Among the many things that Greeks and Turks share is the saying, “a fool can drop a stone into a well and 40 wise men cannot get it out.” This piece of folk wisdom can be found all over the world, as it is confirmed daily in issues both great and small. Seldom, though, can we see so clearly the ease with which a few can jeopardize the lives and future of so many, as we see today.
For some time now, Turkish politicians, officials, retired officers and various talking heads are trying to outbid each other on who can drop the most poison into the well of relations between Greeks and Turks. This tension, and its consequences, will affect at least another generation of people in both countries, hindering the development of personal friendships and mutual respect which are the only antidote. I am afraid that neither 40 sages, nor a million people of good intent will deter the march of folly, as the number of bigots and fools grows bigger by the day.
The ridiculous, expansionist map of the Aegean with which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s junior partner, Devlet Bahceli, posed proudly a few days ago, the statement by Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu about Turkey’s need for “lebensraum,” the letters to the UN and the statements casting doubt on Greek sovereignty of many Greeks islands, the personal attacks by the Turkish president on the Greek prime minister, are the official adoption of the extreme positions of supernationalist military pensioners. However much serious Turkish analysts may have underestimated the “Blue Homeland” doctrine, seeing it as the televised wet dream of some “Eurasianist” circles that would be a brief interlude in the country’s long NATO course, today no one can doubt that most of the political world in Turkey has adopted extreme positions and belligerent statements against the Greeks.
Officials’ statements and the propaganda on Turkish media – with the selective and false reading of the Treaty of Lausanne, and the distortion of issues between the two countries – create a reality in which Turkey is both all-powerful and unjustly targeted from all sides. This leads both to demands for action and the belief that the country will not pay any price for its belligerence. It is very difficult to go against this rage and the thirst for victory, especially when those who would disagree are in jail, in exile, or cannot be heard above the nationalistic din.
Turkey’s growing hostility is a self-fulfilling prophesy, as the Greek reaction is taken as justification for greater tension. When threats abound, our priority is to secure our defense, both military and diplomatic. But we must never forget that, in the end, it will take wise people on both sides to purify the well.