Filiz Elasu had an exclusive interview with one of the famous personalities of the Arab World, the Emperor of Nowheristan, Michel Elefteriades, for Yeni Harman Magazine.Here you have the chance to read the entire interview “uncut”!
You are one of the famous music producers of the Arab World and a well-known figure in World Music circles, the owner of Elef Records in addition to being a writer, poet, songwriter, painter, intellectual, political activist, businessman, a husband, father and the Emperor of Nowheristan at the age of, shall I say, 39 or 40.
How does it all fit in together?
I started at the age 15. There are things that I do very well…I don’t know…maybe, for example, as a producer, that I think I do very well, but not very well for example as a husband. I am a good producer but not a husband.
In the list, it is not all equal, there are things that I do well, things that I do not. For example, in politics… it got me into lots of troubles… Some people, they do politics and succeed in getting to high positions.The only thing that got me into politics is having to escape the country, having assasination attempts, losing a lot of my friends… It wasn’t a nice experience… I think the people who succeed in politics, the way it is today, are rotten people! The more rotten you are, the more you have chances of getting into higher positions! This is why I am trying to change the world; this is for me what politics means. It is not entering the system, because I consider that all systems everywhere have problems. What we should do is to take best of all systems and create a new system.
You are a Lebanese citizen with Greek origin and you want to change the system; how does it all work with your background, especially with your family background?
No one can escape what he lived, the way he was brought up, history of the family and the environment. The food we ate, the music we listened to when we were kids, this will always be in our genes, in our subsconscience, in the everything we do. We can never escape out of this! My family had different influences; the strongest one maybe the Greek, but also very Arabic, because I was brought up in Lebanon. I was eating Lebanese food, speaking Arabic with the other kids. So, I consider my self the product of those two cultures and the third culture which was strong as well, the French culture. Both my parents used to speak to us in French… because my parents studied in France… we were sent to a school with French priests, so we were having everthing in French Maths, Geograpy… Arabic was just like another subject to me, it was just something we studied like Maths or English, even though we were brought up in an Arabic country
So, you have a similar experience to some Turkish people here! There is a whole generation of young people in Turkey today who go to private German, French, American schools from nursery till the end of university, speak one or more languages fluently, but have never read any novels in Turkish in their lifetime!
Yes, I have Turkish friends who have kids at the American Community schools. The kids here, I mean, they are brought up to think that they are American; they speak with an American accent because they have American teachers, they watch America TV, they eat American food, they are like American teenagers…
It is pity that to be somewhere and to live in a bubble in this place! It is always better to be in harmony with the environment you are in. If someone is living so much in the States, they should go to the States, that happens in Lebanon as well, so many people are in Lebanon but their brains elsewhere.
They are all the time nagging, not satisfied with the mentality of the country. Of course, if you are brought up with a different mentality, you will never be in harmony with the mentality of your natural environment. They will always be unhappy.
In your music label, you have groups and artists from all over the world, musicians like Tony Hanna, Jose Fernandez, Chehade Brothers, Demis Roussos… What sort of music do you like or promote? Are there any projects with Turkish musicians?
For me, there is only good music. Whatever it is, as long as it is good music, I am interested in and good music is everywhere! In all styles you can find good music, in all civilizations, in all different schools of music you can find good music. Therefore I don’t put boundaries. I had a music project with a Turkish musician, clarinet player Selim Sesler, we worked on concerts, and it was very good.
Let’s talk about Nowheristan a bit! What is it like being an emperor? Shall I call you “your highness” or “Excellency”?
Once, I forced a journalist of BBC, I had an interview with, to call me your Imperial Highness. And they did… Sometimes I do it, depends on which journalist! Because usually, which is not the case today, I dress in an imperial way… I have people who make my costumes. I bought a very old Ottoman kaftan; we removed all the emrodiery and put new things. I have things done for me in India. I have an emperial car; totally transferred for me, just transformed for me, it is a huge black limousine, imperial Alexander wood, very big car, and matt with old copper.
Do you use it all the time?
When I am invited to Embassies, presidential palaces… I have a flag of Nowheristan and a motorcycle to open the road.
Is this a part of your act? Is it an act?
No, I think that me behaving like that is not more “absurd” than the Queen of England who believes that she is a Queen! Even, the Swedish Royal Family, descendants of a soldier of Napoleon, who decided over night that he is a king of Sweden, through history. I mean, Power is all a matter of “mascarade”, a theatre! People think that they are president because they said that they are presidents; because they created republics. When the republics were created, they became the head of republics.
I have created a country and I have 62 000 citizens now, they all think that I am the Emperor. So, for me I am the Emperor! I have a flag, I have constitution, I have people, I have everything! So there is no reason! I have more citizens than Prince Albert of Monoco or of the ruler of Leitschentein!
Are you trying to say that you don’t recognize these power relations and challenging the concept of power?
No, no, I want to swallow them! I want to swallow all this, in the long run! Nowheristan is a country that will be eating all the other countries, because I am taking their citizens. For example in Turkey, I have more than 3000 Nowheristan citizens. There are a lot of nowheristanees in Turkey!
Are there! Any of them we know?
None is very famous…there is one Lebanese, who lives here, is very famous, Fadi Nahas. He is known as the “king of bananas” around the world. He is one of the biggest traders of bananas in the world.
And you have no borders?
No, no borders because we consider the entire planet and we see Nowheristan as a first step leading to everywheristan.
When I first started it was Nowheristan, because it was nowhere and there was one person. Now, it is growing and growing… After a while, I don’t know when, in 10, 20, 30 years time, it will become everywhere! In a country where I have a big percentage of citizens who became the nowheristan citizens, I will call for civil disobedience to provoke the fall of the government. For example, in France, if I have 30 percent or 35 percent of French people become Nowheristanees, we will provoke the fall of the French government and we will seize France!
In the long run we want to control the entire planet and restore our system. Nowheristanee system, nowheristanee philosopy! That is the solution for a lot of big problems that humanity has been facing for thousands of years like racism, like inequality, injustice, poverty, health problems…
A lot of things that look like the established truth are nothing but aberrations to us! We don’t need frontiers; it is useless now. We don’t need national GDP; the economy should be a global economy. And all the wealth, everywhere should be nowheristanee GDP, that means if you are a good doctor, you should be making as much money as in Nairobi, in Newyork, in China everywhere. But now an idiot in Switzerland will be living better than a genius in Somalia. A genius in Somalia will not get the chance to study, will not make money, will end up cleaning the streets, while an idiot in Switzerland will be pushed in his studies and he will have a very decent life.
Am I wrong to say that Nowheristan is a bit of a virtual country at the moment? Can anyone become a member of this country? How do people become a member?
Yes, if they want to become a member, they go to our site and they register. There is a form to fill and we check, we try to verify the information.
Have you had a call for civil disobedience so far?
No, because we don’t want it yet. Only in Lebanon, I called the civil disobedience against the taxes, because I proved that the public debt is an odious one and we have huge problems with the banks of Lebanon. They wanted to arrest me. I had the prime minister on TV, saying that I am crazy and people should not listen to me!
Do your citizens listen to you in Lebanon?
In Lebanon, not only my citizens but everyone listens to me, even people who don’t agree with me! Because in Lebanon, they know who I am, they know what I did so far! They know that I am someone that no one and nothing can corrupt, I am someone who not only speaks but who is on the ground as well. For example, no one in Lebanon resisted the Syrians; there was no serious resistance against the Syrians until the occupation time, except my own guys! I have the respect of people that I fought against, they respect me more that the people who I worked with.
You were engaged in political activism at the tender age of 15, during the Lebanese civil war, as the leader of an extreme left wing organisation? What does this “extreme” mean?
No, it is not extreme for me, I don’t consider it extreme…I did not write it; it was written by somebody else, not a lot of people agreed with what I did.
What sort of “extreme”, were you, then?
Extreme… It was extreme because we were between anarcism and communism, we were extreme because we had weapons, and we were fighting. It was during war time. It was not like going to a demonstration or burning a flag…
Did you personally have a gun, did you use it?
Yes, I was leading fights. In times of war you cannot stay at home and give orders, you won’t be credible; you have to be with the guys on the ground!
You said you had 1500 guys?
At the end, in 1992 it was 1500 people
Did you have people die?
Yes… a lot of them.
Did you kill, yourself?
You are not in a war to shoot at cats, but people! I think people imagine that to be able to shoot at a person or participate in a war, you have to be a monster. I think anyone…in some situations… if you are in a battle field; you end up by shooting or killing someone. The only difference is between someone who is ethical, who is a moral and someone who is not moral! An ethical person will only shoot someone who has a weapon or attacking him in a battle, the other people… they might attack civilians, they might make massacres, they might kill people while they are sleeping, unarmed people, shoot someone at their back. The killing ranges from killing for self defense to raping and killing women and children. You cannot put all these people who participated in war under the same category; some of them heros who defended human values, some of them are bastards or mercenaries who are killing for the pleasure of killing…This is a big difference.
It is easy to say in times of peace “I am a pasifist”! Some people say “we are against weapons, against violence” but you have in your garden people attacking your house, in your house you have your beloved ones, then you are a coward, if you let this guy come in the house, kill and rape, and you tell him “I am against violence”! Then, you are an idiot and a coward! A real man would fight and kill this guy even, go and kill the guy behind them.
What about the organisations or so called terrorist groups then, especially in the 70s-80s? Some took up arms with the claim of starting up a revolution, some claimed that they were repressed as a nation and wanted their rights to be recognised?
It is case by case, you cannot put all under the same etiquette. For example, is every woman who slept with someone else than her husband a bitch? No! In some case you can say that but, what if the husband is a bastard, he hates her and she hates him and he beats her… and a monster? Then, she finds someone who is nice and who is different than the husband… If the husband is a great guy and working all day long to buy her nice things and everything and when he turns his back on to her, she goes with the neighbour because he is more handsome than her husband?
You cannot put all under the same etiquette, I don’t believe, and it should be taken case by case. Some organisations who have weapons like French Resistance or some Indian groups in Latin America, they have the right to do it, but I I don’t think that Basque has the right to do it, like putting bombs in Spain and killing civillians. I don’t think that some Kurdish group here have the right to do what they are doing… No, this is not right!
Part 2 and Part 3 to follow
This interview was published in Yeni Harman Magazine on January 2010. Copyrights©Filiz Elasu
(You are free to quote any part of this interview as long as you credit me: copyrights©filizelasu.com)