Athena. I’m sorry I have just been obsessed with…

Tim Hakki is a Londoner of Turkish Cypriot and Guyanese descent. He lives two floors below me, and studies at Oxford University. Amongst the many conversations we have, the Greco-Turkish conflict in Cyprus is a central interest to him, and as I am of Greek and Anatolian descent, we have been analysing the situation, in view of new governments, regional investment initiatives and international cooperation. The following article is Tim’s thesis on the issue, followed by my response.

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Athena. I’m sorry I have just been obsessed with Greco-Turkish history since I told you I began to study it. I have formed my conclusions based on a fuckton of new knowledge.

I love the Greek people and the Greek culture but that church is a real dirty piece of work. I just wanted to get them to stop dehumanising Muslims through their propaganda. It’s obvious that they don’t see them as humans but as infidels.

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The same can be seen in many Islamic fringe groups today, but the difference is that the majority of Islamic religious authorities denounce the use of violence. I have never seen any effort on the part of the church to do the same with their leaders.

The man who divided the Cypriots was archbishop Makarios. A man with three jobs. He was the leader of the Christians in Cyprus, he was the president of every Cypriot, and he was the commander of a large private army of ultra-nationalist Greeks. At one point, instead of my writing my novel, I told myself I wanted to understand, truly understand, what happened in Cyprus, rather than relying on the account of my family or the various Cypriots spewing lies at each other on various forums in a never-ending ethnic battle.

I watched documentaries made by Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots and British filmmakers and tried to get the most comprehensive view I could. It’s a very sad story what happened to the Cypriot people. The political context of these events was British rule. My grandmother grew up in a British dictatorship. It was a very efficient dictatorship. In the end, they made the island the fastest growing economy in the region.

The troubles started when the mainland church suddenly got expansionist ideas. Through Makarios, they convinced the Christians of the island that they belonged to Greece. Britain tried cracking down on dissent by hanging Cypriot youths who were encouraging Enosis. The murderous rage of the nationalists just grew and grew. Soon Cyprus was crawling in random acts of brutality towards its British citizens. The Muslim Cypriots at this point were not in the equation. They were viewed as a silent minority. Until Britain assembled an anti-terror force comprised exclusively of Turkish Cypriots. When the Christians saw their community leaders being arrested by Muslims they decided that they now had two enemies. Cue the massacres, rapes and ethnic cleansing of the island by Makarios’s private army EOKA. This, in turn, provoked Turkey to invade cuing massacres and rapes of their own by the occupation forces.

The biggest tragedy of Cyprus is how little control the Cypriots had over their own destiny. If Cyprus became a part of Greece then Britain would potentially lose their military bases there. This was a land grab by Greece which became an excuse for a land grab by Turkey. The Greeks were in the pockets of the Russians and the Turks were being backed by the British because of Cyprus became a part of Greece they would lose their military bases on the island. The Americans were backing both horses. At the end of the day, Cyprus happened because five nations that had nothing to do with the lives of the Cypriots saw the island as a giant fucking aircraft carrier. This has been to be of the most profound courses of study I’ve ever embarked on, and it’s really shown me the sickness of nationalism and its myths.

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Their point about the lives of Jesus and Muhammad took me a very long time to come back to. Though we can’t pretend to know the details, it’s generally accepted that Jesus was a pacifist and Muhammad was a war leader. 

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The big thing now is reunification. Both sides of Cyprus want it. But they have no idea what it would look like. I believe the best answer is a federal government, with two zones, north and south. Both Greece and Turkey have occupation forces there.

If I’m dead next morning it was the Eastern Orthodox Church that did it.

Tim

 

My response:

The diplomatic dynamics in the region will not volunteer discussions on reunification.

In Turkey, Erdogan is strengthening his political power with human rights abuses, effectively distancing his government from the prospect of European cooperation.

In Greece, you have a far-right state pushing orthodox Christianity as a fundamental representation of Greek identity and anything Muslim (including the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Syrian refugees) as a threat. The days of Nobel Prizes won by greek islands for their humanitarian work in the refugee crisis are long gone. The current government is shrinking the state like any populist conservative government does, reducing the role of education, institutions, health and welfare in development, whilst pointing the finger of blame to those outside the power held by political elites, or power to influence or inflict any damage in corrupt undertakings.

The last positive diplomatic action in the region, between North Macedonia and Greece, under the centrist-left governments, saw Tsipras loose the elections (albeit by a close margin) because Greeks were sold the lie the Prespa agreement signed-off their land over to Macedonians, and at risk of losing their national identity too.

The Road and Belt investments in Eurasia are being too China and Russia-centric for Europe and the Brits to feel comfortable with. The loaning conditions to fragile European and African economies are a point of  contest, and reinforcing China’s soft power diplomacy.

I don’t think the British, or Europe, will allow Greece (even if Greece was in a position to ie. under a politically different government) to sign-off a reunification deal. Turkey wouldn’t want it too. As recent as 2018, tensions quickly grew on the identification of sources of gas near the island. Turkey was not shy attempting to claim it. 

If you really think about it, the island itself has little value to economies, so its population is worthless to politicians too. Not big enough to produce anything at scale (apart from Haloumi cheese the Chinese love and have been ordering by the ton).  Yet it has a geopolitical position of importance, and in combination with the potential of natural resource explorations and the  further tensions arising from common pool resource governance debates, it is very unlikely either side of the diplomats would bring up the idea of reunification.

Because at the end of the day, even under miraculous conditions, a local leader/President/PM will still need to identify with either of the two main religions to even stand a chance of being listened to by either camp. Likewise, any extractive generated wealth will need split between one, or another camp, to serve the interests of the political donors.

And more so, how likely is that, for a post-colonial little island surrounded by strategically positioned near dictatorship run neoliberal governments aspiring to Thatcherism structured on theological approaches to socio-economic development inspired by Adam Smith’s mythological ‘Invisible hand of the economy’ economics?

Unless of course, they ban religious representations.

But really, how likely is that in a place that has been defined by religious conflict ever since it went into conflict with itself?

Chances are slim.

Love,

Athina

 

April 2020, the month of coronavirus lockdown. My breathing exercises in spring views of East London, UK

I would like to start this blogpost acknowledging this has been one changeable mood kind of a month.

It begun in semi frustration and acceptance: this is what we need to do and we commit to it. Blindfolded into commitment, no questions asked. Then days, then weeks passed. The exhaustion of changing habits in and out of home. The disappointment of realising you can’t walk into this pub, or straight into the shop, they are either shut, or there is a queue. You can’t hug your friend or pat the back of your neighbour. And that cycle route you always thought as the best, is out of bounds, too many runners using the tow path and daddies training their little ones to cycle. So forced into rediscovering your vicinity in new conditions, you get to become the tourist again, and that is cool.

Then the important stuff happening unnoticed until you think there’s value in the time you have saved from travelling and all the social stuff you can no longer do. So talking to friends and neighbours you end up rocking up to a community space in a church build on the ruins of one that was built in the 1600s, thinking you’re not the religious type but there are enough Muslim kids and white working class families about to take the edge off.

Next thing you’re committed and talking to new people. That guy is familiar, of course he is in and out of my block, and we chat, I hear the news and off we go.

Those who are organising everything, early on in the outbreak, with little knowledge of the impact yet without hesitation, they set up shop quickly. They asked and got donations, listened unjudgmentally to the community’s input, and attracted people of all ethnicities and faiths to help. They reassigned resources quickly. The initial food was delivered to 40 odd people three times a week and now it has grown to double of that.

Today, the last day of April feels like a halfway point on a long holiday. It’s been thrilling, confusing, too long, too short, too busy, and now seems to be going too fast and to be true, I don’t want it to end yet, but I do want to be able to make plans for the future.

Somehow the reality is: I can’t, and none of us can.

As we will gradually re-enter a version of normality in the coming months, there will be plenty of vulnerable people who will still not be able to leave their home. This help will not stop with our needs being met, and not until they have their fully met. It has been challenging at times running up and down unfamiliar estates, motivating oneself to get out, cover up, do your deed, run home, take everything off, clean everything, shower. Yet it’s been worth it. The smiles, the chats, the waves, the odd requests, or the kind wishes and offers. It all makes it so special.

This month has also been one where I covered nearly 200km cycling. It’s not a lot, however in addition to my training, and the bursting energy of spring colours and smells, there was plenty of visual richness to record.

The blog and the photos are dedicated to the community leaders, and those who need their swift action. They are being both my inspiration and motivation throughout the past six weeks and the very out of the ordinary month of April 2020.

Canary Wharf

Even more so, this month I hope does not go by forgotten. Everyone has been affected by it and I purposely included the empty canary wharf development. No one is immune to this and I hope this chance for a level playing field is finally grasped like the breath of fresh air we so much need.

Pandemics know no gender, but people still discriminate through a gender lens

I was reading yesterday the public outcry and condemnation of the actions of the Chief Medical officer of Scotland; she was caught traveling to her second residence and also walking her dog with her family. Yes, it was after she advised us to stay in. And after she estimated the number of cases in Scotland could be as high as 65,000 and not the reported ones. To be honest, I do not think we will ever know the real figures…who is tested, how it is reported, how numbers are collected and validated are way more challenging than we would ever know. It is evident that people are even struggling with putting the figures in a chart as it happened with the one publicised from Fox news where the y-axis had no constant measure but equal distance between the units.

Leaving statistics aside, what impressed me was the response of this (admittedly) naughty action by the female Chief Medical Officer. I do not condone the actions but let’s back track for a while: the lockdown rules state stay at home. No explicit explanations were made for which home to account for the case of lucky ones that have multiple residences (I know, the tyranny of merit…). So, the standards and operating procedures were wide open to interpretation due to their lack of adequate information (I am a quality engineer and it shows). It can be argued that this is a cheeky approach or a loophole but it does not make it go away: there was not enough definition. Not for the only one mind you…can we go for a walk for 500 miles, how can we stay 2 meters apart from the till operators (another set of heroes) in the shops – who has such long arms?

What is interesting now, is that Dr Calderwood is not the first one that did that but the first one who was shamed for that. Prince Charles travelled during the UK lockdown from his main residence in Clarence House, London while reportedly showing mild symptoms, to his Balmoral Estate. Which is obviously more than 1 hr drive – the duration between Dr Calderwood’s residencies. The duration is more than 1 hr flight, even with the private jet actually. I did not see any front line pages condemning the Prince of Wales’ move. I did not see any social media hashtags trending asking for explanations or more. Coincidence, you say?

If we look a bit closer we will find more examples of how gender does matter when it comes to how the public judges political figures. How the unconscious bias (hmm, perhaps conscious) even report on events and crimes during this time through a biased gender lens. The Secretary of Health and Social Care was reportedly showing signs of COVID-19 but he did not self-isolate for 14 days as he instructed us to do. Which, I think is much worse on impact than escaping to the countryside. He was also seen outside the Nightingale hospital with people behind him not exactly social distancing.

Then it is the wonderful press with the sometimes dramatic headlines: “man struggles with lockdown and kills his wife..”, “frustrated man, unemployed during the lockdown knifes his partner..”. Words used to alleviate the responsibility from the actions and the gender. But then you have the other side “humiliated Nicola Sturgeon”; “she defended her choice”, words that make a strong woman look less than that. This is not a political statement. This is a call to stop the witch hunting…funny that it was not branded as wizard hunting.

Oh, and stay safe…in your main residence. We are lucky to have one.

Evi Viza, CQI, MIET.

Lifebuoy

During the Covid-19 pandemic, mindfulness, video calls, checking-in on friends and neighbours, social distancing and exercising, have become the norm of daily life prescriptions.

Recommendations on finding meaning in small things and appreciating the moment of what we have, to adjust from our fast paced life, have been a challenge for many. Yet, there is beauty around that for those operating in high levels of anxiety or to-do projects and achievement-oriented mentality, has been marginalised in view of personal gratifications and quick wins.

The Covid-19 situation has highlighted the reality of our unsustainable living, exemplified in shopping habits, sociopathic needs, drama karma, and neediness for external gratification.

Yet, the ample emergence of existing situations that have been in existence parallel to modern human material and immaterial condition, are increasingly claiming a place to the forefront of service and significance.

In the current re-adjustments of living and requirements new pressure points can afford us to look and really see.

Squid, remodelling needs

In one of my last dissertation supervision sessions, my supervisor asked me which animal species are thriving at present?

I took a couple of guesses none of which were right.

I was trying to join the dots between his question and my dissertation topic, which was a comparative study between the political economy of the Sami and the Inuit. I just couldn’t see where he was leading onto.

Jonathan went on to say it is the squid. And the reason for it, is that whilst fishing has focused on other species, the squid had the opportunity to multiply in swarms.

He went on to explain that the obvious answers are not always the correct ones. I suppose he was trying to tell me by focusing on one thing we assume as the path to survival, there are emerging occurrences we leave unnoticed.

I since then took to noticing squid more often.

Walking down SE Division Street. Portland, OR, past Whiskey Soda Lounge with Tim, I took this.

In one way, the story is that of silver linings behind a cloudy day. We are seeing changes to our lives that we have not entertained in detail of how they will be affecting our emotional needs and resilience.

Making a smoothie cocktail with Craken is my resilience recipe for the odd night now we are spending a lot more time at home. And enjoying it over a long video chat to the wee hours of the day.

We know in times of uncertainty there are certain parameters we can measure against, and work towards, to meet those needs.

 

Our needs are not only our own. They are universal values our humanity exists by. When these are threatened, or placed in new unfamiliar conditions, there’s a couple of things we can do to refocus.

The top ten commandments of emotional needs are:

Connection

Attention

Privacy

Autonomy

Security

Wider community

Friendship

Competence

Achievement

Meaning & purpose

The overarching point I see across the list of emotional needs, is intimacy.

Intimacy in a non sexual way.

But the space where two people connect over a unique shared experience that rings emotions of belonging, and trust, for both of them.

We are all interconnected. Even at times when we may feel that life becomes unfamiliar, rather than trying to regain a sense of control, our biggest strength may be in our capacity to reflect, learn and evolve.

I don’t know much, but situations like today’s offer a unique chance, that of a lifetime, to improve and rejoin community with renewed values of what we need and how to approach what we have and what presents itself before us.

 

American man

I grew up thinking of America as this homogenically superficial space fuelled by ignorance and ultra-arrogance imposed by the sound of mad dogs and gun shots in the background. A war within itself.


In the politics and economics of the past thirty years, the trajectory of individualism is a response to the controversy of sharing all, in post anti communism, Cold War era.

This skewed anti reality brewed the covering of the reduction of basic human rights, presented as anti-terror securities to the average folk, and messed up the minds and values of many alike. This was easily absorbed by a weak societal structure in the US that without free access to health, education or meaningful work opportunities, beyond the concept of self-sale, left people scraping by for the ‘mana’. The lack of cultural references, families or friendships providing emotional support systems can not be bought by insurance companies.

In adulthood, we are all paving our way on our own but the multilayered toxicity of American neoliberalism has easily spread a virus with the language of non sense – what people can’t understand conceptually, can’t analyse and therefore are open to manipulation, misinterpretation, abhorrent expressions – they don’t even make sense to those that speak of them.

Today, this translates into the extremist mini-anti-cultures surviving by a bashing each others’ existence in perpetuation.

Jamali Maddix got a few of them covered for Vice.

Bunches of incoherent folks at each other’s throats, caricaturing a very simple and singular dimension as a version of society. We can critique the social movements for not establishing fundamental change but they are not ripping cultures apart or marginalising what holds as a resource of existence to the average folk.

For many on the outside of US, the scene is hopeless and bleak. For many on the outside, we can’t help but romantisize for a mind shift by the immense phoenix like male figures that despite the union’s level of absence in communal conscience, they have held a string light for long enough to beam their connection with and faith in humanity and in hope for a realignment of the American dream. They have the knowledge that one’s resources are equally owned and interconnected by everyone on the planet. Physical and emotional cultural references matter, the intangible connections energise the common pool.

Ultimately, isolationists are believing that by fighting everyone off to protect their patch of land, they will not end up finding out they are fighting against themselves, which they know its not only unsustainable, but plain self destructive and stupid. Sum it up in the simple lesson of the flowers and the bees.

My gratitude goes out to the two American men that know too well where the concept of the American dream really can stem from and what it could really translate into in the daily routes of American self identification. It is a work that will take a generation or two, and these men hold the tortch for the way there.

Respect to Neil Young

Respect for Bernie Sanders

Francesco Clemente pastels, an Art show review

Can’t say I knew much about this artist. A big fan of Levy Gorvy gallery, we went there unplanned to check what wonderful work they would have had on show.

Linking the concept of body and mind, Clemente, with soft pastel presentations, unravels stories of primal desires and sexual exposures whilst taking on representations of portraits and bodily figures on their own or in intimate interactions to challenge the angle of societal and cultural assumptions of the psyche.

https://www.levygorvy.com/exhibitions/francesco-clemente-pastels/

Sensational layouts; a short story of photojournalism in tabloits

Restricted images hide a story. Retelling the story by slicing away the margins is how tabloits make headlines. The most extreme, the better. It may not make sense, but the readers’ shock deters them from revisiting and unpacking the reality.

This introduction of new journalism made it into our every day lives. It trimmed the stories to polarising and accusatory as the norm.

For example, see this image in its entirety.

What information does this image contain that is useful to you? The path, the river, the people in the distance, the dog, the season. Is the dog seeking your attention by waiting on you?

Now, what story does the image below tell?

Consider your first thoughts looking at this image. Is the dog angry, about to react, or playful, is the ground cold and wet?

The second story has dramatised the narrative by removing useful information that would have told the story in all its complexity. It automatically polarised understanding by simplification. The narrative is cut short and the story is left for the viewer to interpret.

Now imagine the text defining the already minimised story.
Dog stares before it runs away, or attacks.
Greying dog lost in the winter.

By doing so we have already disassociated the image from the reality.

Next time you see a close up in the news, ask yourself, what is the purpose of such trimming and what are you missing out in terms of information.

Photography is a gift of storytelling. Butchering details, however insignificant they may appear, is a political decision made by editorial professionals serving singular story telling.

You don’t have to consume what is given and to enrich your understanding ask the questions that can better inform you.

Motivation and commitment in the winter

I read a really succinct article about finding the motivation to your sport during winter in a cyclist’s magazine recently.

It identified the challenge between rationalising between the elements, the reality of enjoying time indoors and maintaining motivation.

We are all humans, and at times of pre Xmas binges, cozy nights in with friends or the SO at the pub or infront of the telly, it is easy to postpone and get distracted. We are not robots or operate in a purely mechanical mindset either.

“The distinction between motivation (the desire to do something) and commitment (a dedication to doing it) is subtle.”

On days we are not motivated we need to accept we are not in the mood however finding a way to meet the commitment to doing it, will pay off by feeling better at the end of it.

Finding a way to committing can be as simple as organising training in a group, or with someone else. You may not need the words of encouragement depending what stage you are in your sport, but knowing someone else is waiting for you, and that your absence will affect their training is the game changer.

The organisation of committing is the process to making it work. Putting the plan, into action, and knowing what is happening, and when.

If you start thinking what’s the point, you’ll miss the opportunity to feel stronger and build on your fitness. Acknowledging why the session is good for you, is often the bedrock of a building on your plan.

Getting together

Ray phoned up three days ago. We realised last time we saw each other was in November last year. A year ago, when I was frantically settling into postgraduate writing, him chatting away as I was writing one of my assignments. Then a brief discussion early in the year about our concerns for a friend.

Two weeks ago, I got an invitation to someone’s retirement drinks. Didn’t know what to expect, some old souls, maybe not. I was going to go anyway. Then Ray’s call meant he also joined in (he also associated with the retiree the same years I did), and to my surprise he went on to the next level dropping emails to some peeps from our then years.

I picked him up from his studio and we headed to the working men’s club in Bethnal Green, not knowing what to expect.

There were lots of familiar faces in there. More than we expected and lots of peeps we were really close to ten years ago or so.

Most of us were more or less the same but some material changes and a comfort you find in your own skin as you grow older.

My good pal complained about someone missing. I dismissed him saying that person would never turn up.

Then catching up with my old girlfriend and rusty soul, I turned around and the double take clicked me into frame. Our pal had turned up and I was so freaking happy to see him, give him a big hug and chat in all his awesomeness and full on honesty about how things around have been making us feel.

Walking back with my girl to the bus stop we reflected on how the night went. Our fears, uncertainty of what to expect after all these years and yet how grounded and sorted things felt.

We did pick a bone with someone, which was funny, and was extended with ‘well we’re all here now’ and a big hug.

That’s my take away from the get together. No words, promises, expectations or plans. We got together, each to our own, and found each other.