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World March Blog
30 October 2009

What’s in a name?

There are 2 things which have struck me strongly on this Balkan section of the March so far.  One is the name you give to different territories and the other is the borders between countries.

I almost got into trouble in Turkey with this theme and in Greece we’ve also been warned to be careful with what we say.

In a conversation with Esra about the Kurdish/Turkish conflict I was wondering what there may be in that region where the Kurds live that causes such conflict’ thinking about oil or gas or minerals etc.  So I innocently asked; “What do they have in Kurdistan that’s so valuable?”  Well, it was like I’d hit her!  She said, “You can’t use that name in Turkey, if people hear you say it you can get into trouble!”  It was a reflex reaction that has clearly come from years of Turkish sensitivity to the issue.  Of course, now that I knew that it was bad to say it, I kept on accidentally saying it in conversation all afternoon because the word was in my head all the time!

Then we arrived in Greece, and this northern part of Greece is called Macedonia.  Of course one of the former Yugoslav republics was also called Macedonia and Greece didn’t care about this while this territory was part of the Yugoslav Federation, but as soon as Yugoslavia started to dissolve, the issue of the ownership of the name “Macedonia” became a big problem.  In Greece, if you want to be politically correct you have to refer to the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.  Of course in Giorgio’s first time speaking in public in Thessaloniki he referred to our next country, “Macedonia” and complaints were raised with the local organisers.  It’s important we don’t offend the locals, but then also we have to be faithful to our principles.

Fortunately we don’t really care too much about the names of lands; the people are the most important thing.

The other point I was reflecting about was the border.  On crossing from Turkey to Greece by bus it occurred to me just how random the whole thing of countries is.  I’ve been in 12 different countries in the last 30 days, each time showing my passport, sometimes getting a stamp, sometimes not; sometimes they want money, sometimes not.  But each time it feels so random.  Such a terrible pretext to get money from you mostly.  It’s like they make a rule just so that if you break it they can fine you.  This happened to Eduardo yesterday.  He stayed 2 days more in Turkey than his visa allowed, so they gave him a choice of not coming to Turkey for 5 years, or paying a €100 fine.  I mean, where’s the principle here?  The possibility to do something against the rules but then pay your way out shows how the whole thing is just a fund-raising exercise.  At least they could be honest about it and save everyone the pain of wondering what will happen when yougo through customs and also stop the ridiculous process of filling in visa forms.  Turkey was easy.  They just wanted cash.  Russia, on the other hand, wanted to know where I went to school and a list of all the countries I’d visited in the last 10 years!

The other thing about the border of course is how many people died so that that line went through the map at that point.  Millions have died so that lines can be drawn on maps.  It’s another absurdity and all those deaths have no meaning in the moment when you cross the border in times of peace.

Today I was interviewed 4 times in Thessaloniki which was interesting.  One guy from a national channel asked me what I thought about the problem of illegal immigrants and what the World March proposed.  After a short moment of panic I came up with the following answer, which I more or less accurately quote here…

“The World March’s proposals are to eliminate nuclear weapons and to progressively reduce spending on conventional weapons.  With 10% of the 1.5 trillion dollars that were spent last year on military spending we could eradicate poverty from the planet.  With 50% we could solve all the world’s problems of hunger, employment and environmental damage.  All of this can happen, but we need to create a consciousness of the need to achieve a culture of peace through non-violence and start voting for politicians who will advance this agenda.  So the problems of immigrants will go away when we solve the problems of violence and eliminate nuclear weapons and the threat of war.”

What we are proposing with the Universal Human Nation is so breathtakingly simple and brilliant!

So tomorrow we leave Greece, cross a ridiculous line on a map and head to a country that we don’t know what to call knowing that whatever we call it, some people will be offended.  Still at least we know we’re heading for the capital Skopje and no one is disputing that…

Big hug,

Tony

P.S. I’ll try to get pictures of today on here tomorrow.  Must sleep.  We get up in 5 hours!

13 comments to What’s in a name?

  • claudie

    “… a list of all the countries I’d visited in the last 10 years!” You should answer him to ask to your bank !!!
    So great to read you and hear from so beloved friends !! Even if they ask him to pay billions of dollars, Eduardo, like you, won’t never renounce to travel threw the whole world, and even less in Turkey !!

    The videos are great, thanks to the whole team for what you all are doing.
    big hug
    claudie
    estoy cada vez, cada pais, cada video, mas emocionada de ver las caras, las sonrisas, y la luz en los ojos de la gente !! Les esperamos aqui en francia

  • Wow Tony,

    It’s so wonderful to read you each time.

    Tonight I thougt that you should write a book on your experience after the march. I will be the first to buy it.

    Richard

  • gwen

    Thank Tony to tell us your expérience and everything… That’s so great to read articles an see photos and videos about the team’s adventure everyday. A big hug for the balkan team who we all support !!

  • Chiara Degiovanni

    Tony you are my hero!!!
    Richard is so right, I’m waiting for your book
    hugs to everyone

  • Querido Tony, ¡tus comentarios son maravillosos! Te agradezco muchísimo a tí y a los amigos “marchantes” este blog que nos hace sentir mínimamente la trascendental experiencia que estáis viviendo. Un muy fuerte abrazo, S.

    Dear Tony, your comments are wonderful! Thank you and our “marching” friends very much for this blog that makes us feel a small part of the trascendental experience that you are living. Very big hug, S.

  • esther

    Gracias amigos por los comentarios, los videos y las fotos.
    Son nuestros ojos en el recorrido.
    Cariños a todos
    Esther

  • Rosi

    Muchas gracias Tony por hacernos participar de este maravilloso acto de Amor mediante tus relatos!!

  • Matias

    Hi Tony, how inspiring and amusing are your letters from your March experiences… don’t stop writting us!
    Best wishes on your track ahead and hope meet you in person in Mendoza (Argentina)!…
    Matias

  • Juan C. Puentes

    Estupendas reflexiones sobre algo que siempre está ahí y que muchos casi no percibimos… me alegro por todo el equipo base además por las frescas, lucidas, e ingeniosas respuestas a los requerimientos de los curiosos que se acercan a ver de que se trata esta ” asombrosamente simple pero brillante” idea de construír la Nación Humanan Huniversal.

  • Djamila Andrade

    Thank you Tony.
    Today I learned something new for me and very important.
    With your writings, I can feel that our task of creating a Universal Human Nation is very important.

    “The other thing about the border of course is how many people died so that that line went through the map at that point.”

  • esra

    Thank you very much Tony! It was a great pleasure to meet and make (at least a mini) march with all of you ;)

    I’ll keep following ur blogs
    hugs from Istanbul..

  • Belén

    “Millones han muerto para que se pudieran trazar líneas en los mapas. Este es un absurdo más y todas esas muertes no tienen sentido en el momento en que uno cruza la frontera en tiempos de paz”
    So true…
    This blog makes me feel all the things we do are really worth!Keep on in our demand of a Humanitarian, Universal Free World!
    Peace

  • Hi,

    It’s great to follow the March and it was even better to meet you guys live!!!

    I wonder: don’t you have anything to say about Stockholm? Oct. 29 is missing somehow from the blog… Okay, I know how busy you are.

    A few pictures from my blog