The Unknown Greek-Cypriot Poet and Philosopher Erricos Constantinides
Dedicated to the memory of Erricos Constantinides
Assistant Professor (Technology Enhanced Learning/TESOL),
Head of Distance Learning IT, University of Nicosia
I would like to thank Professor Theophanous for inviting (and allowing) me to publish this longer-than-normal In-Depth paper; it is to the best of my knowledge the first paper ever written that acknowledges the existence of an unknown 20th century Greek-Cypriot poet and philosopher called Erricos Constantinides.
In part one of this paper I look at who Erricos was and cite some examples of his work, and in part two I draw on some of Erricos’s highly prescient politically-charged philosophical maxims in light of the tumult of certain key world events.
Part One: Who was Erricos?
Erricos Constantinides was born in Limassol in 1935 and died in London in 1992; he was the son of a poor single-parent dressmaker who managed to wrench himself away from the extreme poverty then in Cyprus to study chemistry at the University of London in 1954. Having completed his studies with a BSc (Hon), he went on to work for Dulux where he was said to have discovered waterproof paint and waterproof ink. However, after a series of life-blows, which included, it was said, being sacked duplicitously from Dulux, and losing his mother, he decided to dedicate his life entirely to writing poetry and philosophy.
Erricos spent his ascetic and reclusive life in a small top-floor flat in Central London; he visited museums and libraries trying to study everything he could fervidly. He was a close family friend too, so I grew up hearing him regularly liven up the Sunday dinner table. To this day, I can remember the piercing intonation of his unique voice, his informed opinions on seemingly everything, and his kind and humble disposition.
When I heard about his liver cancer later on in life, I visited him in his flat, and as he lay in bed frailly, he described with tears in his eyes how he had felt people had looked down on him in his life. At that moment, I offered to do some shopping for him, which cheered him up somewhat; he told me he wanted to eat some watermelon, honey and Halloumi cheese, and he insisted on paying too. Little did I know this typically Greek-Cypriot meal would probably be his last on Earth: his body was found in the River Thames sometime later (suicide)—it was recognisable only with the use of his dental records.
He circulated meticulously ex gratia copies of his six self-published hand-typed manuscripts, which were written mainly in English and Greek, to renowned institutions worldwide such as to the Bodleian Library, Soviet Akademiya Nauk, Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana, The Congress USA, and the Universities of Cambridge and London. It is highly likely however, that Erricos’ books are completely unknown because Erricos is still completely unknown to this day; moreover, his books are hidden away in difficult-to-access reference sections of the institutional libraries that actually still have his books. When one reads his books for the first time, they may appear at times chaotic and even incoherent; nonetheless, there is great depth to be found, if one looks at them with an open mind. I would like one day to collate his work into a more cohesive one volume book; however, this would be a challenging undertaking bearing in mind the breath of content covered, which, by the way, even includes Egyptian hieroglyphics!
The two poems below written in 1979 (Poems and Poetic Excerpts) for me summarise Erricos the poet and philosopher:
THE LANGUID CREED (p. 41)
Deny the chase of the world!
Life is a perpetual dream, a silent art
That leaves its grainy brush upon the heap of an age.
THE WHEEL ON THE ROAD (p. 49)
Below are some examples of his mostly one-liner philosophical maxims:
- The level of one’s ignorance is what is often the more crucial, rather than the amount of one’s knowledge.
- It is “knowing how”, not “knowing that”, that matters.
- The two major forces that operate to move the course of history are the forces of geography, and the forces of language culture; each of them develops its own natural boundaries.
- What imparts meaning to words is the workings of nature, and the feelings and actions of men.
- The fire can consume the fuel, but the fuel can outlive the fire.
- Ideal things all their failings.
- An egg is not a chick.
- Dealings between people are always eventful; they range through a continuum from collaboration to competition, to conflict and war.
- It can be argued that black is white on account of the fact that a black body is that which at high temperatures yields the whitest light.
- Only few can see through history while history is being made.
- In a war there are two battles; the battle of wits and the battle of arms.
- Logic is the opium of the intellectuals.
- There is no substitute for war.
- The scientific narrow view.
- Vices are only for those who can afford them.
- Facts always speak for themselves.
- You cannot legalise crime.
- The iron curtain has outlived its usefulness
- The circumstanced kind of advantage is fickle.
- The Earth is the limit of those that seek the skies.
- A battle is never decisively final when the wrong side wins.
- What is order is not law.
- Those that lose battles are often the ones that make history.
- There is no mystery in nature.
- The speed of light is too small for the United States.
- A bureaucracy of traitors and criminals.
- Every Dark Age has its architects.
Source: Poems and poetic excerpts (1979)
- I know their names; I haven’t read their works.
- Believe not that lovers live on dreams.
- And cancer is a cover-up for anything.
- Medically produced illnesses at work on the population.
- The pox of medical homicide.
- Τραπεζιτικοί όργανισμοί μέ μυθικά ποσά
- The mouth of the gun must speak a little.
- The zeroth commandment: mind thyself.
- Refuge into death.
- I wouldn’t give you anything for nothing.
- They procure victims to medical slavery.
- There is a watermark in history.
- Human flesh has become the cheapest meat.
- No-one could win with them.
Source: Poems and chapter verse (1982)
- Composers that put the Muses to harlotry.
- The pool of tears; the dearest of waters.
- Beat them on paper.
- ‘ haven’t read it anywhere; I made it up.
- The less honest deceive others; the more honest deceive themselves.
- My hour is one of sorrow.
- Where there is a snag in everything.
- Where everything is owned by someone else.
- Medicinal compounds which invade the human body.
- Those who filled the journals on slave lab labour
- Saith Lord Chancellor Hailsham: “In their midst beware of friend and foe the like”.
- ‘s made to happen to some people.
- Those whose character is stained with the blood of the unemployed.
- The wages of slavery is death.
- Those that debased any decency there ever was in human nature.
- No one has ever reached the level of depravity to which these have descended.
- They fabricated the evidence, and nailed the victim in court.
- Their time will come when they cannot afford to lose.
- He plays for mistakes; mistakes are hard to come by.
- “Would you be in love with me?” She scanned him like a computer; “No, I don’t think so”.
- The smaller the island, the harder the rock.
- They know for what purpose people are thrown onto them. But Jung and the rest have to earn a living for themselves.
- A scientific theorist working for a lie.
Source: Poems in Various languages (1992)
Part two: Erricos on the tumult of current world events
The continuation of wealth reallocation and the monumental shifting in the tectonics of petro-dollar hegemony might arguably be two of the most important events taking place in the world today.
2.1 Wealth reallocation
- What were Erricos’ views on wealth reallocation? [philosophical maxims]
- A bland peace is a blind thing, which is often debased to the capitulation of one group of people to the demands of another (Constantinides 1979: 18).
- They crack lives as countries who cannot go to war kill their own people (Constantinides 1992: 47).
The skewing of the distribution of wealth in the world in recent years seems to buttress the viewpoints of the two maxims above.
Elliot (2016) for instance draws attention to a drop from 388 to 80 people owning the same wealth as the poorest 50%. Moreover, Sherman (2015) holds that 41.6% of the total global personal wealth is in the US. Snyder (2016) asserts shockingly that ‘47% Of Americans cannot even come up with $400 to cover an emergency room visit’ and Janowski (2016) maintains that ‘7 in 10 Americans have less than $1000 in saving’. Additionally, Durden (2015) states that 93 million Americans remain out of the labour force, while Snyder (2016) claims that 35% of all Americans have debt that is at least 180 days past being due. Furthermore, Durden (2014) even contends that ‘QE, taxes, income disparity, and entitlements are contributing to the biggest redistribution of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the rich ever’. Likewise, Armstrong (2015) testifies that police civil asset forfeitures in the US exceed all burglaries in 2014 in the US. He also asserts (2014) that ‘whatever the police can confiscate goes into their own [police] pensions’.
But will the solution to the above, which as Lamberti (2016) points out is the reforming of the financial system and the ending of special inflation-causing money-creation privileges of the central-banks, ever really going to happen without a civil war? And ‘civil unrest/war’ appears to especially have been on the minds of the controlling elites in America for some time now: consider the militarisation of the police, the NSA-spying apparatus, the ‘home-grown’ terrorist meme (or rather, the dismantlement of citizens’ rights), the push for gun control, the possibility of martial law being triggered (Johnson 2016) or the all-powerful Constitution/Bill-of-Rights-suspending Fema executive orders to say the least.
- What did Erricos think might happen as a result of wealth reallocation? [philosophical maxims]
- A war may now be declared, and be proper in the military sense, that would fracture the long hand-cuff of this bondage of tyranny, and reclaim the good laws and Statutes of the Realm (Constantinides 1992:74).
- It is healthier for a community to have law breaking criminals than have guinea pigs under the law (Constantinides 1982:34).
- And against these I raise a claim of ostracism so that they cease to reduce people to their bloody purpose (1982: 85)
2.2 The monumental shifting in the tectonics of American hegemony
- What did Erricos think about American hegemony? [philosophical maxims]
- The failure of the United States is not that it has been unable to beat any foes, but that it has made enemies of friends (Constantinides 1979: 17)
- ‘The stamping out of the Turks from the land of Cyprus, and the Americans from Europe is now the Western question. (Constantinides 1979: 33).
Is the US really pushing for war with Russia or is this about ‘the Western question’?
Thomas maintains (2016) that ‘from 1991 onward, the goal of US intervention across the planet has been to establish deeply-entrenched global hegemony before another rising world power could balance American geopolitical domination’. Today, however, the US ‘appears’ to be on the brink of war with superpowers Russia seemingly over regime-change-country Syria and with China seemingly over the South China Sea. And, tensions with Russia in particular appear to be escalating too. Russia, for instance, has already (1) sent an aircraft carrier group to the Mediterranean (Syrmopoulos: 2016), (2) ordered government officials to bring back children studying abroad immediately (Durden: 2016), and (3) conducted nuclear drills with 40 million Russians (Durden 2016).
However, in contradistinction to Smith (2016), who holds ‘this whole sabre-rattling affair with Russia’ in Syria is a globalists’ Hegelian-dialectic distraction game centring around blaming the East for the upcoming ‘death of the U.S. dollar as the world reserve currency’, it is conceivable that the incessant prodding of the Russian bear may be being done to serve another purpose: to ensure US-shackled European countries continue maintaining or possibly increasing their commitment to the US and its military presence on their territories. This assertion may resonate with Pejic, Watson and Lane (2016) who state that the ‘European region bears a great significance for the US and its ambitions to act as a global power’; ‘global power’ here presumably meaning what Turbeville (2016) refers to as the Anglo-American agenda of world hegemony and empirical harmonization.
‘Things’ look as if they are spiralling surreally out of control too; Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley for instance seems to be warning Russia—in the style of what can only be described as that of a school playground thug—that ‘we’ (the American military) ‘will beat you harder than you have ever been beaten before’. Furthermore, Korzun (2016) asserts that NATO, which ‘uses any pretext to accuse Russia of harboring aggressive intentions’, is at the same time, ‘pushing ahead with its military “Schengen zone” in Europe’, which would allow its forces to cross national borders without the permission of sovereign member states to prevent war or serious civil unrest. However, even though some leading EU politicians (e.g. Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel) are openly toeing the ‘American’ party line regarding the ‘big bad wolf’ Russia, there is now increased discussion, as noted in Kern (2016), regarding the creation of a European army which would be able to act autonomously from NATO, and, there are also fears that this army could even rival the transatlantic alliance (Kern: ibid).
Chess player Putin, who may actually have a wry smile on his face at this point, must certainly know that two motley and potentially rivalling armies in Europe would be good for Russia as they would be no match for a well-armed and well-organized patriotic army. Moreover, and with regard to chess players, Erricos holds in a maxim that ‘Poker is the real game of conflict, not chess’ (Constantinides 1979: 101); this might suggest that Putin, contrary to monotonous Western press hyping, may not be looking for ‘conflict’, but may be looking to ‘checkmate’. And ‘checkmate’ here must surely involve the withdrawal of American bases from Europe and the off-shoot de-facto withdrawal of Erdogan’s ‘pro-Islamic’ (Kissinger cited in Molling) flip-flopping Neo-Ottomanist Turkey from Cyprus. But should real conflict come knocking at Putin’s door, things could get very dangerous very quickly: Roberts (2016) for instance holds that five or six SS-18 (Satan) nuclear bombs could completely wipe out the East Coast of the U.S. killing about 112.6 million people in minutes.
At this point in the argumentation, it might be worth mentioning one of Ericcos’ most fascinating philosophical maxims:
‘Mηχαήλο Νοστράδαμος on the Battle of Lepanto: C’un peu apres non point longue intervalle. Beaucoup plus grande sera pugne navalle. ‘(Constantinides 1979: 34)
I’ve always wondered why Erricos cited Nostradamus’ recording of a ‘dramatic incident in which, in a battle off Navarino in 1499, the leading Ottoman captain Borrak, grappled by at least two Venetian vessels at once, set fire to all three ships in a suicidal act of sheer desperation, to the horror of the entire Venetian fleet’ (Somai, 2014).
Could he have possibly meant, your most dangerous enemies are the ones that get close to you, and ridding yourself of them, means destroying yourself? (Nota bene, a Polish professor of French History anecdotally had a similar opinion on this).
Well we may never know, but somehow the situation Germany finds itself in vis-à-vis NATO-‘ally’ America’s US Justice Department hitting Deutsche bank with a chump-change $14 billion fine over sales of mortgage securities, could be pertinent; is this a warning shot across the bow’ from a ‘concerned’ (quasi-close) American ‘ally’ or is this an attempt from a ‘close American rival’ to knock a huge destabilizing blow to Europe’s largest economy which would collapse the Euro (Lynn 2016), and likely unravel other fiat currencies and the world financial system too?
Two recent actions (in particular) of the German government may be germane here however: the first—as cited on the BBC—is the requesting of its citizens to have at least 10 days of food and water stored, and the second is the reviving of nationwide conscription in ‘times of crisis’ (Reuters 2016). Could this suggest that Germany is planning ‘to burn itself’ (Ottoman-captain-Borrak-style) by pulling the plug on Deutsche bank, the Euro, and possibly NATO itself? Could this suggest that Germany and its European allies will finally be addressing what Erricos called the ‘Western question’?
Well only time will tell. And, Erricos, by the way, did have a maxim about predicting future historical events too: You cannot write history in advance, you can only write it ex post facto. (Constantinides 1979: 17).
To conclude, Erricos Constantinides was ridiculed in his life as a poet and philosopher and he died in a most tragic and desolate way; however, there is evidence that he was very prescient in his views; so maybe posterity now owes him some acknowledgement.
(Maxim) I am him who gave it to them in a very big way. (Constantinides 1979: 17).
 Constantinides, Erricos. (1979) Poems and Poetic Excerpts. London: Erricos Constantinides.
 Constantinides, Erricos. (1992) Poems in Chapter Verse. London: Erricos Constantinides.
 Constantinides, Erricos. (1992) Poems in Various Languages. London: Erricos Constantinides.
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