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.
The fabled ideal conception of “democracy” has been defined as being a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally which is supposedly done either directly or through elected representatives. This idea encompasses social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the “free” and “equal” practice of self-determination in terms of politics.
This concept is arguably controversial in all contexts where it has been executed and in its various abstractions, interpretations along with all of it corresponding glories , short-comings and failures.
In my observations abroad, the pillars of debate in regards to Turkey (with additional respects to Egypt and Tunisia) are as follows:
Majoritarian versus Representative forms of democracy.
This concept refers to the form of democracy that is based upon the majority rule of a nation’s citizens and is the “conventional form” that which is used as the basis of political social structure in many modern states.
This common form is not universally accepted for it has been greatly criticized posing the threat of becoming a “tyranny of the majority” whereby the majority (ruling class) of a society could oppress or exclude minority groups. Contrasting this fearful idea, consensus democracy was developed as an antithesis of such for it emphasizes rule by as many people as possible tin order to promote the ideal to make the government inclusive (this is executed with a majority of support from society merely being a minimal threshold). It differs from trends of fascism for the it assumes equality of citizens and they claim that it is a form of authoritarian democracy (that represents the views of a dynamic organized minority of a nation as opposed to the disorganized majority).
2. Representative (republican) Democracy
Contrasting the former is representative democracy (also referred to as “indirect democracy or “republican democracy”) which based on the principle of elected officials representing a group of people, as opposed to direct democracy. This variation transcends to all modern “Western”-style democracies such as theUnited Kingdom (a constitutional monarchy) and Poland (a parliamentary republic). This contains elements of both the parliamentary and presidential systems of government as well as is it is generally curtailed by constitutional constraints such as an upper chamber. As it modifies certain aspects of the ideal definition of democracy as I first states, this has been further described and identified by some political theorists as being a polyarchy.
Keeping the terms defined in mind, it goes without saying that the road to democracy is a process rather than being an event that occurs instantly overnight– it requires an ongoing struggle.
Struggles, conflict, and confusion are, unfortunately, all inevitably linked. Within the political atmosphere that clouds the Middle East is a distinguishable fog that rains an undeniable conceptual confusion of conceptions that on wets the acute political alienation of the societal elements that feel subject to both a governmental leadership as well as a policy agenda that bleeds the ideal color s of democracy and leaves hostilities to their particular interests and values as residue. The worst environments for such a glum forecast are where they are most prevalent– in the “one-man shows” that consequently allows for the correlation of both adoration and demonization.
Specific national contexts reflect history, culture, values, and such referring to an ideal zeitgeist in which empowers and unites the nation’s identity and resonates in its psyche. Paralleling these are the relating sense of common experiences and similarities that are both skeptical and critical of certain Western “hegemonic” conceptions of modernity, constitutionalism, and governance. I have found the archetype of such abstraction in the illustrated representation in Turkey.
The conflicting sentiments of above in the context of Turkey has generated turmoil as well as it has highlighted both the dangers and passions of lethal polarization.This was formulated, initially, within the drama of Gezi Park and its repercussions and has now grown into the incomprehensibly enormous clash between Prime Minister Erdogan and the exiled Islamic leader Fethullah Gulen.
Turkey’s situation is very unique in a peculiar way for two distinct reasons:
1. The economy of Turkey has grown exponentially within the past eleven years. The development has subsequently produced a flourishing middle class as well as a dominant business community that has a lot at stake if both investor confidence and currency exchange rates steeply drop. This reality is complicated by the fact that part of those that have gained economically have been aligned with the AKP, and by the degree to which the Turkish armed forces are also major stakeholders in the private sector.
2. Another critical achievement of the past eleven year reign of the AKP leadership has been to depoliticize the role of the Turkish military. This has been partially justified to protect itself against interference as well as another factor being that of meeting the standards of the EU accession criteria.
From Turkey’s situation, which applies to mutual tensions in nearby Islamic nations, are elements of absence of common, political community, past preoccupations and
With these distinctions that shape Turkey, alienation fused with emotional distress have become symptoms (rather than explanations) for justifying the existence of such a strong political charge.
These conflicts are about religion, social stratification, class, status, political style, and varied opinions of governmental control. Complimenting this is an additional source of public antagonism that is the unresolved (and sketchily unacknowledged) debate about the true nature of democracy as the ideal for “good” governance. One perplexing element is language, especially its use by politicians concerned with public opinion.
One side of the argument contains the strong desire to base the legitimacy of governmental on pleasing the citizenry while the other side insists upon constitutionalism as well as fidelity to law. Both sides are motivated by stubborn, unchangeable convictions and they both refuse to take into account the others position as being valid or legitimate which makes compromise a far-fetched whim. In synthesis, “good governance” is virtually impossible without a sense of community. From this, social unity is currently unattainable in the presence of the sort of alienation that grips the public sector of Turkey and beyond.
Other aspects of the controversy are simplified into the difference of opinion over the ideal nature of democracy and which elements are necessary to make a government legitimate. The two opponents in Turkey being those of majoritarian and representative distinctions of democracy.
The central tension within this is as follows:
The publicly conceived myth (in all countries that deem themselves to be “modern”) is that legitimacy lives in endorsing the republican tradition of “limited government” as well as internal checks and balances. Political culture says otherwise for it is decidedly ambivalent for it can spontaneously legitimize the majoritarian prerogatives of a popular leader with strong societal backing. Those displaced, lament authoritarian tendencies that never troubled them in the past when they held the reins of governmental authority.
An element of the most recent confusion entails that, on occasion, the authoritarian tendency gets corrupted to the breaking point where it loses support with the people that share both its class and ideological outlook; from this, a reformist enthusiasm emerges. This has not happened in zTurkey but nearby Egypt, the tenure was short lived as its adherents (whom were drawn from the ranks of the urban educated elites) quickly realized that their values along with their interests were dangerously jeopardized by the “new” order– more so than it had been by the excesses of the “old” order. This was not, however, the case in Turkey. In Turkey, the situation is more subtle yet exhibits analogous features. Despite the outcome of elections that brought the AKP to power initially in 2002, it was subsequently reinforced by the stronger electoral mandates in both 2007 and 2012 (although the majority of the opposition never accepted these results as legitimate). In the background of this alienation, there was an implicit and feared belief that the AKP was mounting a challenge to the strong secularist legacy of Kemal Ataturk (an under-ratedly powerful idea). With political acumen, the AKP acted pragmatically and created a rapid-growing economy where it proclaimed its fidelity to the secular creed. From this, it gradually subjected its armed forces to civilian control. Despite the magnitude of these achievements the AKP , the prime minister never gained respect from the anti-religious opposition. Strangely, this “alienated opposition” was never able to present a platform for responsible opposition that could give a possible positive alternative to the Turkish public.
To further the understanding of Turkey’s political roots, it is appropriate to mention that the legacy of Ataturk’s nation includes an acceptance of “procedural democracy” in the form of free and fair elections that are accompanied by the apparently implied assumption that the outcome would be faithful to a modernist appetite. When the AKP disappointed those expectations in 2002, the opposition became quickly fed up with the workings of “democracy”. Erdogan’s harsh style of discourse is particularly irritating to an already alienated opposition, reinforcing their belief that any alternative is better for Turkey than the AKP. Similarly, the still obscure public falling out between the AKP and the “hizmet movement” has inscribed a new dimension in Turkish politics. It is not extreme to suggest that Turkey is currently experiencing some of the mishaps associated with keeping a political party in power for too long. Such prolonged control of government almost inevitably produces scandal and corruption, especially in a political culture where both the rule of law and the ethics of civic virtue have never been strong.
So, the debate of which form of the Western conceptualization of democracy is legitimate prevails. In reiteration and synthesis, the majoritarian form of democracy allows for the leadership to be essentially responsible to the electorate and (f its policies reflect the will of the majority) the perspective and values of opposed minorities do not need to be respected. Critiques of such call for such forms of government to be treated as susceptible to the “tyranny of the majority”. Such is arguably the case in Egypt (Morsi in 2012).
In contrast, representative democracy spawns from a generally skeptical view of human nature and it consequently seeks for procedures and support to nurture a specific political culture– one that favors moderate government over both efficiency and transcendent leadership. Par example: the American adoption of “republican democracy” that is a classic instance of sculpting a constitutional system that was threatened by majorities and protective of minorities as well as of individual rights (although initially totally blind to the human claims of slaves and native Americans). Secularization has tarnished the link between religious claims of certainty with the consistent republican sensitivity to the flaws of human nature and the general ethos behind “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Over time, every political system faces crises– it is inevitable. the American founders realized that the envisioned arrangements would only survive the tests of time if two conditions were met: first, reverence for the constitution by both lawmakers and citizens, and second, judicial supremacy to override legislative and executive swings towards either implementing the momentary passions of the mob or aggrandizing power and authority, and thereby upsetting the delicate balance of institutions.
It need hardly be argued that neither Turkey (nor Egypt and others) are remotely similar to the United States, but the superficial embrace of democracy might benefit from closely examining the menace of majoritarian democracy in a fragmented polity as well as to make note of the difficulties in establishing a representative democracy in political cultures that have been controlled by militarism and authoritarianism for a long time.
At current, Turkey is attempting to preserve both sufficient stability and consensus to enable the self-restrained persistence of “procedural democracy” and a subsequent successful process of constitutional renewal that would rid the country of the 1982 militarist vision of governance, and move it towards establishing the institutional and procedural frame and safeguards associated with representative democracy. Visions relating to an ideal, democratic future for Turkey greatly call for a process, not an event. Such an objective will require an on-going struggle that is inevitably distracted by the crises of legitimacy to be adequately obtained. The general hope is that calm minds and soft power will prevail which would mean for the serving of long-term interests of a state that transcends into a greater potential of being a true role model for the region and for the world.
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.”
Of course, the world is filled with 7 billion souls with different ideological orientations– where the western and progressing majorities fall mostly somewhere on the traditional measuring continuum of liberal and conservative orientations. By inhabiting one of the biggest cultural hubs of the world, I became very interested in understanding different approaches and methodologies of political life as well as of citizenship. In Istanbul, I have had the pleasure of exploring a cultural experience as well as conducting independent studying and analyses of identities from both psychological and sociological perspectives. It may come as a surprise to some, but psychological dispositions and personality traits may have a much stronger influence on political ideology than any other means regarding factors of intelligence, religion, or even the interpretation of political facts.
The following are various characteristics and personal qualities that greatly affect one’s outlook upon worldview and ideology.
1. Openness to Experience
A person’s openness to new experiences (as well as to “foreignness”) is a personality trait that has been measured by several respected personality tests. People who are more open tend to be more adventurous, thrill-seeking, and novelty-seeking. They also tend to be more likely to change their minds when given new information. While there are certainly thrill-seeking conservatives, people who are open to new experiences are much more likely to be liberal. This may be because liberals tend to favour progression and lean towards changing traditions That which is thrilling and exciting to to some is absolutely irrational and terrifying to others. Conservatives, by contrast, favor predictability and order, which accounts for their desire to maintain traditional, pre-existing beliefs.
As a corollary, people who have had a wide variety of novel experiences are more likely to become liberals. Many conservatives lament the liberalising of university students, but this phenomenon may be due to the fact that university tends to open people up to novel experiences and perspectives. This phenomenon occurs frequently in the west, but has an interesting occurrence in Turkey. The majority of Turkey in old world conservative based on a vast historical background and a focus of preserving the traditions and values of such. The exponential development and growth of Turkey in the past decade (by the conservative AKP) has consequently creating a rising class of young Turks growing with liberal and western sentiments but are being pulled back by their conservative creators.
2. Respect for Authority
People who respect authority tend to value rules, law, and order. Respect for authority is a powerful predictor of conservative political beliefs. Interestingly, an authoritarian personality (one which seeks respect and obedience) is also a predictor of conservative political beliefs. While conservatives are certainly capable of questioning authority, liberals are more likely to prioritise this behaviour as both a political and personal objective.
Religion is a huge source of authority. Turkey is a highly religious nation. Religiousness, piousness, and spirituality are popular tendencies in both liberals and conservatives. However, the divide comes for conservatives are more likely to fully accept religious authority, whereas liberals may question religious authorities and challenge beliefs.
3. Compassion, Empathy, and Equality
A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (2010) found that liberals (as a group) are more likely to value qualities such as compassion, empathy, and equality and, therefore, tend to vote for candidates whose political platforms give these values primary importance. Contrasting this sentiment, conservatives are more likely to value ideals such as justice and individualism. The liberal emphasis on equality may help to explain why liberals are generally more likely to see inequality. Liberals have a strong desire to uproot inequality, which gives them a motive to seek it out. On the other hand, conservatives strongly value individual autonomy and are more likely to attribute success or failure to individual characteristics.
Views on sex greatly impact political ideology. In voting trends, some citizens primarily based on issues of sexual morality and sentiments regarding roles of gender. In western contexts, a liberal might support a candidate solely because he is pro-choice, while a conservative might choose a candidate who opposes gay marriage. These correlations are more extreme in amplified in a progressing, Islamic state (such as Turkey). Like conservatives of the west, they tend to be critical of unusual sexual practices, but the modesty of the women in the public realm as well as their domestic roles in the private, family sector of society are one of the biggest elements of Islamic-influenced culture and social infrastructure. Turkish liberals share the western tendency to view sex as an important path of human expression as well as sentiments of gender equality. Views on gender significantly separate the two approached to critical thinking and of politics for liberals prioritise the abolition of gender traditionalism, while conservatives support traditional gender roles. This often affects voters’ support for political measures that affect women’s equality as well as sexual privacy.
While both liberals and conservatives have supported and started many wars, conservatives are generally viewed as the more hawkish political group for they are keen on prioritising “hard power” (force, coercion). Contrasting this sentiment, liberals tend to put importance of “soft power” that being of diplomatic measures as well as persuasion and libertarians frequently wish to avoid intervening in international affairs entirely. Highly dominant personalities (those who tend to resolve interpersonal conflict by force) are much more likely to become conservatives. Similarly, other dominant personalities also tend to be less tolerant of conflict between groups and consequently are more likely to view another person’s behavior as threatening. This individual trait can affect a person’s perception of the threats posed by different ideologies and beliefs of other individuals, groups, and countries.
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?
This past Tuesday marked the 90th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey. This holiday celebrates the new era of the Turkish identity from Ottomans to Turks. The keystone of this remarkable transformation that unites Turks still today is the most famous man in Turkey, even 75 years since his death, is Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
To address the progression as well as the evolving political identity of Turkey, one must address the Kemalism (Kemalizm, Atatürkçülük, Atatürkçü düşünce)- the founding ideology of modern-day Turkey. Also known as the Six Arrows (Altı ok), this selective composition of thought defines progressional political, social, cultural and religious reforms in which all Turkish citizens are declared equal. This was quite a liberal and controversial sentiment back in 1923, for this mantra of equality was seen as a citizen’s right without reference to religion and subsequently established a secular, national, unitary state from the Ottoman Empire (empire of Faith). Kemal’s ideology emerged from within the Turkish traditional context of Comtean scientific positivism which creates the political futures according to human –rather than divine design– so it embodies both secular and modern properties in the fulfillment of many political goals. With a main focus of individualism, freedom, equality, rationality, and accountibilty as well as putting the primary focus on both education and political structures. In the context of the post-WWI world, this brought about European modernity in an Islmaic context, which still applies today both in political make-up and geographic placement. The man responsible for linking the eastern world with the west is Turkey’s founding father and first president Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
In regards to the national hero and icon himself, I refer you to the following article: http://www.badassoftheweek.com/ataturk.html (badass sums him up quite well)
Note: although this article is written in a comical light, it highlights the ironies behind the man as well as seemingly paradoxical values and attributes.