Sunday, June 7, 2009

"Paradise Lost" by Giles Milton, another agent of Neo-Ottomanism: Part one

Over the next few weeks Antipodes will provide a series of posts reviewing the book, "Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922 The Destruction of Islam's City of Tolerance" written by Giles Milton and published in 2008.

Paradise Lost purports to provide a history of the life of the inhabitants of Smyrna before the Asia Minor Catastrophe of 1922. It also claims
to provide some background on the political events and personalities that led to the Turk's final bloodthirsty pillage. However, despite the author's somewhat fluid writing style the book only acts as another instrument of an insidious ideology that has been growing rapidly but steadily in the minds of Western and Turkish elites.

Much like
the despicable "Salonica: City of Ghosts" by Mark Mazower, Giles Milton concludes that the cosmopolitan life renowned the world over and commercial strength of Smyrna was only made possible by the enlightened Ottoman administration (he is generally scathing of the nationalist Turks). However, a person with only a passing knowledge of Ottoman history will conclude that it was the lack of Ottoman administration that allowed Smyrna to become so envied. In addition, he primarily writes the history from the perspective of the Levantine families of Smyrna (French and English families which had settled there 200 years before but had retained their nationality) including first person narratives collected from their personal letters and diaries. This is strange because the majority population in Smyrna was Greek with sizeable populations of Armenians, Jews and Turks. Obviously, their stories were not important enough to tell in the same detail.

In summary, Milton's history is incomplete and bedevilled by Western prejudices. Most importantly he really comes across as just another agent of the growing ideological edifice of Neo-Ottomanism, created and spread by European, American
, Turkish and even some Greek people and organisations. They generally believe that the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean was, and will be, best governed by a benevolent 'Islam-lite' Turkey implementing mostly Anglo-American neo-liberal political and economic policies for their own benefit. Barak Obama's recent trip to Turkey and his outrageous overtures to the Turks was an obvious manifestation of this line of thinking.

Not surprisingly,
one of the most enthusiastic mouthpieces of Neo-Ottomanism, the Economist magazine, thought the book was balanced. Of course they would as their average reader would conceive of themselves as the Levantine families depicted in Milton's book, lording it over their uncivilised and unruly Balkan, Mediterranean and Oriental subjects, with a newly Ottomanised modern Turkey acting as policeman and bully.

Source: Paradise Lost (Giles Milton), Antipodes

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