July, the cruelest month

July is the cruelest month for Cyprus, not April, as T.S. Eliot would have it. After the Turkish invasion of 1974, yesterday was the second bloodiest and bitterest day for the island. Many are dead and more injured as a result of the explosion at the Evangelos Florakis naval base in Zygi near the city of Limassol.

There aren?t enough souls around for them to be wasted this way. Because if the information so far stands, the events at the base are a painful and tragic confirmation of the ?Greekness? of the Cypriot people. They are a confirmation that Prometheus was not a good enough mentor to his foolish brother Epimetheus, and he paid the price with his life.

With much self-deprecation, it?s true, and also occasionally with a strange, if not self-destructive sense of pride, we have come to associate Greekness with behavior that is foolhardy, slapdash, lacking in foresight and planning, complaining, lackadaisical and procrastinating — behavior that allows time to stretch out before us endlessly until, ultimately, it starts going backward, all the way back to zero. This is all very dogmatic and aphoristic. It doesn?t take in the fact that other peoples behave in a similar way every once in a while, or even all the time, or that there are Greeks who may or have not have heard the old adage of ?better to prevent than cure,? and who have proven themselves capable of forethought, of planning and of solving problems as they come along.

No, the truth is that procrastination, bureaucratic inertia and blame shifting do not have a national identity. They do, however, come at a price. A huge price. The price of human life. That was the case in Cyprus yesterday.

There had been plenty of time since the first observation was made that a naval base near Limassol may not have been the ideal place to stash cargo boxes full of explosives and ammunitions, which had been seized two-and-a-half years earlier from a ship headed for Syria. There had been plenty of time since an official had noted that these materials should not be stored outdoors when temperatures in Cyprus can reach as high as 42 degrees Celsius.

But the message never got across to those that it should have, and they didn?t act. The consequence was a tragedy.

Following the tragedy, the Cypriot defense minister and the head of the national guard resigned. That means nothing for those who lost their lives. But for us in Greece, who have rarely if ever seen a resignation after a national tragedy such as a shipwreck or a forest fire, it means that there is one part of our Greekness that is still all ours.

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