Monday, April 1, 2013

The Telegraph: The Cypriots Learned Non-Violence from the  British

Commenting on the fact that while some of the people of Cyprus have protested against economic measures, we have not seen the violence that has occurred in Greece with respect to austerity measures, The Telegraph correspondent Nick Squires states in his article titled Cyprus, the island that has forgotten how to laugh (I’ll come back to the title in a moment):

Conventional wisdom has it that Cypriots are more restrained than their Greek cousins – calmer and more "British" in fact, reflecting their 80-year history as one of the strategic lynchpins of the Empire, before they gained independence in 1960.

Lets break down Squires’ statement:

Conventional wisdom has it 

Wikipedia defines conventional wisdom as “the body of ideas or explanations generally accepted as true by the public or by experts in a field.” Squires is saying the experts and/or the public accept that the statement that follows is true.

Cypriots are more restrained than their Greek cousins – calmer and more "British" in fact, reflecting their 80-year history as one of the strategic lynchpins of the Empire 

Squires makes at least two assumptions here, first that Cypriots are calmer and more restrained than Greeks, and second, that the reason for this is because the British administered Cyprus for a relatively brief period in Cyprus history.

First, whether Cypriots are in fact calmer and more restrained than Greeks, I will not examine in this article as I believe such a determination would require a thorough study of at least the following: the two cultures and their histories, the measures exacted and their effects on the people, the way in which the measures came about, the political parties and their relationships to each other and the people, the group or groups of individuals using the violence referred to in Greece and to what extent their views are shared by the general population, the group or groups protesting in Cyprus, and the role of the media, both foreign and domestic, in both countries. Fortunately Squires makes our work easy because his broad generalization is based on no evidence other than “conventional wisdom” (defined in 1. above) therefore we need look no further than experts and public. What experts, what public? Squires omits to tell us.

Second, Squires is claiming “experts” and/or the “public” believe that Cypriots are more restrained and calmer than Greeks because they lived under British administration for 80 years, an opportunity that the Greeks did not have. (Squires should have stated “nearly 80 years” or “82 years” since the period of British administration was 1878-1960.) Squires is implying that the British taught the Cypriots to be restrained and calm, denying credit to the Cypriot people, a country with one of the oldest recorded histories in the world. Sounds like colonialist rhetoric. 

before they gained independence in 1960

Kindly be reminded that Cyprus “gained independence” by way of the Greek Cypriot rebel group, EOKA (National Organization of Cypriot Fighters), in a violent rebellion (as rebellions usually are) against British administration. Does such an action represent restraint and calm learned from the British? On a side-note, the right to self-govern is respected today, yet the British Queen has not apologized for torturing and hanging Cypriot freedom fighters.

Let us now examine the title of Squires’ article: Cyprus, the island that has forgotten how to laugh 

This article was published yesterday, three days after the banks re-opened after a nearly two-week hiatus. The exact measures have not yet been defined therefore people do not yet know exactly how they will be affected. Wages are delayed, businesses have not functioned without money (Squires cites examples of the devastating effect that inability to access bank accounts has had on businesses). Cyprus is an economy made of small family business which cannot easily absorb such losses, and many family businesses are facing tremendous losses from which they may not recover. People and organizations have lost their money due to levies on bank accounts, including charitable organizations, which thus far have not been declared exempt. 

What evidence does Squires cite for his claim that Cypriots have forgotten how to laugh? If the people of Cyprus laugh a bit less right now (and I’m not sure this is true) it is because the island is in a state of crises, not because the people have forgotten how. 

Squires statement is ignorant, disrespectful to the Cypriot people and betrays a colonialist mentality. The Telegraph should not have published this article without denoting it an editorial.

One thing Cypriots know how to do is gather together, support each other and carry on. In fact, later today Greek and Cypriot musicians and singers are performing in Cyprus for free in a Solidarity Day concert. Cost of admission is food and dry goods for donation to people in need.

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