Thursday, January 18, 2007

the mut'azil, the isolated minds

the hot issue of the week was istanbul's population concentration and traffic. as always, numerous pundits, know-alls and "authorities" said everything already told a million times; speaking chiefly of first hand experience, limited observation, meager statistics and off the cuff.

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

(tristia: sadness)

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