Friday, January 26, 2007
watching the lights of greece, cem becomes a far more meaningful colleague i am glad to have worked with. i spent a good part of my life trying to promote some sort of rapport between turks and greeks in any capacity that was available to me. yes, i am a peace freak or a freaky pacifist etc. but that is not the reason. the everlasting love of my life isthe aegean sea and what she nourishes on her shores. therefore, forever, greece has felt like home to me, even at times i could not travel there.
then came years of arguing, haggling, commiserating and reaching aggreements with greek officials of various titles, mainly the limanarcheio, the harbormasters... i captained peace voyages, sport events, cruises and stolen escapades into the other side of the aegean and loved every minute of it - even with passengers aboard my ships!
i learnt first hand during the difficult times, what it means to be an "enemy" to persons whom you bear no grudge against. i felt the frustration of being branded under a blanket category by people i wished to get close but who would not desist from viewing as sommething i was not except in their prejudices. what most ired and tired me was how, on both sides, individuals, or people massed by a narrow vision of the world, who were supposed to be individuals, played the party tune written by their governing apparati. i still enjoyed my repeated visits to greece - especially because each time, i would meet a considerable number of persons who particularly made an effort to be friendly or more importantly, just were friendly because they really were.
the "rapport" that would make friendship over the aegean a possibility could only come if more greeks and turks could get to know each other. unfortunately, such an occasion occurred only after thousands died under the rubble that was caused not by any so-called enemy but by the greed of developers, building contractors, nature violators and consumers themselves when the quakes of 1999 fell.
ismail cem was a special person because out of the rubble of the earthquakes, together with his counterpart o kyrios papandreu, who defied his father's contrary legacy of antagonism between the two nations, he was able to construct a modest abode for rapprochement that is slowly growing into a mansion. without cem, the lights of greece might not be shining so alluringly, invitingly and familiarly for many turks as they do now.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
the "other", supposedly, is a projection of what we dislike in ourselves (*) but it is actually a project. it is not something that comes into being of itself, the "other" is deliberately -though not necessarily consciously- construed. the "other" is always functional, and therefore ever present. at times, your mom who suckles you is an "other" if you don't want to suck. so is your wife when she doesn't let you watch the ball game, your best friend when his soccer team beats yours; even your pet dog when it wants a walk in the rain... what we call "other" is that part of our own life we can put aside when we do not wish to brook anything or anyone who differs from ourselves. the other, at best, is a temporary assignation of that status to a subject in our lives. the richer the life, the more temporary the assignation; because difference and diversity is what makes the world go round. without that we designate as the other, we are all practically like the zillions of ken and barbie dolls that come out of the plastic factory and are distinguishable only by what they (are made to) wear.
the zen of it is that, an intelligent being can float and cruise among all those different aspects of existence that potentially are tthe "other", picking at will what suits him, what complements him, what pleases him; in short, whatever is desirable. thus integrating, accomodating his self with all that used to be other, the soul grows, enlarges and encompasses as much of the universe as possible while experiencing its own being.
even then, there is some other - or else, evil would evaporate from human culture altogether. yet, that is an other which life has taught us may become functional some moment of the cruise, therefore not really so alien, so "alter" but merely a spare part of our life-world.
the homo sapiens has grossly failed in its 80-million-year-history to prove itself an intelligent being. earliest findings show it to be a creature whose idea of zen-wise integration is post cannibalistic digestion. every moment of the history of the species is a record of one or other form of self destruction . history tells us there really is no "other", except, we can "other-ize" anybody, even our prophets.
in a sense, hrant dink was being prophet like, fearlessly pounding into our pathetically dwindling vocabulary that "different" is not necessarily "other". because the poorer the vocabulary, the blunter the mind, the more primitive the thought process, we killed him, too, because we refused, chose not to understand. and no, we were not magnanimous enough to protect that we could not understand. we feared him for ignorance is also cowardice.
then we walked behind his coffin, letting out spiritual gases out of our conscience... we walked behind what put us to shame by dying because living and writing, he could not reach us.
the shameless shunned even the walk. there was a thankful absence of politicians . what few there were, were there apparently more for the protocol than the funeral. during his service hrant once more did a service to his countrymen, showed them how much better things can be without the state as we know it. even the security forces belonged to the people during the procession, not to the state.
so we laid hrant to rest. silent but still spreading meaning to life. we were ashamed of his death but we can't lay shame to rest...
so much the better! we must now nourish that shame, lest we forget.
(*) also what we covet, envy and cannot attain; which can be considered a form of evil in itself.
another on how we can't lay shame to rest...
right now, though, the pathetic inferiority complex of the media, purporting to be the voice of the public, gains precedence. in extracting a juicy drop of pride from the huge gathering behind someone's dead body, someone we have ostracized, persecuted, failed to protect and finally murdered; only to mourn en masse; can you not see a downright despicable attitude to garner respect from shame? is this not akin to social vulturing? how pathetic can pathetic get! sorry hrant, we did not know we loved you so till we destroyed you!
i think this kind of bankruptcy in relational æsthetics is a consequence of the absence of visual arts in islam, which then contaminates all æesthsia in life... but that's also a teaser for another post.
now, i have to go check what the carpenters are doing to sarpa. sarpa is my other love affair, together with pipican, my bike. she is a 20ft motor-boat. she is currently undergoing winter maintenance in the bodrum marina.
yes, i am on an escapade to bodrum, too.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
but sorry, hrant dink. not only have they killed you, they've also choked your voice.
do you reallly think that a government incapable of curbing an imminent attack on an obvious target like hrant can really find his assassins? do you really believe - supposing they can in the first place - the teenager nitwit, whom the papes called "traitor" suspected of the murder is the culprit?
only 60 thousand armenians left among 70 million - 70 million who cannot bear to hear their dwindling voice. and those brazen fartbags who stoop lower than their levels of existence in their attempt to switch the blame on armenians abroad for the murder...
how many more hrants do you think will dare rise and raise the flag? the voice of difference is now silenced for good. as it was in all previous decimations of good minds and souls.
sorry hrant, you should have left long ago. left just as raquel suggested, with your children by your side... to marseillles, anaheim, boston... anywhere where a voice is not a lethal risk.
Friday, January 19, 2007
riding to bilgi today, i passed through kasımpaşa (*), a zone i try to avoid because of traffic congestion since a fenderbender in galatasaray had blocked the whole main east - west passage on my regular course. on the way i saw a signpost, with the stamp of the beyoğlu municipal authority that read:
"it is definitely forbidden to dump garbage here" (my emphasis).
you think that is a grammatical transgression and the local government added the qualifier "definitely" as a decoration or a slip of the brush? of course not, it is the signifier as well as admission of and submission to a way of mind, a way of interpreting the world, a cognitive style!
when you are in the a-mathematical and anti-mathematical orient, your life is governed by restrictions. indeed, everything is restricted. you can't step on the grass, you can't wear silk stockings to school, you can't cross the street, you can't picnic in the forest, you can't enter, you can't get out, you can't park, you can't have a boy/girlfriend and what not. shortly, anything not prescribed by custom is proscribed by it.
however, life is a flux and it cannot brook restriction the more it flourishes into urban and urbane diversity. so, slowly, some restrictions simply melt away in the higher velocity of modern tempo. you meet a girl / boyfriend. it is forbidden but you meet in secret. you smoke cigarettes and maybe even a little grass, sneak out to ball games, steal your father's car and park it back in the garage before he comes home, cheat your wife/husband etc. the nonfunctional proscriptions remain in place but do not remain in effect.
again, as modern life expands laterally, allowing "other" styles of existence - such as the peasantry or the newly urb-settled blue collar classes -, many prohibitions from a former universe become obsolete, though not annulled. however, since there is a large difference between urban dwelling and urbanization, which is both a forerunner and component of civilization, the newcomers seldom possess a capacity to enlarge and diversify their mental scope. they rarely ignore restrictions whose elimination can emancipate their thinking habits and life-enjoyment.
instead they relax the rules that must be observed in order to sustain the organization in a complex, varied, networking environment with little concern except exigency in their routine. a taxi driver may kill his daughter if he sees her flirting but won't mind rushing in front of a streetcar at red light, risking his own life and those of his fares.
so, the sedimentation of a selective and regressive anomie begins and grows. bans that reach over from an archaic form of existence stick to modern life like a stifling preservative, while prohibitions that are in place to order and reproduce civilization lose their meaning.
during the whole process, the original ban on everything-but-custom is still formally there, although with varying, often diminished and sometimes depleted influence. in other words, almost everything is still forbidden. a middle aged adult of 40 hides his cigarette from his 70 year old father because tradition forbids but smells like a chimney when embracing him. the same man has no compuction flipping the finished butt into the sea, which is also forbidden (**). thus emerge tacit hierarchies of observable/better to observe/negligible restrictions. some prohibitons are thus definitely forbidden while others are not that definitely forbidden.
in this case, you can dump your garbage on the mayor's table. it is forbidden but nowhere it says definitely, yes?
(*) kasımpaşa, on the north shore of haliç, the golden horn, is where the arsenal of the imperial navy was housed. as in most old cities, the arsenal area absorbed new immigration into the city and was rather proletarian in character. in some way, those areas initiated and schooled the newcomers into urbanity.
(**) one cigarette filter sucks the oxygen in a bucket full of seawater before only the tar is neutralized and dissolves.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
there was, again, as always, no theory proposed to refer data to, which means what were called facts were open to interpretation in hundred ways without making sense.
the only data that had any meaning was that the number of motor vehicles per square km or per km of road in istanbul is only about one third of cities in a civilized world. in other words, a car in turkey/istanbul occupies at least three times the space as a (probably larger) automobile elsewhere, in, say, dallas/texas, which can be considered to be on the same level of intellectual development as it has been the seat of dubya' s power for years.
this fact speaks of one truth only: turks (as are other members of other underdeveloped societies) are unable to develop or abide by the norms of a culture that can optimize space and space usage.
i have been saying for decades now that there exists no traffic problem in istanbul/turkey. the mess on the city roads that has recently reached epic proportions of absurdity is a drivers' problem, a human problem. therefore, it is not technical but a matter of logic, mindsets, rationality, i.e., a cultural problem.
modernity is basically not an addiction to new technological products but a way of mind (i.e., culture) that rationalizes thought processes through reference to mathematical constructs. ratio-nality is a specialized practice of logic that by nature looks at the relationships between things and concepts. it processes the relativity of experiences whereas, for a non-modern mind-set, mathematics simply denotes a counting and numerating system, usually to order things in hierarchies.
numerating is an absolute process, it feels scant need for relativity, comparison, coordination and organization. for instance, it cannot relate the possible outcomes of the simple act of beating a red light in relation to the temporal schemes of all the elements sharing the same traffic-space. an infraction to gain a moment adds up to a colossal loss of time collectively. this is not selfishness, this is a plain lack of comprehension that disables an efficient organization of social time into a medium that allows for the most lucrative, fulfilling experience of life - a failure to comprehend the totality of an alien culture.
turkey's traffic problem is misuse of space, basically a derivative of geometric ignorance, but it is also caused by a direr psychological urge - heuristically, the only time and place any turk can decide for himself without interference from another body is while at the wheel of a car. therefore, breaking the rules, seeking prominence by sneaking in front of another driver who has priority are all praxes of that autonomy that is but a birthright to a civilized individual.
add to that the policing system administered by persons raised in the same culture and the effective emasculation of the police through political influence: everybody in istanbul who is not somebody is is somebody's something, with enough clout to threaten a newly appointed officer with ostracism. plus, the ridicule of norms in a show of personal importance; now you have a clotted traffic.
istanbul's spatial mess is just a glass of water in a bucket: a population of 45 million (65 percent) is living in an area that amounts to 5 percent of turkey. that area produces the significant bulk, possibly two thisrds of the entire value added. almost every penny of investments concentrates in that area, making it the most illogically congested this side of china.
istanbul's traffic is nothing, compared to problems such asymmetrical distribution of resources are about to spring in our faces. just as the traffic problem that does not exist in istanbul, they will be insoluble largely because they, too, will not be technical but human, cultural problems or problems of rationality.
why? back in the bright days of islam, imam gazali and his disciples said a limited doze of mathematics is enough to uderstand, order and run the world, more of it leads to more knowledge, more science and hence paves the way to blasphemy. the mut'azil, the countering camp of philosophy who basically followed averroes's mathematical rationalism were practically forced to intellectual exile. that is why the rationalists of the islamic / oriental world were called the mut'azil, the "isolated".
a last word, then, for the exiled rationalists of this universe, from ovidius, who wrote it en route to the black sea, where he was banished for life by caesar augustus:
Often the sea broke over the ship: still I spun
my verse, such as it is, with shaking hand.
Now the rigging shrieks, taut in a north wind,
and the curving breaker rises like a hillside.
The helmsman himself raises his hands aloft,
begging help, in prayer, forgetting his skills.
Wherever I look, nothing but the shadow of a death
I fear with anxious mind, and pray for in my fear.
If I reach harbor, the harbor itself will scare me:
the land has more terrors than the hostile sea.
from tristia book I
now i know that his ascension to the presidency is a necessary evil. it is the surest, safest, shortest, face saving method of getting him out of the way, so affairs may be run without interference. since the job in çankaya is politically irresponsible, tayyib bey may shoot his mouth off as he pleases. since the job also lacks any real authority, he can do no harm to speak of even if he speaks more fantastic nonsense.
since i totally decided not to take receb tayyib erdoğan seriously, in principle, i will refuse to comment about him either. however, since what i intend to write in the next post albeit tangentially, somehow touches tayyib bey's recent genius proposal to solve istanbul's traffic by limiting the licences granted to vehicles, i had to make this statement of repudiaton publicly.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
on to the heart of the sunrise.
how can the sun with its arms all around me?
how can the wind with so many around me?
i feel lost in the city"
so sang yes back in 1972, in the heart of the sunrise, last cut of the fragile album, one of their best, definitely. i was a city boy with spoilt child access to "nature", and though i liked the song very much, had not put much philosophical stock in its complaints. however, in those years, i used to live in ankara and the capital of turkey respired such low quality air that snow would turn black, not just grey but black, in one night and if we missed playing snowball the first few hours, forget it till next time. so, the suffused breathing space often did make me empathize with yes anyway.
i spent the longest stretch of my life in bodrum, or on the mediterranean sea, to be more exact.
i guess i can claim that i know what it is to feel the wind play around your body, how to listen to the water, watch the dance of the changing lights like looking at your favorite daughter sleep and all that romantic stuff. i'm still like a duck in water in any big city anywhere but the thought and the sense in the lines "how can the sun with its arms all around me, how can the wind with so many around me" never leave me alone in istanbul. i never liked this overgrown, filthy, oriental village of false sun and false lights and please don't come up and say "but it is beautiful". beauty is hardly ever a reason for love or liking, maybe infatuation.
besides istanbul, now, is only as appealingly beautiful as a 95 year old elizabeth taylor.
in these days of lovely sunshine, a prolonged and prolonged, much welcome midwinter spring, all i wish is to jump on the saddle and ride aimlessly around, toward any place that sounds or feels attractive. to roll on the throttle, watch the scenery float by, totally alert, totally in tune with the moment. but alas!
dream on on to the heart of the sunrise
how can the sun with its arms all around me
sharp distance! how can the wind with so many around me
i feel lost in the city
and how does that mood leave me feeling:
midwinter spring is its own season
sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,
suspended in time, between pole and tropic.
(t.s. eliot, little gidding, I)
Monday, January 15, 2007
but till the lightning of doom strikes us, what other evils and ills of our own making may claim our souls in a more slowly encroaching armageddon? how responsibly have we approached and formatted our collective life that in fateful submission we await the end with such abandon that sodom would envy? so, the earthquake is imminent, but is it the only killer lurking? let us have a look at the basics elements of life then:
air: air is a lethal matter in istanbul, as it is in almost every single settlement throughout turkey. it is replete with sulfur dioxide, suspended micro particles, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and various volatile chemicals. high pressure often brings about respiratory and coronary illnesses. the traffic mess exacerbates noxious emissions. the winds simply shift the polluted air around city blocks instead of away from it because unplanned urbanization is badly unmatched to topography and the city's airways are clogged by high-price high-rises. a permanent cloud of yellow smog which denotes alarming sulphurous concentrations hangs above us like a halo of evil. add to that the army of smoking turks, which only in istanbul, is no fewer than 10 million, consuming no less than one pack of cigarettes per day.
what about the lungs of istanbul? the woods and the forests? prime real estate out for grabs. consumed by concrete!
water: joking? what water? even before the mildest winter in years is over, "authorities" have already begun mumbling their concern about water shortages. shortages? the least of our problem. the environment is so badly damaged, so soaked with chemicals, poisons, even nuke material according to some that untreated water can melt one's bones! sea water... hmmm... free sewage and effluent dump. release all kinds of liquid waste into 50 meters and forget about it. it's called deep sea discharge and it has plagued the marine environment all around the anatolian and thracean peninsulae where turks reside. of course, dumped (instead of treated and purified) water is also wasted water, so hello again, dry days!
fire: sign of purity? the ultimate cleanser? sure. 3 million or so heavier motor vehicles in urban istanbul, most of them active during the daytime, emitting fumes uncontrollably by way of their combustion chambers many of which either can't burn the fuel any more or is not supplied with the right quality of fuel to burn. petroleum products in turkey are still below par by global standards. they don't even burn properly... the simplest measure is to compel at least buses, trucks and the like to funnel their exhausts upward, through pipes that reach high into the air. instead, we breathe in the gases and particles they emit.
add more than four million buildings to warm up. half of them lack natural gas connection and burn anything, including wood, scrapped wood, sawdust, cowdung and burnt engine oil. sometimes they soak the sawdust or dung in burnt oil. wood is a major pollutant, oil is worse and gas is best. but gas, too, is a pollutant nevertheless! especially if two million buildings and more factories are using it.
then industry... the industry uses the highest priced energy in the world, fossil fuels and electric power. it also uses it in the least efficient manner. the industry, including manufacturers that are state owned, dump their effluence, untreated of course, into nature. most rivers in turkey that are situated near industries, even small town machine parks and repair shops are so polluted that they cannot sustain life.
turkey's industry is almost exclusively (about 70 percent according to economists) stuck into a triangular strip that extends from adapazarı in asia to çorlu in thrace, then down at most to balıkesir via bursa in the south. the whole triangle represents an area of 200 by 25o kilometers at best. turkey, which is close to a million square kliks, houses, feeds, toilet trains, tries to clean after, mismanages, malurbanizes about 45 million people, more than 60 percent of its population, in only 50 thousand kms square.
earth: read the last sentence above again. then tear down fertile farms, fields, valleys, woods, forests to build houses that are at best eyesores, factories that produce incompetitive goods, shanty towns to shelter peasant populations flocking to find work in those industries but mostly cannot, make roads for more cars.
release pollutants into rivers and seas so they seep into the soil. de-plant slopes and watch erosion wash the country into the ocean. emigrate from rural areas into towns.
on top of a barely or poorly competitive industry, lose your edge in agriculture. start importing food.
earthquake: if you screw up god's earth like that, you'd better be expecting it to shake you up and awake or down and dead!
any moment, the forces of evil will unleash their nefarious might through the heart of the soil. the earth shall fold upon itself and death and mayhem and strife will befall the sinners of kostantiniyye, as the three seas rage heaven-high over the city's dwarf skyscrapers, to wash away the human detritus and the human made debris, already decimated to ashes and dust!
no matter that some optimistic geologists claim the mother earth shall not let loose its wrath but merely give a severe warning to the sinners, that the crust of the world shall shake but not a break and open to devour god's favorite children! like any bad tv show, it is the apocalyptic vision that collects the rating. doomsday, everyone knows, shall happen, so it is ordained.
the only mystery is how imminent is the imminent!
so, row after row of titled earth academics hit the media, reading their scientific coffee cups and all but brawling with each other about the magnitude, timing and the malevolence or the benevolence of the inevitable catastrophe.
ok, it is very tempting but i shall refrain from psychoanalyzing the obvious guilt ridden, self devaluative and absolution seeking psychology behind that kind of apocalypse addiction. just suffice to say that as everything else that is ostensibly taken seriously in turkey, the earthquake is actually only marginally serious. no, i am not going to reitirate an umpteenth time how istanbuleotes insistently neglect taking any precautions against the quake whose mere idea frightens them to death. i am reminded of st. francis de lasalle's homily "fear is a greater evil than the evil itself that causes it". what lasalle overlooked is that fear, as every other psychic phenomenon, is functional and the function that necessitates the fear is frequently more important to sustain than to abolish its cause.
turks, especially istanbuleotes will always fear an earthquake, until it occurs but won't do anything about it either, because the pending danger justifies their philosophy - the philosophy that since all in life is ephemeral, for the mortal, everyhting is there for the taking in this short, decidious stay on earth, with no regard for the style, method, norm and ethos of taking.
Friday, January 12, 2007
dubya also failed to gain the hearts and minds of the underdogs of the middle east and the rest of the poor world. instead, he lost the hearts and minds of "allies". the normally quite pro-american angela merkel is lukewarm despite -or maybe, because of - the backrubs dubya dons for free. even antonius blarus is also hitting the backpedal, contemplating a withdrawal of brit troops, in spite of the honeytrap promises in the new iraqi oil law empowering u.s. british and other western firms to monopolize the petroleum yield. at home, the slumbering democrats have rolled into the senate and now are hoping to sleep bush off his throne. they'll eventually succeed of course only because he must leave anyway in less than two years.
however, dubya is still piloting the world on an increasingly deepening pool of blood. now he is raising the ante in iraq by sending more troops in.
why escalate? to save the country (?!?) from falling apart? to instate peace? to stop the civil war? iraq's fate was sealed when, right after the invasion, the kurds and the shiites insinuated themselves into positions promising some control over the oil producing areas. the minority sunnite arabs who exploited their military and political superiority through the baath state apparatus were not mourning the invasion or saddam as much as they were crying over their lost access to the perks of power. with the sunnites out of the frame and instead fighting the legal government of the country, the only logical consequence emerged as the partition of iraq. in the first place, iraq's borders were artificially drawn by the british in their imperial pissing contest with france. they never did contain a nation as much as an array of competing and alternately suppressed interests which are very unlikely to compromise in the foreseeable future.
the new american troops can do little more - except get killed - than slightly postpone the inevitable partition. the central government of iraq is too plastic to command any respect or even instill awe and terror in the hearts of its own subjects, as is the custom in the middle east. they are obviously avaricious and supplicant enough to pass the oil drill bill through parliament, they will, for a time, try to control the situation with american trained soldiers, who are mainly shiite and eventually are bound to end up oppressing and exploiting their own people -especially the militant opposition of the sunnites. such blood spattered civil strife always carries the risk of giving the symbolical upper hand to the recruiters of al kaida and the like.
all that brands the nuri al malikis of iraq as incompetent to run the country. since no sunnite yet can (or needs) be appointed to top positions with any real effect, we are looking at a stalemate which again points out to partition.
however, partition is a tough cookie, too. the general intelligence indicates a tripartite iraq of kurdistan in the north under some american auspices, a shiite state in the south that is practically what the turkish republic of cyprus is to turkey, and a kind of embittered, beaten, empoverished, disillusioned, enclaved and possibly belligerent sunnite community tucked away in a remote area.
the picture looks incomplete though: first of all, the kurds and the u.s. must somehow appease turkey in order to transit smoothly into sovereignty which does not sit well with iran either. just as with turkey, kurdish independence is a thorn on the side of any possible american policy toward iran. furthermore, although they perfectly allied up in order to carve a practically autonomous kurdistan from iraq, the tribal factions within the kurdish community are still far from reconciled. the pkk, hoping to chop off a slice from turkey, is a far minor problem in the global scale, except for ankara. turkey can only in naiveté expect any dire or harsh measures against the pkk from washington which keeps it as a hole card to play against talabani's and barzani's forces in case of a mix up in northern iraq.
secondly, although they are thick as the haramis of ali baba, the arabic and arabophone shiites of iraq and the farisi shiites of iran have little in common, sociologically. this matter seems to need more analysis than a taken for granted future integration.
third, what is america going to feed the sunnites on? if assad's syria is on america's soon to be bygone list, one way at least, is to incite upheaval using the sunnite majority dominated by damascus using their iraqi brethren as leverage. since syria is as artificial as iraq, it is also as vulnerable.
all right, speculating on the course of history is no less fun than having your turkish coffee cup read by a fortune teller and i admit i, too, get carried away sometimes. yet, i promise that i never lay it out of my mind that the smears to be gawked at here, are caused by human blood.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
this year he races again with vw and finished the 6th stage first thursday, in his touareg, navigating the dunes of mauritania. sainz said yesterday he was frightened of the dunes and worried his inexperience in sand racing might eat away at his hard earned points today.
the dakar still has a long way to go till january 21. i root for sainz, hope he comes out on top. in the motorcycle section ktm are racing among themselves with no competition to speak of. my favorit is spaniard marc coma.
dakar is great even to watch yet it is also cruel. it has become almost customary to bury at least one participant each year in the motorcyclists' category. on stage 4 this year, elmer symons a south african from the u.s. crashed and was killed. a similar fate found australian biker andy caldecott last year and the year before, motorcyclists juan manuel perez of spain and italy's fabrizio meoni. they died doing what they loved, their souls must be in heaven, however the vatican issued a message condemning the dakar rally
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
as an aside for the uninitiated, the critical school in sociology, also called the frankfurt school is the popular culture of the social science community. its major brands include marcuse, adorno, habermas, horkheimer etc. i do not hesitate to call them "brands", they serve exactly that function in the markets of conspicious culture consumption in dimly lit locales frequented by the often also dimly enlightened intelligentsia. the frankfurters are also the inventors of such totally unexplainable, arbitrary, unscientifically eclectic and unproven categories as popular culture (as if culture, in its final totality, could be any other way!), public sphere (which in compounding ignominy, was translated to turkish as "public square!"[*]) an undefinable concept except in law where it comes closest to a socially comprehensive covenant; or habermas's famously impossible ideal speech situations.
if you ask me, the best frankfurter contribution to understanding society was the authoritarian personality, an immense field study on fascistic and discriminative behavior as a function of personality, by theodor adorno, else frenkel-brunswik, daniel levinson and nevitt sanford, . conducted at berkeley university (therefore also referred as the berkeley study), published in the aftermath of the ww II, the beginning of the so-called cold war and the heyday of mccarthy and unamerican activities committees, the study reached the uneasy conclusion that a respectable population of the americans who only recently were victorious against fascism, nazizm and japanism, fared no better than antisemitic and nazi loving, at least nazi obeying germans when it came to espousing character traits that could make a democratic society easier to achieve.
the authoritarian personality research, conducted on 50 thousand people was finally squelched to silence. its statistical findings were attacked on (arguable) technical grounds while nobody attempted to tackle the hurting politico-psychological conclusions, except the likes of edward shils who, practically using the results of the berkeley study, contended that there might be authoritarianism on the left, too. prof. shils, it might be worth reminding, was in that team of comparative theoreticians (the modernization theorists) who advocated in the 60's and 70's in samuel huntington's apt adage that "students and priests cannot run a state but colonels can". wondering how apt the statement is? ask three neighbors, at least one will tell you about the "torture counters" of the 1971 and 1980 coups d'etat in turkey. richard perle, a neocon adviser to the hopefully fargone don rumsfeld, who at the time was in an intelligence position in turkey reported the 1980 putsch with the note "our boys did it".
anyway, thus was wasted the only real and possibly universal contribution of the critic(al)s. after that they turned into intellectual passa tempo rather than hard research orientation, an excuse for sob sistering for the squeamish left, a source of enlightened ennui for misfits like me who felt sick running around in verbose circles of misapplied logic leading nowhere etc. if you have a half baked, unfounded, precariously grounded theory about society, go to the frankfurt school. their tomes will supply you with plenty of plausible sounding truistic arguments that you can pass of as proof of anything if you have the inclination. change your mind? now you think just the opposite of what you thought is true? go back. you'll find enough material for that, too. see what i mean?
well, they are not all too bad either, in the last analysis though. the frankfurters did supply a load of arsenal for the critics of raw positivism and empiricism, generally mocked as scientism. they pointed out to the contextuality and thereby the fragility of reality construction and truth building, i.e., knowledge and science . they did that without resorting to metaphysics, ideologic inerrancy a la positivism or divinity (which, through al gazali, was the bane of islam, through confucianism, the far east and through orthodoxy, the russias). their guide, true to german idealism and aufklaaruung spirit, was always rationality.
however, as ever, disciples of the school wove a mantle of piety over the teachings of their masters. the critical school, which in fact came forth with no coherent ideology has become so much the basis of an idealistic, ethicist and also etic ideology of knowledge that i am awestruck to see how far more liberal i am than many of my younger colleagues and students in almost every matter in life. more than 90 percent of the youngsters i am in touch with are rigidly ensconced in one ethos or other. well, all right, i am a totally unethical rationalist, for me ethics do not exist in contradiction to rationality and aesthetics, which are the true binding of society. from history, i have learnt mainly that the more copious the rules organizing "good conduct", the worse frayed are social mores.
such rough ethic-alism amounts practically to taboo-ism. taboos are only valid with censorship. most, indeed an alarmingly large majority of my students imply in their work they are ready for censorship in defense of their own morality and weltanschaauung. in fact, this is what the alarming results of the authoritarian personality had revealed in the 50's. the comic paradox here is that my students were mentally shaped to become intellectual and ethic witch hunters by their teachers who are minions of the frankfurters and their cohorts. they are supposed to think critically. yet, my dear colleagues think that critical thinking is thinking like their pundits. they are happy belonging in a school that follows particular protocols of cogitation, forgetting that schools of thought are here to partition, to make parties of thought. they end up complaning rather than criticizing when they start citing from their gurus much as a priest would quote from the old testament.
thinking critically is like sailing a ship in a storm. it requires putting all your life's knowledges into finding the right waypoint without drifting too much off your course and always considering what the weather dictates. watching each wave, the closer the sharper, for the effect it can make on him, his actions that determine the fates of the ship, the crew, the passengers, the cargo, no skipper can claim the right to believe in a universal rule will render the ocean lenient if you show obeisance. life is seldom an anthology of ethic and etic collective truths than irregular exigencies that challenge those ethics. only rational and sensitive, well thought out and heuristically tested covenants can help man build good ships to cruise the currents of the mind.
the better the ship, the more skilled the captain has to be. therefore, the only valid critique is only situation deep. withot forgetting however that, situations sometimes may be life-and-death-deep, indeed.
that probably is why oscar wilde wrote that the critic must know more about the subject of the critique than anyone he is criticizing [**]. critical thinking, after all, is how an individual places himself in the flux of life.
[*]- field, to be exact but square covers it better -
[**] the critic as artist
Monday, January 08, 2007
allow me a diversion please, i have to draw the cultural background of what i saw in the pictures here.
the cognitive map of power in the way turks construe the world is predominantly pyramidal. in other words, a person's standing in life is determined according to definite, rigid and generically bureaucratic hierarchies of power and position. since "free enterprise" and private business are still secondary to, regulated by and dependent on state-like social organization, titles in any walk of life are important beyond their dues. as long as the pyramid of power can make or break men and their lives, people submit willingly. and hierarchy, rather than a necessary evil for efficient functioning in a productive organism, is often usurped as an instrument for the use and abuse of power. the only ethos in this battle to use and abuse is determined by the level of tolerance among contending factions, namely, how far they can brook the trespasses of their rivals.
as power is the mainstay of life, nobody is wont to relinquish any standing they achieve - hence, not only turkey but all societies with a compulsive fixation on power are often doomed to be run by political, bureaucratic, administrative, managerial and even cultural gerontocracies who have been in the scene forever.
recruitment to the structure is of course handled by "uncles", the established end of the axis of nepotism. however, since the structure does not essentially require bloodlines, its public façade is one of open access. if you have the merits, you can join and climb, the message goes. therefore, ostentatious rituals of enticing the youth to "public" service in both state and business (*) are a part of the cultural manure that keeps the structure nourished. in turkey, the charade begins early. young primary school children play at being governors, members of parliament, cabinet members, prime ministers and recently, corporate managers, too, on the "childrens' and national sovereignty day" on april 23. for a short while, the pharaohs climb down their thrones and let a tot sit in, mouthpiece grown up bovine excrement, even make a few silly decisions while cameras record and flashlights explode.
pick any year in a newspaper morgue and look at the pictures. notice how impossible it is to miss the deep anxiety on the autocrats' faces, hidden behind an avunvular smile, born of the realization that power is not eternal, that it is decidious and conditional upon the seat occupied. it is not something of the guy in the photo, it is not really his and without it he is nothing either. therefore, every april 24 in turkey, newspapers appear with a plethora of photographs depicting this pathos of the title bearers.
ok, the tedious lecture on political psychology is over. back to pamuk and radikal: when i first saw the paper sitting at feyda and ceren's room with erkan present, i commented that pamuk had become an "april 23 editor". erkan told me, in the previous day's editorial, pamuk had referred to himself the same way. however even that jovial self mockery you would expect from a nobel winner did not disperse the discomfort i felt looking at radikal's front page.
now, let us together take a glance at radikal's front page photo of the pamuk scoop. you cannot miss the uneasiness, not only in the wry way the "regular" editor-in-chief ismet berkan smiles but also in his mannerisms, the positioning of his hands, his slump on the chair and his proximity to orhan pamuk, how he perceives in the novelist a threat that goes between him and the seat of power.
the picture on the inside page is even more telling. there is a meeting of the editorial board. by the seating arrangement, pamuk at the head of the conference table and seems to be conducting it. however, berkan, in power attire, no coat, just a shirt that says he is at home but with the sleeves unrolled which could give a surer signal of ease and command, is next to pamuk and claiming a larger surface of the table leaning slightly farther into whatever activity, a loud body language declaring who actually calls the shots.
the whole charade looks multiply pathetic because orhan pamuk definitely did not ask berkan if he could do his work for a day. pamuk's call in life is not only far, far more fulfilling, it is also no less lucrative. naturally, you ask nobel prize winners to promote you rather than vice versa. berkan seems to have become crushed and afraid of a play he wrote the scenario of. insecurity?
ismet berkan is an animal lover, a dog person (he has a few pet dogs as far as i know). that automatically makes him "good guys" in my book. "canine" owners tend to be straight and reliable. however, oftentimes i can't fail to detect that urge in them to "control and command", for which the poor mutt (berkan's is probably a pure, "brand" breed, not a mongrel, i'd bet) is an excellent outlet.
i love dogs as a rule, and in many occasions, more than their owners but give me cats anytime. friendly, soft, unimposing yet winning, independent, fickle, loving not out of dependence but mutual understanding, supple and sophisticated but a creature of simple carnal pleasures.
cats teach how not to possess love but to prosper with it.
(*) there is no paradox here, just two sides of a rorschach blot
Friday, January 05, 2007
(*) the epithet "chief executioner" is borrowed from a source i cannot remember and cannot therefore attribute to. i think i came accross it in the village voice when dubya was busy lethally injecting texans only
Thursday, January 04, 2007
my condolences, folks! another sand castle built on the silt of the east river has crumpled when the new south korean united nations secretary general ban ki moon declared saddam's execution an internal affair of iraq, doing an about face from the usual policy of scorning the death penalty.
his master's voice! after all, it is dubya, the global chief executioner of texas & u.s. footing the bill for the u.n., and moon had to say his thanks! the comments on saddam's hanging are only the beginning of supply-side politics in the u.n. where the voice of the poorer and the dissident will no more than drone as the chorus of power puts an ever larger claim on the legitimacy the forum affords.
another strike of cow herders' pragmatism from the neo-cons, appointing moon as the peasants' polonius! if you want to promote yourself, the more credible way is to find or hire a mouthpiece. well, even caesar needed marcus antonius. after kofi annan, moon the lackey will shine bright on anything his paymaster wants glossed.
he might even moon the world...
my dislike of dubya turned into indelible disgust when about a decade ago, i watched the glee in his simian eyes on the night he sent karla fay tucker to the death chamber, when he was "contained evil" as the chief executioner only of texas. he even joked about it!
well, it runs in the family, bro jeb, too, recently chemically fried a hispano in the name of justice.
worst in the name of american justice, dubya did claim that saddam got a fair trial! if this is his idea of fair, it's time someone reopened all those capital cases he signed to death and see how far justice was raped in any of them.
look at what interests them re the hanging of saddam: that the sights of the crime were leaked and some total psycopath who gets off hanging men takes another big leap down into the cesspit of humanity and also films it, was arrested!
no one no longer discusses the hanging itself - the man was absolutely nefarious, he dirtied the world by his presence but his absence left it even dirtier.
is the dirt gonna go if we know who spilled the swill?
(*) it used to read mediocracy here. i edited it because i am afraid, the disease is not limited to cratia but covers a good portion of the demos as well.
oh the matters old ladies yap about! i'd guess they would complain about their ailing health but it takes only about 20 percent of the conversation. the rest goes to how the country is sliding down the drain, what a curse tayyib is, how islamic radicalism is erdoing the country, how dubya is even worse than tayyib, whether he did well or ill by hanging saddam etc.
that's the difference of being "republican" - my mother is the first of my granddad's six children who was not born an ottoman subject.
wish my students were as old as mom and her cronies!