conflict

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)

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Protests revived in Taksim

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Image

(Above: Taksim’s famous Istiklal Sokak and its usual weekend nightlife was disrupted as it, once again, became the for protest.)

And it’s back: the tear gas, the TOMA water cannons, and the plastic bullets–

This signifies the revival of outward force of the AKP’s hard power (via riot police) as a reaction to the re-awakened execution of tension by the public in the form of demonstration in Istanbul.

The rising tension correlates significantly with the escalating scandals.

The awakening of the beast began on 17December when a raid was conducted against a highly politically charged scandal involving top officials. Each day since, the initial shock to the system has sent troubling waves across Turkey and has crept closer to the heart of Turkish government which in turn has created a counter hysteria suggesting a potential collapse.

The latest controversy regards the feuds of corruption and “anti-corruption” that involves the sons of high-profile cabinet ministers. The long-running investigation caused for these businessmen along with the head of the state-owned bank were detained by police and forced three majour political figures to resign. Two of the sons are still in custody while twenty-two others are yet to go on trial for accusations of corrupting activity (including bribery, tender rigging, and illicit money transfers to Iran).

This situation has been deemed by many as the greatest challenge of prime minister Erdogan’s eleven year reign for this investigation has targeted key political families and important allies that are closely affiliated with the government and the ruling AKP (the Justice and Developing Party). Erdogan has taken a defiant stance by claiming that the accusations aand investigation of corruption are nothing but a “conspiracy” and a “dirty operation.” Since 25 December, he has been scrambling and scurrying to regain composure and desperately attempting to cling to the remaining legitimacy of his party as he reshuffled his cabinet by refilling the positions of ten ministers who are loyal to the AKP and also believe in the cause as well as the same conservative principles.

This has triggered an apparent rise with the disatisfaction and hostility against the nation’s religiously conservative power source. Tensions between Turkey’s AKP run government and its former pro-secularisation, moderate Islamist allies have called for the synthesis of the “Hizmet movement” which is currently conducted and led by the U.S. based exiled cleric Gülen.

The reality of the disgust with the prime minister and the AKP was presented by the citizens has they took to the streets of Istanbul’s centre on 27 December. Protestors chanted “catch the thief” as they angrily expressed their opinion suggesting the resignation of Erdogan. The prime minister held a counter rally of defiance as he emphasise that he would refuse to leave his position over this “conspiracy.” He repeated his earlier allegations that the inquiry was unjustified by saying that, “those who called this operation a corruption operation are themselves the very ones who are corrupt.”

The situation has sparked many respected conservative officials, ministers, journalists, and commentators to reevaluate their positions and their opinons. This week alone, majour officials (including the former tourism minster Güney) have resigned from the AKP after there was evidence of great interference with the investigation of corruption. Others that were formerly associated AKP, including respected journalists from conservatively back newspapers, found themselves sacked after making critical remarks about the scandal and challenging the stance of the AKP.

Many senior police officers and head judicial figures were removed in the government’s attempt of “anti-corruption.” These actions caused opposition parties and progressional critics to accuse the AKP for attempting to cover up the political scandal.

“I have never come across such blatant government meddling with the judiciary before”, said Sezgin Tanrikulu, deputy head of the main opposition People’s Republican party (CHP), a lawyer and former head of the Diyarbakir Bar Association. “This is highly worrying. The little trust that people had left in the Turkish justice system is now gone.”

With the major media outlets all backed by strong, conservative forces, the news presented to the Turkish public is always biased, framed, and vague. My credibility, as an objective third-party observer, is relative to the reader. I admit to my limitations of understanding for my status of being an expatriate and could have minor biases affecting my view, but I try to be as impartial as to report my observations. In this time, independent sources are much more valuable than a biased, domestic corporation backed news source as well as a limited, seemingly ignorant and basic view of foreign (also biased) media sources. In any context, the “on-the-ground” view is best and that is what I try to achieve in my writing. This is a very interesting time in Turkish history, I hope to be one who reports it as it unfolds.

 

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?

Kardeşler (Brothers)

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Cenk and Barış did not instantly repair their bond. They did establish a vague understanding to which they learned to trust one another. Over the course of the next month, they notified each other of their whereabouts during the demonstration. Although on opposing sides, they  teamed up; they defended each other. They covered each other’s backs in the protest, they shared a hiding place taking cover from the TOMA, and they took turns pulling guard at night on their trek home.

In late October, they made a brotherly pact stating that if one of them were to be crippled—a wheelchair wound—the survivor would axiomatically find a way to end it. As they were boyhood friends, it was difficult to detect seriousness in their plan but, in context, they believed sincerity in each other’s voices. To make it appear more legitimate, they drew it up as a contract and signed their name only having each other’s eyes as witnesses.

Weeks later, in mid-November when the air began to chill, Barış was hit. Protestors with fireworks had given a new definition to “friendly fire.” The explosion took off his right leg, so conveniently at the hinge of the knee. At first, he managed with a funny little half step, almost like a child hopping about in play, then he started to wobble and tilted sideways until he finally keeled. “Oh, bok,” he said. He just kept repeating in a faded, hushed voice calmly almost as if he had simply stubbed a toe. “Bok, oh bok.” as if he’d stubbed a toe. Losing blood, he wheezed for air. He only began to panic when he looked down and saw himself wallowing in his own blood. He tried to get up and run, but there was nothing left for him to run on and he fell, hard. The stump that had replaced his right leg twitched violently. Stained white slivers of bone were now visible, and the blood came in quick, spiratic spurts like water from a pump. Wild-eyed and bewildered, Barış reached down as if to pat his lost leg. In the poignant act, the little blood he had left all seemed to sprint to his head and he immediately passed out.

There was nothing much anybody could do. The crowd was dense with thousands, screaming barbarically almost forgetting their own cause for this chaos. After penetrating through the treacherous swarm of rebels, Cenk through himself over his friends body to shield it from more atrocities and pain, but it was of no use. Barış and his stump had stopped twitching now and his blood drained tranquilly. He already resembled a cadaver, and the air was filled with puzzlement at his  status of life. These thoughts were quickly muted  when he opened his eyes and looked up at Cenk. “Oh, kardeş,” Oh, brother– he moaned as he attempted to slide himself away. “Hayır, beni öldürme.” No, don’t kill me.

Barış seemed confused, befuddled, and distant. He remained still again, only for a moment, then gestured  toward his missing leg. Patting the ground frantically, searching for something irretrievable. He used up his waning energy on an impossible whim. Chocking back upon internal, private pain, Cenk managed to utter a word to his friend, “Dur (stop).”

“Merak etme, sorun değil. Onlar geri dikebilirsiniz.” Don’t worry, it’s not a problem. They can sew it back on.

“Evet.” Sure.

“Biliyor musun?” Do you know?

“Hiç sanırım.” I think so.

Barış set his gaze due north, up towards the dim, smoky lit sky. He passed out again. Minutes later, he awoke, eyes shut and still, and softly  whispered once more,  “Beni öldürme.” Don’t kill me.

“Yapmayacağım,” Cenk responded. I won’t.
“Beni öldürme, lütfen.” Please, don’t kill me.
“Evet.” Yes. 
“Söz verdin” You promised.

Cenk nodded and looked into the somber visage of his friend and said, “Biliyorum.” I know. Moments later, Cenk  carried Barış through the demonstration, humbly yet seemingly heroically. When he reached an ambulance off the protest route, Cenk reached out and touched Barış’s remaining leg. “Gitmem lāzım,” he said. I must go now, and he departed to return to his post with his fellow policemen. Later, he heard from the television set from the comfort of his couch that Barış had died before he reached the hospital.

This news seemed to relieve Cenk of an enormous weight.

Düşmanlar (Enemies)

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Barış and Cenk grew up in the pleasant Turkish village of Çine. Best friends with a bond since birth, they wrestled together, played together, learned together and matured together. Growing up from the same woven cloth, they seemed inseparable. As they reached the end of their adolescence, they would meander down different paths. Both chose Istanbul to serve as their planform to transition into adulthood, but would fade from each other’s view in a city of fourteen million.  Barış would further his education by studying mechanical engineering at Doğuş Üniversitesi in Kadıcöy. His former best friend and classmate would attend the Gümüşdere Köyü Polis Akademisi (National Police Academy at Gümüşdere) to join the Çevik Kuvvet (Rapid Response Force aka “riot squad”) section of the Emniyet Genel Müdürlüğü (National Turkish Police).

One clear night in early September, when the Çevik Kuvvet were out on patrol monitoring the Diren Kadıcöy protest near the Kadicöy Boğa Heykeli, Barış and Cenk got into a fist fight. It was about something stupid, Cenk found Barış near a freshly painted stain of graffiti that read “Katil Polis” (murder the police) to which he assumed a betrayal but this surmise was not justified. Even so, the fight was nefarious. For a while, it went back and forth. The crowd continued to riot viciously and circled around the two, creating a ring for the match. Cenk was much bigger and much stronger now. He eventually wrapped his right arm around Barış’s neck and pinned him down. He kept hitting him, callously, on the nose. He hit him so hard, with such ferocity and intensity. He didn’t stop; he couldn’t. Through the clamors of terror continuing around them, Barış’s nose made an audible, sharp snapping sound like a firecracker.  Blood shot out from Barış’s face and stained the scene and, even then, Cenk kept hitting him over and over with quick, stiff, accurate blows. It took three men to pull him off. When it was over, Barış had to be carried to the rear of the demonstration to be transported out for medical attention. He was admitted to Acıbadem Kadıcöy Hastenesi where he had his nose looked after.  Two days later, he rejoined his fellow demonstrators wearing a metal splint and lots of besmirched gauze.

In any other circumstance it might have ended there, but this was Turkey- where men were proud and chased after action for justice; where revenge was necessary in terms of honour; where men carried guns. Cenk started to worry. It was mostly in his head. There were no threats made against him nor were there any vows of retaliation. There was only a silent tension between them that made Cenk take special precautions out of impenetrable paranoia. On patrol in Kadıcöy, he was very careful to keep track of Barış’s whereabouts. He volunteered to man the TOMA water cannon and drove it on the far side of the perimeter; when on foot, he kept his back covered and his fingers fused to the trigger; he avoided all situations that might put the two in contact at all costs. Eventually, after a week of this, the strain began to create problems.

Cenk could not relax. This tension disoriented him profoundly. He felt like he was fighting two different battles. There was no safe ground for him. He had  enemies everywhere, even among his trusted friends and fellow comrades. The battlefield was warped, almost fantastical and extremely difficult to maneuver and hide for it contained mirrors too. The effects hit Cenk hard. At night, he had serious trouble sleeping. He had a skittish feeling where he was always on guard; he heard strange noises in the dark; he imagined the tickle of a knife against his ear. The distinction between good guys and bad guys had disappeared for him. Even in times of relative safety, when his unit waited for action by the waterfront and passed the time by gossiping and laughing as boys do, Cenk would be sitting with his back against a stone wall with his weapon across his knees watching Barış with quick, nervous eyes.

It got to the point where he lost control. Something clearly snapped inside him. One action-less afternoon by the Bosphorus, he began firing his weapon in the air screaming Barış’s name. Cenk, just firing and yelling, interrupting innocent commuters as they feared to board the ferry home. He did not stop until he had rattled off an entire magazine of ammunition. Everyone, officers and civilians alike, dropped and pinned themselves flat on the ground. No one had the nerve to go near him. Cenk started to reload, but then suddenly stopped, expressionless, and collapsed to the ground.  He held his head in his arms, AK in his lap, and sat, frozen.

For two or three hours, he just sat there, paralysed.

This was not the bizarre part.

Later, that same night, when he was exempt from duty, he grabbed an heirloomed flintlock pistol. He unconventionally gripped it by the barrel and used it savagely, like a hammer, to break his own nose.

Afterward, he journeyed across the river to pay a visit to his old friend. He showed Barış what he’d done and he asked if
everything was square between them.

Barış nodded and mouthed “evet” under his breath to signify sure, things were square between them.

In the morning Barış could not stop laughing. “Bu adam deli,” (that man is crazy) he said. “Grafiti yazdım” (I wrote the graffiti).