Nikos Mpiniaris: Asterix, “rock oil”, the Middle East, and Greece
In one of his adventures, Asterix the Gaul, in the famous comic book series by Coscinny and Uderzo, goes to the Middle East to find the “rock oil” that the Druid Getafix needs in order to make the magic broth that gives superhuman power, for a while. to whoever drinks it. With him is Ovelix, ready to help or inadvertedly overturn every effort of his inventive friend.
During their journey in the Arabian desert they encounter various peoples fighting each other. They manage to deal with all of them and bring back the “rock oil”, ie petroleum, to make the magic elixir. The region that Asterix has crossed, for the last 5000 years, has been in a constant state of conflict: political, cultural, religious. A constant war, invasions and destructions, inhuman massacres and illaging.
After the Greeks under Alexander, the Romans appeared, followed by the Parthians, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Crusaders, the Mongols, the Turks, the Europeans and lastly the Americans and the Russians. The Europeans, before retiring, sent the remaining Jews of the Holocaust to settle in Palestine and from there arose a new pole of constant warfare.
The “oil stone” Asterix was looking for was a means of lighting, or making liquid fire, or a mythical elixir, until the Industrial Revolution made it a necessity for the operation of the miraculous machines of the West. And oh what a miracle was found in the new land of America and from there began its widespread use. The “rock oil” began to acquire vital characteristics, which resulted in a new source of economic take-off.
The alchemies of the West
After the paranoid and suicidal World War I, the Ottoman Empire disintegrated, creating various state formations that Westerners imagined they could labele nation-states. They hoped to eradicate the history of the region, cutting pieces from here, merging others from there, conducting some sort of alchemy in an area that consisted of tribes, sects, and various non-Arab populations.
The “oil stone” found flooding the area turned Bedouins into millionaires and shepherds into kings. With the money they got from oil, those who had it in abundance built magical cities. Westerners, of course, sold them weapons to kill each other more effectively. From tribes of shepherds and nomads the westerners wanted to establish citizens, politics, and democracies!
Henry Ford had said “history is bunk”, William Faulkner instead said: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Both are valid. For the technologist, businessman, inventor, history has no meaning, since their goal is to overcome it, to replace the past with the future. Faulkner, on the other hand, reveals to us a truth that is based on the biological phenomenon of memory, the need for the duration of consciousness of experience and concepts in time.
But when you undertake politics, when you have relations with other peoples, cultures, religions, languages, customs, values, as an apostle of Fordism, in the broadest sense, you must be able to balance between these two truths. The United States takes Ford’s words for granted. Trump’s revealing statement: “The Kurds did not help us in Normandy” is the tombstone of Western civilization.
The unhistorical Europeans
The past no longer defines our identity. We are looking to gain some nuggets of its legitimacy in movements and actions. As the historian Norman Stone wrote in a letter to the Times at the time of the bombing of Yugoslavia, European politicians now lack basic historical knowledge due to their lack of education.
In the Middle East, conflict and population movements were predominant. Ibn Khaldun presented us with a sociological interpretation of the fall of empires from the tribes of the periphery who have strong asambias. The theory of asabyia, of social cohesion, describes how the tribes of the periphery, having considerable cohesion as societies, overthrow empires, which have lost it.
In the current situation, Erdogan knows very well that he is sitting on a valuable plot of land. Asia Minor is an important prize for both the Americans and the Europeans, and for the Russians, and now for the Chinese. He is not in the mood to rent the plot cheaply. He does everything he can to put into practice Davutoglu’s ruminations of neo-Ottomanism.
After all, nationalism in Turkey is a factor in increasing social cohesion. Those who left the embrace of the Caliphate, Syrians, Egyptians, Iraqis, Palestinians, Arabs of the Peninsula, and others, after the creation of their own states did not seem able to maintain even the pretext of a lawful and organized state. And with the help of “Asterix” they disintegrated into tribes, sects, and unbridled interests, for the “rock oil”.
Turkey will never leave
Now, the Turks, the apple of contention between Russia and the United States, are using the politically incompetent Kurds to establish the first phase of neo-Ottoman rule over failed Arabism. And they do it under the cover of Russia. Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan do not exist as coordinated states. They are mosaics of tribes and sects of Islam and a handful of Christians who survived the pogroms against them.
Egypt has an unsalvagable economy and looming over it is the spirit of bin Laden and the romantic notion of restoring the primitive Caliphate. Here with the Islamic State let us reconsider Faulkner’s saying. Now the ghost that rose from the grave of history lurks as a reminder that there are evils beyond those of the West, Hitler and Stalin, but also others, who we thought were powerless and forgotten.
We know from Ottoman history that Turkey will never leave Syria, northern Iraq, and Cyprus. This is a key move to rebuild its own Caliphate and displace self-dissolving and self-punishing Europeans from the region and history. It is clear that no one will help Hellenism unless a new battle of Navarino happens either for reasons of essential financial interests of the big players, or because the two protagonists in the region, Israel and the Persians (Iran), will veto Turkey’s plans through conflict.
Of course, there is another player in the anti-Turkish camp, Saudi Arabia, which considers Turkey a threat to its position as guardian of Islam. It is, however, militarily powerless, having been completely corrupted by its petro-dollars, but also morally, especially after the inhumane war against the Yemenis. Only the threat of canceling oil production can blackmail Europe and America into intervening against Turkey.
Greece has committed suicide
The Greeks, having long ago committed suicide, morally, culturally, and financially, proved incapable of protecting themselves from the invasion of Cyprus and the crisis of Imia. Neither as a people nor as a political entity do we show a willingness to resist the sad renunciation of our heritage, except through wishful thinking and prayers. Our Finlandization and transformation into a protectorate of neo-Ottomanism, except for accidental interventions of the “God of the Greeks”, has historically been discounted.
Asterix was looking for the “rock oil” so that his tribe could maintain its independence and way of life. For us Greeks, desert oil has already made us lose our independence. History and fantasy have become a most ironic duality through which we interpret reality, which has now surpassed Dali’s paintings and is heading towards denial of both color and shape.
Even the possibility of having some amount of hydrocarbons on our continental shelf will make us submit even more and shamefully to the will of the neo-Ottoman Armageddon, since we do not have the mental strength to defend not only our interests but also our status as a nation.
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