How to be a well-behaved Rum
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How to be a well-behaved Rum



Today’s Zaman, 8 January 2010, Commentary

When recently during a visit abroad, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew voiced some of his complaints in reference to life in Turkey, many people - from the state dignitaries to civilian patriotic persons - displayed reactions that ranged from “Turks do not crucify” to “Whatever you want to say, don’t say it in foreign lands, say it here instead.” On my part I recalled my grandmother who loved cats very much and who used to warn us when we were being naughty pulling their tails: “Min ta stavronete ta gatia” (“Don’t crucify the cats!”). “Well”, I thought, “I guess we the Rums 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 extracted the necessary lesson from this incident – the Patriarch complaining of his folk being crucified in Istanbul - and now I want to give you readers as well as the few Rum specimens left in Istanbul some points on how to be good Rums. “Rum” is a term used to describe Turkish citizens of Greek ethnic origin.

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 ideal is complete silence. This is also sometimes referred as “knowing your place.”

- If a Rum feels he absolutely must voice complaints related to minorities or human rights, then he could speak about the unfairness of the policies applied by Greece to the minorities in Western Thrace.

- The fact that it is a TURKISH minority residing in Western Thrace must be particularly highlighted. There is some advantage to repeat over and over, with a dose of irony, that the Greek state ignores the national identity of this Western Thrace minority and instead of referring to them as Turks, it calls them “Muslims.” Of course, it helps a lot to stay away from mentioning that İstanbul Rums cannot call themselves “Greeks” and that there is not even a question of being allowed to have foundations that carry the word “Greek” in them.

- 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 basic principles, and must also be asked to show understanding for “our” decisions and actions.

- The advice “Be wise!” is valid for issues of history, too. Emphasize that ever since the Turks arrived in these parts, they always treated us (the Rums) well, did not try 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 repeat how we, the ungrateful Rums betrayed the Turks.

- The more the Greeks and the Rums are condemned and criticized and the more the Turks are praised, the more harmony between the Rums and the Turks can be achieved. 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 this sort of pleasing statements.

- Rums must not take up with the subject of their own history from a one-sided and egocentric or ethnocentric perspective. The recalling of a few singular events such as the forced migrations, the forced population exchanges, the Wealth Tax of 1942, the riots of 6/7 September 1955, the exportations of 1964, 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 alliance with certain foreign powers (like the European Union or George Soros).

- The 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 the Greek society really is and how badly and with prejudice 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 from Turkey to Athens are. Say that all yearn to go back to Turkey and live again everything from the start.

- The 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. Once they have made this sincere show of regret, they need to ask to be pardoned for 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 for the Rums bringing up over and over again that they have lived in İstanbul for hundreds of years. Eras have changed, and everyone needs to head home now. As for the 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 the Rums need to start being more modest, not so belligerent, quit making unreasonable demands -from going on about human rights to repeating EU-rooted demagoguery about multiculturalism - stop staring at the clouds and instead start being realistic.

- And of course, the Rums must not provoke the Turkish society by leaning their backs on foreign powers such as the European Court of Human Rights.

- The Rums also need to understand how meaningless it is for them to bring up their complaints about present-day life in Turkey. 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 country that 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. In the end of the day, history in practice showed 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 get damaged. The majority wants a different sort of minority these days: one which is sweet, joyful and happy - or at least one that says it is happy. Yes, the Turkish majority wants a minority whose children will win patriotic poetry contests, whose members speak Turkish as their native language, mention constantly how “grateful they are to the nation”, set up two rakı drinking tables a day, play “rebetiko” music all day long for those around them and try to give Pera that cosmopolitan, festive atmosphere that everyone wants.

- The Rums, should take the sensitivities of some of our more racist citizens into consideration and stop repeating things like “We are also citizens of the Turkish Republic!” Even if they are, they don’t have to keep saying this! Those oaths at school that go “I am Turkish, I am in the right...” were just formalities.

- The 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. The 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.

- The Rums should feel absolute love for the majority, which tells them, “We love you.” Otherwise, they deserve whatever fate is in store for them.

- The most emotional and sensitive words on this subject this far were spoken by a politician who is also a retired diplomat (I won’t give his name, since the Rums should try and stay away 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 deep in my heart.” 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.



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