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A Short Remark Dealing With a Banned Language

By Thanassis Triaridis

Read this page in Greek | Read this page in Macedonian

 


Marcos Mescos in one of his most deep poems (See "Earth Shadow", Nr II [1986]) 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 and fear.

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 bring about.

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 our collaboration.

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

 

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Related to the article - The obvious linguistic particularity - Eletherotypia, 18/11/2006

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