Friday, April 20, 2007

"We are all Hokies now"


Just like in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, French daily Le Monde had published the famous "On est tous Americains" [We are all Americans], students and more broadly Americans sympathize with the plight of students and the entire community at Virginia Tech after the massacre of this past Monday. To signal their compassion, sympathy and sorrow students from all over the US will largely participate in the events of Friday, April 20 to commemorate and honor the victims and will be wearing orange and maroon clothes given that such are the official colors of Virginia Tech.

"Hokie" is the bird mascot of Virginia Tech; yet unlike many other school mascots whose task is primarily to foster school spirit in athletic competitions and appear on school logos and insignia, Hokie has been charged with the unsurmountable task of raising up the morale in what has been a tragedy of "monumental proportions" to quote Virginia Tech President, Dr. Charles Steiger. And indeed it will take time and effort in order to heal - the quick passing of the US President from Virginia Tech is important, but will not do the job in itself.

I perceive the Virginia Tech tragedy as part of a bigger question on the culture of violence and weapons in the US. While this does little, if anything, to mitigate my profound distress and sorrow for the 32 murdered at Norris and Ambler Johnston Halls, I cannot but see in this tragedy pictures from the Amish killings or the Columbine tragedy, all infamous cases involving shooting and innocent deaths. Treating the Virginia Tech massacre outside its true context may speed up the healing process and may enable an easier archiving of the case. But it will not honor the victims.

It is breathtaking really to see the level of support and sympathy from colleges all across the US who stand by Virginia Tech students: using modern technology and social networks such as or more traditional means and ways all stand by the students and the community at Virginia Tech. Most schools have a letter of sympathy and solidarity published in their website. Students organize vigils and raise funds for the Virginia Tech memorial fund. And it is not surprising this really given how vibrant student communities in the US are. For one thing, if students do something other than studying and studying hard this is to be compassionate individuals and produce tangible results to better the world they live in. To date, no one forgets that the Free Speech movement started in 1964, in the University of California at Berkeley...

"Hybrid logos" of students from Stanford University, George Mason University and Tufts University [all from; VT logo from "A tribute to those who passed at the Virginia Tech Shooting"; Stanford and George Mason logos from "Remembering Virginia Tech Students 4/16/07" and Tufts logo courtesy of Mike Sidebottom)]

Top of the post: "The Hokie", the mascot of Virginia Tech

Friday, April 13, 2007

So much bleeding, and more to come?

As if Iraq was a patient that had not suffered too much already, news of the contention between the Kurds [of Iraq] and the Turkish government comes in to shatter the infinitesimal probability that the region might be healed soon, that peace might come in the near future in the valley between Tigris and Euphrates. But how optimistic could one be if looking at Iraq today, if seeing that the single region of this extensive battlefield spared from belligerence entertains the possibility of immediate aggression?

The warning of the president of autonomous Kurdish region Massoud Barzani against Turkey issued during an interview in Arab television station Al-Arabiyah leaves little room for doubt: if Turkey invades Kirkurk, the Kurds of Iraq would retaliate and attack back this time in favor of the Kurds of Turkey. Not surprisingly the response of the Turkish military establishment is equally lucid. In the words of General Büyükanıt the army is ready and awaiting: "a political commanding decision is needed for a cross border operation. If we are assigned the mission, we will accomplish it".

For there is nothing worse to even ponder at this point than the possibility of an escalated conflict, one that would transcend the highly porous borders of Iraq to diverge and include neighboring states, beginning here with Turkey. To the world, Iraq is already a very badly infected wound; it takes up too many resources while showing little, if any signs of progress. The prospect of grand scale conflict in the region comes only with significant drawbacks; it needs not be repeated how it will compromise the chances for peace or the economic and political stability of the broader region or how it will deepen the divide along ethnic and religious lines.

To be sure, the goal here is not to present worst case scenarios, let alone to contribute to their popularity. Nonetheless, to refuse to undertake tough questions in whole or part just because they appear bleak is no good either - shunning away from reality does not help. It does help though to think that gloomy scenarios need not materialize into dreadful realities: it goes without a say that politics involves much more talking and much less action - thankfully so in most cases. Moreover it is in times like these that one resuscitates the lost confidence in diplomacy or for that matter discovers it for the first time: whether it is power dynamics or covert strategies, a number of unrelated factors shape outcomes and skew the decision-making process for better or worse - often in unpredicted ways. Finally, if one was to stick with the facts, in order to realistically assess the situation one must consider a wide array of factors and assumptions including dispelling notions of applicable: just because Turkey has a significant Kurdish minority this does not mean that all Kurds of Turkey want independence, let alone to be found overnight in a poor, landlocked state with little to offer.

Having said that all, Kirkurk is an important city with oil "worth" vying for. But it is neither oil and the fact that it scarce nor any other such individual factor that causes the greatest concern; it is the greedy nature of humans that makes one fear the most. Mahatma Gandhi has often been quoted for saying that "there is enough on earth for everyone's need, but not for everyone's greed"; he could not be more right here.


The story: "Iraqi Kurds urged not to 'interfere' in fighting"
The Turkish reaction, in Turkish: "Siyasi irade isterse Kuzey Irak'a gireriz" and in English: "Assign us the mission and we will enter Iraq"
On the "international dimension" of the story and where diplomacy fits in "Gül urges Rice over Barzani's threats against Turkey"

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Post-Olympic "fiesta"

It has been a while since I last posted anything and this was not because I lacked ideas. As I sit down and read my scribbles on news I have read or observations I have made in the past days, I find a lot indeed; I will devote however this post to something that happened in my native country, Greece, a few days ago and with which I still cannot make peace: the killing of young man as a consequence of mob fighting between fans of the two major sports' clubs in a suburb of Athens.

For anyone who is Greek the story is no news by now. For the rest let me simply say that in the context of a volleyball game fans of the two major teams, Panathinaikos and Olympiakos, "met" in order "to put an end" to some hitherto unresolved claims and contentions. And they did put an end indeed - in the life of a 25 year old whose death verdict is too tragic for me to repeat here. Of course my one sentence summary is only the backbone of what appeared to involve a decent dose of planning and quite a few individuals - arrests continue to date. For information purposes, I do link articles at the end of the post - but my point is not to provide with a factual reportage. Instead it is my outright condemnation and frustration what I want to share here.

It is my belief that those most involved in sports issues in Greece were long aware of such and similar issues occurring and had opted, in what is a very "greek way" of dealing with things, not to do anything or do very little. Tragic as it is and horrendous as it may sound it comes as no surprise to anyone really, even to ordinary people like myself, that such incident did occur; not a single football (=soccer) match between the two major teams has been spared from violence or threats thereof... what has only varied is the degree. And while I do not want to give the picture that people persistently die, hooliganism, and to be precise, violent behavior between members of opposing teams, is yet another modern disease sadly not confined within the borders of the small south European state.

To be sure, responsibility lies among many people. It includes, of course, those in the industry, those in "the politics of sports", and those that have been assigned jobs directly relating to sports, in the government or the various agencies and secretariats. It of course involves the "fan clubs". But it goes well beyond that. It touches upon the media and the culture of conflict (not to say violence) they propagate; has any reporter/journalist ever really wondered about the consequences of his/her word choice? When the most popular description of an Olympiakos/Panathinaikos game is that of an encounter between "THE perennial rivals" ("το ντέρμπι των αιωνίων") there is something wrong and someone to blame too. One can go as far as to argue that all ordinary citizens who refuse to go to the games are responsible too: their contempt for the state of Greek sports contributes nothing really towards a solution.

But I wish not to go the full distance. Nor do I wish to undertake a study of who is to blame and how much. Policing is not what I have chosen to do for life. And inasmuch as I cannot let go of the news because I am concerned with what happens in Athens too, I do not think that I would ever do a full length post of this incident and the folly that has been cursing people - because after all the full responsibility goes to those narrow minded individuals thinking in this paranoid way. Not because it is not an important matter: certainly it is. It just so happens that a thousand other things are happening too at the same time which merit my/our attention: in my scribbles I read about how the value of life of Indian children has "depreciated" and how the peaceful citizens of the Solomon islands woke up to a tsunami that wrecked their lives. But there has been one thought in my mind since March 29 and this is what has spurred all this: "if we condemn fighting and killing even when this occurs for a loaf of bread, how much less tolerant can we be of such a killing that occurred not in the name of survival or of a God but in the name of a product of a man-made, drug-influenced and money-making business?"


στα ελληνικά:Οργανωμένο σχέδιο πίσω από το «ραντεβού του θανάτου»

in English: All Greek team sports suspended after death in volleyball riots

MindBlog Network

Subscribe to  this blog"s feed via FeedBurner Subscribe to  this blog"s feed" feed via Google Reader or Google Pages Subscribe to  this blog"s feed via NewsGator Subscribe to  this blog"s feed via Yahoo Subscribe to  this blog"s feed via Bloglines Subscribe to  this blog"s feed via NetVibes

Enter your email address to get updates: