That’s what we keep on doing for fun’s sake: Sailing against the wind. But that’s just too normal when you live in a country where 48.6 percent of your comrades tell pollsters they would either be “very keen or just keen” if their children or kin attended imam schools for education.
That dream scenario, if fulfilled, will not only mean that nearly 40 million future Recep Tayyip Erdoğans could be in the making (which is great, Mr. Prosecutor!) but also that there would be nearly 500 imams for every mosque in Turkey. It’s also great that numbers speak.
Feeling an awful land-sickness, I sailed (traverso, of course, like I write in this newspaper) to this northern Aegean island to seek refuge at Strati Myrivili 57, but the dangerous mix of Greek and Turkish humor never leaves one a moment’s peace.
“The ancient Greeks had a remarkable vision,” my islander friend said with a maverick’s grin. “They knew thousands of years ago that the Turks would one day be the rivals and they knew how best to destroy the Turkish soul: They invented free voting and head-count democracy precisely for that!”
“That’s exceptional political foresight,” I replied. “But perhaps the ancient Greeks should have invented something to prevent the destruction of the Greek soul, too. Something like prudent economic management.”
But is Chrysi Avgi (The Golden Dawn) not a product of free voting and head-count democracy? Did the ancient Greeks not invent something self-destructive too when they invented democracy?
Of course, I am aware of the major difference between the Chrysi Avgi and the Justice and Development: the Greek neo-Nazis are at a mere 7 percent (for the moment) while the Turkish neo-Ottomans cherish 50 percent popular support. Forty-three percentage points is a big difference. Give it another decade and we can see the neo-pan-Hellenic and neo-Ottoman supremacists at each other’s throat across the most beautiful sea in the world. And that does not sound like a bad idea.
Strolling down the harbor I gazed at Turkey at a distance of 18 nautical miles. I ignorantly noticed that topography does not tell you what culture a land belongs to. Europe? Liberal Democratic Party Chairman Cem Toker recently said he was confident Turkey would join the European Union the day Israel joined the Arab League. Which reminded me of the 20th-century Greek poet Nikos Kavadias’ stanza from his “Bitterness”:
“Polygyros came down and became a harbor, a dark, narrow harbor without any lights, tonight when Jews and Muslims embraced and the Canary Islands sailed the ocean.” (Polygyros is a town on the Chalkidhiki peninsular)
I recalled Kavadias’ poem and smiled at my naïveté when, for a moment, I felt hope for peace two seas away as I jumped into a New York Times headline that read: Hebrew Classes in Hamas Schools. The rest of the news story told me how foolish I was. “Starting this fall,” the story said, “at Hamas-run schools here [in Gaza] students will be able to enroll in a new course called ‘Know Your Enemy.’” Followed by encouraging remarks by Mahmoud Matar, director general of the Hamas-run Ministry of Education: “We look at Israel as an enemy. We teach our students the language of the enemy.”
I wondered how the neo-pan-Hellenic Greeks and neo-Ottoman Turks look at each other. With 57 percent of Turks and Greeks combined (for now) – and that’s approximately 43 million people – I could only hope for sustainable peace across the Aegean in a stanza I wrote on inspiration by Kavadias and Loukas Strongilos:
“Paleochori came down and became a harbor, where the rain doesn’t stop and a sailor staggers like a ship sailing under storms tonight when Christians, Jews and Muslims embraced, the grand naval battle of Mongolia ended with the victory of Peruvians, Homer’s heroes stopped drinking Thirian wine and Cycladic islands sailed to Aeolia...”