Stuff

Greatness – Perceived and Real

This post is extracted from a longer article I wrote a couple of years ago which was published in the ‘Socialist Standard'; as a follow on from my last posting it may have some resonance.

Great men and disproportionately fewer great women are defined and refined for us by those whom we deem to be worthy of lording it over us every four or five years. They stand upon manifestos that promise much but deliver little. What they do deliver, but never talk about beforehand, is war or conflict, reduced public services, cronyism, personal enrichment, self aggrandisement and the ability to write or rewrite history. “He who controls the present controls the past. He who controls the past controls the future!”as Orwell memorably wrote.
So, the history books of our nation states are filled with tales of daring-do by champions of our establishment class; pages are given over to the wisdom and fortitude during times of conflict of our political leaders. Conflict usually brought about by the arrogance, greed, lust for more power or ineptitude of these self-same leaders. Pages are dedicated to politicians and generals who, by and large, seldom or never come within range of an armed enemy. In contrast, “the poor, bloody infantry” get a line or two when mention of casualties is glossed over. Churchill stayed in London during the blitz, a political decision, to boost morale in the civil population but was in a hole so deep under the Admiralty as to warrant honorary membership of the National Union of Miners, a group he had once turned armed troops upon for daring to defy the Establishment. Yet he, along with others like him, are perceived by many to be great.
David Lloyd George – the “Welsh Wizard”, so named for his fine oratory and political acumen, but despised by political friend and foe alike for his deceit and cunning. He became Prime Minister in 1916 having schemed the downfall of his then Liberal Party leader and Prime Minister Lord Asquith.
At the conclusion of The Great War, in opposition to former allies the US, France and Italy, he set about the punishment of what he referred to as the “deplorable Turks” by the dismemberment of Turkey and what remained of the former Ottoman Empire whilst at the same time serving Britain’s imperial aims in the region. Part of his strategy was to encourage then Greek Prime Minister Venizelos, whom Lloyd George considered “the greatest statesman Greece had thrown up since Pericles”, to attack mainland Turkey and establish a Greater Hellene Empire. In the event his strategy failed; thousands died needlessly on both sides of the conflict, animosity simmers between Greece and Turkey to this day and with the exchange of populations in 1926 formerly mixed and peaceful communities were torn apart, friends were made into strangers and enemies.
Within days of the signing of the articles of agreement between Turkey and the British, French and Italians for full withdrawal of troops (the French and Italians were long-gone and the Greeks were defeated), Lloyd George resigned, forced out by colleagues who “[could] not afford to keep him anymore. He is too expensive.” The legacy of David Lloyd George is one of death and destruction, of double-dealing and strategic failure. And yet the casual reader of history would see him writ large as a statesman and master politician. There is page after page in the “official” history books and biographies and even a parody of a repetitious song.
(I am indebted to long-term resident of Kaya, John Laughland for much of the following information contained in his moving tribute-cum-obituary)
Compare this with the story of Ayşe (pron. Aysher) of Kaya village near Fethiye in SW Turkey. She died on 20th March 2009, in İzmir, aged around 104, although records and registrations in those days were not punctiliously kept. As she grew older she became known as Ayşenine “Granny Ayşe”and she was greatly loved by those who knew her. All of her life was spent in the Kaya valley until about five years ago when infirmity dictated that she move from her tumbledown house to the care of her family in İzmir. When she married she moved from one area of this small valley to another and knew little of the world outside. Hers was the life of a village smallholder, working to provide for her family and herself. Some would say she led an unremarkable life of little note or consequence and yet her face has featured in a book that records “Fethiye Faces and Places” by Turkish photographer Faruk Akbas, poems have been inspired by her words and two renowned authors, Jeremy Seal (in Santa; A Life) and Louis de Bernieres (in Birds Without Wings) have written about her and her life and you might ask why. (de Bernieres is presently working on a screenplay for “Birds Without Wings”)
Ayşe lived through and dealt with the consequences of David Lloyd George’s arrogance and perfidy; she was about seventeen years old when the exchange of populations took place. When asked of her memory of those awful times, when friends and neighbours were torn apart, she responded “The cats were crying.” There were some 500 houses in what is now known as Kaya village, formerly Levissi, which remain empty to this day, and it’s probable that hundreds of cats in need of food were left behind. Ayse kept in trust the wedding chest of her Greek childhood friend Maria in the belief that one day they would be reunited and it could be returned. Her integrity, honesty and trust, her faith in her fellow human beings are in direct contrast to the murderous contempt for the lives of others that is the legacy of Lloyd George.
Those who knew Granny Ayşe remember her golden personality and sparkling wit that made her a pleasure to be around. Popular history through photos, poems, books and films will record her real greatness as a starring member of the human race; someone who contributed to the well of human kindness and left the world a better place for having lived. David Lloyd George on the other hand is remembered as a cunning bombast with the blood of thousands on his hands, a failure who contributed nothing of value. He may feature in the “official” histories bathing in perceived greatness but Ayşe lives on in the hearts and memories of so many because she contributed so much and represented the true nature of humanity.
Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü
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Stuff

Greatness – Perceived and Real

Great men and disproportionately fewer great women are defined and refined for us by those whom we deem to be worthy of lording it over us every four or five years. They stand upon manifestos that promise much but deliver little. What they do deliver, but never talk about beforehand, is war or conflict, reduced public services, cronyism, personal enrichment, self aggrandisement and the ability to write or rewrite history. “He who controls the present controls the past. He who controls the past controls the future!”as Orwell memorably wrote.
So, the history books of our nation states are filled with tales of daring-do by champions of our establishment class; pages are given over to the wisdom and fortitude during times of conflict of our political leaders. Conflict usually brought about by the arrogance, greed, lust for more power or ineptitude of these self-same leaders. Pages are dedicated to politicians and generals who, by and large, seldom or never come within range of an armed enemy. In contrast, “the poor, bloody infantry” get a line or two when mention of casualties is glossed over. Churchill stayed in London during the blitz, a political decision, to boost morale in the civil population but was in a hole so deep under the Admiralty as to warrant honorary membership of the National Union of Miners, a group he had once turned armed troops upon for daring to defy the Establishment. Yet he, along with others like him, are perceived by many to be great.
David Lloyd George – the “Welsh Wizard”, so named for his fine oratory and political acumen, but despised by political friend and foe alike for his deceit and cunning. He became Prime Minister in 1916 having schemed the downfall of his then Liberal Party leader and Prime Minister Lord Asquith.
At the conclusion of The Great War, in opposition to former allies the US, France and Italy, he set about the punishment of what he referred to as the “deplorable Turks” by the dismemberment of Turkey and what remained of the former Ottoman Empire whilst at the same time serving Britain’s imperial aims in the region. Part of his strategy was to encourage then Greek Prime Minister Venizelos, whom Lloyd George considered “the greatest statesman Greece had thrown up since Pericles”, to attack mainland Turkey and establish a Greater Hellene Empire. In the event his strategy failed; thousands died needlessly on both sides of the conflict, animosity simmers between Greece and Turkey to this day and with the exchange of populations in 1926 formerly mixed and peaceful communities were torn apart, friends were made into strangers and enemies.
Within days of the signing of the articles of agreement between Turkey and the British, French and Italians for full withdrawal of troops (the French and Italians were long-gone and the Greeks were defeated), Lloyd George resigned, forced out by colleagues who “[could] not afford to keep him anymore. He is too expensive.” The legacy of David Lloyd George is one of death and destruction, of double-dealing and strategic failure. And yet the casual reader of history would see him writ large as a statesman and master politician. There is page after page in the “official” history books and biographies and even a parody of a repetitious song.
(I am indebted to long-term resident of Kaya, John Laughland for much of the following information contained in his moving tribute-cum-obituary)
Compare this with the story of Ayse (pron. Aysher) of Kaya village near Fethiye in SW Turkey. She died on 20th March 2009, in Izmir, aged around 104, although records and registrations in those days were not punctiliously kept. As she grew older she became known as Aysenine “Granny Ayse”and she was greatly loved by those who knew her. All of her life was spent in the Kaya valley until about five years ago when infirmity dictated that she move from her tumbledown house to the care of her family in Izmir. When she married she moved from one area of this small valley to another and knew little of the world outside. Hers was the life of a village smallholder, working to provide for her family and herself. Some would say she led an unremarkable life of little note or consequence and yet her face has featured in a book that records “Fethiye Faces and Places” by Turkish photographer Faruk Akbas, poems have been inspired by her words and two renowned authors, Jeremy Seal (in Santa; A Life) and Louis de Bernieres (in Birds Without Wings) have written about her and her life and you might ask why. (de Bernieres is presently working on a screenplay for “Birds Without Wings”)
Ayse lived through and dealt with the consequences of David Lloyd George’s arrogance and perfidy; she was about seventeen years old when the exchange of populations took place. When asked of her memory of those awful times, when friends and neighbours were torn apart, she responded “The cats were crying.” There were some 500 houses in what is now known as Kaya village, formerly Levissi, which remain empty to this day, and it’s probable that hundreds of cats in need of food were left behind. Ayse kept in trust the wedding chest of her Greek childhood friend Maria in the belief that one day they would be reunited and it could be returned. Her integrity, honesty and trust, her faith in her fellow human beings are in direct contrast to the murderous contempt for the lives of others that is the legacy of Lloyd George.
Those who knew Granny Ayse remember her golden personality and sparkling wit that made her a pleasure to be around. Popular history through photos, poems, books and films will record her real greatness as a starring member of the human race; someone who contributed to the well of human kindness and left the world a better place for having lived. David Lloyd George on the other hand is remembered as a cunning bombast with the blood of thousands on his hands, a failure who contributed nothing of value. He may feature in the “official” histories bathing in perceived greatness but Ayse lives on in the hearts and memories of so many because she contributed so much and represented the true nature of humanity.
Seldom do “histories” reflect reality; in the US there lives a species known as Political Historian whose job it is to address the problems that actual recorded facts cause to the established ruling elite. No doubt they thrive in most other nation states in one guise or another drip-feeding us and our kids via schools and the media with their perceived version of reality. NEWSPEAK is alive and well all over the world. As memories of recent events fade the Political Historians will wave their wands and Bush, Blair and now Obama et al will transmogrify into great leaders who saved civilisation yet again from the barbarians. Records go missing, new facts are added and repeated over and over in the spirit of Dr Goebels and the Ministry of Truth. History, as we know it is a lie, digging out and speaking the truth is the foundation for the future.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü
'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Is This The True Story Behind The Title To Louis de Bernieres’ Wonderful Story, ‘Birds Without Wings’?

This is a true story – no, it really is, I promise you. OK, I’ll admit to a bit of speculation about one small part of it, but I’ll let you weigh up the odds and decide for yourself. It starts like this . . .

J was in the UK and our daughter, son-in-law and grandson were due to arrive for a holiday stay a couple of days before she would get back home. I met them at the Airport and as we were driving back through Dalaman I had an inspired idea; I’d stop at the famous ‘Chicken Restaurant’ that is run and operated by the prisoners at the open prison there and pick up a couple of spit-roasted chickens that would be sure to see us through until J got back. In due course we got home, knocked up a bit of salad and I unwrapped one of the delicious smelling birds. Mmmmmm!

At this point I need to tell you that I do love a bit of banter, I get hours of childish delight from it. J on the other hand doesn’t get it at all and can sometimes gets quite irritable; I would describe her as a double for that butler character played by Anthony Hopkins in ‘The End of the Day’ who tries to learn banter to please his new American ‘gentleman’. Anyway, back to the story and the chicken; as I put the bird on the plate and with J away felt I could indulge myself and made one of those throw-away comments (banter) to the effect that ‘These Turks are bloody clever fellows, do you know that they have genetically engineered their chickens without any wings so that they fit into those spit-roast ovens better?’ ‘Really?’ asked son-in-law Paul, looking closely at the bird that I had started to hack to pieces. ‘Yes’ said I, pointing, ‘look, no wings.’

Now, I have to confess that it never crossed my mind that anyone would take such a silly thing seriously until that is, J arrived back home. On our way through Dalaman she suggested we stop and pick up a roast chicken from the prison restaurant, she was tired after the flight and I didn’t want to complicate matters by confessing that I’d copped out of doing any proper cooking since the family had arrived. Anyway, when we got home, the bird was unwrapped and son-in-law Paul jumped right in, said words to the effect that we’d already had a couple of those, but weren’t the Turks clever by genetically engineering their birds without wings. Well, J stood looking at him open-mouthed, ‘It’s true’ he said ‘Alan told me.’ J collapsed in fits of laughter and the rest of us joined in – but not Paul, Paul was not amused, in fact Paul was bloody livid at being taken in. He felt humiliated and our tear-streaked faces didn’t help one jot.

As you can imagine, I ‘dined out’ on this story for many, many months and because I tend to get a bit animated when relating the latest bit of padding to any tale (J calls it hyperbole), it tends to draw spectators from around the immediate area. Which brings me to the only bit of this story that is speculation; there was one time when I noticed a chap at the next table who had slightly receding hair, and a striped shirt and a waistcoat (I’m sure he had trousers as well but I wasn’t paying that much attention). As he listened he kept writing in a notebook and I never gave it any thought until a few of years later. Sometime in 2004-5 my daughter sent me a present of Louis de Bernieres’ new book ‘Birds Without Wings'; in hardback, complete with the little story ‘A Day Out With Mehmet Erbil’. It weighed a bomb and cost a fortune to post but my darling daughter never gives such matters any consideration. She’s seen the title and immediately thought of her dear old dad and his silly tale of the genetically engineered, wingless chickens. The book was a great read and I loved the Mehmet supplement.

Now, my question is this; was that chap at the next table who I’d like to think he was? If he was, then was my story the spark that lit the flame of a really wonderful book? If he wasn’t then how do you account for the coincidence because, let’s face it, who has ever heard of a bird without wings? Even the Dodo had wings! What do you think, dear reader?

I know, I really do need to get out more often!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü