Turkish police use aggressive force against citizens of Istanbul on the anniversary of Occupy Gezi (31Mayıs 2014)
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31 May 2014- the one year anniversary of the occupy Gezi Park movement.
Unlike the scene one year ago in Taksim Square, the government was prepared for demonstrations. The prime minister of Turkey took massive precautions by maximizing his force by flexing his muscles- his police force. Prime Minister Erdoğan announced a public warning on Friday that he gave strict orders to his security forces and anyone not corresponding to his imposed fear by staying home will face the consequences. Erdoğan closed the roads as well as stopped all public transportation on Saturday to block access to Taksim Square. This complete shutdown of transportation (including all ferry services and the Bosphorus bridge) disconnected the city’s two continents and separated the city into two isolated halves.
he Turkish prime minister applied the same tactics on both halves of the city, but focused more attention towards the European side in which contains the infamous Gezi Park. All over Istanbul, P.M. Erdoğan deployed more than 25,000 police officers, 50 TOMA water cannons, as well as stronger tear gas all in an attempt to stop demonstrators from gathering in Turkey’s commercial capitol.
Most of the action took place on the European side, focused on Taksim- the heart of the Gezi movement. Due to the severe precautions taken by Turkish authorities, Taksim Square was not a battlefield mirroring last year’s successful energy but, rather, it was a territory occupied by the government’s armed men which highlighted the unresolved tensions that has continued to build among Turkish citizens’ dissatisfaction with the actions, policies, and attitudes of the government. The objective of the protestors on the anniversary was peaceful- to simply place flowers in Gezi Park to commemorate all the events that have taken place since the initial protests one year ago as well as to pay tribute to those individuals that lost their lives in the battle against the authoritarian ruling paradigm. The acting authorities and police played a strong defensive position to maintain their guard and occupation of the symbolic park. While the protestors all over the city were executing their traditional methods of displaying their dissatisfaction with the AKP government chanting by “her yer Taksim, her yer direniş” (translation: everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance) and banging pots and pans with kitchen utensils, the police responded harshly by firing tear-gas canisters and spraying water cannons to disassemble the demonstration.
While the defensive mode and corresponding tactics of Turkish security forces were uniform in all neighbourhoods in Istanbul, the protest in Kadıköy (the center of the half of the city that resides of the Asian continent) was much different from its sister demonstration in Taksim. Like most of the anti-government protests occurring in Kadıköy, the crowd of protestors was significantly smaller but was much more aggressive. Throughout the afternoon and night, there were highs and lows. Earlier in the evening, police made a preempted strike with tear gas by attacking locals attempting to enjoy their Saturday evening to scare them into going home and clearing the streets. Later, protestors marched down Moda Caddesi and met at the Kadıköy Boğa and continued to initiate attention and hostility from the police by vandalising public property, burning garbage, yelling as well as making fun of Erdoğan and his police muscle, and banging on everything that was metal. As well as their attempts at directly trying to intimidate the police, other demonstrators made attempts to rally more people by open firing live rounds on Sakız Gülü Sokak- one of the main streets in Kadıköy filled with popular cafes, bars, restaurants, and cinemas. Still, with the preparations and strictly implemented government orders as well as the oppositional forces being greatly outnumbered, the one year marker of Gezi was quieter than other anti-government protests.
Despite one year’s worth of anti-government demonstrations, six deaths, countless injuries and endless violence, Turkey continues to be dominated and corrupted by Erdoğan’s authoritarian regime. After one year of demonstrations and violence without even a slight budge from the religious conservative prime minister, one must ask: is there still hope that the many dissatisfied Turkish citizens will see their desired change?
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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, 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.
3. Middle-of-the-road sources
“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.
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.
“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.”
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.)
“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
3. The Jerusalem Post
4. The London Economic
6. Commentary Magazine
8. The Times
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.):
“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:
“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.”
“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:
“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 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.”
“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:
“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.”
“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:
- Thou shalt not buy weapons from China or Russia regardless of quality or price advantage.
- Thou shalt only feed the U.S.’s own fat Military Industrial Complex players.
- 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.
Enthusiastic Protest with Fireworks in Kadıköy
Today, the murder trial of Mehmet Ayvalıtaş provoked thousands of people to gather outside the courthouse this afternoon. The police attacked the protestors at the courthouse and they eventually relocated the demonstration to the center of Kadıköy (Boğa Heykeli). The community of protestors decided to walk to the AKP’s regional builiding in the district of Kadıköy where the police predicably reacted with the TOMA water cannons as well s tear gas. The third demonstration in Kadıköy was conducted this evening as a heightened, enthusiastic response by the protestors with the usage of fireworks. Kadıköy has not been the centre of a protest of great size since October (with the exception of the “corruption” riots of December). This is significant for protestors to face the coldness of Turkish winter to get their message across.
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:
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
They prove that “girl power” does exist
and they tell women that they are
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
It’s called cause and effect.
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?
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?
Do you remember that you flirted with him?
Do you remember that you were the one that initiated the make-out sessions with him?
Do you remember that you whispered to in his ear, “hey, let’s get out of here.”
Yes, you remember, but you feel
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?
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.
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
and acceptance of one’s own mistakes.
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 “I shouldn’t haves,”
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.
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.”
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?