DIKO supporters, who voted for Christofias as instructed in 2008. They won't be doing so again.

So determined, LG, is Constandinos is pin the coup entirely on Greece and Greeks that he wants us to believe that the Greek American CIA agents were acting as Greeks and not as Americans. I don't buy it. The junta, the CIA and the US government – symbiosis.

lastgreek said...

General Electric: We bring radiation--er, good things to life.

From ABC news:

Fukushima: Mark 1 Nuclear Reactor Design Caused GE Scientist To Quit In Protest

link: http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/fukushima-mark-nuclear-reactor-design-caused-ge-scientist/story?id=13141287

France's nuclear power plants are a government enterprise--built and run by the government, unlike the ones in Japan. Government. (That's a Greek word, you know.) They are one of the safest and most technologically advanced in the world. As a matter of fact, the Americans with all their no-how, are a generation behind the French when it comes to nuclear technology.

I, lastgreek, have spoken ;-)

lastgreek said...

"know-how"

lastgreek said...

For a live feed from Japan's international service broadcaster NHK WORLD . . .

http://www.livestation.com/channels/123-nhk-world-english

The helicopter water drops on reactor 3, that started about an hour ago, were suspended after only 4 drops. Radiation was just too high.

So, I read that U.S. officials are alarmed by the Japanese government's handling of events at Fukushima nuclear plants. Just one problem there: America's alarm is misplaced. The Japanese government is not in charge at Fukushima. That would be the private company TEPCO--Tokyo Electric Power Company, Inc.; Stock symbol 9501 trading on the Tokyo exchange.

There are still 200 workers in the plants risking their lives trying to prevent a nuclear disaster. They are heroes. Spartans. We are forever indebted to them.

lastgreek said...

What the hell!

From the BBC today (via one of my favourite financial bloggers market-ticker.com):

2226The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, quoting a senior official of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, said the US made the offer [to help] immediately after the disaster damaged Fukushima No 1 nuclear plant. According to the unnamed senior official, US support was based on dismantling the troubled reactors run by Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) some 250 km (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo.

Liik: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/9428501.stm

If this story turns out to be true, it would be the equivalent of the United States dropping a nuclear bomb on Japan.

Really, folks---The benign US government had no part in the rape of Cyprus. No, none whatsoever. It's true. Kissinger said so.

hotcargirl said...

H. Kissinger (whom I refer to as, 'the kiss' (i.e. Kiss of Death/just ask Cambodia and various other countries for clarification)), has deemed it necessary that all criteria pertaining to his decisions while in office not be released until five years after he has perished. Since he's still living...so much for the, "Freedom of Information Act" here in the U.S.

Anyone interested in the U.S. stance towards Greece and other countries (during the later stages of WWII and forward) should refer to Howard Blum's disturbing tome, "Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II." That's just a start. It is really unfortunate most are unfamiliar with the extent of corruption and deceit perpetrated upon the Greek people. First, by the Turks (which included a brutal occupation), next the Nazis, third (as well as a bit before) the British, and finally the Americans. Please know, though, there are many Americans who do not buy into such garbage pushed by our bought and paid for Congress.

As for Nippon/Nihon/Japan...I lived there for two years. Worked for a music magazine (and another Japanese company)...never, ever would I trust the government there--especially when one's health comes into play. It's not due to some nefarious "cover-up," but rather the overall need (quest) to avoid confrontation. If I learned anything while in East Asia it was the almost pathological desire to avert confrontation permeating throughout the mass population.

lastgreek said...

As for Nippon/Nihon/Japan...I lived there for two years.

Interesting article on Japan in zerohedge.com.

Land Of The Setting Sun

The linear thinkers that dominate the mainstream media and the halls of power in Washington D.C. are assessing the series of disasters in Japan without connecting the dots of history. Their ideological desire to convince people that things will go back to normal in short order flies in the face of the facts. It makes me wonder whether these supposed thought leaders lack true intelligence or whether their ideological biases convince them to lie. At the end of the day . . .

http://www.zerohedge.com/article/guest-post-land-setting-sun

John Akritas said...

It's true HCG that Greece has been enthral to foreign occupation, interference and so on for far too long; though, it's also true that, like the Turks did in the 1960s, it's about time Greece snapped out of it.

I've also got to admit a big soft spot for Japan – the only other country in the world, in my book, which has done things down the centuries as remotely as interesting as our own, and it would be a shame to see it go down the tubes and be replaced by the Chinese, who I don't like and who've got nothing to offer the world – apart from cheap labour.

hotcargirl said...

Thanks for the link, lg.

John, I too have a soft spot for the people of Nihon (Japan), not so much for their government--especially the one of today. They are very proud of their culture and have reason to be. It's just unfortunate their current "leaders" don't reflect the same passion. Unfortunately, a lot of govs are that way today. Currently, it seems the less a country has to offer, the more they are gaining control over world events.

I'm not too thrilled about the rise of China myself for similar reasons. I find it interesting how the worldwide msm outlets attempt to paint the growing power of the Chinese as both inevitable and something to celebrate. In reality, it's not. I put faith in the cyclical nature of world events.

John Akritas said...

It's good that the Japanese are proud of their culture. I can't say I have a great knowledge of it, except that when I watch films by Takeshi Kitano and Akira Kurosawa – and I don't just mean the Kurosawa samurai films, but the Dostoyevskian ones too, especially his version of The Idiot – then it is obvious to me that the Japanese have a culture capable of depth and sophistication, a sense of the tragic, which only Greece can match and surpass. There's something bothers me about the Chinese. The culture doesn't appeal to me. For me, the Japanese with their asceticism and simplicity are Greek and the Chinese with their love of luxury, effeminacy and gaudiness are Persians. (I appreciate that Japan is perhaps nowadays a little less ascetic and more gaudy than it used to be).

hotcargirl said...

"It's good that the Japanese are proud of their culture. I can't say I have a great knowledge of it, except that when I watch films by Takeshi Kitano and Akira Kurosawa – and I don't just mean the Kurosawa samurai films, but the Dostoyevskian ones too, especially his version of The Idiot – then it is obvious to me that the Japanese have a culture capable of depth and sophistication, a sense of the tragic, which only Greece can match and surpass."

I like "Beat Takashi" as well. And, if you like the non-samurai Kurosawa films, you should check out Masaki Kobayashi's "The Human Condition." The tragic, depth and sophistication are all included (may not surpass Greece but certainly does come close to matching).

Kobayashi-sama was a contemporary of Kurosawa but was very discriminating when it came to his work and the material he chose. I personally believe he's better than A. Kurosawa. The aforementioned film is believed by many, in the film industry, to be one of the best ever made regarding war and man's inhumanity to man. Stanley Kubrick said it was an inspirations for his, "Full Metal Jacket." The film still holds the record as the longest running coming in at: 574 minutes (9 hours and some minutes). Sometimes it's still shown as a trilogy. I've included a link below.

http://www.filmforum.org/films/human.html

It is about the build up then entry of Imperial Japan re: WWII. The story is told through the eyes of Kaji, a (pacifist) labor camp supervisor turned (reluctant) Imperial Army soldier then becoming a Soviet POW. Throughout it all, he's his own man despite the chaos occurring around him. Well worth seeing for all cinema lovers.

Concerning the present: Yes, Japan's current society is less ascetic than in previous eras but since the economy has been in the doldrums for over a decade now (and with the unfortunate triple tragedies hitting it recently)--some believe they have no choice but to return to asceticism and a penchant for saving. Stoicism is still very prevalent within the fabric of their way of life. Also, to their advantage, they still have politicians at the local level who are not afraid to speak out and attempt to implement plans that benefit Japan as a whole as opposed to foreign governments and their cronies. It's the ones on the national level who are mostly suppliant or sell-outs to foreign interests (or just greedy). They may be on their way out soon. We'll see.

My limited interaction with Chinese in China left me with pretty much the same impression you described. Not passing judgement. Just not for me. Despite my moniker, I'm not into ostentatious people or things. Hot Car Girl refers to an old 50s film. The score was done by one of my favorite jazz musicians: Cal Tjader.

John Akritas said...

I like the sound of Kobayahsi, whose films I'm ashamed to say I've not seen. I'm putting that right as we speak. A nine hour epic on the build up to WW2 sounds right up my street, as does Kobayahsi's versions of Lefkadio Hearn. I knew Hearn's stuff had been made into film, but didn't know who had done them.

Hot Car Girl is on youtube. I watched it. A very sordid film. I liked it. Poor Duke, he didn't have a chance. The fates were against him. Just like Clyde Barrow.

hotcargirl said...

John, he wasn't as personable or as "marketable" as Kurosawa so, his name (and work) isn't as well known. He didn't enter the film industry to be "popular" but rather, to have the stories of Japan and its culture understood (so to speak) by the world. I love his rendition of Lefkadio Hearn's "Kwaidan." It's like viewing a piece of art come to life--especially "Hoichi the Earless." I don't mean to go on and on about Kobayashi but I believe you are in for a treat.

Hot Car Girl is sordid but has a quiet appeal that other films in its particular genre missed or didn't quite achieve. I was unaware it's on youtube. Thx for letting me know.

lastgreek said...

I came across this article from the London Daily Telegraph's blog (via another site--and yes, I read everything) by Ed West, dated March 15,2011, and titled "Why is there no looting in Japan". Quite popular, actually. The comments to the article are nearly up to 4000!

The link: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100079703/why-is-there-no-looting-in-japan/


We all recall the widespread looting and other criminal activity that took place after Hurricane Katrina. Why not in Japan? What about the Greeks if God forbid Athens or some other large city were devasted by a terrible calamity. How would the Greeks react?

To what can we attribute the admirable behaviour of the Japanese (notwithstanding big business and government lies)? Is it their cultural homogeneity? The lack of class division? High I.Q.?

Anonymous said...

lastgreek said...
"I came across this article from the London Daily Telegraph's blog (via another site--and yes, I read everything) by Ed West, dated March 15,2011, and titled "Why is there no looting in Japan". Quite popular, actually. The comments to the article are nearly up to 4000!

The link: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100079703/why-is-there-no-looting-in-japan/

We all recall the widespread looting and other criminal activity that took place after Hurricane Katrina. Why not in Japan? What about the Greeks if God forbid Athens or some other large city were devasted by a terrible calamity. How would the Greeks react?
To what can we attribute the admirable behaviour of the Japanese (notwithstanding big business and government lies)? Is it their cultural homogeneity? The lack of class division? High I.Q."

LG, I've actually had some back and forth discussions with ex pats about this. Apologies for the lengthy response but this is not a subject which can be easily defined with one or two sentences. The many comments to the article is proof, right? Here's my take.
PART I
Without going through the comments--I'd have to say it's a combination concerning the lack of "glaring" class division coupled with cultural pride founded in honor. The homogeneity of the populous only reinforces the belief that they are one people where an individual's actions reflects rather strongly not just on the person or even his family, but rather the entire people--all Japanese. Some call it "group think" or intelligence. I don't see it being specifically one factor.

I believe this behavior stems from Japan being an island nation with very few natural resources. Throughout their entire history (or what's been recorded) they've always had to rely on themselves so to speak. And, when elements were scarce, two actions consistently occurred: 1) they sought those resources elsewhere (China, Korea, So. East Asia, parts of Russia et cetera) and 2) anyone not contributing to the community, hence had lost their purpose to exist, was either banished or committed suicide so as not to burden anyone. Prior to WWII, they were never conquered and ruled by a foreign foe or decisively defeated so the internal belief they were also the "chosen" people was strongly held. And, being such, they were divinely responsible for civilizing all the gaijin (others/non-Japanese).
Another unspoken factor is religion. Shintoism (nature & emperor worship) and Buddhism are the main "faiths." Even though a significant majority are not practicing, the principles are embedded into the social fabric. In general, there is no heaven or hell in either faiths (at least not the way the West would define them in the "afterlife sense"). So, dishonor is the equivalent of what the West calls the ultimate sin or unthinkable shame. These are the two worst principles one can bring upon their family and all Japanese. Nihon-jin who shame the Japanese in any way are still punished severely (as in financially and sometimes commit jisatsu/suicide) to this day. I won't go into examples but it still persists more or less.

There are admirable qualities to their culture but as an American, I prefer Western culture. The one reason: compassion and creativity. There is an emotional coldness to Japan that I could never shake. You always felt that you were expendable in one way or another. It's hard to explain and had nothing to do with me being a gaijin or a woman. Some Japanese told me they felt the same. It is one of the reasons I knew I could never live there longer than I did.

Anonymous said...

PART II

Getting back to your question as to why the Japanese behave so admirably during times of disaster and chaos--it comes back to their cultural conditioning I briefly touched upon above. At least that's my observation. And, one does not necessarily have to be Japanese to behave this way. The longer myself and other Westerners lived there--the more our behavior and habits began to micmic theirs. It was on a subconscious level, really. This applies to any foreign person living in a non-native land who respects their host country. When one doesn't respect or know the history of another, I believe that's when you have societal problems which Greece, Great Britain, France and other countries are experiencing now with their immigrant population.

There is an animosity held by a significant number of foreigners in those nations along with a lack of willingness by the respective governments to properly define their history and uphold a respect for their cultural traditions. Actually here in the U.S. and in particular, California, it's bad as well.
There's no cohesion. If a nation does not properly define and uphold it's culutural beliefs there is no harmony between it's citizens and immigrants. Confusion, competition and finally a breakdown between those native to the land and those who are not usually manifest. One does not respect a system they believe have made them "victims." Sometimes, native inhabitants hold just as much scorn toward their own government.You mentioned Hurricane Katrina. Most of those people had no pride in the U.S. prior to the levees breaking. And, if there's no connection to where you live or a sense of belonging, people very easily act out of self-interest. It doesn't matter your economic bracket. It may depend on your educational level to an extent but overall, people who don't care about their nation, could care less about keeping law and order in times of disaster. Other factors are included with Hurricane Ka trina (such as gun violence, rape, lack of food and shelter) but overall, if one doesn't feel like they "belong" there can never be social order and harmony.

California is experiencing this as we speak. Victor Davis Hanson's book, "Mexifornia: a State of Becoming" paints this grim picture extremely well. I don't mind people speaking more than one language. But, if the official language is English and you chose not to learn--then how are you going to fit in and contribute in any meaningful way to a community? How can you feel you belong to a society if you are consistently attempting to change the one you live in to reflect your own homeland? Why not just return to where you came from and improve economical conditions there? It sounds harsh but why change something into a place you "escaped" from in the first place? It makes no logical sense.

Moi said...

PART III

A lot of Western nations have little to no employment opportunities for their own citizens so, how is it you will do better in a foreign land (West) than your own homeland? I wouldn't want to live in a country I didn't respect or like or disagreed with their history. I don't understand the rationale. Too many Western governments are weak and could care less about social cohesion or taking pride in the traditions that made them a success. Political correctness is an anathema and has created only more division between people in the West and untold, unnecessary problems. We need policies that are truthful, logical, brutally honest and to the point. If the West wants to reach a level where our citizens react or behave such as those in Japan during times of social strife or upheaval--we first must educate ourselves as to what makes us who we are and to take pride in our cultural traditions.

A good friend of mine is a classicist major. He believes the foundation of the West owes its existence (and I'm paraphrasing): Hellenic Intellect, Roman Law and Mysticism of the Soul. Call me naive, but if more people (in the West) today honored this belief then perhaps we could take pride in our past, cultivate and elect genuine leaders and begin behaving in a manner that's more productive to advancing civilization as opposed to passively standing by as our societies and way of life continue to unravel under the watch of weak, avaricious and uncultured government entities.

-HCG

John Akritas said...

Just a few thoughts on what you say here, HCG, which is very compelling. Regarding shame and honour, this is addressed right at the very start of the Western tradition, in Homer. Achilles and Ajax, I guess, represent the Japanese tradition. Ajax unable to live with shame is prepared to, literally, fall on his sword; while someone like Odysseus can accept any humiliation because he always has in mind the next day and his ultimate goal. This is also represented in the poem by Archilochos:
Some Saian mountaineer

Struts today with my shield.

I threw it down by a bush and ran
When the fighting got hot.
Life seemed somehow more precious.
It was a beautiful shield.
I know where I can buy another
Exactly like it, just as round.


The Greeks, it seems to me, prefer the pragmatism of Odysseus and Archilochus to the attitudes of Achilles and Ajax, which they find extreme and intolerable. Perhaps the Spartans, with their 'with it or on it' mentality have something in common with the Japanese; but, in the West, despite all our admiration for Sparta, its hold on our imaginations, ultimately we frown on its narrow view of life and the social and mental repression needed to be a Spartan.

As for looting and social cohesion, do we know for sure that there was no criminality after the tsunami? I've always thought Japan had a strong tradition of criminality, or maybe I've watched too many yakuza films. It's also possible that despite the tsunami, social order hadn't completely broken down and that the victims still felt part of society, which is why they didn't resort – if they didn't resort – to that which is more in keeping with human nature, which is when you no longer have to obey the law or the rules of society, then more primitive instincts take over – killing, raping, looting. Thucydides on the Athens Plague is instructive here. Also, I suppose this sense of extreme self-regard which you say the Japanese have has to depend on extreme contempt for 'outsiders' or 'the other', which explains why the Japanese (and the Germans and the Turks before them) in the second world behaved so viciously with non-Japanese. In the West, we've now become so repelled by the idea of contempt for the other that we've gone the other way, which is to find virtue in him/her, even where it doesn't exist.

Anonymous said...

John Akritas said...

"Just a few thoughts on what you say here, HCG, which is very compelling. Regarding shame and honour, this is addressed right at the very start of the Western tradition, in Homer. Achilles and Ajax, I guess, represent the Japanese tradition. Ajax unable to live with shame is prepared to, literally, fall on his sword; while someone like Odysseus can accept any humiliation because he always has in mind the next day and his ultimate goal. This is also represented in the poem by Archilochos: 
Some Saian mountaineer

Struts today with my shield.

I threw it down by a bush and ran 
When the fighting got hot.
Life seemed somehow more precious.
It was a beautiful shield.
I know where I can buy another
Exactly like it, just as round.

The Greeks, it seems to me, prefer the pragmatism of Odysseus and Archilochus to the attitudes of Achilles and Ajax, which they find extreme and intolerable. Perhaps the Spartans, with their 'with it or on it' mentality have something in common with the Japanese; but, in the West, despite all our admiration for Sparta, its hold on our imaginations, ultimately we frown on its narrow view of life and the social and mental repression needed to be a Spartan."

MY RESPONSE: Thanks for the example. I agree.

As for looting and social cohesion, do we know for sure that there was no criminality after the tsunami? I've always thought Japan had a strong tradition of criminality, or maybe I've watched too many yakuza films.

I did hear of one bank that is missing thousands of yen but there has been little to no reporting about it. Even if there was looting and whatnot--it's been on such a small scale when compared to most other countries that the MSM probably figure it's not worth promoting. Also, probably trying to give Japan some positive points in the midst of all the negative circumstances currently plaguing them. In regards to yakuza, during the Kobe earthquake in 1995, the yakuza was the first "institution" to aid the citizens in Osaka with water and shelter. They were actually more organized than the safety services such as firemen and police. This did not sit well with older people. LOL

"Also, I suppose this sense of extreme self-regard which you say the Japanese have has to depend on extreme contempt for 'outsiders' or 'the other', which explains why the Japanese (and the Germans and the Turks before them) in the second world behaved so viciously with non-Japanese. In the West, we've now become so repelled by the idea of contempt for the other that we've gone the other way, which is to find virtue in him/her, even where it doesn't exist."

MY RESPONSE: I never thought about it from that angle. It would explain the gross maltreatment toward non-Japanese during that time. Faint traces still exist (in a mental capacity) yet not on the same scale. I call it polite racism (if that could be a term). Some hold a form of "pity" toward gaijin as in, 'it's unfortunate you're not Japanese.' It's interesting to say the least. Not a lot feel this way but I encountered enough people to realize they still believe the Japanese way is more civilized and superior to other cultures. Like I stated before, there is a lack of compassion that can be a bit wearing. As to your other point: The West needs to realize there's no harm in acknowledging not every culture holds virtue and equality as being necessary. One isn't harboring any contempt by being genuinely aware of what type of person or tradition they have relations with or encounter.

lastgreek said...

Thanks, HCG. I enjoyed reading your postings.

John,

Ajax unable to live with shame is prepared to, literally, fall on his sword

There is perhaps no other figure in the Iliad as tragic as the formidable Ajax. You know, Helen had her eye on him ;-)

The Greeks, it seems to me, prefer the pragmatism of Odysseus ...

In the compound epithets that Homer regularly uses to describe the swift-footed Odysseus, was is most interesting is that most start with the word "poly". Some examples: Polymechanos. Polymetis. Polyphron. Polytlas. A man for all seasons. Sure , he wasn't one of the best Greek fighters at Troy. But this much was certain: You couldn't launch an expedition without him. He was the man!

Andra moi ennepe, Mousa.

J, if a man such as Odysseus were alive today, do you think such a great man would bow his head to the Lederhosens and Turks like our Greeks of today? Not a bloody chance in hell.

I know you're not going to like me saying this, but I am going to say it. The Greeks of today are a far cry from their glorious ancestors.

Loukas Leon said...

J., have you ever heard of 'Exercise Deep Furrow'? According to one author:

'EOKA was never destroyed, though neither did it achieve its aim of Enosis. The Turkish invasion of 1974 (rehearsed during Exercise Deep Furrow, a major NATO exercise, in September 1973) put paid to any such aspirations.'

SOURCE: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=uQ3HJIiYq2MC&pg=PA120&lpg=PA120&dq=rehearsed+during+exercise+deep+furrow&source=bl&ots=nFw602f9sk&sig=SFtb57mwL8RZJgH2PaBFJYkM9A0&hl=en&sa=X&ei=HMHsUNyLOcaW0QWc5YH4CA&sqi=2&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=rehearsed%20during%20exercise%20deep%20furrow&f=false