How to be a well-behaved Rum January 12, 2010Posted by Yilan in Turkey.
Tags: Patriarch Bartholomew, Rum, Turkiye
*Warning! This piece of writing is meant to be ironic. It may be misleading for those not familiar with irony.
(When Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew spoke recently during a visit abroad about some of his complaints in reference to life in Turkey, many people — from state dignitaries to civilian patriotic types — displayed reactions that ranged from “Turks cannot be thus crucified” to “Whatever it is you want to say, don’t say it in foreign lands — say it here instead.” And when I recalled that my grandmother, who used to love cats very much, used to warn us when we were being naughty and pulling the tails of local cats “Min ta stavronete ta gatia” or “Don’t crucify those cats!” it made me think to myself, “Well, I guess we are Rums, and we start up with this crucifixion business pretty early in life!” In any case, the real point of this piece of writing is quite different. I was able to extract the necessary lesson from this incident, and now I wanted to give you readers — as well as the few true Rum specimens (“Rum” being a term used to describe Turkish citizens of Greek ethnic origin) who may be reading this — some pointers on how to be good Rums. Here is my list:
A wise Rum never speaks about Turkey when abroad. And of course, the wisest stance of all is to simply never mention anything that could sound to anyone like a complaint. Actually, the less you speak, the more profitable it will be for you! The real ideal here is complete silence. Even less than silence. This is also sometimes referred as “knowing your place.”
If a Rum feels he or she absolutely must speak on some topic, then one subject they could touch on would be the unfairness of the policies applied by Greece to the minorities in Western Thrace. The complaints that the minorities living in Western Thrace have about life can be mentioned.
The fact that it is a TURKISH minority residing in Western Thrace must be highlighted in these comments in particular. There is some advantage to be had by repeating over and over how it is that the Greek state ignores the national identity of this Western Thrace minority and instead of referring to them as Turks, calls them the “Muslims.” Of course, when mentioning all this, it is important to stay away from mentioning that İstanbul Rums cannot even call themselves “Greek” and that there is not even a question of being allowed to have foundations or groups that carry the word “Greek” in them here.
The double standard at hand must be used in a creative and beneficial (for us) way: The other side must be asked to stick to their principles, but must also ask that our “actions” be shown understanding.
Another area where the piece of advice “Be wise!” stands is the arena of history. Our words need to always underscore the sense that ever since the Turks arrived in these parts, they have always treated us well, not tried to assimilate us all, allowed us to live out our lives and generally showed us great tolerance. And there is also always some gain to be had from talking about how the contrary is true, too, how we are “ingrate Rums,” and how we betrayed the Turks at one time.
Similar viewpoints and harmony between Rums and Turks can be achieved to the extent that Rums and Greeks are dismissed as bad and Turks are raised up high. For example, the insistence that “Were it not for the Turks, there wouldn’t be a Rum left in the West” is quite satisfying, beneficial, mollifying and, of course, constructive for some to hear. The true secret to serenity lies in these sorts of pleasing statements.
Rums must not take up with the subject of their own history from a one-sided and egocentric or ethnocentric perspective. And since the recalling of a few singular events such as the forced migrations, the forced population exchanges, the Wealth Tax, the events of Sept. 6-7, 1955, the 1964 exportations, the “Citizens, speak Turkish!” campaigns and the looting of various foundations can cause some discomfort, these things should not be spoken of — or even really referred to — when in public.
As we’ve all witnessed, there have been some Turkish intellectuals who have, in recent years, brought up the subject of these unpleasant memories from the past. Therefore, it is beneficial for all wise Rums to stay far away from these “so-called Turks,” who are suspected anyway of being in collusion with certain foreign powers (like the European Union or George Soros).
Rums should grab every opportunity they get to talk of the deep sense of gratitude they feel toward the Turkish state. And of course, this should be accompanied by constant repetition of just how bad Greek society really is and just how judgmentally and wrongly they treated the Rums who moved there from Turkey. Stories should be told over and over again of just how regretful the Rums who moved to Athens from Turkey wound up being and how all they want to do now is to come back to Turkey and start their lives up here again.
Rums also need to give up on their stance of denial and simply admit that their real aim has always been to form the Byzantine Empire once again in İstanbul, in accordance with the Megali Idea. And once they have made this sincere show of regret, they need to ask for amnesty when it comes to these thoughts they were harboring. For as long as the Rums, who are of course responsible for every action taken by Greece, refuse to do this, none of them will really ever be comfortable here.
There is no real benefit to be had by the Rums bringing up over and over again how they have lived in İstanbul for hundreds of years. Eras have changed, and everyone needs to head home now. As for guests, they need to be satisfied not by what they had hoped to find, but what they actually found. Along the lines of these truths then, the Rums need to start being more modest, not be so belligerent, quit making unreasonable demands — from going on about human rights to repeating EU-rooted demagoguery about multiculturedness — stop staring at the clouds and instead start being realistic.
And of course, the Rums must not provoke Turkish society by leaning on the backs of foreign powers such as the European Court of Human Rights.
Rums also need to understand how meaningless it is for them to bring up their complaints about life in Turkey today. First and foremost, every problem will eventually be solved. There is an endless amount of time stretching out before us. Patience is the key to every problem. Nothing causes more discomfort than a constantly complaining minority. There are such laws, such a Constitution, such a Constitutional Court in this nation, nothing stands in their way. And patience shown toward a dissatisfied group of Rums will eventually test the limits of the historical tolerance shown toward them. As it is, practical history has already taught us that the Rums have never achieved anything by complaining.
What the Rums really need to understand now is that the more they complain about their status in Turkey, the more the nation’s esteem abroad and the image that citizens have of themselves gets damaged. The majority wants a different sort of minority these days: one which is sweet, joyful and happy — or at least claims it’s happy. Yes, the Turkish majority wants a minority whose children will win national poetry contests, which speaks Turkish as its native language, which mentions constantly how “grateful it is to the nation,” which sets up two rakı drinking tables a day, which plays “rebetiko” music all day long for those around them and which works to give Beyoğlu that cosmopolitan, festive atmosphere that everyone wants.
Rums who, taking the emotions of some of our more racist citizens to heart, keep repeating things like “We are also citizens of the Turkish Republic!” need to stop doing this. Even if they are, they don’t have to keep saying this! Those oaths that go “I am Turkish, I am in the right…” were just formalities.
– Rums also need to remember to earn only a measured amount of money in Turkey. A rich member of this ethnic minority does nothing but confirm the view that all Rums are trying to exploit Turkey. Rums need to keep in their sights the long-standing “leftist” tradition in Turkey that supports the impounding of “foreign” wealth, while believing it is far from being racist.
– Rums should feel absolute love for the majority, which tells them, “We love you.” Otherwise, they deserve whatever fate has in store for them.
– The most emotional and sensitive words on this subject thus far have been spoken by a politician who is also a retired diplomat (I won’t give his name, since Rums should try and stay removed from personal conflicts!). It was during a television program that this aforementioned politician made an emotional stab at this subject, saying, “The Rums are our citizens; their problems are our problems, and when they have a conflict, I hurt on the inside.” Later though, this same politician added a “but” to his words, and in the light of the “principle of reciprocity,” started to list one by one the complaints of the Turks living in Western Thrace. And so, in the end, if the Rums could only understand the reason guiding this sort of mentality, if they would only drop their unrealistic demands and manage to better perceive their real status as hostages whose presence in Turkey ensures balance, then they too would lead easier lives. And so that, in short, is what makes a good Rum.