Skeptik Sinikian

SILENCE OF THE TURKISH LAMBS

Attention: No sheep or other types of livestock were intentionally harmed in the production of this column. However–I did spill some coffee on the wool sweater I was wearing.

I’ve read my share of peculiar news in my lifetime and that’s not including my regular dose of the Weekly World News. (This week’s exclusive about a woman who was raped by a leprechaun is worth a read. There’s even a picture of her green baby. Don’t believe me? Visit www.weeklyworldnews.com/features/sex/61273 ). But I digress. I have to thank Armen Abrahamian for bringing to my attention the news story that inspired this week’s column. After reading his forwarded article–and verifying the source–I laughed uncontrollably for 3 minutes straight. Here’s the headline from the Associated Press which appeared on Friday–July 8–2005. "450 Sheep Jump to Their Deaths in Turkey."

In what is probably the most ridiculous/peculiar news story of all time–1500 sheep jumped off of a cliff in the village of Gevas–located in Van province in eastern Turkey–for absolutely no reason according to witnesses. Only 450 of them died as the remainder of the flock who leaped to their demise came to land upon a soft–cuddly–fluffy PILE OF DEAD SHEEP! Again–I am not making this up. But seriously–am I the only one to suspect that the shepherds claiming innocence in this incident might not be telling the entire story? I’ve seen better liars while partying in Aruba! I’m waiting for reports to surface detailing that the sheep were being chased by a shepherd with a penchant for "buggery" and a video camera. I can just imagine the police interrogation.

Turkish Police: So Efendi–explain what happened again.

Gevas Shepherd: We were sitting on that hill over there–sipping coffee–minding our own business–when all of a sudden we heard a series of "thud" sounds–1500 to be exact.

TP: What were the sheep running away from? Was anything running after them?

GS: Uh?.I don’t know. It happened very fast.

TP: And is this your DVD copy of "Sheeps Gone Wild" and "Very Baaaaad Sheep?"

GS: Uh? (hanging head in shame)–yes. Yes–it is.

TP: Can I borrow it? I promise I’ll get it back to you.

In spite of the "shear" stupidity and obscurity of this story–I do feel bad for such a great loss of fine sheep. After all–Stalin once remarked that–"One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic." Just think of how many gyro or shawerma sandwiches that would have made! But here’s another sad statistic that made me think. According to AP–"the estimated loss to families in the town of Gevas tops $100,000–a significant amount of money in a country where average GDP per head is around $2,700." Every family had an average of 20 sheep and now–only a few are left with sheep making times very difficult for the people of Gevas.

A GDP per head of around $2,700–wow! Let the good times roll! Free Sheepskin seat covers for EVERYONE!

Let me put that statistic in perspective. The average GDP for the European Union is approximately $26,900. So Turkey–which aspires to become a member of the European Union–has a GDP that is one tenth that of the EU. Needless to say–our Turkish friends are not ready for Prime Time yet. In fact–I’d suggest they stabilize their economy by counseling their livestock in order to prevent any other future mass suicide attempts.

Wait! I have a brilliant idea. Someone get the Turkish Foreign Minister on the phone right away! I checked to see how much a sheep would cost if I wanted to buy one. (WHAT? I was curious! Like you’ve never wanted to buy a sheep? Stop judging me and read on!) Apparently–a good sheep (who knows what constitutes "good") costs anywhere between $200 to $1000. By my rough calculations–we can buy back the province of Van or a few of the towns/villages or whatever with about 1500 sheep or approximately anywhere between 300,000 to 1.5 million dollars.

We can start a brand new program like the United Nations’s Oil for Food Program. Sheep for Land! It’s so simple–it has to work. And after Armenia’s have repatriated to their ancestral lands–the Europeans can have Turkey–pathetic GDP–sheep and all.

Former US Ambassador to Turkey–William B. Macomber once wrote that "It has always seemed unfortunate to me that the people of the United States and the people of Turkey–whose nations are important allies–do not know one another better. Too often each thinks of the other in the simplified terms of cultural stereotype."

Simplified terms? Stereotypes? I am not a person who will prejudge or generalize any individuals or groups. But you have to admit that the sheep story doesn’t really help Turkey gain points in the eyes of Europe. Much of Turkey is still backwards–extremely rural–and apparently can’t even raise sheep.

How can a country that can’t take care of livestock and much less its own poverty stricken populace–expect to earn a seat in the EU? The Turks want to play the race/religion card against the Europeans every chance they get. But all a European has to do to see that there’s incompatibility between Turkey and Europe is to visit Turkey’s Ministry of Tourism Website. There’s a whole section on "Curses."

Yes–curses. Here’s what the official government website has to say about curses. "Curses are an essential component of everyday life–and an important element of popular wisdom." Good to know. Next time I’m in Turkey I’ll be sure to use such cultural gems as "May your blood boil in August–but your cooking pot in winter–mistaking a white dog for a sheep!" That was an actual Turkish curse.

How is the average French or Irish citizen or any other EU member going to relate to someone who hails from a nation whose official Ministry of Tourism boasts four different curses about lice on its website. Lice! Here they are in no particular order and here’s the link (http://www.kulturturizm.gov.tr):

-May you be crawling with lice (pretty self explanatory if you ask me)

-May you get lice (apparently the first one was not very direct)

-May lice eat your back and a dog your bread (the dog’s a nice touch in this one–I didn’t see it coming but it works well with the whole lice theme)

– I hope you get lice and fleas (just in case the dog that ate your bread was wearing a flea collar)

I’m still perplexed by the whole story but it has provided me some food for thought. In researching the validity of the facts–I came across some information that has raised more questions than it has answered. In fact–I’m going to delve deeper into Turkish culture and hopefully bring to you some more gems. Stay tuned!

Skeptik Sinikian is looking for a few good sheep to begin the Sheep for Land Program. Any Turkish shepherds interested can contact him at SkeptikSinikian@aol.com or visit his blog at www.Sinikian.blogspot.com.

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