A Short Remark Dealing With a Banned Language
August 8, 2005
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Marcos Mescos in one of his most deep poems (See "Earth Shadow",
Nr II ) begins with a first 'column', one of which frequently
(or even: somewhat) are more deceiving than even infallible confessions
and announcements of triumphs. I just cite: "We'll never meet
again if not in ashes / Macedonian birds singing in Macedonian!".
I have no intention, that -- in these barracks of solemn newspaper
-- writing, should I speak about Mescos' poetic (whereas I am tempted
to note: In contrast to the literature elites Mescos -- as far as I,
just a reader, am concerned -- is indeed one of the exceptionally talented
and precious postwar poets in our [Greek speaking] literature, a 'persona'
dealing in sacred terms not with tremendous holy Might, but exclusively
with earth shadows, [human] bodies and trees, smells and winds, soil
irrigated by persons' blood and turbulent waters).
What I am to speak to you about is something relevant to our co-citizens
(using the metaphor: to a kind of birds in the woods of creation), towards
whom since decades a restriction was imposed, a ban of their mother
tongue and language, a ban of their singing their parental songs and
the laments composed and performed in this particular language, a ban
against their declaring, without remorse or hesitance, their national
identity -- a ban of their right to self determine.
These people are the Macedonians, citizens of our country, those labelled
by the dominant Greek national fascism as 'nesnamies' (that is the people
who answer neznam [= I don't know], so as to pay the fee, the unquestionable
charge in favour of the fatal and devastating myth under the name 'ethnically
homogeneous nation state'). These are the people who bear upon their
faces what we notice (or, in words of sincerity: we ought to look for)
as the mirror of our institutional violence, of the homicide apparently
subsidiary to our nationalism.
During my life it happened that I met some of these people, Greek citizens,
who speak the Macedonian language, people made bound to self mutilation
in order to survive, to hide their maternal language so as to pay off
the incomprehensible fine charged by the national fascism, the dominant
ideology, which Greek society shares as a whole.
And what kind of fear we are filled up with due to the horrible educational
propaganda we are exposed to, due to our religion of inhuman self-unquestioning
and self-pride, the mass media of our so called credible delusion, not
to mention the popular ideology praised by the Greek politicians, it
is not easy to hide the speechless truth: the dominant Greek national
fascism turned a language and a national community into objects of steady
struggle for dismissing.
And it is this language that was used by the people to fall in love
passion, to love one another and to dream. And no one can refuse the
point: there were some hundreds of thousands of these people. For decades
no one could reveal opposition - and when, in the early eighties, some
few stood up (I am referring to the same persons who established the
political movement of 'Vinozhito' (= 'Rainbow' in Macedonian) they were
at once labelled as 'traitors' and 'agents of foreign states' by the
national fascists - a distinction of honour was granted to them.
We should talk in straight words: some among the readers of this newspaper-column
believe that nations do exist and determine themselves as national Greeks.
In my point of view nations are nothing but a mortal making of violence
and death (in close parallel lines with religion and religions), though
I would protest in the streets so as to defend the right of these readers
to determine themselves as Greeks - the reason is exactly that I consider
the right of self-determination and freely expression of identity as
more important than my personal aspects.
In the same time there are citizens of our country (a few or a lot,
a matter of less or none importance for me) who determine themselves
as national Macedonians or national Turks: If we believe, even if we
believe just a little, in human rights we ought to come down to the
streets protesting with the same zest in order to claim the right of
self determination in favour of these people, their right to be national
Turks or national Macedonians or whatever they choose to describe themselves.
Each kind of suppression against this right (e.g. the humiliating though
existing law of 1982, the law prohibiting the return of the 'non national
Greek' political refugees to Greece and their demanding that they have
their properties back, a law in clear contrast to any conception of
justice) is consenting to fascism - consenting to the ritual of violence
Even if nations are mortal makings, human languages are the means of
human mind (> Logos), what makes us express ourselves and, eventually,
live. Whoever, in the name of his national fascism or his political
ideas and perspectives mutilates a language or balks its free use commits
a crime against humanity as a whole - he walks the same path with someone
draining a river or diminishing a lake.
What I speak about is a crime committed towards the 'minority' languages
by all national states during the last two centuries (even though no
'false' language exists, such as there is no 'false sea'). Nationalistic
Greece is no exception: since 1913 and during the 20th century Greek
state chased, incriminated, banned, suppressed and humiliated those
speaking Macedonian, those feeling that they share an identity different
from the one imposed by the dominant majority. The continuous threats,
exclusions, castor oil, beating, banishing, imprisoning, the use of
fear as method of intimidation, all the above form the definition of
institutional nationalistic violence posed upon human expression (that
is: upon the human body itself). And this misery and disgrace continues
nowadays, as a mark of shame carried by what we call without further
question 'stable democracy'; no doubt: there is no democracy without
self-determination - to draw a parallel: such as there are neither people
without name, nor people without language.
I began my short remark citing a line of Marcos Mescos' poems - in
this or the other way Banned Language is the title of his first collection
of prose writings published in 1979. Fifteen years ago there was a friend
who spoke to me about the banned Macedonian language - since then I
add broken words trying to find if there is any depth in the guilt I
My latest discovery is the word zhelba (pronounced with a relatively
heavy z): in Macedonian it is the word expressing intense desire, yearning.
Not easy at all, to have yourself pass along such a word. And now, writing
these lines, coping with my effort to describe an atrocity among others
subject to Greek national fascism, I think that it is a duty (undoubtedly:
a human duty) of all of us to bring an end to this situation, according
to which Macedonian is a 'banned language', to force the initiation
of Macedonian in the Greek public educational system, to become a language
of our instruction at last (to be taught together with Macedonian songs
and Macedonian literature), at least in the provinces of our country
where it is spoken. So that the ones speaking Macedonian pronounce,
voice and write Macedonian freely - without bearing the threats, the
slaps, the castor oil and the chasing, far from the institutional violence
and the fear that is cultivated by our dominant national fascism. It
is worth that we look for this zhelba.
Postscript (PS) to a Short Remark
The text under the title "Remark dealing with a banned language" was
sent electronically to "Sunday Macedonia'' newspaper in 09-08-2005,
in order to be published in the Sunday edition of 14-08-2005. In 11-08-2005
it was announced to me by the "Macedonia" newspaper (and by
its head editor Mr Christos Kapsalis [C.K.]in particular) that the newspaper
didn't wish to publish this article due to the newspaper's values that
were in contrast with the article's view and I was asked to write another
article. Of course I refused and I declared that the 18-month collaboration
I had with the "Macedonia" newspaper was to end immediately.
A necessary clarification: When in February 2004 I was proposed by "Macedonia" newspaper
(it was again C.K. who made the proposal) to start a collaboration concerning
the Sunday edition of the newspaper, I answered that my texts could
be characterized as radical and could cause various negative reactions
by many (especially by the readers of the "Macedonia" newspaper).
C.K. assured me that there was not even the slightest probability that
my writings should be treated with any kind of censorship (for the reason,
furthermore, that the view of the writer does not create obligations
towards the newspaper's aspects). He also made clear to me that, if
a text of mine happens to be contrary to the newspaper's values, it
will just not be published. I agreed to this conception and I referred
to it as honest and very clear declaration - I also made sure to him
that, from my point, such an occasion emerged should mean an end to
It is indeed true that during the period between February 2004 and
August 2005, that is 65 Sunday editions of the newspaper, our agreement
was followed totally. Views causing thunderous and massive reactions,
insults and expression of numerous threats were published normally without
any censorship. As far every of my articles are published in my web
page (www.triaridis.gr) as well, it is not hard to prove the reality
of the above.
Meanwhile, these articles were republished in tens of web sites, formal
web pages held by Non Governmental Organisations, web-magazines and
fora of political discussion. Furthermore, there were ten of my articles
that happened to be translated and are now to be found also in English.
And I consider that I ought to recognize in public that instead of the
exceptionally rough reactions that were orientated towards "Macedonia" newspaper
by various corporations, organisations and persons (and I am in the
position to realize their vigour, due to the relative reactions which
were to be received by me personally and their average was more than
a hundred letters for each article, in their majority offensive and
intimidating), those running the newspaper never, during these 18 months
of collaboration, disturbed me relevantly or proposed neither explicitly
nor in oblique ways that I should soften my writings. For this I ought
to thank the newspaper and C.K. in particular.
Once there was a time that one of my texts was opposite to the newspaper's
principles (as they are defined by the newspaper's management - after
all this is reasonable). Respecting our agreement "Macedonia" newspaper
declared to me that it was not possible to publish a text about the
self-determination right of those who feel themselves as national Macedonians,
and about the teaching Macedonian language in Greek schools; Respecting
our agreement I declared the dissolution of our cooperation.
Slightly unusually the same aspects about the self-determination right
of national Macedonians were formulated clearly in the edition
or May 15th 2005, as well as in the text titled "A short remark
dealing with people's self-determination right", which was published
normally. Let it be. As I have my principles, they have theirs.
I am pleased that "Macedonia" newspaper
respects its principles, as well as I am pleased to respect
mine. It is the honest end of an honest relationship.
I don't often use the word happy, just because it states self-pride,
which I generally consider as catastrophic. However, I should be allowed
a slip. I am happy that for 65 Sundays I was writing what I believe
without the slightest censorship in Thessaloniki's most historic newspaper,
a city which in the last 20 years has become a fortress of national
fascism, - provoking with swears and threats the constant question "how
these things are published by 'Macedonia'?". I am happy that my
cooperation with the newspaper is ending that way: I am satisfied that
I am paying the cost of my aspects and I am denied the voice of expressing
my thoughts in public. I could be writing about non-taboo issues: enchanting
beaches, thick forests, singing river-waters (trust me, I adore them
all). But, what is it worth retaining this public voice, without speaking
of banned languages and hunted people.
Ending. I am twice happy that the crucial, controversial text ends
with the word 'zhelba'...
Th. T. – 12-8-2005