Reflections of a Wandering Cypriot Philosopher Part 5
New York City - Writer and philosopher Maria Prodromou reflects on the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement and its lessons for Cyprus. The article is published in six parts. Click here for Part I, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Part 5 - There are lessons to be learnt from the Occupy Wall Street Movement. I will limit myself to two which resonate with how things are being handled closer to home. The protests in Greece almost without exception end in violence. It is up for debate whether violence is required to bring about change.
Gandhi has shown that non-violent civil disobedience can be an effective form of resistance. The problem with violence, as I mentioned earlier, is that it detracts and distracts people from the real issues: give the media a spectacle and they will run with it. The other danger, as I see it, is that bursts of violence, even those that are provoked either by the police or by the violence of the system itself - which is more elusive to pin-point because it is so widespread and has infiltrated our everyday reality, so much so that it goes unnoticed and taken for granted (“I will pay you next to nothing and if you don’t like it take a hike, there are hundreds of others waiting to take your place”) – is that in its explosiveness it depletes energy reserves and clouds critical thinking.
Of course, police brutality and the dirty tactics of the police such as planting provocateurs in the demonstrations and presenting them as anarchists whose sole goal is destruction, in Greece at least, have finally been uncovered and documented (see for example the Amnesty International’s 2009 report on “Greece: Alleged Abuses in the Policing of Demonstrations” and, to give a recent example among many, the unprovoked and unjustified arrest and beating of Michalis Prodromou, a scientist working for WWF Hellas). By upholding the rule of non-violence the violence of the system itself is uncovered and the detractors of these movements are not given a ground to stand on from which to stampede this very real effort for change.
My second comment has to do with the involvement of the intellectuals in the Occupy Wall Street movement and my target is the deafening silence of the academics and intellectuals in Cyprus. The fact that world renowned intellectuals such as Naomi Klein are actively involved in the Occupy Wall Street Movement, or that faculty members of the New School and NYU are publicly expressing their solidarity with the protestors does not only give the movement credibility, it gives it roots and clarity. Roots in a tradition where the goal of education aspires to be more than the exchange value of one’s degree (asked in an interview what he considers to be the goal of Higher Education, Lyotard replied “an apprenticeship in resistance”). And it gives the movement the sort of clarity that comes when academics apply their knowledge and expertise to real world problems.
Indeed some people are wondering what the academic community in Cyprus is doing and why they are not responding to the events that have been taking place in Cyprus for the past couple of months. Amidst all the propaganda that is being disseminated from left, right, and centre, it seems that it is high time that the intellectuals who are being paid by the people themselves speak out. To speak out not so much so as to agree or disagree with the protests in Cyprus or take sides as to who is to blame for Mari (and all the other scandals) but to provide the public with informed and well thought-out analyses of our situation. Yet the urgency of the demand for independent and critical thought on our current socioeconomic and political situation remains unheeded.
As a friend commented on his social media page: ‘In Cyprus, political thought is the property of politicians, “hounds”, and “know it alls”. In essence, “coffee-house talk”. Where are the analyses of university professors? Where is the powerful voice of academics?’ Here is a summary of the replies to this post:
- “They are probably drinking frappe somewhere”
- “My friend, the academics with powerful voices that have something of essence to say don’t get their contracts renewed (I can give you examples)…”
- “So the ones that are actually doing something is in order to get their contracts renewed?”
- “They don’t even hire academics lest they disturb the status quo of apathy and slothfulness of those already inside the system…” was the reply from someone new to the conversation.
My (tongue-in-cheek) contribution was “they smoked us out of the country…”
Well, there’s more than a tongue-in-cheek in that one, something like a mouthful of disgust, disappointment, disillusionment and despair not only with how young and talented academics, artists, and scientists are being treated in Cyprus, but with the whole system which is rotten to the core.
I’m not going to spend too much time complaining, I will try to be short and to the point, and I am sure I am not going to tell you anything you do not already know: those who refuse to accept and embrace Nepotism or become complicit with the corruption which has become normalized are left with two options: either stay and stagnate (and possibly starve) or emigrate.
This either/or of course can never be the foundation of real choice (i.e. freedom), this either/or is a deadlock, a catch 22 into which many of us are forced by the nepotistic mentality and practices which pervade Cypriot society and culture. Like Uranus who hid his children in Tartarus so that they may never see the light or Cronus who in his turn as ruler of the universe devoured his own children fearing that they would overthrow him, the youth of Cyprus are either forced into exile or devoured by the system by compromising their dreams and integrity to become part of a badly oiled machine that marches into oblivion.
As it turns out though, things are not so different in exile either…So, what options are we left with?
Click here for Part 6 - To contact the author, email: firstname.lastname@example.org