Tales from the coffeeshop

Experimentally, the symbol ‘@’ will be used after all tongue-in-cheek comments

WHEN I was a young man doing my Coffeeshop Studies degree at university, I had a lecturer, who was a Guardian reader stereotype. He had a beard, wore John Lennon specs, tweed jackets bought from Oxfam, corduroy jeans and shoes chosen for comfort rather than style (sandals in the summer, of course); he never wore a tie but occasionally sported a scarf.

The man, as you would expect, was insufferably politically correct, in all respects. He was particularly scathing of the West’s treatment of the Third World, was a supporter of nuclear disarmament (it was the eighties), gay rights, feminism and a range of loony, lefty causes of the time; he even argued that Colonel Gaddafi was treated unfairly by the West’s media.

It goes without saying that like most of his earnest and politically correct comrades he was totally lacking in a sense of humour. He was too committed to making the world a better place to have a laugh about anything. Why do I mention all this autobiographical trivialities someone could justifiably ask?

I thought of this Guardian reader after seeing the comments that were posted on the Cyprus Mail web-site in response to last Sunday’s Coffeeshop, which featured an ironic take on the issue of immigrants. The lecturer was totally opposed to the use of irony in text because it could be very easily misinterpreted by readers and urged us never to use it.

Much as I hate to admit it, last Sunday’s comment, proved that the ultra-sensitive lecturer was correct. Most people who commented on the web-site completely missed the irony, and took the views seriously, some applauding and others slamming them. There were a few who did get it, and I thank them for making me feel good about ignoring the sensible advice of the sanctimonious lecturer.

AT THE RISK of being accused of self-indulgence, I will mention a few of the comments. One reader wrote: “I have never seen in my life such a sick, hateful, liar and hypocrite… I do not think he belongs to mankind.”

Another wrote: “He (Patroclos) is an obvious xenophobe, racist and conservative… spoken like a true self-absorbed, arrogant and narcissistic know-it-all Greek Cypriot.”

There were also several people who applauded the racist xenophobia. “Everybody is afraid to tell the truth because of political correctness, but you say it the way it is and it’s refreshing.”

An outraged reader informed us that “I recently heard of a case where a male immigrant is claiming full benefits in Limassol for himself, his three wives, and all the children born of each wife.” Was this an ironic comment or should we have taken it at face value?

It is difficult to tell, which is why we have decided, on an experimental basis, to put the symbol ‘@’ after a tongue in cheek comment so that readers would know not to take it seriously.

CRAZY psychiatrist Yiangos Mikellides was not being ironic when he wrote in his Politis column two weeks ago that Turkish Cypriots had smelly feet. He added that the English just loved the stink of TC feet and were unable to go more than a few days without getting a waft of the pungent aroma.

This is the most plausible answer to the question that countless researchers, historians and sociologists have asked over the years but failed to answer satisfactorily. Why did the British establishment always side with the Turkish Cypriot minority, promoting its interests and protecting its rights, at the expense of the Greek Cypriots?

It was because of the smelly feet. The answer had been right under our noses all this time but we were too busy sniffing around for conspiracy theories to realise it.

I HAD no intention of writing anything about the sensational constitutional crisis surrounding the Partnership of Boredom, which has been boring us senseless for days, but once DIKO’S illustrious leader Marios Garoyian joined the bickering I knew that the issue could not be ignored.

The principled Marios got a bit anxious once the comrades decided to go on the offensive, publicly condemning DIKO’S double-dealing and participation in the DISY conspiracy against the government and went on the Friday radio shows to save his skin. He was pitiful as he apologised and made excuses on air for his party’s principled stand in the hope of appeasing the furious Akelites.

He sounded like a school-kid who was in trouble, grovelling to the teachers in order to avoid punishment. And like a timid school-kid, in the end, he got on his knees and put all the blame on his party in order to save his own skin. He knew nothing about his party’s plan to pursue membership of PfP, through dubious means, he protested, in the hope that the comrades would believe him.

The brave Cyprob warrior, who defiantly stands up to Turkey and the UN every day was transformed into a trembling nervous wreck by AKEL’S rage, pleading for mercy and forgiveness. His bravery evaporates when dealing with the comrades because he depends on them for a second term as House president, a principle for which he is prepared to sacrifice his dignity.

THE LOCAL supporters of Colonel Gaddafi all went silent as the Libyan tyrant was butchering his people in order to hold on to power. His greatest champion in Kyproulla, Dr Faustus, whose party EDEK had very close ties with the Libyan dictator in the seventies and eighties, avoided taking a stand against Muamar’s atrocities.

In a way his loyalty was quite touching, even though it was very similar to the US attitude towards ruthless dictators – he may be a son of a bitch but he is our son of a bitch – that he so often censured in the past. Gaddafi was EDEK’S son of a bitch which is why even current leader Yiannakis was pretty restrained in condemning his atrocities.

EDEK remained a solvent party for years thanks to the Cypro-Libyan company which took a cut of all transactions between Kyproulla and Libya. Our socialist commission agents are doing the honourable thing now by being soft on Gaddafi.

THANK God that the President of the Open University’s Interim Governing Committee Panos Razis does not have an army at this command because he would have used it to hold on to his post, which is gradually slipping away from him.

Razis has had to use peaceful means in his efforts to hold on to his post – begging the right-wing political parties and the Archbishop to secure an extension to his term which ends on March 31. The extension of his term was discussed at the House Education Committee on Tuesday. At the meeting the Arhcbishop’s lawyer, Andreas Angelides presented his bill proposing the extension of Razis’ term by a year.

The Attorney General advised that the bill was unconstitutional, but Razis’ lawyer – Loukis Loucaides – insisted that it was not. At least nobody suggested that we should follow the advice of the lawyer being paid by Razis.

Instead Angelides came up with a brilliant compromise proposal. There would be no extension of the term of the Mubarak of academia but a renewal of the Committee’s term for two years as this would not be unconstitutional. This would take Razis’ term to a total of 10 years, but he might still not complete the job at the end of it.

Why not make him provisional president of Interim Governing Committee for life (no asphyxiating time-frames) and leave him to step down voluntarily when he is finished be it in 2020 or 2030.

SPEAKING at the committee, Razis responded with true courage. “As regards the commands for the resignation of members of the committee, it is a matter of dignity that when dirt is thrown at someone he stays and fights.” It takes a lot of dignity to beg political parties and the Archbishop to extend your term when it is about to expire.

But it was not just a matter of dignity the Open University would not survive without Razis’ brilliant leadership. As he told the committee: “The university is at a critical point of development and any change to its Governing Committee at the present stage would be a catastrophe,” or as Louis XV put it, “après moi, le deluge.”

If only Colonel Gadaffi had thought of saying this 10 days ago.

GOOD NEWS for the staff of the MEMRB (KEMA). We hear that former president George Vass has indicated to unions that he would pay some compensation to the staff of the company which was recently bought by Nielsen for $65 million. He will have a meeting with union representatives on Monday and his loyal employees are optimistic he will make them a generous offer.

Meanwhile his wife, European Commissioner Androulla Vass has reportedly already begun spending some of the money from the KEMA sale. She reportedly bought a house in the most exclusive neighbourhood of Brussels, but I hasten to add that we have been unable to have the information confirmed.

THE TOF government secured another downgrade for the Republic on Monday, the second of the last three months. This one was by Moody’s and when Fitch, which has put us on review for a downgrade, finally decides to bring our credit rating down a notch or two as well, the government would have to borrow at extortionate interest rates to pay the salaries of the public parasites.

I am starting to think that the comrade considers these downgrades as badges of honour, recognition of his tireless efforts to destroy Kyproulla’s capitalist system. Nevertheless, he knows that the downgrades could be electorally costly so he arranged a deal to show that the government could still borrow money.

A day before the announcement of the downgrade the government said that it had secured a loan of €145 million from Cypriot banks at an interest rate of 4.75 per cent. This was aimed at showing the gullible voters that it could still borrow money at competitive rates. The question is why had Marfin and the B of C agree to buy government bonds at the above mentioned interest rate? If they had money to spend they could have bought Cyprus government bonds in the secondary market for a much higher return than 4.75 per cent. What did the comrade promise them in exchange for disregarding the interests of their shareholders and buying the low-yield bonds?

ON THE DAY of the downgrade, our good friend Charilaos said the president had given instructions to finance ministry experts to assess the impact on the economy from the crisis in the Arab world and recommend actions to offset any negative consequences.

If the comrade is so interested in protecting our economy why does he not also ask finance ministry experts to assess the impact on the economy of the continuous downgrades by international rating agencies? Surely they could recommend actions to offset any negative consequences.

IN THE END, there was no need to use the symbol @, because there was no irony or tongue in cheek comment in this Coffeeshop. If I said that our economy is safe in the hands of comrade Tof, I would have used the symbol, but I would never say such a thing, not even as a sick joke.