Wednesday, December 12, 2007

of men and norms

one of last week's most bizarre incidents was the death of a motorcycle rider who hit a standing truck wearing no helmet.

so far, ordinary is it not? by law, motorcycle helmets are compulsory in turkey, and to my knowledge, all european states. here, especially in summer, the mandatory condition tends to evaporate with the heat, to the degree where even mounted cops ride wearing only a baseball cap, because some genious desk-jockey has not included the helmet as part of their hot weather uniform! in america, some states require it and some leave it to the rider. in many parts of the u.s., there exist sizable movements to repeal the helmet requirement on grounds that "protecting my life is my own privilege and concern, not a domain of intervention by the state". ok buddy. you free to croak... jes don't do it in, on, under or over my vehicle... drôle, drôle, drôle...

but our guy in question had just left a conference -which he had joined on his own free will - extolling the virtues of safe motorcycle riding with full protective gear, helmet, boots, knee pads and so on...

events like this raise the question of the relationship between men and rules.

excluding such accidents of political history, as saudi arabia, iran or pakistan etc., where rules exist to keep -often naturally submissive- peoples subdued and supplicant; and are, more often than not, arbitrarily enforced, just as they are arbitrarily made, norms serve to establish some sort of an order over impersonal social relations. in general, legal structures favor extant power structures and serve the interests of power wielders. still, there can be no societal order, even in saudia, where the normative structure does not also answer some needs, albeit at the most basic, of the general public - there is your basic gramsci for you.

as power becomes more diffused, so that society can maintain some effective control over the state and its political machine, norms begin to order social life in an inevitably "reasoned" (*) manner, that is more instrumental in serving the interests of almost everyone concerned. as reason wins over rulers' whim, although qualitatively more efficient, norms become fewer in number. even in the european union, there (probably) exist laws that favor big business, but there are also quite live rules that protect the common consumer. every ordinance is rationally designed to best avoid violating third party concerns, while solving problems for -hopefully- the entire populace.

drawn under such rational systematics and methodology, also open to alterations or even abolition, through equally rational and methodical criticism, such normative structures create a collective intelligence and collective wisdom that not only orders but also facilitates social organization and cohesion. a german or a dane refrains from diving into a one way road from the reverse direction, not because he is not stupid but because he recognizes that if that becomes a habit, he will end up losing far more hours than the few minutes he can gain. the "ever-clever" turk (or, still, the mezzogiornian) who tries to cut a corner eventually gets to block a whole road, a whole junction, a whole traffic flow and still sits on his horn in total indignation.

in short, individuals' control and sway over their social life-domain arms them with an armor of collective wisdom, so that they do not even have to be clever. in the third and a half world, however, a quasi-clever band of malfed nincompoops forever perpetuate a guagmire of total collective idiocy continously pissing into it.

no wonder such pathological personality manifestations occur, where one attends a meeting that propagates safe riding bike and on his exit, bangs his bike barehead into the back of a garbage truck.

like getting out of an alcoholics anonymous meeting and hopping into the first watering hole next door.

(*) inevitably reasoned because otherwise the social machine will not function and be wrecked.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

do not take sarko seriously

m. nicholas sarkozy, le president de la republique de france has reportedly placed a stumbling block on turkey's supposed path of accession to the european union.

of course that is not truly the whole case: turkey's current situation concerning the eu is, directly, pacta non sum servanda, promise unkept! we simply have no sincere intention of becoming european; of not parking on sidewalks, of not shutting dow parties, of observing traffic lights, of respecting the law and others' rights, of living together without screwing each other, etc., etc... relax, i am not going to harp on turkey's impossible road to europe, not today at least.

the consensus about sarko's motive is that he is pushing turkey into a sub-pact of the countries of the mediterranean basin, which, he hopes, france will be leading.

nothing new here, it is an ambition inherited from napoleon, whose clumsy invasion of egypt in 1800 forever settled the anglo-saxons in the mare internum. france re-tried in 1956, together with the new imperial loser, the not-anymore-so-great britain and israel but barely got away before america gave them all a good slap on the wrist.

france, since losing algeria has had its eye on becoming the political pilot of the mediterranean nations but especially since the 1990s, was challenged by italy, too, which harbored similar ambitions but of a lesser tenor. the barcelona process of 1992 expired without creating a spirit of unity but squeezing fry the "soul" of the mediterranean, in part because of that rivalry.

and of course, like it or not, the mediterranean is actually an american lake since the world war II; and unless a serious challenge is in place, no continental contender will be allowed to put on too much brawn to contest the u.s.. they cannot, anyway... not with wahisngton's lackey, britain in their midst, breatihnig down europe's neck as a transatlantic fifth column - general charles de gaulle was apparently right in vetoing the pommies off the eec (what the hell are they really doing in the eu anyway? they are an island as remote to europe as japan. they do not even drive on the right side of the road or use intelligible measures! even turkey is more european!).

so, as far as the med is concerned, france is in the position of the married man lusting after somebody else's mistress. sarko le presidente tries to slip one over the americans sometimes and plays the game of france france über alles... that's all there is to the imaginary french primacy in the mediterranean...

in the aftermath of ww II, britain, still nurturing the illusion that it was still a world power (why do brits have that knack of deluding themselves that what pleases them not, in actual fact, actually, is not. really?) had shunned turkey off nato that ankara wanted to join to the price of thousands of troops killed in korea. britain was hoping to use turkey as a cornerstone in a chimerical mediterranean pact, which london would be leading - hence, controling the passage to india and the oil flow to europe and the world. not only america and the soviets but also even the arabs proved too clever for such that english ploy. the sixth fleet ended up dominating the bluest sea in the world, turkey (for whatever its worth) became a nato member and britain since, is america's lastest star even if it is not not spangling the banner.

so forget france or sarkozy, turkey's fate vis-a-vis the eu is only and only a function of its real integration with world capitalism which has proved a far stronger force of nature than either. and the first rule of capitalism is democracy that is a sine qua non of european/eurogenic rationality.

there is no need for stumbling blocks to place before turkey when it comes to rationality and democracy; we trip over our own toes treading toward that direction.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

stately anomaly

oh lord! sunday i wrote how the stately governor uzun of isparta, commented on the route of the crashed atlas jet, speaking as a quasi-aviation authority that high state service seemingly injects through occupational osmosis. therefore, more often than not, any turkish state (definitely not civil) servant by the nature of his office, is privy to everything.

akşam reported tuesday that the governor was the first (and by then only) person to mark how the plane had veered of its course!

repeat, the governor, who by no means is an air traffic connoisseur (unless he is a private flyer, which is darn unlikely), happens to be the first and only, repeat, first and only, official who could say the aircraft was apparently flying on a wrong bearing, according to the paper!

the news here is that the paper completely misses the anomaly in that situation...

unless the might of the august state incites some to do with their tongues things tongues are not supposed to do...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

stately agony

agonize freely: the governor of isparta, some şemsettin uzun, flew over in a chopper where the atlasjet crashed, in order to to inspect the wreckage and reportedly declared "the zone is not in the flight route of the aircraft, it should not be where it is".

as obvious to anyone interested, in turkey the state is the ultimate in everything. therefore, it has to have a hand in everything. unlike in democratic practice , governors in turkey, for instance, are appointed "state officials", a term preferred over "civil servants" because the state is there to be (*), not to serve .

so, a governor, representing the high authority of the state in some province, is the ultimate authority on everything by the unspoken of bibles of officialdom. the ultimate arbiter...

hence, his excellency gov. uzun, after inspecting the site of the incident by air, according to newspaper reports, has expertly rendered his opinion as the speaking voice of the state. behold how his knowledge of aviation is so obvious in his recount of the event: "we flew over the wreck in a helicopter. all ambulances are there. it is impossible to fathom how the plane landed (**) there. it crashed on the other side of the ridge. it is a wooded and somewhat rocky area. the aircraft is a mess. we (***) are sorry. that area is not included in the plane's fly-over zone. they informed that connnection with the aircraft was lost at 0300 hours. the tower sighted the craft. they even gave (relayed) the meteorological reports. (the runway was) reported clear to land. the plane was suupposed to make a turn over burdur. there was a break of communication" (****).

can you doubt his official authority and his word that the plane was where it should not be and forthwith crashed?

so, having been enlightened by his excellency, hürriyet's inspired headline to the governor story: "curious statement about the crash".

going on with the "curious" statement, or more of the sophia of state: “the fuselage is there, the wings are not so much. half the fuselage. there are scattered parts right and left. we shall go to the site by land to be with the citizens. we are very sad". tthen comes the governor as a human: "i have not seen anything like this".

whence goeth all the sophistic expertise?..

oh lords of ignorance, glory of eternal triumph is yours!.. may you forever ban promethean lights lest they may shine lucifer's torches on your endless swamps of hebetude...


(*) try to imagine a nightmarish versioon oof the existentialist dasein...
(**) direct translation from hürriyet's report.
(**) the much apppropriate royal we.
(***) the statement in turkish, as reported in hürriyet: “enkazın üzerinde helikopterle uçtuk. bütün ambulanslar orada. uçak oraya nasıl indi anlamak mümkün değil. sırtın öbür tarafına düşmüş. ağaçlık ve biraz kayalık bir bölge. uçak perişan vaziyette. üzüntülüyüz. o bölge uçağın geçiş alanında değil. uçakla irtibatın kesildiğini 03.00'te haber verdiler. uçağı kuleden görmüşler. hatta hava raporlarını vermişler. iniş için müsait denilmiş. burdur üzerinden dönüş yapacaktı. orada bir irtibatsızlık oldu.”
Gövde var, kanatlar pek yok. Yarım gövde. Gövdenin ön tarafı var. Sağa sola serpilmiş parçalar var. Olay yerine kara yoluyla gidip vatandaşlarla beraber olacağız. Çok üzüldük. Ben böyle bir şey görmedim” diye konuştu.

adding insult to agony

the plane crash in isparta gave the media the field day they have been craving since the bogus war fervor of a few weeks ago. a horde of scandalous ignoramuses now roam mountainsides, fly over the wreckage, "peruse" security cameras for a drollop of sensation to jolt us readers and viewers; most of whom are glued to the news-that-is-not, oscilllating between the joys of having survived a far away accident and the vicarious lethal reminders of how fragile we are.

some "news" hyenas, as if their papers and stations on "normal days" do not represent a dormitory of information employees, brag that they were the first on the scene - to do what? shoot a few tons of torn metal debris among autumn foliage? they do not even have the gall to make public bloood and gore!

the only news that matters comes from two sources in air crash incidents: lists of passengers that airlines make known, and the cause of the accident which the civil aviation authority discloses after an arduous study, if the black box is found. the rest, including the commentary by so called aviation experts, is speculation where it is not taurean excreta.

pretending to do something that cannot be done, the media, this once, have invested in an imaginary enigma of "sabotage" theories, having found out that some top turkish physicists were among the casualties. yet other reporters for the public and virtual grapevine, further blamed nuclear energy proponents for having the scientists blown apart...

when intelligence so dramaticallly drains from public experience that even common sense becomes a scarce commodity, reason and decency, too, ebb from social relationships. just as any member of the great driving unwashed can bust unannounced and unwelcome into your lane at any intersection, another mindless half-life form (with an unfortunately long half-life) extracts is/her kicks from what is grief to you.

adding insult to agony; chiefly, the agony of having to suffer so much human effluent.

Friday, November 30, 2007

kill women instead of men?

a court in izmir sentenced a man to 30 years for killing his son in law and his father while wounding her sister. the court reduced a life sentence to 30 years because the judges ruled there were extenuating circumstances: the man committed the crime under heavy provocation when his son in law declared "i have used your daughter for five months and here is ytl 750 as her rent".

turkish courts seem to be rather lenient in murder cases - in recent months, many men who murdered women "under provocation" received radically reduced sentences due to mitigating conditions- one killer for instance is expected to get out in eight years or so.

yes, it is true that the tally of the angry father in izmir is bigger, two dead, one badly wounded - but i cannot stop myself from wondering whether killing men draws heaveir punishment almost instinctively.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

turkey speaking for al qaida?

i read it in radikal last sunday and waited for some follow-up denial or confirmation from the government or the newspaper itself which did not come. i still am not sure how true it is but reportedly, tayyib efendi, who mustered his party's mp's for a weekend camp in kızılcahamam some 40 miles off ankara, told them at a closed session that unless the u.s. and western europe accept the pkk as a terrorist organization and act accordingly, turkey will not refer to al qaida as terrorist either but as a resistance organization.

this report came after he defended turkey's developing ties with iran in spite of america as "sound, realistic diplomacy that looks after turkey's best interests"... mainly, that there is trade between the two neighbors.

recently, i wrote about how tayyib efendi & co. & rosy have collectively turned turkey into a spokesnation for iran but even i, in my eternal pessimism, had not fathomed that our neo (or moderate) islamist global function as mouthpiece of evil could have extended to serve al qaida.

i am still hesitant to comment, because an iota of commonsense logic still whispers in my ear that even tayyib efendi, who undergoes an undying love affair with his own voice and his rhetorical abilities could loosen his verbal reins so far that his tongue runs amok.

if so though, turkey, whose world policy has been mainly decided according to the words and deeds of two persons in the last four decades, namely, mr. rauf denktaş of cyprus and abdullah öcalan, recently of the imralı island, is launching on a new course far more dangerous and harmful than the one that has placed it as 84th among 117 nations as regards human development (according to the undp's classification).

let us hope for bad journalism on part of radikal but if you ask me, the sole fact that nobody can off-hand refute and disregard the probability that turkey has become a mouthpiece for al qaida, something even ahmadinajad's iran has not dared, under the "rule" of tayyib efendi & co. & rosy is bad enough in itself.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

ask me about istanbul, oh how i hate it!

i hate istanbul. i never loved nor liked it. istanbul always was, to me, a plethora of villages heaped on top and beside each other. its layout, its structure, its organization but most importantly, its soul, only add up to a dirty, messy, noisy, disorderly, uncouth travesty of urbanity, stomping on reason and civilization.

and please do not refer to the classic lie of istanbul's imported role as some sort of a carrier of a quasi-urban "high culture", emanating toward the provinces: colonial or semi colonial (ex)capitals love to delude themselves, pretending that affecting an order of add-on, thoughtless mannerisms, borrowed from colonizers, can pass for civility. the only "real" (1) civilization this land enjoyed and savored until the istanbul-ankara uni-central axis tromped on it, was in the aegean, the quintessence of the mediterranean.

semi-colonial economies are wont to colonize their own territories. likewise, greedy istanbul, hand in hand with ankara, the obsessive seat of political power and control, colonized the aegean, too. in an inevitable process of integrating with the world markets (2), as an agency of globalization, it subjugated the lifelines, exploited the vitality and sucked the fortunes of the entire country, only to channel the booty abroad... after taking its (however meager) commission, of course.

during the process of colonialization by the istanbul-ankara axis that devastated the aegean, too, izmir, the only city that really deserved the epithet since the ottomans was the first casualty. traditionally, the first source of both original and adapted novelty in turkish civil and social life, izmir's prominence in a resourceful region allowed a self subsistence and sufficiency that was the legacy and the earmark of the ancient "polis". its historic aloofness and freedom from the "center", afforded izmir an almost natural autonomy from the central authority of the axis. that autonomy was quite pronounced until the mid 1950s but began to come under the spell of a nationalizing central economy steered by the axis from then on.

the jacobin, despotic, centralist axis could not easily brook any form of autonomy that might threaten to get out from under its comprehensive political control. therefore it also preferred its business to stay under its thumb, rather than let a fairly independent local bourgeoisie flourish. the empire suffered and tolerated izmir because the aegean meant revenue from agricultural exports - likewise did the republic for a while (3).

slowly, the relative autonomy of first izmir, the beating heart of the region, then of peripheral "paradises" like kuşadası or bodrum were destroyed. their local economies, indigenous, idiosyncratic and particular means of physical and intellectual subsistence were thoroughly dried. from the commandeering of the marketplace to architectural destruction, abusive exploitation and avaricious commodification of nature and history, often in the form of real estate marketing, killed almost every single originality. gradually, standardized styles of existence that plagued the "modernist charade" of istanbul and ankara, pervaded and shrouded all aspects of aegean originality, with its packaged and mediocre commonplace culture.

istanbul's role in this chapter of turkey's history, was to spread throughout the land the disease it itself caught a hundred and fifty years ago. the de-culturization that captivated the populace in a frenzy of getting richer without actually getting rich, simply aggravated when a barely fledgling economy got inevitably dragged into the throes of globalization as of the last quarter of the 20th century - just as it once had in the mid 19th century.

the loss is actually far bigger than can fit few paragraphs: the only hope backward economies as turkey, mexico, india etc., whose cultural accumulation has also proved mostly uneconomic and un-saleable on a universal scale, could only hope to win a proper seat on the bandwagon to globality to the extent they could merchandize the originalities that shape and distinguish their methodologies of life from other societies'. such originalities are mainly cultural goods that may be adopted, adapted or interpreted for the global market in tastes and ideas. döner kabab, though quite pedestrian, is a sample. on the other hand, the paintings of yavuz tanyeli, for instance are (4), an example of universalizing the arcadian of the highest quality.

some call this process "glocalization", i believe glocality is a more appropriate expression.

turkey significantly lost its claims to the international market in glocal goods too. through political manipulation, istanbul's subordinated, externally imposed, second (if not third) hand, foreign designed and foreign dependent, inferior political-economy that evolved from import substitution, turned into the national focus and locus of economic activity. this so called "development", illuminated by the eggregious lack of sight typical of the istanbul-ankara axis (5), subjugated all forces of production and with its control over the markets, usurped the corollary power of piloting consumption, which in underdeveloped political economies, often also serves as a motivator of mentalities.

in the end, while the rest of country, including the historically productive aegean and the mediterranean, became graduallly necrous; istanbul, fatally sucking their infected blood and dead tissue and social effluents, turned into a swirling cesspool. however, through its global links, it succeeded in remaining the main vent by which some oxygen could penetrate the guagmire.

istanbul could create such a colony out of a dead empire and a fairly large nation state by the standardization of uncouth masses that re-conquered it and became the customers of its second hand, second rate merchandize, ruralized physical environment and increasingly lumpen culture. originality in everything but most significantly, in taste, was abandoned to mere availability. curiously, even function was seconded to it. the contagious poor taste that began to define istanbul spread like a plague everywhere, causing havoc with thousand years of historic, archaelogical, cultural and architectural accumulus in aesthetics, as well as social know-how. the most visible effects were in architecture; as a history of imperial aesthesia was demolished, "skyscrapers" that are but dwarf by world criteria, soaring next to criminally ugly cubic housing projects and mudbrick slums, began to compete with ancient istanbul's two millennia old skyline.

istanbul's self defeating and self destructive mental attitude still reeks like a rank odor issuing from a body dosed with deodorant instead of taking a bath. istanbul badly failed in becoming the urbane and mundane "city that civilizes by being civic". it had no authentic urban culture to offer or impose on immigrating hordes except its affected manners, and whatever existed of the urban way of mind was flushed into the growing cesspool, as the invading, or re-conquering (6) peasant masses flooded the city (and all could-be cities) with their rural habits of thinking and living.

then what the hell am i doing here?

first of all, i am a prisoner of war: the aegean having fallen, i was dragged here by circumstance. second, the process i extrapolated above has left bodrum and the aegean as such barren mental landscapes that bore me terribly after a while... third, i have trained myself so in mya captivity, that my hate and disdain of istanbul do not prevent me from enjoying what it still has left to offer (6). in some sort of a revanche, i am exploiting the last remaining joys of istanbul.

i almost never express an affective stance to objects and subjects i know little about and istanbul; well ask me about it... yes, i do hate istanbul but that does not mean i do not appreciate it. i admire its historicity. i explore, experience and cherish what is left that i can access of the heritage of two millennia, trying to place the new occupants of yesteryear's plush capital on a map of time-and-space. i greatly dig getting lost in the old town behind the walls; riding in and out of nondescript alleys that pass as streets, watching women languishing on front porches of now derelict houses of once posh districts, kids kicking balls in the dust as slothful, swarthy, somber, stubbled men uselessly slump in coffee shops.

when i feel like i am in a land invaded by aliens, i simply escape...


(1) whether in the old glorious days of the empire or the post westernization contention between renovators and traditionalists, the manners of the palace were hardly a model for the being and behavior of the masses. basic modes of existence were divorced from the military imperialism of the palace and went about in the vein of the mediterranean urb structured in the millennia of phoenician-greco-roman maritime glory. it was this "civil" and civic nature that central authority stomped on from mid 19th century on and especiallly during the process of building a nation.

(2) "market" should not be viewed as a narrow, economic concept but in an anthropological sense as a meeting place of people and their communicated ideas and messages that establishes the "market" as a nucleus force in society, as well as and above a venue of tradeable goods.

(3) izmir created its own bourgeoisie that threatened to develope into a social force to challenge the authoritarian absolutism of the center. the ankara-istanbul axis eventually pressured izmir into submission in the 1980s, by swallowing its economy into the swirl of globalism. izmir's budding capitalism was hardly given a chance, even the yaşar group was swept under. today, izmir's basic economic worth is reduced (back) to manufactural level. however, the town's insistent rejection of intellectual self-development, embracing of parochialism and provincialism were also quite effective in its downfall. izmir or the entire aegean were never articulate about the existential virtues of being mediterranean, because intellect as a treasure was never appreciated until too late.

(4) some works of yavuz are currently on exhibition at the art fair in istanbul modern. what yavuz tanyeli needs to become an effective global cultural force is to find a savvy, mundane, capable art dealer who can market his art all over the world.

(5) in the way of empirical support, suffice it to recount that not one square inch of metropolitan istanbul is properly planned. another sample that pertains to the cultural: the city's mayor in the 1980s, who tore down maybe more than 500 hundred century old buildings and landfilled half of the bosporus and the marmara coast to build new roads, mr. bedreddin dalan, himself an engineer with no interest in history except banal references to a glorious and islamic flavored past, declared the dolmabahçe palace an unimportant building with little historical significance, made by a mediocre architect. dolmabahçe was designed and built by master balyan, the imperial architect of armenian extraction. not only did it take topkapı's place as the house of sultans, it was the place where atatürk died. even those facts are enough to qualify the invaluability of dolmabahçe as a historic and historical monument. why, then, did dalan make that unfortunately ignorant remark? because -after his mentor turgut özal- he too, wanted to assign the gardens of the palace to build the swiss hôtel. result? the sewers of the hotel still often flood into the basement of the palace.

(6) the reconquest of istanbul is the spiel of prof. necmeddin erbakan, the guru of political islam in turkey, the mentor to president abdullah gül and p.m. tayyib erdoğan (his son is named after him). of course, the allusion is to true muslims deciding the fate of the city again.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

rosy sequel

when rosy of the tayyib efendi & co. & rosy made president of turkey, i was rather loath to accept him for reasons of public poor taste: his compulsive and maybe also revanchist yearn to climb to çankaya sort of left his cohorts on the wrong footing - contrepied, as the french would say... then, he instantly broke his promise to encompass and embrace all citizens etc., etc... all those, although unpleasant, were natural if you consider his political roots and inclinations and did not fully deduct from his (well earned) political right to be elected.

the aesthetics i was (and am) piqued by, pertain to his political attitude and in my judgment, jeopardize the authority of the station he occupies: i remember abdullah gül as a member in his mentor's cabinet, that of the islamist necmettin erbakan formed with the now (thank heavens) politically deceased ms. tansu çiller(1). i remember him in the pose of the supplicant, erbakan's stance identical, too, his head bowed slightly to one side and his hands tied before him, being tongue lashed by the strongman moammar qaddafy in the latter's tent during a state visit to libya.

therefore, his icky, uncalled for and unheard-of-in-state-protocol rush to the visiting saudi (so-called) king' s hotel suite in ankara, to me was and is not a surprise but a sequel with more to come.


(1) ms. çiller, unfortunately, is preparing for resurrection, her candidacy for leader of the democrat party is in question. the misfortune here is not in ms. çiller's chances of a comeback (less than nil) but the utter plight (plague?) of the so-called opposition in turkey's pathetic politics.

is turkey the spokesnation of iran?

turkey initiated a potentially significant political raprochement between simon peres and mahmoud abbas bringing them together in ankarato address the turkish parliament. one would imagine more bells would ring in the western press but online issues of the ny times, washington post and the guardian did not carry the ankara rapport this morning.

bad journalism or turkey's perennial incompetence in currying the appropriate public relations for its good deeds? this is the only nation that accepted hundreds of thousands of fleeing kurds from iraq during the gulf war of 1991 but was reflected in the (western) world media with shots and footage of a frightened buck private beating an onslaught of zillion refugees into order with the stock of his rifle.

now, the israeli-palestine leaders' meeting is being swept under the carpet, probably for the sheer reason of ankara's wishy-washy attitude in the matter of iran, neither denouncing ahmadinajad's regime, nor endorsing it. thus as iran's universal prestige slides lower and lower, turkey somehow clings on to the sinking body.

simon peres said after meeting with abdullah gül that the only point they could not aggree on in otherwise "very favorable" talks was the turkish president's bias toward iran.

american apprehensions over turkey also touch upon the increasing ties between ankara and teheran. tayyib efendi goes to washington and finds it upon himself to mumble in defense of iran's nuclear "energy" program.

turkey and its diplomatic machinery are busy giving the impression that they are slowly beginning to assume the role of a mouthpiece for iran.

why? chiefly of course, because of tayyib efendi & co. & rosy's reluctance to relinquish their obsession with making something of turkey's (predominantly) islamic population. as they simply melt in front of a so called "king" of oil rich desert nomads; they cannot realize that ahmadinajad's islamic republic is less a source of diplomatic-political credit than an anathema.

then, it is quite probable that their religiously tainted narrow weltanschauung causes them to establish false linkages: they try to trump american unwillingness to crush the pkk with a turco-iranian gas deal and go on to advocate iran's very dubious and possibly devious cock and bull "right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes", although the mullahs do not even know what to do with their oil and gas and iran certainly has an energy surplus. again, they may be assuming quite incorrectly that supporting that spiel will "punish" israel for not sufficiently mobilizing the jewish lobby to block the armenian genocide bill in the u.s. congress. that is also why they are still undecided whether hamas is a militant off-shoot of iranian aggressiveness or the "legitimate" representation of palestine.

tayyib efendi & co. & rosy are not intellectually equipped to realize that -unless you are a vacuous pretender to a role of superpower like russia- speaking for the devil often gets you tied to the stake. the problem is, you go mostly unheard, and you do not make news unless you go up in flames.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

who's carrying whose flag now?

i just watched a singers' contest on bbc-prime "conducted" by the legend, placido domingo himself.

the contestants were all in their 20s, young up and coming stars. it was a visual feast for my ears. the second and third prizes were ties, and shared respectively by a chinese soprano and a russian tenor and a russian speaking tenor and bass.

the first prize went to soprano isabel bayrakdarian...

somehow, i missed under what flag ms. bayrakdarian sang, though i doubt it is armenia and certainly not turkey!.. miz isabel is definitely of turkish-armenian stock: "bayrakdarian" means the "child (son, actually) of the flag (standard) bearer" in turkish. the obvious conclusion is that her family were quite trusted servants of the ottoman political (perhaps also military) hierarchy. a surmise is, the family had to leave turkey after the tragedies of 1915; the "genocide" according to many and the "armenian uprisal, forced migration and killings" according to turkey.

whatever happened or why, history hardly ever favoring one side alone in a controversy, however sad or cruel, i deeply regret this very moment that regardless who was right, turkey, an independent, relatively powerful and greater state, never came up with the political flexibility and the ideological, cultural, psychological suppleness to work out the ways and methodoology of leaving the tragic incident and its time weary traces behind as another dark page in history - which, in this part of the world, are far more than glorious white ones.

isabel bayrakdarian could now have been crowned as a turkish (*) singer. she would have once again hoisted the flag her forefathers used to carry with honor, her voice gracing ears, minds and hearts, her charm adding gloss to her glory.

isabel bayrakdarian won, what a loss for turkey's universal presence not to share in her victory!..

today, a hürriyet columnist wrote that the "only other belligerent nation in the world after america is turkey"; so that the world has come to identify us with war.

how many times can one lose the flag carrier, over and over? sad, apparently, may be a choice where the wise becomes invisible to the mind in search of resplendence.

(*) not as an ethnic but historio-geographical reference, i could as easily say "a singer from turkey".

Friday, November 09, 2007

gone and unfortunately not known enough to be forgotten, even...

mübeccel kıray has passed away. she was probably the brightest, most insightful, enlightening turkish scholar, who, unlike muzafer sherif, the renowned psychologist, for instance, chose not to break her ties with the country.

kıray was born in izmir, the year the republic was declared. she studied anthropology, a brand new social science, at the then newly founded ankara university; taught sociology and social anthropology at the middle east technical university (metu), london school of economics, istanbul technical university, marmara university and university of texas, austin.

kıray contributed to theories of modernization and social change by pointing out to the very significant (especially as developing societies are concerned) phenomenon that modernity is not an accoutrement that is linearly attained by emulating the same forms as the capitalist western societies. she proposed that intermediary forms and buffer mechanisms/institutions occur which mediate the passage from one social structure to another. such institutions are, by themselves, neither modern/capitalist nor premodern (feudal) or agrarian. they belong to the period of the passage, to be left behind as progression to another stage is complete.

kıray's theoretical contribution was a blow to the development theories and policies of the 60s and 70s, which constituted the cultural - political aspect of american hegemony and maintained that the formation of western institutions in the third (and third-and-a-half) world would ensure their transition to modernity. when the theory failed, u.s. backed colonels' coups and authoritarian regimes erupted all over...

every turn of turkey's - or possibly, chile's or pakistan's - history of cultural transformations provides a plethora of events that corroborate kıray's theory; from instituting educational establishments that teach more hype than knowledge and science, to strange interpretations of modern-ized legal systems so that gabriel garcia marquez's story of south america, red monday, is reenacted in batman, eastern turkey; or perrennial messes in traffic that result from a collective idiocy that institutionalizes the ignorance of organizational norms.

today, i asked my class to name turkish football players in foreign leagues. they counted at least six.

none of them knew who mübeccel kıray was...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

the traffic of anti-americanism

anti-americanism in turkey is like the traffic problem in istanbul (1): it is a serious problem because there is nothing serious about it! and i'm not musing either, this is a very serious statement.

traffic is a disaster in istanbul because, instead of adopting and abiding by universally standard rules and signs designating how roads are to be used as public property, every driver, every pedestrian, every traffic administrator, every planner, every infrastructure builder and even every onlooker is guided by one sole canon: expedience...

there simply is no detectable reason to question and improve. nobody stops to wonder if my expedience is expedient for you, too; and if it is not, whether your expedient presence in the off-side quadrangle of a junction may very inexpediently blocking my way.

actually, that causal sequence is called logic and it is observable in some lower species as cart drawing horses and even oxen.

hence, everything in istanbul traffic is a mess. the sole motivation is that of rushing spermatazoa in a race to impregnate some - and in this case, unavalilable - ovum. the turk that is the most to hurry and harry, the first honker when the light turns green, is often the one who will bolt to the coffee shop to sit doing nothing except maybe play a card game with chips instead of a deck- more expedient than cards because you don't have to hold them in your hand while you're chain smoking...

hating america is expedient, too. it leaves no time for auto-critique and/or self loathing that is corollary to an inflated collective ego when bruised - which again, happens often. it is also very easy : at the current phase (since 2000) the u.s. of a. boasts the most conveniently hate-able and hate-attracting western leader this side of 1945. dubya is a global hate magnet (totally mis)managing a worldwide (2) establishmentthat is america .

hating and blaming america is easier than sending your daughters to school, respecting the rights of the man crossing the street or acquiring a profession for your livelihood instead of going about as a born-expert on every matter from driving to army commanding and to state administration. it certainly is safer than bickering with your "rulers", too.

the friction between turkey and the u.s. is caused far less by confrontation than the utter ignorance and incompetence dubya and his neo-cons have displayed in their pathetic grasp of the world. unless an equal ignoramus wins in 2008 - which is why i am praying for hilarious to win, so that billy boy can handle the world and its beauties with his peculiar aplomb again -, a world wary and personable president can mend the fences in two weeks. remember how clinton had his nose squeezed by a slimy kid in the quake zone and at that point, could easily be elected turkey's next head of state (3)?

so you see, these are serious matters only because if ever attended seriously, they will vanish instantly. traffic is a matter of optimizing the use of available public volumes, not of usurping and vandalizing them. corrective punishment will suffice to bring the bedlam to reasonable ordder. international or cross-national sympathies or antipathies are simpletons' surrogates for contemplation of interest optimizing and are subject to instant change if the right sentiments are harped on. something even dubya can do (4).

(1) istanbul is symbolic here because it is the extreme case. all turkey is afflicted with the same mental and behavioral disease of maniacal vehicle handling. for example, the republic day weekend, at bodrum's deadly torba junction, within the space of two minutes, three cars and a truck raced through the intersection with no chance of stopping in case of obstruction. the crossroads are lit ss ugly as a cheap sailors' brothel but worse, stupidly misleading in the ways they are placed and in their garish colors that completely baffle an unaccustomed driver. meanwhile, there exist no traffic lights. the reason cited: traffic lights will cause accidents because nobody will obey them anyway. the significance of the torba junction among thousand similar others in turkey is that a young pop star/actor tragically died there past july when crushed by a truck charging through. entire turkey shed tears over him and cursed mad drivers and every single body, from retired traffic cops to my barber, suggested remedies to make the intersection safe. still, everyone sppeeds through it because the junction is at the bottom of a downhill stretch that extends to a (rather mild) climb that is more expediently challenged if one hits it fast!
(2) the exact word would be catholic but is prone to confusion with the ecclesiastic usage
(3) in fact, he was going out, and turkey was trying to name a president, who turned out to be a. necdet sezer. some writers, i recall, did jocularly suggest, despite his fling with monica, that bill clinton should be given the job. i still do! he's fun at least.
(4) some turkish football teams are playing for high stakes in european tournaments. if i am aware of that, the political secretary of the embassy in ankara should, too... here is my bet: a little timely cognizance from george bush le fils, supporting one (or all) of those teams; or a team-colored baseball cap he wears in case one can make it to the top, will be enough to stop, if not turn the evil tide.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

making sense to kurds

no science, no art, no philosophy, no literature, no environment, no democrats, no finesse... issues i and a number of other left-outs have always complained about as huge gaps of knowledge in the turkish modes of mentally constructing the world.

now, we are facing as a nation, a gross ramification of thinking with our guns instead of our minds. our democrat-free democracy has long created an ogre that has gnawed on turkish society for years and now threatens to mangle it: a feud between turks and kurds, that is mutually suicidal rather than fratricidal!

ten years ago, a division of the country might have been hypothetically possible without destroying the essential make-up of either ethnic community. now, even on paper, such separation can be but fatal for both. since the 1990s, millions of kurds have spread into the country, which is also their country, so that ethnic strife can only devastate both entities that constitute one nation. however, not only rampant turkish nationalism but also the cultural customs of kurds and their particular articulation with their turkish compatriots can at present be listed as psychological distances that belie physical proximity.

what do we know about this anthropological - sociological and pychological phenomenon that bears so much dormant risk to our vey existence? nil? most possibly... why? because in our denial of a kurdish entity, in our despisal of academic inquiry, we simply ignored the study of the kurdish way of mind and life. worse, we jailed anyone who dared to study the kurds as a specific social actuality. i know many young scholars who have researched kurdish life and culture in situ but all as affiliates of universities abroad. i doubt any turkish academic institution has any worthwhile and reliable data, studies or publications on a matter that directly pertains to the country's life-lines.

how are we going to live with people to whose minds, souls and praxes we are so indifferent? how are we going to communicate with them? whether on the north or the south of our borders, how are we going to reach out to them and make sense to them as partners in life? certainly a reference to a millenium of shared geography and politics is not so satisfactory any longer.

instead of science, learning and thought, we have tried to ensure political unity only with our guts and guns, since the 1821 uprising in the peleponessus. it seems there has occurred no change in our grasp of the world ever since, wielding nietzche's hammer all the time, we see all problems as nails.

hope we do not bang it on our thumb this once...

Friday, October 26, 2007

washington post colonialism

last night, erkan (see link to erkan's field diary above) and i had a rendez vous with a reporter from the washington post visiting istanbul to investigate the surge of anti americanism in turkey. we were supposed to have dinner together and chat, so we went to a favorite taverna with erkan to wait for him.

the fellow stood us up with no prior or posterior notice of regret.

furthermore, i understood he also stood up haluk şahin, another bilgi professor and went to talk with soli özel (1), still another bilgi university instructor who also scribes for the post on occasion.

big deal... who in a sane mind can hope for proper conduct from a journalist?

yet, primary school etiquette tells you that if your are not going to be able to abide by a promise, keep a date etc., the civilized act is to call, write, whatever and apologize. that is because the human interfacce of modernity dictates that we are all equal (even journalists, unfortunately). our time is equally important and precious, and to keep somebody waiting is stealing from their time, i.e., their life.

it was the colonialists who usurped the time and lives of their vassals in the old days of imperialism.

what cheek! so like a puny pukka sahib, this discourteous fellow from the washington post has the arrogance, the impunity, the audacity, the ill-mannered, uncivil rudeness to impose himself into our schedules, also abusing the credit we accord a beloved colleague; impinges on our time and has the gall to be so impolite as not to apologize for disrupting the flow of our lives, as if we are pariah!

and in total blindness of this pretentious, grandiose, colonialist attitude displayed in its name by one of its employees, a major american newspaper inquires into rising anti americanism in the rest of the world, after they dispatch this boorish would-be colonialist to do their investigation as if they have no other person to send

then, in absolute hebetitude, they do wonder why anti americanism has become a global tide!..

(1) soli is a right person to see. this commentary no way implicates him but the rude and purpose defeating demeanor of the post reporter, some amar bakshi.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

los bandidos desperados

in türkiş garfucius yesterday, i suggested that the pkk should not be referred to as a terrorist organization. not only is terrorism the worst defined concept in the world (even worse than aggression) that it has no meaning anymore except as a word of denigration for any act or actor that displeases one side in a fracas, it accords the other side a measure of implicit legitimacy. "one man's terrorist is the other's freedom fighter," runs the well used (and abused) cliché.

i insisted that the pkk is an organization dealing in common crime and must be treated as a gang of common criminals. i was wrong, i apologize...

a "gang" is, sociologically, if not by historic origin, more or less an urban, therefore a civilized phenomenon. it assumes by definition, some sort of capacity to organize, albeit, outside the law, which requires some sort of adaptive autonomy in members' actions.

the pkk arises from the rural world of the peasantry and the corvée of the east. the only organization it can manage is through forming a rigid hierarchy. it cannot form a gang because autonomy is impossible without disbanding. that is what the pkk is: a band.

they are not gangsters but only rural bandits. or, using the term from a culture they are more akin to, los bandidos desperados.

let us not exalt them or ascribe them any legitimacy, however dubious, by calling them terrorists.

Monday, October 22, 2007


it is better to remain silent when reason is blown into the storms of rage. sometimes it is wiser to let things take their course, even toward catastrophe.

perhaps that is why, at one point in time, gathering information about your antagonists and kneading them into konwledge of the world you are dealing with, came to be called "inteligence".

and whatever the power of weapons, as military history tells us, victory depends not on how many bodies you can afford to bury but on how well you know the ways of coming home leaving back as few unmarked graves as you can.

intelligence, after all, begins in the mind as a capacity to recognize and formulate problems... a capability to ask the right questions, rather than move forth upon well worn answers.

good luck!

where intelligence fails, luck is the only thing you can count on. but then, luck is often a matter of probabilities and a fairly intelligent analysis of them.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

tell me about putin and how russia can put in (part I)

for the deep turkish psyche, russia signifies the invincible evil behemoth that ate up the ottoman empire. barely a century ago, the tzar's generals were drinking vodka and celebrating their crushing victory over the sultan's unsubstantial armies a stone's throw from the palace by the bosporus. russian soldiers were flirting with the girls of agio stefanos, or, with the name we know it by today, yeşilköy - just south of the atatürk international airport that lies smack in the middle of istanbul.

fear and aversion of russia was so ingrained, turkey was the only country in the western bloc where a communist party was totally and often violently banned from 1923 to 1990s, until communism collapsed. this is a weird contradiction since turkey's political, economic and cultural structure reflected a centrality, homogeneity and monotony that any sovietic-socialist government would envy (1). even today, as even a blind man can see, very typical of sovietic socialist social organization, in turkey, the state is far stronger than society (2). in my (not so) humble opinion, that is why turkey is doomed to remain a mediocre presence in the league of world politics but that is not the issue now. suffice to say, cold-war turkey was less threatened by the idea of communism as a political regime than russia, which was communist, and could use the "partnership" to manipulate turkey.

the issue is russia. particularly after vladimir putin last week put (3) his foot in the near-eastern soup cauldron, in support of iran's suicidal, as well as homicidal nuclear craze... and now that turkey is preparing to nose-dive into the gravy, moscow has reemerged or has been remembered as a factor to reckon with.

some 10 years ago, when the soviet weary and wary west was drowning its dollars (no € then) in boris yeltsin's vodka glass, i was busy maintaining that it was a waste. russia would (and will) never garner the paper-tiger power the soviets did or were made to look like they did.

then putin began to put in his magic wand to the brew. very despoticallly, he created a plethora of non-capitalist but private conglomerates which practically expropriated the state's resources. these conglomerates functioned as privately owned and managed companies under state control. they had access to gigantic material and financial opportunities and soon turned into fairly competitive players in the global market. they were large, big, sumptuous and fairly competent in world trade but inside, their colophon read "property of the ex-sovietic state of mother russia" (4). in one way, russia's economic success that putin put in the books is a matter of reorganization with efficiency in mind; something all bureaucracies can achieve if some despot puts his mind and devotion in it. the russian on the street was already oriented toward a middle class lifestyle in the late soviet era. recent economic growth let poverty drop and a middle class grow. foreign direct investments - mostly in energy enterprises- increased, too.

however,russian economy is still relatively a backward one, using the measure that says a developed economy is less dependent on income from natural resources than the power to transform them into commodities and services... russia's exports consist by 80 percent of oil, natural gas, metals, and timber (5). the industries that the world's second superpower was once so proud of, are derelict and unproductive.

this portrait leaves russia as a minor economic power world-wide but supposedly affords it the brute strength it can bully other states with. can that really be so?

russia still finances its growth and its progressively middle class welfare with what it exports to the prosperous west. a fossil energy crisis caused by, say, a russian embargo (which is singularly unlikely by reason of insanity) may undermine the west's economic security for a short while but russia thus forfeits not only its chief revenues (6) but also almost all of the monies that flow in through its borders for other reasons.

so, in effect, russia is a bear that barks (is that what bears do?) with ultimate reluctance to bite. and this is only the economics of the problematique, without going into russia's entanglements with its own "democracy" and its ambitions over control of the mainly oil-based wealth of the asian "turkic" states.

thus, russia's political worth appears as a derivative function of what it signified as the empire of evil during the cold war. it is basicallly, an assumed power to scare. it is invalid once people refuse to be afraid of it.

(1) one time turkish premier tansu çiller had complained while grappling with the resistance to privatizations that she was trying to "dismantle the last remaining communist state in europe", in the 90s.
(2) a chief criterion for karl august wittfogel (1957) to distinguish an oriental despotism.
(3) putin had put it in previously too, when he let europe freeze over gas prices.
(4) since the union and progress party led "revolution" of 1908, the equally strong and inbound state apparatus of turkey has been trying to do the same, with little success to speak of. turkey never dispensed the opportunities and finances as putin put in the russian "private" companies; for fear that any emerging social force could topple the state's ultimate supremacy. all it offered was conditions for profitable (in many cases, profiteerable) import substitution between 1958-1982; at a time when second tier economies were turning global.
(5) cf. cia factbook
(6) 32 percent of the state's revenues according to the cia. by the way, iran, too, needs to finance its nuclear craze as well as its wayward allies as hamas with oil revenues.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

tayyib the khalifa

tayyib efendi was addressing an organization of his party late last week, on occasioın of the bayram. as always, when speaking to an adoring, supportive, sycophantic and non-digressing group of devout disciples, his training as a religious rhetorician got the better of him and he let his tongue loose, to run before his mind:

"we are the government of all, we are here to serve all" he stated. and after the applause subsided, he rolled on "we shall serve not only the muslim, we shall serve the christian and we shall serve the jew... if there are any, we shall serve the buddhist and the atheist, too".

we are used to tayyib efendi's habit of confusing himself with the ottoman sultan or the khalifa of islam, forgetting that he is a citizen, perhaps primus inter pares (1) but still a citizen, of the republic of turkey, a democratic state where, although threatened, the primacy of its secular law is supposedly universal. hence, any government has to "serve" not only any citizen of the country but also visiors residents who are the beneficiaries of the protection turkish law affords everyone.

tayyib efendi often loses this distinction between religious and secular law, simply because his scope of the modern world sometimes slips out of context and into the ottoman (or worse, mohammedan) era. pretending he is the khalifa of islam, his tongue begins to run loose before his mind. that is what happened at the bayram speech. "we serve regardless of anyone's creed, because that is the custom we inherited from our history," the primus inter pares raved.

he conveniently disregarded that it is his obligation to serve the whole country, including not only non-muslim turks but even the foreigners within its borders. it has nothing to do with history, customs and traditions or tayyib efendi's family upbringing. any government of the republic, including his, is there to serve all, muslim, atheist, christian, devil worshipper, jew or pagan because they are duty bound by the law of the land! because the constitution says so...

the realization may disappoint tayyib efendi but he is neither khalifa nor sultan. for the moment, he is primus, because his pares have assigned him the duty of protecting the law of the land, under whose democratic principles, we all are equal and deserving of the services of the country's governments.

that privilege includes tayyib efendi's politically and artificially elevated self, too. whatever power to serve is also vested in him through that law, which he has sworn by honor to uphold!

as a citizen with mixed spiritual affinities and a fairly rational mind that suggests the logic of atheism, i think i am entitled to tell tayyib efendi: "just do properly the duty you are appointed to, oh mighty one! if my forefathers had wanted a sultan or a khalifa, they would not have deposed what they had... apparently, those they disposed of were better than your esteemed self, otherwise you would not be yearning to emulate them".

(1) first among equals

Friday, October 12, 2007

ready to rage

the king of off-road, ktm motorcycles of austria have a slogan: ready to race. you can take the bike off the rack, and push it straight to the track...

i propose a similar slogan describing the political attitude of turks: ready to rage!..

the typical collective or singular primary reaction to any adverse stimulus in this country and for our fellows is instant fury and displaying a disposition toward solutions favoring violence. the same was true last week when the pkk ambushed and killed 13 turkish soldiers (then, two more elsewhere) and later the u.s. house foreign relations committee adopted the armenian genocide bill. in the former case, preparations were hastened to lay the legal background for military incursions into iraq's kurdish territory; in the latter, threats were hurled at washington to hamper the u.s. war effort in iraq.

i am not going to argue the workability of turkey's poicy in either case except to note:
1 - they both simply and singly play with brute force options and reduce politics to muscle flexing; 2 - they are the first, almost automatic responses that come to mind, rather than fruits of a ruminative process of problem solving; 3 - in history, force has been the chief response turkey has opted for in solving territorial issues and almost each time, it has failed: when, in 1921, a band of rogues in the morea sparked the greek revolution, massacring their muslim neighbors (not neccessarily even turks), the imperial armies staged such a retaliatiory attack that some english politician said "grass won't grow under their feet", referring to the savagery of the janissaries. a more recent example, in 1923 and 1930-31, kurdish rebellions in the east were suppressed by force and compulsory migration in certain instances.

between 1821 and 1921, the ottomans lost their empire. the heir, the turkish republic, is still dealing with kurdish insurgency almost a century after it hammered down the first uprising. what other evidence is necessary to convince a people that the "favorite" remedy in the past served only to worsen the ailment?

for nearly three decades (1), the turkish political machine endevaored unsuccessfully to quell the kurdish (or eastern problem) by military might. whenever other, cultural, social, economic or political measures were raised, most were destined to bang into a wall in a dead end. kurdish members of parliament were roughly arrested, jailed, silenced; the most renowned kurdish novelist died in exile recently, a researcher spent a third of his life behind bars, journalists were persecuted... oops, sorry, prosecuted for mccarthy-ish interpreations of anti-turkish activities etc., etc...

the sole consequence of all that militantism was that istanbul turned up to become the largest kurdish city in the world!

when the armenian genocide debate began, i was a kid. the turks reacted then, just as they are doing now; and in 40 years, they have not been able to convince anybody who counts that there was no genocide of the armenians in 1915. one moment though, the sole exception probably is president georgewalkerbush alias dubya, who, in defense turkey, told congress before the voting that ottoman turks did not commit genocide, they just "mass murdered" armenians.

looking at the historic genesis of the problems plagueing turkey which so readily enrage us, should we not perhaps stop and take a look at how we are describing the "problems" ? after all, intelligence is essentially a capacity to recognize define and formulate problems, rather than finding (in our case, very instant) solutions or responses to percceived obstructions.

rage so obviously fails to win the race.

(1) this is a very arbitrary dating. cutthroat kurdish separatism was on the rise before the military coup of 1980; indeed, was one reason cited for the army takeover. in the late 60s and early 70s too, right after the 1971 putsch by communique slackened its military hold over society, secessionist kurdish nationalism began to arm itself and get violent. the pkk and its imprisoned leader apo are offshoots of those early movements.

Monday, October 08, 2007

trt and the freedom to be unfree

trt, the turkish state television managed to enrage me by showing a clip, in which a subcontinental-oriental man from pakistan or maybe afghanistan was singing praise to god and islam in english during an iftar (break-fast) program.

no, my indignation was to neither song nor singer, although if the trt, which scores the lowest ratings among all national stations, in spite of being the richest, technically best equipped and most extensively manned broadcaster in the land, is so keen on celebrating the holy days of the muslims with such glee that legitimizes unadulterated propaganda, i now expect it to run clips of happy christians singing carols in approaching christmas. as a matter of fact, since the trt collects various special dues and draws its funds from our taxes, it is obliged by law and common sense to treat all religions of all turkish citizens equivocally.

what infuriated me in the clip was the background to the song: a forest under rain, greenery and flowers all around, and a 6 - 7 year old girl child, totally clad in islamic costume, including head cover, waltz-stepping through the foliage!

the obvious message: regardless of age, a woman is an agent, an element of temptation and must be covered to keep out of sight of men who may not be able to resist the allurement of her sexual appeal!

i cannot understand male minds ruled and guided by the constant, concupiscent hankering and the complementary apprehension and tantalization of impending sex or sexuality even when grown, mature women are concerned. the mere idea that a supposedly human creature, equipped with a capacity to reason, can regard a 6 -7 year old girl as a sexual object is a complete anathema! the notion is repulsive, nauseating, disgusting, sick, despicable and because the trt which i only incidentally watch, continuously robs me of my tax liras, deplorably exploitative!

what is worse, i browsed the papers in the last two days to see if anybody else was as irked by the clip as my poor self... alone again, naturally.

on the contrary, in the media, i came accross a slant that drove me truly mad! some diddlebrains with their testes where their wits should be but apparently never were, defended dressing children a la islam, with head cover and veil etc., on the grounds that "it was their choice".

as corroboration of covering up with free will, they cited the childrens' own expressions that they wanted to wear the veil... "i want to dress like yoou do, mumma..."

i will not insult the intelligence of my readers arguing the validity of a minor's such capacity and access to free will. we all know that even leaving aside the oedipal social training of girls with mothers and other women kin as models, especially in oppressive, basically peasant communities where high islamic fervor thrives in this country, the child of a religious environment has virtually no choice but do as bid or shown. allow me to draw a parallel of evil, though:

child victims of sexual and physical abuse may (and often do) develop a bondage with their tormentors and many do not even want to be relieved from their custody into conditions where they can be treated normally. where, technically, lies the difference, if you force or coax a child to venery or faithful virtue by means of closing all channels of her developing a sense for freedom and will? then again, most child victims of sexual abuse are lured into the trap by love and affection, rather than coercion!

i am for as few restrictions of any freedom on a universal scale. therefore, i do not find in myself the right to oppose the right of those who wish to cover up, provided they are mentally sane and able. however, please do not expect me to show respect to the full exercise of the freedom to become unfree. it is abhorrent!

then again, i absolutely am for sexual freedom between "consenting" adult partners regardless of gender, method or taste. rape, molestation, persecution, abuse, and obsession are, by my standards, condemnible wantonness of the worst caliber, akin only to taking of lives.

and i am at terribly confused in distinguishing the level of evil between violating what is between the ears and what is between the legs!

Friday, October 05, 2007

the laz and the "papaz"

in the last post i tried to explain the way the laz mind works and how that phenomenon spreads through the community by way of cultural osmosis (1) with increasing speed.

just as they are accustomed to shoot first and ask questions afterward (2), the laz have the habit of talking first and if at all, start thinking about what they said only subsequently, along with the audience. then comes stage 2, turning what was said around to mend or control the damage. tayyib efendi, who is originally from rize, and is a perfect laz, has demonstrated that trait countless times in his public career. he practically solved the question by appointing a special officer mr. atıf beki, to turn around and translate what he said into what he did not mean (or worse, sometimes into what he did mean).

as a matter of fact, tayyib efendi, persecuted by the approaching vote over the constitutional amendment, has recently gone absolutely laz and claimed that "eleventh in actual fact, means 12th".

well, good luck to tayyib efendi, but our target today is another laz, the father of the minor o.a., the assassin of father santoro of the catholic church in trabzon, who was a victim of slef declared jehad by a band of ultra nationalists. the "killer" was sentenced to 18 years of which it will be a miracle if he serves six. said his father, rebelling to the court's decision: "if my son had killed a mufti, they would have given him no more than eight years. just because he killed a papaz (3), they sentenced him to 18".

do not be misled: the speaker is not just a frustrated parent, he is a retired teacher, who supposedly has the faculty to distinguish right from wrong. of course, he is laz.

(1) don't look up the term. i just made it up. obviously, it refers to the automatic transferral of cultural cumuli from one social group to another, simply by virtue of sharing the same social space. this is not a case of learning by observation or imitation. as in biological osmosis, traits seep from one element to the other due to differences of cultural density, that is, the ability or degree to which one group maintains and preserves its so-called identifying characteristics. (there you go! garfucius has rolled up another fold up his social scientific sleeve...)
(2) the laz love guns. they used to make excellent copies of famous firearms by hand for decades. when the turkish government could not outlaw guns, gun bearing or gun production, it legalized them, during the life and times of turkey's hero-saint of liberalism, turgut özal. just as other laz-ic phenomena, gun love, too, spread in society especially whereever the mental aspects of personality development ran slack. now, we have more firearms than we have people. anybody can simply shoot anybody else and not even has to ask any questions later. killing is so "normal", when a pathological sadist butchered eight family members couple months age, it hardly made front page news.
(3) mufti is a higher muslim cleric that corresponds more or less to a bishop or arch diocese. "papaz" is turkified from the greek papas, father and is used to desecribe all christian priests.
few turks are aware that papaz means father. the "lower classe" often use it as a term of derision.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

i absolve the laz

i have often wondered about the reverse-correlation between the eggregious plight of traffl over turkey and the socio-economic paradox that the "plight" is caused by vehicles whose ownership indicates a certain degree of economic achievement, which, on paper at least, requires a modicum of intelligence, of which at least some should be devoted to organizing the way those vehicles are used, which is not.

complicated? ok, cars are expensive (1); right? in order to buy a car, whether to use privately or to professionally haul third persons and goods, one needs to invest a fair fortune; right? that assumes, the owner of a car has to have an income which is at least a few times above the average per capita income; right? so, on a quite rough scale, persons who own motor vehicles can be included in some degree among the economic élites of the society (2); right? that, normally, indicates some success at business/work; right? except very rare and often decidious cases of pure dumb luck, such success cannot normally be achieved without some intelligence as the basis of acquiring some capital, acumen or skill; right?

then, how come those fellows, who, supposedly, are endowed with a certain degree of mental acuity, use their vehicles (or let them be used by third parties) in such utterly dumb and stupid fashion that trained circus monkeys and bears can do a better job? to put it another way, where goeth the brains that serveth the turk (3) for the acquisition of that chariot, whence it hit the road?
i have pondered a lot about that question and, it appears although the answer was before me all the time, i could not see it because of a technical - methodical mistake that blinded me:

my life long observations, heuristic experience and studies have led me to conclude that the laz (including cretans), who incidentally, are a "race" (4) that raises not only the brightest specimens of the local population, but also the dullest and most witless, are usually successful in life because of a single-minded purposefulness and obsessive perseverance over one single objective, to which all other acts of life simply append as accessories. for example, if temel (5), the proverbial laz, who lives in rize sets his mind on showing his new watch to his betrothed in istanbul, he can drive 700 miles in five hours only to discover at the bosporus bridge that he forgot the watch home; turns back, recovers it and returns in seven hours... when the laz are concerned, the dumbest individual can, at the most critical moment, do an incredibly clever thing that makes a physicist look like a dimwit - and of course, vice versa: a genious laz surgeon may forget the keys to his bentley in your left ventricule. naturally.

i missed the generality of temel-ism. i overlooked that the trait which distinguishes the laz is a universal human condition that i exclusively ascribed to the laz because its frequency and range are relatively higher among them to fairly consider a trademark. in that bout of temel-ism, i could not see that the entire turkish populace is affected by the same affliction! indeed, there seems to be a rapid laz-ification of turks recently... did you notice how turkish pedestrians wait for the traffic light to turn green? almost without exception, they step down the sidewalk on the pavement, frequently take a few steps onto the road, definitely blocking cars and putting life and limb in peril? did you observe how drivers honk and horn their way in at top speed through every gap in traffic only to brake hard and wait at the intersection, where they try to beat the lights, transgress into the line of crossing cars and cause a deeper mess?

i previously wrote that the mental faculties of an average turkish driver is generally equal to that of a sperm, rushing in absolute fixation toward the womb and the ovum in competition with 70 million others. that compulsive mental state is the bane of traffic in turkey. however, as jean paul sartre argued once upon a time, one's outlook in life is an integral attitude, you cannot be a a tender, compassionate torturer but you can be a neat one. so, if you drive like a sperm, it probably means in all walks of your life, your intellective modus operandi is equally spermatazoic.

thus, i now know why and how individuals who otherwise possess paltry cerebral proficiency, whose intellectual attainment hardly reaches the dizzying heights of mediocrity, whose cognitive universe cannot extend beyond a fetishistic devotion to football and a football team, have ably conquered the molehills of economic progress since the inception of özalism... a pathologically success(result) oriented single-mindedness, hinged on a totally iniquitous veneration of money and material gain that completely disregards the means and method over the end, has swept the ethos of society down the drain to the gutters of pragmatic opportunism.

then dawned the dark ages of conservatism...

once the normative structures of living together, which are usually the yield of decades, even centuries of urban praxes are destroyed by avid hordes, typically of parochial backgrounds, who cannot adapt to cosmopolitan urbanity, the commonest rubric ascends to become the canon of society. naturally, that most basic rubric is heavily perfumed with religious dogma; which by definition, is deficit to regulate the transactions of a modern society.

hence, the pervading, ubiquitous, pernacious, venal anomie that plagues the third and a half world.

i heretofore absolve and acquit the laz for all their social sins...

(1) in turkey, proportional to income, they are even more expensive.
(2) in turkey, where dollar billionaires abound but few major companies get into the higher ranks of the fortune 500 list, economic élites, too, have a sub-mediocre standing by universal standards. so, owning a car/vehicle is a realistic socio economic status indicator within its particular community - frame.
(3) my definition of turk is rather generic and covers the north-western demography of the byzantine - ottoman empire, which, for me, one and the same historio-psychological entity. it includes ethnic turks, greeks (of hellas as well), armenians, kurds, the laz (then again, laz comprises all but markedly all eastern black sea people and very significantly, the cretans) and assorted apocrypha; some albanians, bulgarians, macedonians, bosnians etc... by contrast, the azarbaijani are excluded by reason of a separate mentality.
(4) a true laz is the member of a historic clan of indeterminate origin from the mountains of eastern black sea, speaking an old dialect that sounds like a mixture of turkish, greek and armenian. by reference, the people of the eastern black sea region are often called laz. they are attributed a special mentality, humor and character that has inspired at least 40 percent of jokes in turkish. they resemble those the french tell about the belgians.
(5) temel is literally, foundation; actually, a greek word, themelion, of the same meaning. it is also one of the most common - if not the commonest - name among males of black sea extraction.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

iran, the sliding ground under china?

how bad really is the nuclear threat iran poses for the modern world? a new york times photo of a square in teheran shows that the leitmotif of street decoration in the persian capital consists of a display of weapons. the scene is pathetic, actually... a backward economy, an oil-poor nation trying to secure itself a place in the world as the spearhead of islamic jehad while being despised and feared by the muslim world around it.

the scene in nyt is reminiscent of the latter-day soviet empire. naturally, the much further modernized russians paraded their arsenal with much more aesthetic coreography but the essence remains the same: dread me, for i am guided by fright myself. like russia under communism (*), iran is pressed under economic problems of all sorts and since it has a totally and thoroughly oil dependent economy, its sole choice to maintain its awkward and retarded power structure under the disguise of national integrity and islamic jehad, is to bribe a jobless, profession-less, generally ill educated hordes with oil money (**). the already overloaded military expenditures are bound to take a toll on the state's budget and the public's welfare in due time - which cannot be too far ahead.

therefore, just as it drove the soviets to the same corner, it is in america's interests to push iran to spend more on military matters. the main factor that may slow washington from pushing teheran to bankruptcy is the imponderability of iranian leadership. more specifically, the u.s. considers the probability that once squeezed into a corner, iran's bizarre and idiosyncratic president mahmoud ahmadinajad may try an attack on israel and the buttcake may hit the fan. however, that is, ahmadinajad knows just as well as everybody else, but a suicidal option. not only because militarily, iran's success is not anywhere near a plausible probability but a war will devastate its moribund economy, too.

now, increasing the economic pressure on teheran by expanding the sanctions, nyt reports, is more of a possibility since ahmadinajad went overboard with the nuclear threat in his u.n. address which assured any civilized person on this earth that he is not compatible in any aspect with modernity. the europeans are now likelier, as president nicholas sarkozy of france indicated, to back america's policies against iran despite "dubya" bush - mainly, economic and commercial sanctions based on boycotting iran's oil trade and crumpling its revenues. the imponderable factors here figure as russia and china, who, it is feared, may continue cavorting with teheran and may even attempt at solidifying some buyers' monopoly over its oil.

russia is a card laid face down; however, china is much more susceptible to pressure from the west even than iran, in the eventuality it tries to circumvene the blockade against ahmadinajad's belligerence. chinese development and prosperity rest on imported capital and technology, as well as clement western markets. chinese products, whose prices are not exactly determined in a fashion foreseen by capitalism-proper, threaten western industries. if the west openly or secretly pressurizes china and "punishes" it for dealing with iran, despite the coalition of capitalists, a trade ban or limitation that only requires china to comply with the basic rules of market economy can leave china commercially stranded, with lots of cheap produce it cannot sell in any of its "natural" markets.

thus, the nuclear situation may serve not only to rob the chief evil, iran, of its own treasury, it may also help drag china, the economic loose cannon, to toe the line of proper capitalism.

russia? it currently survives by selling oil. is it going to re-sell the oil it buys alone from iran? import and re-export chinese toys and motorbikes? big deal...

(*) not that the ex-communist led neo-tzarist russia has left that corner behind it...
(**) actually, not with oil money even but oil itself... when the sanctions and military spending forced the government to cut down on free petrol rations of the people, a rare mélee against the mullah regime broke out recently.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


recently of issue is the so called sociological phenomenon of "peer pressure" (mahalle baskısı). the secularist/laicist masses are afraid/wary and warn that once relgious symbols as the head scarf are let free, peer pressure will cause those who now ignore them to abide by religious dress codes, too.

what is more, there exists positive evidence that the current administration is willing to encourage such pressure. an advisor to the prime minister just made a public statement condoning government contractors who made their wives cover their heads, so they can win tenders. "well, it is better they pull themselves together," he said; "if they want to do business".

hmmm... implication one:

in turkey, politics still consists of seizing the power and the means of the state and distributing them in partisan fashion to cohorts and minions, through an hierarchical pyramid, depending also on the psychological distance the beneficiary maintains to the center. this qualifies as a form of "patron - client" relationship but differs in that it is historically ordained: in the ottoman (and previously byzantine) system, the state was almost the only way for upward mobility aqnd prosperity. bureaucratic promotion depended on which clique of grand vizirs or vizirs were on the rise or on their way to the executioner's rope. peer pressure was a method of consolidating relations within one faction, and also tightening loyalties.

the same is true of any centrally operated system of distributing benefits. in diversified, democracy-oriented societies, interests are far more impersonalized, and are defined and sought collectively. that is why parties exist. rather than base policies on distributing the assets of the state (which, theoretically at least, belongs to everyone, rather than just the ruling political party and in practice, is getting smaller), they clear the way for the particular groups they represent to realize their goals, without license to harm or destroy opposing social forces.

in turkey's lay, non-political society, too, the same pyramidal hierarchies persist: with the weakening of the state and bureaucracy, a quasi-feudal structure of landlords and notables arose in turkey. they had tenants whom they had to "look after" in a paternal (patriarchal) rather than patronal model.

when the state's regime softened with the advent of democracy and more or less modern - capitalist modalities settled, the two branches of the paternal system merged. most of the previously externalized landlords and notables found their niches in the political system. thus, they, too, accessed means that they could dispense among loyals and entrench their local powers. then, as feudal ties further loosened, smaller but still paternal patterns of affiliation with a distinctly "business" rather than agrarian character dispersed in society. today, such "cliques", mostly based on locality or some sort of kinship, play an important function in all parties.

ferdinand tönnies was the first philosopher to put a finger on the machinations of this phenomenon, with his famous gesselschaft versus gemeinschaft dichotomy. simply put, the model pits the impersonal and anonymous urban (society) relationships against the more intimate rural (community) where personal ties, group pressure, social control play a heavy role in maintaining cohesion. obviously, the dichotomy lies on both ends of a continuum of capitalistic development.

the first implication is that, despite politicians' and media mythologies of economic development and success, turkey, one of the world's 20 largest economies, is still a state-oriented, over-centralized bureaucracy.

hmmm... implication two:

abiding by and strictly observing islamic rules may put souls at ease but they do not guarantee success in an open economy, dependent on technological development (*); where innovation is next to synonymous with free thinking.

this is the islamist's quandary in turkey: more and more, turkish capital and capitalists of islamic origins are appearing on the global scene of trade, not simply as merchants as they once did, but as consummate commercial agents in a fatally competitive market, where knowledge is not limited with what one learns by experience. neither at home nor abroad, can such economic dynamics suffer too much state patronage, auspices, intervention or impediment for long. rules of capitalism cannot brook playing favorites (**).

the first part of the second implication is that the akp and its hand-fed capitalist section may soon (***) have an oedipal fall out.

the second part of the second implication is that the akp's economic policies, unless the party is going to vanish into political vapor shortly, have to be autophagic (***) - they have to be self-devouring. they have to relinquish their hold over their protéges and aggree to being controlled by them. their alternative is going down the same way hardline islamist erbakan and co. did, into obligatory oblivion. if the akp succeeds such a gargantuan paradigm shift from religious piousness to conservative capitalism though, it can set itself free... just as a cunning fox chews away its caught limb from a trap... or a starving octopus feeds on one of its own legs...

hmmmm... implication three:

it all comes back to the same point on the vicious circle: tayyib effendi & co. & rosy are not philosophically, therefore mentally, therefore technically equipped to enact such a major transformation.

(*) i use technology rather looosely here, to cover all acts - not necessarily technical or mechanical - that make life easier and more enjoyable; or in practical terms, turn production as well as consumption into a meaningful source of fun, for deriving the best value out of time. therefore, a fine movie, an excellent painting, a good idea etc. are all a part of living-life-technology.
(**) indeed, there are signs leaking from the traditional economic giants of turkey, traditionally always watched over "paternally" by the state, that they do not much approve of the government's favoritism toward the "green" capital. they are apprehensive that the religiously oriented government is in a process of creating its own bourgeoisie, just as they were raised by the secularist state at one time. want an indicator? a major holding has sponsored an art show endorsing optimism! optimism is usually required at times of uncertainty, with the bad looming on most of the horizon. jjust ask who feels pessimistic in turkish society today?
(***) self eating
(****) sociologically soon... five years? 10? probably not 20...