Along with many other things, this chapter is coming to a close with a priceless sense of satisfaction as a result of the fact that no one has managed to spoil the mornings of the right people as much as you did! It’s no small feat.
And to think that, when I first started writing this column, [Glafcos] Clerides was not yet halfway through his second term. I had just turned 29, the future was looking very bright for our country, and our main concern, especially for us journalists, was what kind of media we wanted to work in.
Not just at which [outlet], but also in what kind. Did we like television, for example? I had given it up for print media and had no regrets despite the admonitions of family, friends and acquaintances that I was throwing away my future. To this day, I have no regrets. Far from it.
Besides, I believe, and I do so even more now that I see it shrinking on the distant horizon, that life is too short for regrets. And mine has been fascinating. Full of flaws, passions and excesses, but many, believe me, would have liked to have lived it. Including the parts that are talked about publicly and those that are not.
I’ve still got years ahead of me, of course. It goes without saying! As many as nature allows. And if there’s one thing I really hate about this place, it’s how it forces people to feel like they’re getting old long before they do get old. It teaches them to become miserable and kill off everything youthful in them by the time they turn 40, not to mention 30 sometimes. It’s just that now, like many of you, especially those who are our age and above who don’t go through this process, we have learned to enjoy life at a different pace, in different ways.
So, I sat down today, and as I was trying to by-pass the very strange feeling of opening up on my laptop the document in which I would attempt to write one of the most uncomfortable texts I have ever written – and I knew from the beginning that it would be so – I went back to those days.
To the days when, as one of the luckiest of the last truly lucky generation of journalists in Cyprus, I became, thanks to Politis and the people who trusted me, chief among them my editor, the first and only one of our kind who would become what is internationally described as a full-time columnist. Someone who is paid to simply write their opinion.
Opinion. I confess that I have (also) written countless nonsense in my life. It was the downside of having to write every day. In the beginning I also wrote on Sundays, which made many colleagues ask me how I managed. With the answer being exactly this: I simply couldn’t manage!
There’s not one person who can do such a thing without (also) being tempted by sloppiness, obsessions, fixations, flaws and passions. If a person wants to be honest with themself and with others and wants to show who they are as a whole, the good as well as the bad, then this should be taken for granted. Unless they want to project something different. To not push themselves, to build a serious image that they can stand behind and be seen as something other than what each person is. Personally, that was the only thing I fought to avoid.
What did I achieve? I don’t think I achieved anything. At least not something that was relevant to others and not just to me. I had and have the satisfaction of not making any discounts. That’s one thing [I did achieve]. Right, serious, wrong or even many times ridiculous, my point of view was my own. It wasn’t laying claim to anything, it was after all an opinion. But it was my world. And in those days it was not self-evident that you could just state your opinion.
It was something Politis fought for a lot, especially in those years when politicians and others took it for granted that they could call your publisher, your director, your editor-in-chief or even you to yell or even make threats.
With the press standing just fine on its own two feet at the time, it was a matter of choice. Yours and the outlet you worked at. If you were making a product that sold and if your editor was smart and understood that his interest was not to do business with politicians but to invest in his readers and in the work that a newspaper in particular had to do, then it was their choice to keep you and yours to do your job as you pleased.
Being well aware that you will never be appointed to some [government post] somewhere down the line but you will have had your fun. Countless times, you would have ruined the mood of people down whose throats the public would justifiably want to shove what you had the luxury of shoving. You would have made countless enemies as well as friends. There is nothing more beautiful than feeling that you were able to give people a voice to express what they could not otherwise convey as protest, as anguish. And certainly not to such a large audience.
This, then, is the unique luxury with which I have been living for so many years, and I consider it a unique form of luck. It wasn’t easy, it was unimaginably soul-crushing at times, but it never needed anything special. You just had to have a good sense for things, to listen and look carefully around you.
Twenty-three years later, when I take a look around me, I see that the world has changed a lot, to say the least. The dreams of my generation, in those carefree years, were not fulfilled in the end, despite the absolute and logical certainty of those days which, if you think about it, could not predict what would come next. Nevertheless, my generation was infinitely luckier than the one that preceded and followed it.
Apart from the daily routine, [my generation] was lucky because it could see its prospects clearly. When we looked to the future, there was no “if”, there was “when”. That is now gone, although I hope – and believe – that the next generation will learn from this and be able to change things and perhaps bring about better days.
The only thing that worries me is limits. The limits of the press as a world that is being lost but not replenished in relation to its role as a bearer of truth, especially difficult truth, and of course the limits of tolerance of opinion, whose greatest enemy it tends to become, beyond the silencing of interests and the forces of regression. Self-limitation, political correctness, humour that needs a walking stick and the emergence of a world that thinks it is more tolerant but is in fact frighteningly more restrictive of what does not fit into its ‘progressive’ mould.
But whatever the environment, whatever the cost, I conclude that we must voice our opinion. Even when it doesn’t win us sympathy, even when it drives people away, we still have to voice it. Yes, the world is rarely changed by one opinion, but it has never been changed by silence.
Twenty-three years and several thousand texts later, this Column has completed its cycle. For the luxury you have provided me by reading me over the years and keeping me here, I thank you very much. Forgive me for the moments when I had seemed small, when I had succumbed to the temptation of convenience or my passions, for the moments of frivolity.
Just keep the fact that in addition to what we fought for together, we also had fun. Lots of fun.
Those of you who never liked me anyway should know that you did the best marketing for the Column by tempting people who didn’t know about it to learn of it. That’s how it was sustained. Υou goats!
Finally, rest assured that we’ll be in touch again – even if in a somewhat different way – soon!
Source: FULL-TIME COLUMNIST