For an idea and a handful of soil - Hagia Sophia and the Aegean

Ω Prof. Yiagos Andreadis
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For an idea and a handful of soil - Hagia Sophia and the Aegean, Yiagos Andreadis

Erdogan decided that the Hagia Sophia should become what it is not: a Mosque. But Hagia Sophia is something else: a Center. Not a "center of the world", or a "sacred center", but, something that contains and surpasses all else, The Center. Unique though not the only one. At least three more come to mind: the Parthenon, Chartres Cathedral in France, and the Taj Mahal in India. The fact that there are so many, or more, does not change their uniqueness.

There are expressions of them in texts and images in books or postcards. But nothing compares to the awe they cause when one sees them with one's own eyes. An awe that marks body and soul, consciousness and dreams. All four are dominated by light.

Externally for the Parthenon and the Taj Mahal. Internally in Hagia Sophia and Chartres, but always the same: one and only. Light that guides our steps. Then and now.

Homer forever marked once and forever the free steps of poets. Hagia Sophia the visible that captures the invisible. Hagia Sophia is the center. Unique, unrepeatable and polynomial. Such - one and only - is God whose wisdom it praises. In the exact opposite sense from the intolerant Islamic saying "There is only one Allah".

By saying that God is one we do not exclude, but embrace. Affirming the god of Hagia Sophia, we embrace the god of every religion. And even the god of atheists who, when they are not shallow, share something of the radiance of the Buddha who was - even if they built temples for him - also an atheist.

However, this one center is approached by everyone from the road that is written inside them. For the Greek the road of the Parthenon and Hagia Sophia. Given that others, when they are worthy, do not ask us to mimic them, but to meet them, revealing by thought and action to them and to ourselves whence we came and what we are.

Places are like temples

Places are like temples. You love them as an idea, but ideas and situations do not go unnoticed, they have a body. Hagia Sophia is both an idea of light and a wounded body. Greece has a body and we cannot love it, if we remain indifferent to its threatened body. This body in its material and intangible dimension is what we have. And it is what those Europeans and others have that hold on to what has been and is Greece, synonymous with freedom, democracy, and universality.

Unfortunately, these include to a very small extent those who rule the world today. Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin, Ms. Merkel and the Pope, as well as others, have competed – under pretexts, or not - in analgesia and indifference to the fate of Hagia Sophia. They thus prove that, at least on the level of cynicism, the West and the East can easily find dialogue.

Given this, the question of how they will deal with the issue of Erdogan's intrigues against Greece becomes even more dramatic. This is because Hagia Sophia may be the center of the world, but from a vulgar, obscene, but unfortunately very real point of view, it is a just one station for the completion of a brutal plan to conquer lands and enslave people that includes Greece as its locus. With what he has done recently, the Turkish president has tried to test the reflexes of what we call the international community, and he will obviously feel that the way is open for the rest of his plans.

What is the reason for the "prudent" tolerance and stupidity of those who rule the world vis-a-vis Erdogan? Is it for geopolitical interests? His relations with Russia and Iran and the fact that he does not represent secular Islam, but instead aims to conquer foreign lands by any means (invading various countries), should make those in the West who support or tolerate Erdogan think, something that for the time being does not seem to be happening.

A dictatorial regime

Russian realism, which believes that the alliance with Turkey to the detriment of Greece can remain controlled, forgets a thousand years of history and the fact that solid Islamic populations are located within the borders of Russian territory. Financial interests remain. And it is a fact that, for important circles in Italy, Germany, Russia, the USA and elsewhere, the faltering Turkish economy continues to offer profit or even the illusion that through economic channels Turkish violence can remain in a controlled and beneficial framework for those in power in the West and elsewhere.

There is, however, one factor that is obviously underestimated in the West and beyond. It is the very dictatorial texture of the Turkish regime under a parliamentary mantle, nightmarishly analogous to the "parliamentary" dictatorships of the 20th century. Although history does not repeat itself, there is an analogy between the current “wisdom” of the US, the EU, Russia, the Vatican, etc. on the issue of the Turkish threat, and what happened with the Treaty of Munich in 1938.

Erdogan is not Hitler. In place of Hitler's racism, the Turkish president proposes Islamic fanaticism under Turkish hegemony. For Hitler, the goal was the bloody rule of the Aryans. For Erdogan, who is ruthlessly using ISIS killers, the leadership of the two billion Muslims within the - under his leadership - Uma, the Islamist Muslim International.

The revival of the supposedly glorious historical past and the claim of "living space"(lebensraum) and mainly the areas that experienced the domination of the then and now aspiring conquerors are elements common to Hitler's Germany, Mussolini's Italy and Erdogan's Turkey. Like the dictators of World War II, Erdogan can overestimate his powers. But, as happened to them, what will happen until he destroys his own country, may cause great harm not only to Greece, but also to other peoples, societies, and cultures.

Those who are in error

Those who tolerate a country that constantly invades the borders of other countries directly or through invading proxies obviously believe that the threat does not concern them. But they are wrong. They are culturally threatened, because the icons that are now shrouded in Hagia Sophia, just as the monuments that were pulverized in Babiyan and Palmyra, are the foundation of European culture and any culture deserving of the name. They are also geopolitically threatened, not only because the spread of fanatical Islam is global, but also because fanatical Islamist nuclei now exist in the bosoms of countries in Europe, Asia and other continents.

Is the only reason for the attitude of the forces I mentioned the erroneous assessment of the interests and what is called realpolitik? I think there is something else. The attraction that violence, cruelty, kitsch and hatred for beauty exert on many people over time. This attraction played a role in the tolerance that Mussolini and Hitler experienced when the latter burned books and paintings. Today it is playing its role in tolerating the Turkish threat.

The global political, economic, cultural crisis, of which globalization and neoliberalism is only the tip of the iceberg, is today the womb in which a poisonous apathy has sprouted. Apathy that with all its features, starting from the indifference to the destruction of civilization, in our case for the new plunder of Hagia Sophia, makes those who display it tyrants or accomplices of tyranny.

"For an idea and a handful of soil. That is what we are fighting for." naval hero Lambros Katsonis wrote it brilliantly in his "Fanerosis", in a missive to Catherine the Great of Russia, decades before the Revolution of 1821. Hagia Sophia is at the heart of this idea. And the handful of soil that was then gained, as it was gained, is directly threatened by the descendant of Mehmet the Conqueror. The anguish and the struggle for the idea and the soil can only be common.

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