Editorial

Role Model Democratic Leader to Authoritarian Dictator: The Transformation of Turkish PM Erdoğan

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After diving deep into the politics in Turkey, it is even more apparent that its existence is merely a complicated clusterfuck that bleeds into many arenas of chaos, corruption and controversy in which contaminants opinions with censorship and confusion. My attempt has been to significantly organise factual evidence, data and statistics to better comprehend the situation for myself as well as get it to a functional form in which I can share my research with the Turkish people as well as foreign media outlets.

My opinion has been requested regarding the topic of the Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan from both Westerners and Turks.

It’s a game: regime change and regime installment.

Marketing is everything, and everything is marketing.

My understanding can best be illustrated in the context of marketing:
One could have the best product engineering, financial backing, operational mastery, et cetera, but the success of the product is ultimately determined by perception- how the customers perceive your product; it’s branding. This same idea from marketing can be applied to politics and politicians, both in domestic and international arenas. In the context of the U.S. Empire, this principle governs one of its main operations: regime construction and puppet installation as well as deconstruction and reverse marketing engineering.  The U.S. uses the same principle of marketing to bring down entire regimes they built and take down their own puppets. The current reversal of both Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s domestic and world image can best be conceptually understood with this idea of reverse marketing engineering.

For the past twelve years, the U.S. has aided in the branding, marketing, and promoting of Turkey’s AKP (justice and development) Party and its leader, Erdogan. The U.S. helped to paint the image of the AKP’s Turkey as being democratically sound, fair, just, and as being the ideal model of a democratic government for the Islamic world.

The following are examples of branding and marketing tactics executed by the U.S. media outlets as the crucial actors strategically planning and constructing the perspective most beneficial for the U.S. Empire:

1. CNN: One of the top media sources marketing the perception of Turkey in favour of the U.S.

Turkey Can Model Democracy for the Arab World

“Turkey, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), as a model of a modern, democratic and Islamic nation nurturing pluralist ideals.”

“Rather than viewing Turkey’s increasing currency in the region as a challenge, America should see it as an opportunity. From its free-market economic system, which is registering Chinese-level growth, to its compatible ideals, the promotion of the Turkish model is in America’s national interest. Turkey effectively counters militant groups by challenging them from within Muslim society while also representing a crucial bridge between the West and the Muslim world.”

“America can immediately take practical steps to promote the Turkish model by encouraging the Egyptian army to move the nation toward a genuine, civilian-elected government.” 

2. NPR: Another top media outlet that functions uniquely through its disguised perception as being independent and non-profit.

Turkish Democracy: A Model for Other Countries?

 

3. Middle-of-the-road sources

Turkey is a Model for Democracy & New Relations with the West

“Turkey’s rising trajectory was highlighted by the rock-star reception accorded to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his recent tour of the Arab Spring states of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya and his high-profile meetings during the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly.”

“Many find the Turkish model enticing, with the moderate Islamic Justice and Development Party, known as AKP, in office; a secular constitution in place; a strong military that is subservient to the elected civilian authority; and an economy that has been expanding.”

“Overall there’s hope that a new democratic era in the Middle East and North Africa will enable Arabs to develop a new paradigm for relations with the West. This paradigm would be based on equality and partnership – a position that Turkey has already achieved.” 

4. BBC: International marketing outlets also played a key role in expanding the brand as a globally accepted concept.

Turkey: a model of democracy for the Arab world

5. The White House: Symbolic figures also played a unique role in justifying and promoting alliances and legitimation of the brand and advertising it with a stamp of approval and confirmation.

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey after Bilateral Meeting

“I just want to say how much I appreciate the opportunity to once again meet with my friend and colleague, Prime Minister Erdogan.  I think it’s fair to say that over the last several years, the relationship between Turkey and the United States has continued to grow across every dimension.  And I find Prime Minister Erdogan to be an outstanding partner and an outstanding friend on a wide range of issues.”

Obama names Turkey’s Erdoğan among top five international friends

The U.S. Empire spent over a decade marketing its ideal puppet in the Middle East and promoted the AK Party and Erdoğan as being the model for democracy in the Islamic world. Abruptly, sentiments changed and the AK Party reached their expiration. Almost over-night, the party went from democratic to despotic, from democracy-loving to dictator, from squeaky clean to utterly corrupt, from moderate to extremist. What the hell happened?

The following are some examples of the sudden reversal in branding and marketing in which is best presented by comparing and contrasting the language and sentiments from those of the examples from above.  (Keep the dates in mind,  for the time sequence between the decade-long branding/marketing and the now reverse branding/marketing.)

1. CNN

Turkey’s Erdogan: Successful leader or ‘dictator’?

“Erdogan ‘is offering unfortunate proof that it is possible to be both elected and authoritarian.'”

“Many journalists say press freedoms in Turkey have declined under his rule. Reporters Without Borders says Turkey ‘is currently the world’s biggest prison for journalists, especially those who express views critical of the authorities on the Kurdish issue.'”

“Many secular Turks complain that the Islamist-rooted government is intolerant of criticism and diverse lifestyles, as evidenced by the recent enactment of tight restrictions on the sale of alcohol, Fadi Hakura, manager of the Turkey Project at the London-based think tank Chatham House, said in a CNN.com column.”

2. Wall Street Journal 

Turkey’s ‘Good Dictator’

3. The Jerusalem Post

Candidly Speaking: Turkey’s Erdogan – An autocratic Islamist bigot

Erdogan is Harming Turkey’s Secular Democratic Tradition

4. The London Economic 

Erdoğan’s Naked Theatre of Democracy

5. Reuters 

Simmering Anger at Erdogan’s Authoritarianism Boils over in Turkey

6. Commentary Magazine

Turkey: Between Deep State and Dictatorship

7. Brookings 

Turkey’s Democratic Institutions Besieged

8. The Times 

The spectre of dictatorship hangs over Turkey

Seriously, how did this 180 turn happen? No one can be transformed from democratic to fascist dictator in a matter of few months. No person can switch from fair and squeaky clean to utterly tainted and corrupt. Nobody can convert from being a moderate Islamist to an extremist bigot in less than a year.

What is even more peculiar is the fact that the U.S. has even resorted to using the “Terrorist” label in the reverse branding-marketing of their previous puppet prodigy. You know what it means when they play the terrorist card, right?

The following is an article that establishes Erdoğan’s ties with a famous man designated as a terrorist (but only when it is convenient for the U.S.):

Erdogan’s Son Caught with Al-Qaeda Financier

“Turkey’s political crisis took a dark turn this week. Photos of Prime Minister Erdoğan’s son meeting a suspected al-Qaeda financier in an Istanbul hotel were leaked to the press. The photos allegedly show Bilal Erdoğan meeting Saudi Arabian businessman Yasin al-Qadi, whom the US blacklisted in April 2013 as an al-Qaeda funder. According to media reports, Qadi, who visits Turkey frequently and was escorted by the Prime Minister’s security men, met Bilal to discuss a deal for a juicy piece of real estate worth $1 billion in Istanbul’s Etiler neighborhood.”

Note: The refuge of Al Qadi in Turkey and his ties to Erdoğan, along with other high-level figures in Turkey, had been known for more than a decade.

“Qadi’s relationship with Turkey and the Erdoğan family goes back a few years. In 2004 the Wall Street Journal uncovered transactions worth more than $1 million between Qadi and Maram, a Turkish front company that funded terrorists in Yemen. Associates of Qadi’s, including managers at Maram, are known funders and founders of al-Qaeda. Qadi has frequently and vehemently denied the accusations and spent a lot of money trying to clear his name. But at the very least, his dealings in Turkey are suspicious. According to opposition lawmakers, his presence in the country is illegal.”

Old news, but it doesn’t matter- dirt is dirt and can be exposed only when it is convenient. It also doesn’t matter that the U.S. government did not have problems with al Qadi and several other high-level terrorists operating out of Turkey for over ten years. Really, it doesn’t matter at all and the branding-marketing branch of the U.S. empire will continue to use the terrorist card:

Turkish PM Erdogan hit by allegations of son’s meeting with ‘0Al Qaeda financier’

“According to findings by investigators leaked to Turkish media, Yasin Al Qadi is suspected of involvement in a scandal over the sale of land in an upmarket neighborhood in Istanbul. His alleged meeting last year with Bilal Erdogan could implicate the prime minister’s family in the affair. The allegations could not come at a worse time for Mr. Erdoğan, whose government is reeling from a series of corruption allegations.”

Did the ”Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” Yasin Al Qadi, evade U.N. sanctions with the help of politically connected friends in Turkey?

“Not everyone agrees with this picture of Al Qadi. ‘I know Mr. Qadi,’ Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a local television news station in July 2006. “I believe in him as I believe in myself. For Mr. Qadi to associate with a terrorist organization, or support one, is impossible.”

“Back to Turkey: Al Qadi is not just a friend of Prime Minister Erdogan, but he’s close to a group of Islamic businessmen and politicians around the prime minister. It has already been widely reported in the press, mostly notably in a Wall Street Journal article in August 2007, that Al Qadi was a major and early investor in BIM, a food retailer originally founded in the mid-1990s by entrepreneurial brothers Aziz and Cuneyd Zapsu. According to Al Qadi’s lawyer, the Saudi exited BIM in 1999, despite reports to the contrary, and well before his controversial U.N. listing.”

“Kacar’s 2004 Al Qadi report, delivered under what the investigator said was intense pressure to complete his probe, cited evidence that Al Qadi’s companies in Turkey were transferring funds between 1997 and 2001 far in excess of both companies’ net incomes, and were still operating at the time of the report. Wired funds he traced from various companies and individuals went to, among others, a ‘charity’ and other individuals branded terrorists or terrorist fronts by international investigators; there was reason to continue his investigations, Kacar wrote.”

I strongly recommend that you to read the entire investigative article. Prior to the terrorist attacks in September 2001, the F.B.I. was fully aware of Al Qadi’s operations with key al Qaeda figures. On top of this, there were several investigations along with operations that targeted the activity of Al Qadi and his network in the United States prior to 9/11 (some of these investigations were based in the F.B.I.’s Washington Field Office, while others were being conducted from the FBI’s Chicago Field Office).

The State Department and the C.I.A. pressured the F.B.I. before and after 9/11 to close and cover-up those investigations pertaining to Turkey and Al Qadi, because exposing those operations would have resulted in exposure of covert CI.A.-N.A.T.O. operations in Central Asia and the Caucasus during the period between 1996 and 2002.

The terrorist card is being played as a marketing tool, and it will continue to be played. The favourite puppet, who was previously characterised and openly promoted as being an ideal, moderate and democratic leader has been reshaped is Erdoğan is now being reintroduced to the public, in Turkey and abroad, as despotic, a dictator, corrupt, and a terrorist. Here is the million lira question: why?

The downfall of Turkey’s Erdoğan began with a feud between him and the C.I.A.-created Muslim Preacher, Imam Fethullah Gülen. One cannot truly comprehend the downfall of Erdoğan without knowing the importance and power of C.I.A.’s Fethullah Gülen. Not much has been analysed, reported, and exposed of the Imam and his multi-billion dollar Islamic network and correlating operations around the globe (which has been fully orchestrated as well as backed by the C.I.A.

The following is a recent article that delves into Erdogqan countering the C.I.A.’s Mullah Gülen’s operations and network in Turkey:

Turkey Scandal Deepens with Raid on Charity Accused of Al Qaeda Ties

“Turkish police raided offices of a government-backed Islamic charity in six provinces on Tuesday and detained at least 23 people accused of having links with Al Qaeda, local media reported. The coordinated operation against the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or IHH, prompted the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to sack the senior police official responsible for conducting the raid at the charity’s Kilis headquarters, the Hurriyet Daily News reported.”

For Erdoğan, the feud with Imam Fethullah Gülen transcends to a  a rift with the C.I.A. This tension anticipates doom in terms of expiration. Once a puppet is considered expired, the reversal branding and marketing begins in which all old skeletons are dug out of the deep closets and leaked to the media. Erdoğan;s previously overlooked human rights violations are observed and scrutinized under a microscope.

All U.S.-installed puppets and regimes must commit to the U.S.’s commandments- this is the political reality. If you don’t play by the Imperial rules, you get thrown out of the game by being disgraced, exposed, uninstalled, and possibly be sentenced to death. Just look at the history of the past century. When an installed puppet gets too confident and and ignores at least  commandment, their images is reconstructed as dictators, despots, human rights violators, and terrorists. This is the time when their backyards get dug up to find a microscopic trace of weapons of mass destruction.

So, what was Erdoğan’s crime? Did he get too confident? Did he violate a commandment or two? The media would like to paint it like he did:

Turkey Mulls Buying Missiles from China, Snubbing NATO

“Turkey has said that it is likely to buy a new missile defense program from a Chinese firm, unnerving NATO and American diplomats. A Reuters report from earlier this month said that Turkey is ‘highly likely’ to buy the $3.4 billion program, from a firm under American sanctions, no less.”

NATO’s Mounting Opposition to Turkey’s Chinese Missile System

Turkey’s Choice of Chinese Missiles Poses Problem for West

“Washington has reacted with concern over the decision of Turkey’s Defense Industry Executive Committee (SSIK), the absolute authority on the country’s defense projects and procurement, to acquire China’s FD-2000 system to fill the NATO member’s high-altitude and long-range air defense gap. The committee met on Sept. 26 with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to enter into contract negotiations with the state-owned China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corporation.”

Another majour rule violation:

Turkey Renews Plea to Join Shanghai Cooperation Organization

“During a trip to Russia in November, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan once again said that Ankara would abandon its quest to join the European Union if it was offered full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.”

Mr. Erdogan Goes to Shanghai

“Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan dropped that bomb on Jan. 25. With Turkish hopes for the EU membership diminishing, he declared the SCO to be a viable alternative to the European Union. ‘I said to Russian President Vladimir Putin, ‘You tease us, saying, ‘what [is Turkey] doing in the EU?’ Now I tease you: Include us in the Shanghai Five and we will forget about the EU.’”

Three majour commandment violations:

  1. Thou shalt not buy weapons from China or Russia regardless of quality or price advantage.
  2. Thou shalt only feed the U.S.’s own fat Military Industrial Complex players.
  3. A puppet shall only be a member of clubs solely owned and operated by the U.S.; joining others’ clubs, even thinking of joining others’ clubs, shall come with severe retribution. (A rule that has been written with in-erasable ink).

Three strikes, you’re out. Erdoğan’s expiration clock is running out.  It is impossible for one with such a row with the C.I.A. to maintain legitimacy and control. While he still has seconds on the clock, this doomed man  should use his final fragments of power to seek shelter- a refuge.

 

The “epidemic” affecting the women of western society: A Rant

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Women of the west have been taught
to love themselves,
to respect themselves,
to stand up for themselves,
to be independent,
to think freely,
to stand firmly with what they believe in,
and to hold their own.

Independence and free will have been ingrained in their beings.

They are told that they could be anything that they want when they grew up and they believe it.

The role models:
Harriet Tubman
Marie Curie
Eleanor Roosevelt
Mother Theresa
Frida Kahlo
Rosa Parks
Margaret Thatcher
Toni Morrison
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Hilary Clinton
Olympia Snowe

They prove that “girl power” does exist
and they tell women that they are
invincible,
unstoppable,
and uninhibited.

As a woman of the west, I believed this

…and then I went to university.

Seriously, what the hell happened?
A strange phenomenon occurs at the bars, the clubs and the parties:
Insecure girls can simply check their inhibitions at the door,
drop their responsibility off at the coat check,
and leave their self-awareness at the bar.
Yes, girls, you can drink to your heart’s content,
you can be stupid, ignorant, and dumb,
and you can dance up on bars;
you can make-out with strangers,
you can go home with different strangers,
and you can even wake up the next day and not have to take ownership for any of it!

Ladies, this is a huge problem.
I have observed this type of conduct in the contexts of western female students (especially those being of American and British cultures).

Today, U.S. president Barrack Obama made a speech calling sexual assault a “college campus epidemic” where 50 percent of sexual assaults in America occur in universities and where 90 percent of all sexual assaults occur when alcohol is involved.

In these same American institutions where there is an “epidemic,” there are flyers advertising the following sentiment:
“My rapist doesn’t know he’s a rapist.”

Here’s where I am throwing up a flag and calling out obstruction–
If you go to the bars, the clubs, and the parties,
if you drink to your heart’s content,
if you’re stupid and make bad decisions,
if you go home with strangers,
you will wake up the next day feeling full of
disgust,
shame,
and regret.

It’s called cause and effect.

Face it:
Did you like the fact you had willingly taken 10+ shots with “your girls”?
Did you like that you purchased your own double shots at the bar?
Did you like that you accepted multiple shots from your best friend, your study buddy, or that random guy from                       down the hall?
Did you like that you had embarrassingly danced on the counter and showed complete strangers your panties?
What about blacking out, did you like that too?
And what about stumbling over to the other side of town after the club closed for the after party?
How about falling down the stairs at a party at an unknown flat?
How did you like being pressured into drinking hard liquor instead of beer?
How’d you like wandering into bed with a stranger that was more intoxicated than yourself?
And how did you like feeling dirty in your worn, soiled clothes from the night before?

Did you like it?
NO!
So, you freaked out.

What could you possibly say to attempt to justify your behavior?
You didn’t want to say anything, so you have no excuse but to take it all back.

Do you remember that you were drunk?
Yes.
Do you remember that you flirted with him?
Yes.
Do you remember that you were the one that initiated the make-out sessions with him?
Yes.
Do you remember that you whispered to in his ear, “hey, let’s get out of here.”
Yes.

Yes, you remember, but you feel
low,
guilty,
and ashamed
after it’s all said and done.

You feel so badly about yourself that you deny it and take it all back because you know that in “the girl that cried rape,” it’s your word against his and the media has shown that the girl always wins.

The mantra of the media echoes a challenge to your faded conscience:
“It’s not your fault.”

So, you lie and cry.

The law states that those who are incapacitated cannot consent to sex.
^What does “incapacitated” mean?
Stumbling?
Slurred speech?
A gibberish text?

If simply being “incapacitated” is the dividing line of consented sex and rape, why isn’t there intervention?
Why aren’t there police officers or security guards standing outside of bars, clubs, and parties?
Why don’t girls exit from one side and guys must exit on the other?

ATTENTION LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, PLEASE KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF AND WHERE I CAN SEE THEM.

Phew! No more one-night-stands and no more walks of shame.

Reality check:
What is the real line that cannot be crossed?

In western society, it has become socially normal and culturally acceptable for young persons of the female persuasion to
one: get drunk,
two: make bad decisions,
and three: lie and take it all back.

There is no
ownership,
responsibility,
and acceptance of one’s own mistakes.

Why?
So they can feel better about their actions?
So they can feel better about their “numbers” (which don’t mean anything anyway)?
So they can feel better about
the poor choices,
the stupid decisions,
the mistakes,
the regrets,
the “I shouldn’t haves,”
the errors,
the misjudgments,
the “uh-ohs,”
the shots,
the kisses,
and the (dare I say) SEX?

Oiiiii, I just do not understand.

Isn’t it sad that the western culture of today tolerates and accepts both regret and unaccountability?
Don’t the “girls that cry wolf” realize that they are mocking the real victims of sexual assault and consequently taint society’s perception of women’s credibility as a whole?

No? Forget about yourselves and think of the real victims–
the women that didn’t willingly take a shot from a stranger;
the women that didn’t drink excessively to incapacitation;
the women that didn’t drunkenly climb into bed with a strange guy;
the women that were violently attacked.

When you regret the things that you did when you were under the influence of alcohol and try to erase it all by “crying rape,” you distort the credibility of the real victims in the eyes of the media, police officers and district attorneys and, consequently, you discourage them from speaking up for themselves and for justice.

In “crying rape,” the world’s perspective narrows and sees all females as victims and all men as attackers—
this is completely and utterly false and actually strengthens the argument of gender inequality.

The gray area:
Is there something that stands between rape and a consensual one-night-stand where not every drunken hookup is the result of a violent attack?

This, most certainly, does not imply that girls can go into a situation knowing what is going to happen, and then take it all back the next day.

No, it does not work this way.
Hey girls–
Remember when you were children that you were taught that you can be anything that you want to be when you            grow up?
Remember that you are strong, independent, and fierce?
Remember that you do not have to be ashamed of your sexuality just as much as you are not forced to hide it?
Remember that you can play with the boys and act like them too?

If you remember this, then why are you running from equality?

If you make a stupid decision, you, and only you, are responsible for your own composure, choices, and conduct–
That’s how it is, period.

You don’t get to arbitrarily take the things that you regret back.
You don’t get to be stupid and then be blameless.
You don’t get to be held unaccountable for your actions.
Doing any of the above only sets you back, as an individual and as a society.

It’s time to stop “crying rape” and playing the “blame game.”

Saygı · Respect

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I grew up with respect– undeniable, unconditional respect. Our humble house was rich in morality, integrity and respect. It was an equal opportunity household and, if I asked a question, I would always receive the truth; even as a child and if the answer was too complex for my understanding, my father would always respond with the answer. There was no fake, sweet-talking, superficial bullshit (with the minor exceptions of both Papa Nöel and the Easter bunny), it was authentic, genuine and real. My parents (and the notable mention of select mentors in high school: Madame Marsden, Donna and Dave Inglehart, Anna Skeele, and Jane Gagnier) surrounded my siblings and I with this concept of raw, no-nonsense truth during my entire upbringing and helped to develop me into the strong, compassionate, respectful person that I am today.

This mentality and dynamic had many positive, humanistic correlating attributes that are ideal traits, yet they have also proposed ironic ignorance in comparison to other worldviews and cultural norms. It may seem quite odd to some, but there have few instances in my life where I have actually felt “gender.”

The first time I felt my gender was when Lonnie Taylor’s dad kicked me off the baseball team for being a girl. Oh yes, how could I forget the day where my aspirations of playing in the MLB as the starting shortstop for the Boston Red Sox were extinguished? I remember that he got my hopes up: he allowed for me to try-out with all of the other guys. I was a fast, energetic, up-stoppable shortstop with such passion and dedication that I would fearlessly dive and hurl myself to stop every ball from ever getting past me. I was a lunatic on the baseball diamond and wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty or muddy and bloody. I was fast as hell (not proven but if our team had raced, I believe that I would have come out on top because I was wicked fast and I know that I wanted it more). At the try-outs for the Raymond majors, I knew that my performance was better than half the guys there. I was one of the boys, confident in my talent and I was nearly certain that my abilities had gotten me a spot on the team. Almost. My heart stopped beating for a moment when I was informed that, “baseball was too competitive for girls” and after 10 years of growing up and rough housing with the boys, I was forced to quit baseball and “try softball.”

This was the first time in my life I had been labelled as being a girl.

 

Since all those years ago when my dreams of going pro were burned, I still never quite learned how to be a girl (Side note: I immediately wrote an editorial  in our class newspaper, the Estey Times,  entitled “Battle of the Sexes” where my fury of gender inequality was first borne in type). The role of being a girl was forced upon me and it made me feel very uncomfortable. I never really had any girl friends (besides the occasional fellow tomboy) because I never had much in common with them. In my nature, I embrace the facts that I am aggressive, competitive, intense, fierce, and that I am an athlete at heart with a strong mind; a warrior. Girls were, and still are, a foreign concept to me. At the moment I was first called a “girl,” I was made to feel like I had to play a role for society that I virtually knew nothing about and I tried so hard to own it. For a kid hitting puberty, this turned out to be a massive identity crisis.

From this, I struggled with insane confusion and depression. I had known who I was, but I suddenly found myself tossed off the plank into the rough seas of identity and being forced to swim to a fabled shore to find my inner “girl” without drowning first. Bitter with a mouth full of salt, this journey was tainted by an idea implemented by a misunderstood conception of social norms. A wave of hostility attacked my psyche and, as I have always been my own hardest critic, I beat myself up and considered myself to be freakishly abnormal. I was not like other girls, but somehow I was supposed a “girl”? I was a tomboy (hell, I even looked like a boy until I was probably 13 or 14). When it was blatantly spelled out to me that I was a girl, my confidence that I had gained through sport and competition was lost and was instead replaced with sharp sentiments of inadequacy, insecurity and insanely negative sense of self-image.

Society and media drove my confusion and intensified my standards and consequently personal disgust and pain. Girls were supposed to be pretty. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a rugged frame with a muscular, boy-figure covered with scratches, bruises, and scars from over-enthusiasm for sport. The person I saw reflected was not a girl. Girls were supposed to be pretty. The mirror showed a kid with no sense of fashion (because Red Sox jerseys didn’t count) with no pink or purple palettes in sight who inhabited a world where dresses were unheard of. I kept hearing myself yell, “girls are supposed to be pretty!” When I realised that I was supposed to be a girl, I lost everything that made me independent, special, and unique, and I instead focused on everything that made me different from others, especially in comparison to other girls in how I looked. The person I saw in the mirror was the ugliest person on the planet.

I was taught that girls were supposed to be pretty, they were supposed to dress nicely and they were supposed to look good so guys would want them. Childish and silly, but I was made to believe that the greatest success for a girl was to get a boyfriend– not to get straight-A’s, not to learn how to pitch a knuckleball or throw a perfect spiral, not be proud of their musical talent on the clarinet, not to out smart their teacher by doing a science fair project on string theory. Priorities were all disoriented and I felt like I needed to change in order to be accepted and liked by others. It became so intense and overwhelming that I sunk into a deep, incomprehensible depression from the judgements of friends, peers, family and, worst of all, myself.

I was lost.

I was quiet and slithered by in the background, undetected. My depression and confusion of identity lingered through the years, but it only made its presence fully known on occasion. Middle school and high school were filled with sheer self-loathing and consequent self-disrespect that reflected upon all of my relationships, worst of all being the one with myself. I drifted onward like this and I only learned to confront the problem as I entered the “real world” when my experience led me to focus more internally towards rediscovering myself.

I learned to cope with things through experience. In focusing on my passions– sports, running, meditation, yoga, reading, writing, dancing, drawing, music– I regained my creativity and my drive for both life and discovery of insight and knowledge. In this way, I learned that loving oneself requires a courage unlike any other; it requires one to believe in and stay loyal to something that no one else can see that keeps us in the world: our own self-worth. I re-conjured the amazing energy that makes me the unique person that I am. I remembered the spirit of the fearless child I was and realized that the fire within me still burns and it is not dictated or seen by society, gender or any form of social construction– my fire is something that burns in my heart that I dictate, that only I can control, that can never burn out.

Finding the source to my own misery was fairly difficult, but resolving it and learning to master the following mantra has been an developing project that requires active attention and much effort:
I do not need to validate my self-worth through others.

Society both directly and indirectly conditions us to focus our attention on the means that make us perceive ourselves as being “inadequate” or “not good enough.” From this, we consequently find ourselves in the position where we believe that we are only worth something if people like us. We fail to remember that it is not about being good enough, or pretty enough, or skinny enough, or popular enough or liked enough– it’s about liking yourself enough to respect your own existence and to value your own life. It’s about experiencing life, learning, growing, expanding your mind and conscious awareness of yourself and of others, maturing and striving to become the best, healthiest, and happiest version of yourself. No one can choose that for you and no one can dictate who you are or who you will become except for yourself.

This realization has been a mountainous trek within itself. Applying this mentality has helped me overcome my personal battles as well as cope with different social contexts. Dealing with western sentiments regarding gender was difficult enough, but the challenge I face at current is dictated by different trends of social norms.

The second time in my life where I felt gender was in Turkey.

After accepting my image and not considering myself as being limited to a gender and to implied traditional roles, my patience was put to the ultimate test when I entered a non-western context. Patriarchial and male-dominated to it’s his-storical core, what a blast (I swear if only the Turkish and Arabic men knew my defiance and unorthodox nature that they would, for sure, stay far away from me). In this culture, differences between men and women are made clear in extroverted society and affect conduct. Women are seen as inferior for their equality would threaten the traditional means of power structure, social etiquette and conduct, as well as all known ways of behavior and life.

In Turkish society, women are paralyzed by sentiments of domestication ordered by the untrustworthy men in power. Yes, in the past 90 years, Turkey has developed greatly, but there are certain progressive ideas that were never functionally adopted. Turkey is a great advocate for the family and traditional blood ties, but the fear of disrupting or modifying this ancient, primordial tradition keeps the call for gender equality dormant.

I am not a Turkish woman, but I can their implied gender role objectively. I know that the concept of family, in terms of traditional heirarchy and social structure, are intensified here: one does not merely have just the influence from one’s parents, but one is in constant connection and contact with them as well as one’s entire extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, the works). More influence equals more pressure. Individualism and personal identity is not accepted nor encouraged in the same way it is in the west and one’s perspective and personal goals in life are not truly one’s one for the pressure for pleasing others is great. Due to this, girls are drawn back by invisible chains of past traditional roles where they are preoccupied with filling the future roles of becoming wives and mothers.

Yes, in this age girls can go to university and get degrees but “what for?” I had an extensive conversation with a working professional Turkish woman. Single, at thirty years of age, with multiple degrees and extensive experience, she is perceived as “strange” by Turkish society. Women who choose careers as taking priority over family in Turkey are not seen as pioneers but as disruptive troublemakers.
Oh, she isn’t married? Something must be wrong with her.
She isn’t a mother? She must work extra hours without extra pay so the women in the office that are mothers can spend more time with their families.
She was only thirty and she felt as if her life was over for she had failed to due her domestic duties as a woman.

No, I am not a Turkish woman and I have seen the effects of such through different treatment. Foreign women are prized, not because they are seen as “liberated” or more “free” by Turkish men, but because they are seen as being less conservative and easier sexual conquests (as well as a potential ticket out of Turkey). Traditional Turkish men expect all women, disregarding origin, to follow their cultural norms by accepting that their status is lower to theirs and that they must conduct themselves accordingly.

It is rather difficult trying to balance being comfortable with one’s own image along with putting on a stable mask to play the cultural role in a relatively backwards context. I may not see myself as a gender, but I have to be aware of the fact that others most certainly do. Others expect me to be a woman, to be pretty, to be be proper, to act and behave in a certain way. I never learned the role of truly being a girl and I never wanted to (rebel, rebel). It can be absolutely draining pretending to be a confident woman when I am uncertain as to what that really means in this culture. It is exhausting not being seen as the intelligent, energetic, passionate person that I am and instead being objectified as a sex image in public and a potential wife/mother in private.

Some experiences of being a foreign girl abroad:
I have been attacked (1), nearly assaulted (3), followed (5+), harassed (lost count), been called out for walking alone (lost count), been yelled at for wearing a knee-length dress (2), had a middle-aged man yell at me (reason: uncertain), had a taxi driver slap my girl friend for being drunk (1), have had random guys hit on me (seriously, do not check the “other” inbox on Facebook. Current count: 99+), and countless of weirdos trying to get my number (again, the count is unknown).

My rebuttal:
In the act of self-defense, I have beaten the crap out of a Turkish guy that tried to disrespect my body, I have tear-gassed a few, kicked some nuts, got in some good jabs and cuts to to solar plexus, broke at least two noses, protected my self and other women in defense from unnecessary harm as a consequence of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

I have learned to respect myself and I refuse to let someone else try to over power and degrade that kindled respect that I have in an attempt to lower me into an object of their perceived disrespected and lowered status. I know me and, unfortunately for them, they do not and they have no idea that they messed with the wrong woman for I am not afraid to stand up for myself and what I think is right.

Impartially, it is an amazing experience to tune into such awareness. I have been through hell in regards to my perception of self where I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly and I would not trade the pain, growth, and adaptive experience for anything. I have been exposed to different contexts and have seen how one can manage different ideas in an attempt to promote the best for one and all’s existence. There is no set standard for the greatest conduct for accumulating the telos for humanity but, by observing the problems cast by all societies and accepting the desired commonalities of equality and respect, a driving force of acceptance and hope of establishing lasting social change to reorganize and prioritize the purpose for being on an individual/personal level to cultural context, and even higher so to an international level that transcends all borders is presented.

#Respect (in the Ali G voice)

United yet Divided

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When I first started to apply to university, the spark of my undergraduate dreams was illuminated with the tints of idealism. I chose my majors according to this higher purpose and wrote my supplements for the application essays with a cursive slant which creatively inscribed my individual objectives that were deemed possible by my strong will accompanied by advanced education. All of my entry essays shared a sentiment: I expressed my frustrating encounters with ignorance on the various levels of human nature –individual, family, local, society, international society– and how my goal was to better the human experience on each of these levels. Seemingly ideal, but I am a person of action as well as a socio-political realist so I expressed further in my writing that my hypothesis to accomplish this was that I wanted to study in a foreign context (different to my native culture) and translate its culture, ideology, political life, traditions, social construction and national identity back to my own cultural context. In regards to journalism (a program I initially applied for at various American universities but decided against), I recognised the framing of media and its consequent biases and spread of ignorance. This annoyance combined with my desire and tendency to be as objective as possible led me to run through the storm of clouded, dense, biased research and data collection.

It began as I prepared to study abroad. I began university in the United Kingdom, but I conducted my research separately by taking advantage of all of the educational, political, historical, and social resources in this context as possible. One could call this a “hobby” but, to me, it became (and still is) a full time job/obsession. I want to learn but, more so, I want to further my comprehension and expand both my growth and knowledge. I liked my coursework, but it was too simple and straightforward. I wanted a challenge. As both an obsessed seeker of knowledge and a perfectionist, I read and wrote so much, especially during my first year at university, that I believe that I could have finished my degree already and passed all my exams (seriously). I became so obsessed; I wanted to learn everything and absorb all the information I could get my hands on. I am a highly energetic individual and, when I get hooked on an idea, I dedicate my entire self to the cause and I want to accomplish my objectives with precision and speed. A lesson that is most precious, and is best learned early, is the value of patience. For I am go, go, go all the time, this is a virtue that I am accepting and learning. Sure, I could recite entire passages of my favourite theorists and philosophers (including Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Marx) but using them in political life is a different story (Reality: I am a 19 year old woman and a nobody- who the hell would listen to my voice or even deem it as meaningful or credible?). In this regard, I am slowly learning to “enjoy the ride” and, this year, I am enjoying (or trying to) social life in Istanbul by seeing various cultural trends as opposed to being lost in theories, abstractions, and books (don’t worry, I am still quite the avid reader with my stress-induced insomnia).
I do recognize that there are some shortcomings to my approaches during my first year abroad that limited my progress of “translating a culture back to my own.” After only being in a context for one year, I believe that I successfully achieved a summarised snapshot of the objective above. I was granted the opportunity to observe the culture and political structure at various levels (which was extremely fascinating and informative), but it wasn’t detailed and I would never consider myself to be an expert on affairs (social or political). I got to see the historical implications up close and see how events shaped the people and national identity seen today (Awesome: one initial dream realised).

Accompanying my intentions, I was presented with more interesting realisations. I was so focused on learning about a new context that I did not so much anticipate what I would learn about my former context. I got to see my own country from afar, from an outside perspective. I saw the news unravel back west from a different context –without the loudness of being so close to ground zero, one could think in the quiet and observe the greater picture. It was really interesting for me to see how the U.S. was truly interpreted abroad (truly or realistically in the sense of relatively to different contexts). Despite many sentiments of hate and disgust, American culture and ideology was everywhere and, too an extent, was greatly envied.

This year, as I have moved farther east, I can now see the U.S. as well as the western world from a different angle. Turkey, especially Istanbul, has been westernised and has evolved greatly, even more so within the past decade, but the deep influences of the past still reveal embedded implications of eastern conservatism in their ideology. This counters the more recent liberal sentiments behind Kemalism of the past ninety years, but they lay hidden beneath the modern mask of “liberalism.”

As I stated prior, I have granted myself the opportunity to partake in social life. This may sound silly or, perhaps, strange but, as one who studies humans, I am an introvert and prefer to observe at a distance. I prefer humans in the abstract and I like to observe but not participate in social life. One thing that I go out of my way to do everyday is to do something that scares me; to live outside of my comfort zone, for here is where I believe that life truly begins. With my new induction to social life, I have observed trends, especially in the youth, the “generation of the future.” I like to be as objective as possible but I will not deny any biases (unintentional) of being an introvert in an emotionally-charged, extroverted society and culture. Here, my introverted behaviours (which I have had to suppress and is actually really draining and difficult for me) would be seen as stigma– it is against the norm and I would be labelled as “strange” and, due to the nature process of judgements and stereotyping, I would be perceived, on a primal level, as a threat because I was different. This doesn’t just apply to social differences, but all differences whether they be physical, psychological, social, cultural, ideological, etc. My objective: to blend. Seemingly strange due to my heritage, I look Turkish so it makes this goal a little more obtainable, but my true self would be immediately rejected.

Let me explain this more, on the primal level in regards to the foundations of human nature where logos is the basic building block. Logos is the power to know or recognise those of the same polis (city, society, state, nation) through the ability of speech and the basic sense of communication with others of our kind that we share. This concept goes beyond for it does not just describe the capacity for language (in terms that a linguist might) but, more importantly, it explains that, as human beings, we share a common moral language and means of communication. With a mutual conception of the just and the unjust, this can make up the political structure of a city (or regime). An added feature, especially in regards to the Aristotelian conception of logos, is the embedded idea of love (in terms of eros). We love those whom we are most intimately related and closest to. Social and political commonality is not the result of calculation (as seen by Hobbes and other social contract theorists), but such things as love, affection, friendship, and sympathy are the grounds of political life and take root in our logos for it is speech that allows us to share these qualities that make us fully human in the contexts of both the social institutions of a family and a polis.

The polis is seen as a natural entity in the sense that it has grown out of smaller, lesser forms of human association: first comes the family, then an association of families in a tribe, then a further association in a village, and then an association of villages that make up a polis. The polis is natural in the sense that it is an outgrowth: the most developed form of human association relating similarly to those of biological charts of human development from these lesser forms of life that evolve all the way up to civilization in some way. There is a second sense for, in some ways, it can be seen as a more important sense in which the polis is by nature; it is natural.

The city is natural in that it allows human beings to achieve and perfect their telos (their purpose). A human is a zôion politikòn (political animal according to Aristotle) for participation in the life of the city is necessary for the achievement of human excellence, for the achievement of well-being.To say that humans are political by nature is not to say that we become human by participating in social life of a polis– it means more than this. The form of association that leads to our perfection (the telos being that of “the good life”) is necessarily something that is particularistic, meaning that the city is always a particular city (this or that particular city).The polis is a small society or, in today’s terms, a closed society. The telos (or purpose) of the individual is to achieve “the good life;” as human beings are social by nature, this must be communally obtained therefore the purpose of the polis is to provide the conditions for the good life of the individual. A society that leads to the perfection and realisation of our telos must be held together by bonds of trust.

Trust is in terms of friendship– of camaraderie. We cannot trust all people. Trust can only be extended to a fairly small circle of friends and fellow citizens. Only a city that is small enough to be governed by relations of trust can be soundly politically secure. The antithesis of the city (the empire) can only be ruled despotically in which there can be no relations of trust in large imperial despotism. In one sense, what follows is the reiterated sentiment that the human being is political in nature and the polis, accepted as existing naturally, cannot be a universal governing state– it can never be something that incorporates all of humankind for it is such a diverse entity. A one state system does not allow for a universal type of self-perfection (perhaps like a multi-state system or cosmopolis) that a small, self-governing polis would have. The city, from an Aristotelian perspective, will always have to coexist with other city states (cities that encompass different beliefs, cultures, ideologies, politics, governments, etc.) based upon different foundational principles and values. This is to say that not even the best city (even a Utopian ideal city comparable to Plato’s Kallipolis) can afford to go about without an adequate foreign policy or system of relations that calls for diplomacy to either defend existing bonds of trust and establish new ones.

Relating to this conception of the city, in terms of trust relationships, is a projected sense of citizenship. A good citizen of a democracy will not be the good citizen of another kind of regime. Partisanship and loyalty to one’s own way of life are required to maintain a healthy city. To put the argument in terms of Polemarchus (from Plato’s Republic), a friend and enemy are natural and ineradicable categories of political life; just as we cannot be friends with all persons (evoking the basic principle of trust), the city cannot be friends with all other cities,and, similarly, the state with all other states. War and the virtues necessary for war are as natural to the city as are the virtues of friendship, trust, and camaraderie. In summary, the opposing vice of trust, such negative sentiments that produce insecurities and fear, is equally natural to the virtues of trust. Trust is the focal point in which connects people on the basis of basic values that are deeply embedded in a anthropological history that transcend into the developed political and social structures of entire societies, cultures, and nations.

With my encounters with social life, political systems, popular culture, et cetera in Turkey, I have made careful observations from both psychological and sociological perspectives. With regards to the image of the mask I presented earlier, I have noticed this especially with the youth. Most (of the individuals that I have encountered) are blatantly, yet obliviously, two-faced and ignorant of their behaviour. Most young Turks are outwardly liberal in appearance, yet they reflect and act in conservative and, often, judgmental ways. This is because they unknowingly stick to what they know– their values. Most young people have not been exposed to anything outside their norm and, when they see something or someone different, they subconsciously perceive it as stigma (and consequently as threatening) and become mildly hostile and aggressive (even for something as seemingly silly as meeting an introvert, or someone that suffers from depression, or seeing a homosexual person). Many students from small towns go to the big city (Istanbul) to study and their entire worlds change– they are shocked by the drastic differences, so they cling to the safety of their small-town conservative lessons and values.

Turkish cultural and family life are very emotional and deep. The primary focus of life here is not of monetary gain or whims of fame and materialistic bases, but of love and relationships. Family life and blood bonds are the most prized trifles in life, according to Turkish culture. In the telos of an individual is to obtain the good life, then in Turkey is to focused on obtaining the flourishing and mutual happiness of a family unit. Turks are proud and are emotionally tied by their heritage as well as blood lines (of the past, present, and future). With this stated, one can imagine how the values indirectly make sheltered lives in isolated Turkish villages with small populations. Values and traditions become life and the senses of protection, security, and shelter become heightened. Affairs are all local and the window of the world is a narrow crack that only sheds enough light to one, small context. In this regard, it is, in general, comparable to small towns anywhere (Cough! Cough! Hebron, ME, U.S.A.– their biased, small-town mindset is a story for a different day). Add the deep cultural and traditional implications, one can only imagine the contrast when they hit the “big city,” also referred to as Istanbul.

Istanbul is huge. It is home to a quarter of Turkey’s population. Twenty million people– that’s twenty million individuals, twenty million backgrounds, and twenty million different walks of life. It is “where east meets west.” It is westernised in the sense of organisation (the black and white outline), it’s shaded (the grey that adds dimensions are depth) by means of communication and media systems, and it is coloured by the amazing elements and complexities of culture. Istanbul is a city of contrast, of culture, of contradictions; it is where ideologies both clash and unite; it is absolutely beautiful.

Now, let’s apply this into context: The small-town ideologies (whether they be of Anatolian traditions, traditions of the Black Sea region, values of the Mediterranean Sea area, of the northeastern contexts, etc.) existing together (also among a noteworthy population of foreigners) in a westernized, European, liberal polis that is Istanbul. With deeply embedded roots in conservative traditions combined with the desired images of modernity of the western world (but seen at a distance) –two opposing ideals– how does one decide? A good citizen can only be seen as “good” to a particular regime, one can only be truly loyal to one theory of thought. The current system in power in Turkey emphasizes conservative values and is threatened by trends of liberalism and responds in aggressive jerks, responsive attacks, to attempt to counter the damage. This became clear with the Gezi Park protests. The liberals were upset about the elimination of the few green spaces left in Istanbul and protested. The AKP tried to contain their actions and sentiment in a, what they thought to be, seemingly harmless counter-action. In reality, the aggressive police action and violence triggered a much larger upset that had lain dormant in many Turks. The New Ottoman identity, I believe, has great intentions and desires of liberalism, but there are many factors that are currently keeping it from realising them. For one, the use of hard power (propaganda, threats, cohesion, force, hysteria) of the current system of control are strong and have a deep influence in the society for it is responsible for the exponential growth and development of Turkey (especially within the last ten years) and sees a common ground with a lot of the views of the older generations regarding deeper values and traditions. Another factor is that the modern conception of liberalism has not been seen by most Turks (unless they have lived, studied, worked, or travelled abroad). Due to this fact, a lot of the subsequent realities and traits associated with liberal ideals are not understood and are actually quite shocking to most and are interpreted as threatening (more on a subconscious level because of its foreignness and peculiarity). For example, correlating with liberal movements in the western world were: civil rights, women’s rights, the sexual revolution, the acceptance of homosexuality, and the acceptance of differences and call for equality. There are a lot of deeply embedded stereotypes and prejudices which make some sentiments of western culture shocking. In terms of women, a young, nineteen year old, female student would be seen in a completely different light if it were known that she was not a virgin. One of the most degrading insults you can tell a young, unmarried girl is that she will “probably give away here virginity before she is married” (I heard my friend’s ex boyfriend yell this to her after she broke up with him and she cried for days). There is not a universal sentiment (I have indeed met some modern, more westernized Turkish students –who lived abroad at one point– but they are harshly judged by small-town, highly conservative ignorants), but it is the most popular. So it is not just the political structure in which the ideology is divided, but the confusion of undecided individuals as well. In this context in which trust is seen as mutual interests and where the state and citizens are divided, which sentiment rings the victory bell and how can a citizen properly develop their telos in a contrasting, nearly oppressive society and political environment?

Liberalism and Westernism are perceived to be cool here. Paradoxically, many young Turkish girls that wear short shorts, put on thick, black eyeliner, and actively preserve and attempt to maintain their outward liberal appearance are conservative and judgemental at heart. When people wear masks, an entire society can be veiled. The basic Turkish values (that which all young Turks have known for eighteen years) encompass tradition yet, when they come to the big city, they are repulsed by the extremes of their beliefs when they see them standing beside modern liberal sentiments (e.g. a woman fully covered in a black burka in a shopping mall). Yet they are also appalled by the idea of casual sex and homosexuality. They are shocked, by both extremes, and are consequently judgmental and confused. Of course they want to express their individuality (liberalism calls for the securing of individual’s freedom) but they do not want to betray their beliefs, values, traditions that are deeply associated within their individual identity. Which theory of thought wins?

This is a very interesting period for Turkish society and politics. As it goes for the context of Istanbul, it is a polis that inhabits two continents; it contains two ideologies: one of the eastern world and one of the west. As Istanbul occupies both Asia and Europe, it is divided by a strong river – a current of roaring tension. There is hope: a common bridge that allows for the worlds to connect. This can be, at times, rather shaky when the forces fight for control rather than for balance. There is see-saw effect in which counter-acting forces (polarised political ideologies) that push against each other, creating profound tension. As time unfolds, will we soon see greater balance or a victor? Tradition versus progress– which set of values will prevail?

STRESS: A love(/hate) story

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STRESS.

I live a highly strenuous and stressful lifestyle.
Paradoxically, I feel both loving and hateful sentiments towards this.
A synopsis of my life:

I am a full-time student with three departments (three majors).

I work two jobs.

I am very passionate about my studies and my work to the point where I spend my “free” time learning, investigating, researching, studying, reading, writing, to gain more and add more to my comprehension and development.
Consequently, it is not work for me; it’s a hobby.

At heart, I will always be an athlete.
I’m a fierce competitor; I’m passionate; I am dedicated; I am aggressive.
I run; I box; I workout; I practice yoga.

I have so much energy but I contain it within (for my true, highly intensive self is a part of me that I keep for me- not as a secret, but for focus, self-control, and motivation).

I am an introvert living abroad in a crazy, fast-paced, extremely social and emotionally charged culture in which I am blatantly foreign to in both mind and speech. My mind works in double-time to process the new information and stimuli while attempting to do so in real time.

I am a full-time sister, daughter, friend.
I take any and all relationships I have very seriously and I do anything and everything (to the best of my ability) for the people I love and care about. If a phone call will make you smile on a bad day, you better fucking believe that I will drop my work or sacrifice sleep to talk to you. I strongly believe that the most important thing in life is to improve the human experience– even something as seemingly minuscule as a moment of happiness (a smile) betters a life; I treasure this and make this my goal.

Even within the paradigm of caring (a seemingly positive attribute), there is stress (and a lot of it). It may seem odd to some, but I feel for others (and so intensely at that). I am very passionate and caring that I actually take on the stress of others and carry their burdens (most of the time without them ever realising it)as if they were mine to bear. I do this, mostly subconsciously, because I invest so much care into people. I feel obligated, as if it were my duty, to take on the pains and stresses of others (whether it is individuals, families, societies –the human race even–) and it is extremely exhausting. As a vividly passionate and methodical human being that has the ability to problem solve abstractly and process information rapidly on multiple levels, this is my design.

So, let me reiterate: It’s a love-hate relationship.

I love being this way for I am passionate;
I am creative and vivid;
I have the ability to see things others cannot.
My mind is a gift and I can use it to help people.

There is a polarised sentiment to this for I also hate being this way.

Having so much energy is very draining.
A highly active mind sometimes feels as if you were your own hostage: you are the one that is tied up and blind-folded, but you are also the one holding the gun against your head.

I am a very complicated person in which I have this extreme sense of duality. My mind races with thoughts that I cannot quiet and this is excrutiatingly exhausting. When I am tired, my focus dims and the unwanted thoughts and pains take over and fog up my head. This results in a very deep, internal depression which spreads through my being like a virus. Once the idea of depression is apparent, it multiplies rapidly and takes ahold and, some strains, distort my thinking so much by clouding my clarity and are extremely to fight.

I use the world internal because I am a strange one for emotion. I am a quiet person, I keep the majority of my thoughts and emotions inside and only share them after I have carefully constructed them into their most concise, precise, condensed form for the higher probability of achieving my ideally intended interpretation and understanding to reduce confusion and unwanted judgements.

I also do not like to show outwardly how I feel, especially when the emotions are very negative.
I do not reveal my problems to people, for I believe that I am Atlas in the sense that if I can handle everyone’s problems, I can sure as hell handle my own.
I get this stubbornness and resilience from my mother;
I get the selflessness and drive from my father.

These past few years, my amount of stress has increased exponentially. The internal method in which I bottle emotion and suppress stress is not healthy (in fact it is one of the extremes that is the worst possible thing to do). Emotion needs to be released and this is why:

Since I was about ten years of age, I experienced weird phenomenons of “fainting.” In stressful situations (early on it was mostly social stimuli combined with hot temperatures), I would black out and collapse. As I grew older, the frequency of these events increased.

Last year, when I attended university in the United Kingdom, they increased dramatically. My plate of stressors mainly included: studying full-time, working full-time, and being involved in an abusive relationship. This became so severe that I was passing out multiple times a week. In turns out that I wasn’t merely “passing out;” I was having seizures.

After frequent hospitalisations, one thousand and a half tests for epilepsy, a bazillion EEG scans, and tests, tests, tests, galore, my bizarre health mystery was solved.

I suffer from PNES, also known as psychogenic non-epileptic seizures. Contrary to epileptic seizures are physiological which are caused by abnormal electrical discharges in the brain, PNES are psychogenic in which they are strictly psychological or emotional in nature. The origins of PNES may be caused by underlying psychological and emotional disturbances, but the symptoms are real. The stress signals are unconsciously converted into a neurological like condition that mirrors epilepsy.

Within this, my body produces too much adrenaline (stress response hormone used in fight-or-flight) and this consequently makes me deal with stress (and relating stimuli) interestingly- usually seizures and occasionally in the form of “panic attacks.”. Stressor stimuli, ranging from daily and seemingly mundane/typical contexts to more complex dilemmas abroad, become amplified for me. If I do not cope with the stress signals appropriately, my body converts the reaction to stress to an electrical charge that mimics the same firings as those in epileptic seizures. It is quite challenging to cope with.

How does one maintain a stressful lifestyle when they have an intense stress-related disorder?

Well, it’s a challenge.

I am determined to maintain my way of life as much as possible. That which pains me the most brings me the most joy. Chaos is my life and maneuvering through it carefully is challenging- this thrills me. Yes, I often get severe depression (especially which the disassociating effects from the frequent seizures) but this comes in waves. I get high-highs and low-lows. I am an organised being and can prioritise my emotional reaction and often postpone them (by pushing them off as much as possible, sometimes to the point where I forget them entirely).

Battling stress has become of full-time job for me.

As an energetic lass and an athlete, exercise and physical activity is my greatest love and escape. When I am stressed, when I need to clear my head, when I want to focus, I put my sneakers on and my headphones in and I take off running. In listening to lectures, news, language studies, and music, I can focus on the one stimulus of the sound as I run the streets of Anatolian Istanbul. Like any student in the 21st century, I am a killer multitasker but I believe that changing the focus from quantity to quality is needed to look at the details and conduct a thorough job. Directing sole attention to one task changes the perspective and allows you to see the detailed and notice things that you would pass over and take for granted if you were not focused or looking carefully. This is the difference between going fast to get many jobs done and doing decent, mediocre work versus slowing things down, putting care and consideration in your work and adding yourself to you work and being creative. In a fast-paced world, it is challenging to slow down but it is necessary for clarity and is worth every sacrifice.

In a similar regard, everyone needs a restful escape too. My dad calls it “healthy mind down time” in which one cleanses the mind. Especially in times of high stress or anxiety, taking a quiet break is healthy. Taking a thirty minute time-out doing a quiet, independent activity is great. I find my escapes in books, I practice and maintain my languages, I release my thoughts through writing, I chill out and watch an episode of M*A*S*H*, I play sudoku (papa Hughes got me hooked), or I close my eyes and listen to music. This also slows down the mind and, by focusing on one task, allows you to re-focus and regain both attention and clarity. With this, one can once again retain the ability to think both logically and rationally. It is not selfish, one needs a break. It is more productive and helpful to take care of yourself in this regard, for when you are healthy and of sound mind, you are bettering yourself and others. It is influential to others and is crucial for sanity purposes. Stress is inevitable in life, but it does not need to control or dictate your outlook on life and consequent demeanor.

Another critical element is sleep. Stress has inflicted me with horrible insomnia, consequently making a perpetual cycle of seemingly never-ending stress that spirals down a deep and dark path only leading downward to negativity and depression. I have been teaching myself how to combat the symptoms of PNES, how to control stress to stop a seizure or get myself out of a panic attack, but the hardest challenge for me has been sleep. I have successfully learned how to focus my attention of a single element, but shutting my mind completely is difficult. I practice meditation and slow down my heart rate and pace of mind, but stress has a tight grip around my brain and I have yet to learn to release myself entirely- I can just loosen the grip now.

Sleep is important, it is the ultimate time of rest where your mind and body can recharge. In today’s mentality (more so in the western world), people are so focused on material life: success (perceived by many to be synonymous with happiness) = money; money = the main focus and goal in life. Due to this, the perception of the twenty-four hours in a day has changed. To some, it seems so short and thus people change their priorities to accommodate their visions for success by sacrificing natural necessities- like sleep. Yes, sleeping schedules, patterns, and rates have changed (dramatically so, especially within the past twenty years), but this damage is not irreversible. Ideally eight hours is prime but, if this is not obtained, never fear: the nap is an amazing thing. There is no shame in napping and the stigma of such is waning for there is truly power within the “power nap.” Taking a timeout to sleep during the day not only boosts energy but it confers both serious cognitive and health advantages as well. Allow me to blow your mind with some awesome benefits to naps: they boost capacity for creative problem solving, verbal memory, perceptual learning, object learning, and statistical learning, naps also help improve upon logical reasoning, increase reaction times, and boost symbol recognition, as well as improve our mood and feelings, and they are even great for our heart health, blood pressure, stress levels, and weight management.

 

Consider this as a public service announcement.

Stress is inevitable in nature. This fact does not dictate its course for stress does not have to define or control our actions. With the appropriate responses and counter actions, we can preserve our ideal lifestyle and promote the same well-being and stability for others.

For just ten simple seconds, pause and surrender—that is, soften all resistance— and let the water of life carry you.

The Attack

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Monday
11:20 AM
Kadıköy, Istanbul

I hide behind a mask of ambiguity. I have expressed my gratefulness for its benefits thus far, but I hd my first real encounter with its repercussions. Alas, the idea of the masks is that it guards an opposing conception of vulnerability and, as soon as the mask slips, a truth is revealed. How the observer will react is always uncertain. This can be dangerous.

My mask was ripped off yesterday.
I entered my building, coming home from early classes at university. I was completely exhausted from another restless night combined with the tiresome stress of attempting to comprehend the lecturer’s fragmented English and deciphering his Turkish, as well as from the long ferry voyage and walk home. It was still morning, and a long morning t that. I entered my building, normally and began to hike the six floors of stairs as a figure approached me.
Günaydın.
A male, appearing old for a late twenty year old with sunken acne scars marking up a a mean, narrow, salt and pepper scrubbed visage grins at me.
What? Oh, yeah. Good morning.
I slipped. A crack of my real self shown, unknowingly in my exhausted state. And, with that simple utterance, my mask was ripped off, fast.
I saw a spark light in his dark eyes.
Foreigner girl.
I have seen this surprised spark of delight before, literally every time a Turkish man has discovered that I am not Turkish. So his reaction did not surprise me.
What did surprise me was the attack.
CRASH.
As I closed the door to my flat and preparing my keys to lock it, I was hit. A man body slammed the door with all his might. The force threw me into the wall perpendicular to the front door and I struck my head.
What the fuck is happening?
Instantly concussed, immediately disoriented, my mind went raced into fight-or-flight. I recognise the intruder as the cretin from the stairs.
He grabs me by the waist and pulls me into him, saying “ok babe?” as he tries to kiss my face.
Hell no, I think.
So I head-butt him.
“GET THE FUCK OUT!”
I scream. He smiles towards my responsive aggression. He does this to mock me. He does this to make me feel small. I am reduced to an object to him, but he wants to degrade me more.
I open my landlady’s door and yell to see if she’s home.
“ORKIDE?”
Empty.
I run to see if my flatmate is in. I bang on her door. It’s locked, I yell.
“SEBAHAT?”
Nothing.
He collects himself and attempts to corner me against Sebahat’s door, when it opens. Sebahat is home. She was abruptly woken up by the scene and she watches, stunned in a hazed confusion.
Meanwhile, I react. He’s seen and he knows that there are two young girls alone, in the top story of the building, with no one around. i will not let this fucker win. I will not let him touch us. I will not let let him hurt us.
Enraged, I sunk deeply into protective mode. I turn into something ugly, primal; an animal. I refuse to play defense, and immediately turned on the offense switch. I have the home field advantage. He is intruding upon my cave, and I am the grizzly bear. I will do anything I have to do to protect myself, my friend, and my home.
I hit him, hard, throwing him off balance.
BAM.
BAM.
I moved in quick, hitting him in the same spot below his heart with a left and right combination.
I have boxing experience, but these were instinctual, hard, powerful jabs. So intense, yet far from precise, that I would later find my knuckles and fingers broken, swollen, and bruised.I then hit him with a rapid fire, eight punch combo.
BOOM.
BOOM.
BOOM.
BOOM.
BOOM.
BOOM.
BOOM,
BOOM.
I got him, now for the climax.
Three dazzling, lightning punches; head shots.
ONE
Uppercut left.
TWO
Uppercut right.
THREE
The kill shot: left jab, TKO blow taking out his right eye and nose.
He reactively lifts his hands to protect his face and to catch his blood, falling into my set up and leaves his body uncovered and vulnerable.
I wind up. One strong kick the groin to make sure this pathetic excuse of a human being will never be able to reproduce.
As his hands reflex southward, I respond with a swift upward hit with my palm to his solar plexus, making him gasp for air.
As he hunches over, I take no chance for him to recover. I dig my finger-nails as deep as I could to get a firm grip. I drag him down the hallways by his hair.
I threw him out the door, then dropped him to the ground and kicked him down the stairs.
No time to wipe my hands and get once last reassuring look that I had successfully ridded him, I about-faced and locked the door.
Now, that the task was completed, I could react. I ran down the hall and into Sebahat’s embrace and instantly burst into tears.

Türkiye’ye hoşgeldiniz

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Istanbul, Türkiye– I anticipated the excitement, the colours, the infinite sense of intensity, passion, wonder, and romanticism. It is truly impossible to describe properly. The first few hours after my arrival were as perfect as a postcard. When I was preparing for my big move, I had expected to gradually shift from the status of foreigner/tourist to eventually being accepted and, as I familiarised myself with the city, the later privilege of being upgraded to honorary local. I am humbled to say that I skipped the tourist step and was thrown into the role I will refer to as “blending in” as a local resident.

My timing of arrival could not have been more perfect (used relatively and perhaps ironically depending whether my mother is reading). My first night moving into the district of Kadıköy, Istanbul (Asian side of the Bosphorus) was the same night the Turkish police killed another civilian. 22 year old Ahmet Atakan: killed by a canister of tear gas by the Turkish government’s right arm: Türk polis. Outrage– another civilian casualty adds fuel to their fiery cause and consequently sparked more demonstrations all over Turkey.

I am currently writing an article regarding the political situation in Turkey at current. The situation is dense and traces back to the fall of the Ottoman Empire. However, recent evolution of the new Ottomans begins in 2002 with the election of the AK Parti. The economic success of Turkey within the past decade is due to the AKP, however their manor of rule has been quite shady in terms of the people. Escalations of disagreements between the ruling party and the people of Turkey peaked in May 2013. The original cause was in Gezi Park, Taksim, Istanbul back in May (28th) in which the people voiced their opinions against the government’s decision to destroy one of the city’s last green spaces. The AKP maneuvered with confidence, but they did not expect the consequence of their action. Hard police action, the government reacted to the protestors with blunt force by gassing its own citizens. This turned the cause of the initial protest into an amplification of rage and triggered the protests to spread from Istanbul to a nationwide cause. Taksim Square, Istanbul and Ankara hoist the worst demonstrations in terms of aggression, hostility and violence, but more demonstrations are arising.

My first night in Kadıköy was also a particularly heated night in which another demonstration arose in Istanbul. Kadıköy Boğa Heykeli, a few blocks away from my new home in Caferağa Mahallesi, play host as a new venue of the Occupy Gezi Movement. As I looked out from my balcony, beyond exhausted and already feeling the inconvenience of jet lag, I first heard the chanting. This was about 21:00 local time. I had unpacked by this point, ventured through the neighbourhood, bought groceries, and cooked a housewarming meal with my Turkish roommate, Sebahat. We were eating pasta with cucumbers, tomatoes, and fresh local cheese as the protestors were gathering. A few hours had passed and we could hear faint chants in the background as we cleaned the kitchen and went our separate ways. I was still functioning on eastern standard time so 2:00 felt like 19:00 to me. The yelling had gotten more aggressive and the wind was perfumed with smoke. As I sat at my desk lethargically and dazed attempting to strain my tired eyes into reading, I began to cough and noticed an unfamiliar burning sensation in the back of my throat, my nose and eyes. Confused, I acted instinctually without hesitation and rubbed my eyes profusely as I continued to gag. Wrong. I unknowingly experienced my first encounter and lesson to tear gas. It is almost like crystalized glass in the air and leaves residue on everything, therefore the worst thing you can do is follow your instincts and rub. I learned, and the sensation has gotten to be familiar already and I know the remedies and how to prepare for gas effectively now- a great, un-glorified skill to have.

Within the day of my arrival, I had already come to the realisation of what I truly would have to look forward to this year. There would be no frou-frou tourist fluff for me. I am a visiter, I am a guest, I am an objective observer taking notes and seeing political and cultural tension internally under a microscope. I was flushed with an empowering sensation that filled my being that I can only come to label as both appreciation and sheer excitement. I knew that my time here will be unscripted, unpredictable,  and raw. No media framing, I will be seeing untainted stimuli– this is real.