Axabaros (pronounced ‘Ahabaros’) is such an interesting vernacular word. It’s one you hear more or less every day in conversations throughout the island of Cyprus. It could mean many things to many different people such as ignoramus, uncaring, insensitive. It’s the person we all know in the world who works on this lazy kind of auto-pilot, makes a coffee does not wash the cup, leaves his/her dirty laundry at different parts in the house for someone else to pick up and clean, and/or flings their empty drinks can and crisp packet out the window on the highway without a care in the world. There are many of these people, in the plural we call them ‘axabarous’. My sociologist friend, Christina Loizou, who I consulted on the meaning of the word also pointed the word “Habari” in Turkish (the root of the word) means “news” or “inform”, so in this case putting the ‘a’ before the word means a “total lack of information, or unaware”. So for instance what does the lazy man who throws his dirty laundry round the house say when his partner says she is sick of him doing it – ‘did I do that? I didn’t know!’ . This word also has a special relationship with Dimitris Christofias, the ex-President who on a number of occasions claims not to have known or been aware of what was happening with/at Mari or the economy. In fact, Christina also pointed out to me that Christofias used the the phrase ‘I did not know’ 19 times during the Mari hearing, including a very lame reference to not even knowing where Mari was. This kind of ‘axabarthkion’ (the systematic habit of consistently not knowing) stuck with Christofias afterwards, and many people, who disagreed with the ex-President’s handling of the Mari disaster, in daily conversations started to use the epithet to describe him as ‘axabaros’.
So it came as a bit of a surprise when the former President of Cyprus announced recently that he was filing a libel suit against TV news anchor person, Yiannis Kareklas and the station he is employed by, CyBC, the state broadcaster. The story runs like this…Some months ago, then Presidential candidate, now President, Nicos Anastasiades, was on Kareklas TV show and he described the former President Christofias as ‘axabaros’. He did it in a vernacular way, reflecting/exploiting the populist wave of thought against his political opponent. Anastasiades appeared to be uncomfortable using the term. It was one of those rewind moments when politicians are on TV as in did he just say that!!! Any way a short time after, Anastasiades, a legal personage by profession decided to retract the statement, perhaps wary that Christofias might sue him. Then Kareklas, in the same program, used the term to describe Christofias through a journalistic trick implying people say ‘Christofias is Axabaros’. In journalism I guess Kareklas was just seizing the opportunity and playing devil’s advocate.
Time passed, many people, myself included, just got on with their lives and thought nothing of it, mainly because Christofias has been called a variety of far worse things by different people, but more of that later. And suddenly the former President, being well known political nobility decides to sue CyBC, an organization which is verging on bankruptcy on many levels. He also decides to sue Kareklas, for up to 500,000 Euros. Now the last part is strange because the way I see it Kareklas was not actually saying he thought the ex-President is an ignoramus, he was just reflecting what had been said earlier. Don’t get me wrong here, I am neither a fan of Anastasiades nor Kareklas, nor a consenting disciple of Christofias, but it does all seem a bit trivial if not peculiar, that a former President decides to sue on such feeble grounds. And Christofias had as we said before, admitted in his own words that he was not informed, therefore, in doing this he was ‘a-xabaros’. May be he will sue me for saying that as well?
In these times of severe austerity, hardship and pain, when people have little hope for the future, this kind of court case reflects how pusillanimous many of our politicians actually are. They can in fact call you as a simple citizen of the Republic of Cyprus anything from ‘axabaros’ to ‘traitor’ and you, as a simple citizen cannot do a thing about it because they have immunity. The same applies to any wrong decisions they make, and they have all made many in our recent history, without exception.
Additionally, as I said before Dimitris Christofias has been called far worse things by many people and at no time in the past did he ever pursue legal action. This is the same man who sat in front of bereaving families of victims of the Mari disaster in a televised exchange with said people holding placards up in court, for all the cameras and people to see which basically said he was the person, through is wrongly calculated decisions, who ‘murdered’ their relatives. Did Christofias pursue legal action then? This is also the same person who made history, as President in his first term, by not standing for re-election. The only reason for this was his diminished popularity, largely because of Mari, his mishandling of economic issues, and complete failure to solve the Cyprus issue. Go to any coffee shop right now in Cyprus and record few conversations. You will hear much worse epithets and characterizations about politicians.
Last but one, someone once called me an ‘idiot’ in a newspaper. Had they used their journalistic brains and said in their opinion my music is ‘idiotic’ I would have thought their interpretation was idiotic but as everyone is entitled to an opinion fair enough. But being called an idiot, just for being who I am, just for existing, breathing, made me take them to court for libel. The case was never mentioned on TV, radio and I think the only newspaper to cover it was ‘The Cyprus Mail’. I won the case a couple of years later with what I consider to be a paltry sum of just over 4,000 euros in damages plus legal expenses. The irony is had I been The President of Cyprus, another two zeros would have been on the settlement fee. Libel law in Cyprus sucks basically if you are not a famous politician.
Finally, Dimitris Christofias would do us all a favour by dropping this petty, ridiculous and bizarre court case. Far worse things have been said of him and his counterpart, Nicos Anastasiades. In times when people cannot afford to buy bread and milk, a former President should rise to the occasion, shrug it off and be content with some gardening or reading history books.