The city-state of Sparta developed the most powerful war machine in ancient Greek history. Boys as young as seven were taken from their mothers by the state and sent to military bootcamp until the age of twenty. Inured to hardship, they went barefoot; dressed only in a tunic all year round and were portioned meager rations of food on which to survive. The recruits underwent rigorous military training focused on excellence, ingenuity, education, moral and social principles but above all else, national pride.
Influenced by Spartan ethics, devsirme was another practice by which the Ottoman Empire took slave boys from Christian families between 7 and 10 years old and converted them to Islam with the primary objective of training the slave-children for military and civil service. In time, the devsirme system produced a fearsome Islamic army made up of devoted slaves with deep hatred for all Christians. In absolute love of the Ottoman Empire, the devsirme slaves proved less susceptible to corruption and became the most devoted and trusted segment of the Sultanate.
The Hitler Youth (Hitlerjugend – HJ) of the Nazi Party was a comparable paramilitary organisation recruiting male youths between 10 and 18 years of age. The HJ recruits were indoctrinated and viewed as a future “Aryan Race of Supermen”. The Hitler Youth movement (boys & girls) was established as a zealous military regiment, trained in the use of firearms and were programmed with blind discipline and anti-Semitism. They were nurtured to form an obedient Nazi army of young solders indoctrinated to protect the Third Reich with their lives.
Closer to home and not so long ago, the EOKA Organisation in Cyprus (1955-1959), using the power of nationalism and indoctrination, enlisted young boys and girls from Christian youth movements for the struggle of liberating Cyprus. Fortified with patriotism, the small but devoted faction took up arms against British colonial rule. The leader of EOKA even went a step further; he justified the deployment of young boys on the front line to battle it out against seasoned soldiers by saying that “freedom needs blood to sprout”.
History has a way of repeating itself and there will always be those Svengalis to manipulate fragile minds for exploitation; they could be individuals, special groups, political parties or even the state itself! Similar to a potter who manipulates the clay into a shape of his choosing, so there will always be those who are gifted to influence the masses.
Today, the use of mind manipulation and misinformation has become one of the most powerful tools in the hands of government spin-doctors, propagandists and the mass media; it has become an art of deceit. If nowadays people are in search of the truth, they have to sift through a maze of spin to find it; it’s always there but one has to know where to look.
It is well known that knowledge and truth not only liberate the mind but also prepare citizens to scrutinize misinformation and make well-informed decisions to avoid pitfalls. It is for this very reason that meaningful education of the youth is of paramount importance. Individuals are shaped both by experience and education from a young age, human values recognized all those centuries ago by the Greek philosopher, Aristotle: “All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.”
Without a doubt, upright citizenship armed with social consciousness and a good leadership is the essential substance that develops strong nations. The responsibility of that development lies within the boundaries of visionary statesmanship and an excellent education system that empowers the youth with knowledge.
Children are naturally influenced by their surroundings, but in today’s society due to the ever-present toxic influence of modern trends and bad schooling they often fail. Both society and government have failed this amazing brainpower. Yet, the fate of the country depends entirely on providing a system that prepares the young to liberate their minds and think for themselves. Without cultivating those assets, entire generations are likely to be wasted forever.
In Cyprus, there is a strange paradox at play: the country prides itself for having a highly educated population full of university degrees and a plethora of professionals in medicine; academia; engineering; banking; finance; solicitors; accountants and yet, the nation grew into a culture that puts great emphasis on excessive wealth creation rather than the well-being of the nation. Education, in this case, did not produce the desired results.
The deeper one looks into this paradox, the greater the puzzle becomes as to why such a highly educated and civilized population has bitterly failed society and the nation. It just does not make logical sense. Theoretically, Cyprus has the potential of becoming the Switzerland of the Med but it was never meant to be. Today, only a Revolution of the Mind will do that.
Where did it go so badly wrong?
There are no easy answers but the most obvious reason for that can be pointed directly to a flourishing political culture that has controlled the country and the minds of the people from the very start of the Republic. The Turkish invasion in 1974 simply exacerbated the problem through an ungodly nepotistic practice that soon took over the whole social structure. A self-serving system was then established, which suited everyone well and none dared kill the goose that laid the golden egg. The manifestation of such a calculating social behaviour has transformed Cypriot society to behave like dogmatic drones instead of resisting the clutches of corruption and politicocracy (kommatokratia).
Actually, a plutocratic elite has always held the reins of political power in Cyprus. To the present day, nothing moves unless all the political parties get involved with institutional power-sharing and the decision-making process. No government has ever encouraged institutions to adopt a merit system for fear of political backlash; meritocracy is non-existent! Little kingdoms operate in most institutions, ruled by political party loyalists. As for transparency and accountability, they’re rare commodities indeed!
Still, among the ashes of despair flickers a glimmer of hope; a hope that can only be accomplished by the new generation and certainly not by the present system. Armed with proper training and knowledge, the youth of tomorrow provides the only hope available to liberate this little island. The fate of the country certainly depends on the education of its youth.
In fact, it will be a miracle and a dream come true when society finally starts to demand that politicians and those interested in entering politics undergo a lengthy training period and like all other professions, learn how to govern the affairs of the country. Elections will then be held based on merit and not political party favouritism and shenanigans. There are official military academies, medical schools and other professional institutions, why not political academies to train the new leaders of tomorrow?
A Revolution of the Mind is well overdue in Cyprus.
It is important to equip ordinary people to have a voice in shaping their communities, their environment, and decisions that affect their everyday lives. Decentralization and the introduction of direct democracy is a way forward where people will no longer be dictated to by central government and be so easily influenced by those political Svengalis lurking in the echelons of power.
In fact, no person is powerless. Every citizen has the power within himself or herself to take the first action and to imagine that Cyprus can be a better place and help to make it happen. That will be an excellent start!