Google and the nation state

I was 17 years old when I first looked North from the peak of Smolikas.   At 2637 meters it is the second highest peak in Greece.   The sun was setting and all I could see was a sea of mountain peaks in the haze.  My head was full of heroic stories from the 2nd WW, but no, you can’t see borders from up there…

A few years ago I was walking at Prespes lakes, a point where three Balkan countries meet.  We were stopped by the then newly assigned border police with their fancy jeeps, guns and night vision equipment and forced to leave our camp site.   I later learned that the reason was that they take a sizeable percentage from the contraband in the area

During my military service I was stationed in Thrace.  Even during a one day leave I would cycle North to the mountains.   I had to go through a police check which was then operational to control (and oppress) the very small Muslim population up there.   Friendly people, we shared a coffee or two and a few times I had crossed the borders with Bulgaria by accident.   There were no clear markings…

Most Greeks have never actually been to Thrace.   That doesn’t stop them from pronouncing that Turkey somehow wants to take it from us though!  Most Greeks haven’t travelled to Skopje, even though the road from Thesaloniki is very easy and quite beautiful.   That doesn’t stop them from insulting everyone online regarding the name of “Macedonia”.   And most Greeks have been to Bulgaria only for skiing.   Still, some continue to spread a fear that Bulgaria wants to take part of our country for access to the sea…

This post is in English because I want to apologize.   It isn’t our fault.   Politicians have fanned up the “Macedonian issue” pretty much since Greece was established as a modern country less than two hundred years ago.    Google today dedicated a doodle to the independence of “Macedonia” but luckily there are no street riots like the massive one some years ago.   For those of you that haven’t noticed, we are in the middle of a massive economic crisis.   Not cooperating with other countries, and even more so neighbooring countries is almost suicidal.   It’s not just about tourism (though many Americans reading online disputes will assume that we are a war zone!) but all kinds of collaboration.

The online fights are endless.   As if history is objective.   As if Alexander the Great was somehow “Greek” in the same way that modern Greek are.   We selectively forget that Athenians hated his guts, that he and his father had to physically and violently fight against the other city states in order to unite the enough to go away against the Persians.   The logical fallacy of the history crazed argument is that it is impossible to draw a direct connection between the pretty short lived empire of Alexander the Great and the modern Greek state.   The fact that his father imported the best tutor of the time (Aristotle) isn’t enough.   Southern cities considered Macedonians  “barbarian”.   You will never get a “definitive” answer regarding the “Greekness” of Alexander the Great.  (And I haven’t even started about his mother!)   It is a great topic for conversation over wine and cheese.   Not politics and not online.

We are living on a truly globalized planet.   National identity, much like religion is a dwindling part of our self image.  “Self” image.  That means something you keep to yourself.   Nobody can touch it and you don’t go around messing other people’s self identity.  When we get to practical matters and collaboration between people or countries sure, we need rules.   Simple, practical rules, not insults in capital letters and bad English!   You can call a country “Macedonia”, “Macedonia2” or “Macedonia.com” for all I care.   If the Kalash in Pakistan (descendants of Alexander the Great according to some) want to become independent and call themselves “Macedonia”, be my guest!   If Alexandria in Egypt wants autonomy and wants to draw from it’s past for a name, you can be “Macedonia3”!   Heck we can give all countries a number, it would save us time and data space!

 

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