Thursday, May 31, 2007

modernity is necessary - even for islamists

mehmet y. yılmaz of hürriyet commented wednesday on an interview with abdullah gül, who said it is possible to make "türban"(*) even "more modern". he added, had he been elected president, his wife, too, would adopt a different style of covering her head. "wives have their responsibilities as well, and hayrunisa hanım is well aware of that," gül noted. yılmaz wrote in response, gül's statement implied that even he found his wife's current headgear unacceptable for the first lady of the country. he then refuted the idea that persons can change their "individual or familial concepts of life" according to the post(s) they occupy. "what is not modern is not that piece of cloth," yılmaz iterated. "it is the idea behind the cloth. the mentality that makes women's equal presence in society contingent on certain dress codes".

although i can not think of challenging anyone for wearing it(**), to me, türban is at best an admission by women themselves that their social status is secondary, albeit, by so called divine decree. furthermore, it is a sad and unfortunate ratification that woman is man's pleasure toy; a plaything that can charm and seduce just by showing a whiff of hair.

covering up makes woman socially recognizable namely by the sexual favors her gender implies. conversely, covering up is the only way she can avoid being just that. a woman covers up because she believes she then stops being a sexual entity, except for the husband/male who practically owns her. concealment denies any "illicit" man, driven only by sex in the hermeneutics of his life, a chance to conceive of her as an instrument to be enjoyed. a türban signifies that a woman willingly submits to an oppressive dress code because she aggrees to the hermeneutics that she is by nature and god's will, afflicted with the curse of representing a sexual being, or a being only defineable by her sexuality!

in iran or saudia, such acquiescence may be coerced out of women. in turkey, in a much worse manner, it is quite often voluntary. "türban politics", especially by men but by women, too, is an admission that the particular individual concerned with open vistas of the feminine is guided more by what lies between the legs than what lies between the ears. therefore, (s)he is dangerous for the mental health of the public in general.

i feel closer to the school of opinion that claims the türban and similar religious dress codes (***) will gradually fade away if not fade out, as modernization progresses. therefore, i believe gül's statement that "türban can be made more modern" does in fact, reveal a new concern among the religious "circles" that "modernity is necessary".

that signals a long distance covered since the days necmettin erbakan, the leader of the "national view" movement and tayyib bey's padre et padrone(****), regarded all mores and ideas blown this way by westerly winds as the root and praxis of evil.

(*) the turkish version of a turban, the hindu headdress which somewhat and somehow politically motivated muslim women wear to cover their hair in a supposedly more modern fashion than with a plain scarf
(**) someone, regardless of gender, who forces a woman to wear a headdress, though, is another matter. that person is an autocrat, a martinet who imposes on the will of someone else and is no better than any other fascist.
(***) furthermore, i am of the conviction that what is called "political islam" will evanesce in a few decades, just like the political pull of communism is the soviet times.
(****) and his friends and comrades currently in the refah (welfare) party

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

can patriotism heed economy?

the pkk is not a new phenomenon. neither is its viciousness, nor its evil habit of killing innocents.

i can remember too many tourism seasons wasted because of pkk bombs going off just before the charters start to take off in may or june, scaring the better tourists away, giving an occasion to "shark" operators to bargain prices down to chick peas. the pkk's bombs and bomb threats have been a factor in turning the country into the holiday paradise of international proleteriat.

i recall many-a statements from government officials as well as the bigshots of the tour industry, trying to be persuasive that the country is safe for foreigners to visit.

i have yet to hear a very highly placed state official, like gen. yaşar büyükanıt, turkey's chief of general staff, to come forth and say "the bomb attacks will continue," just as the season is beginning.

i have no doubts that gen. büyükanıt is a most passionate patriot who loves turkey to death and he is at least as vexed as i am, or any other of our compatriots is, because of the bloodlet that spells pkk. indeed the pkk has nosw become a threat not only to turkey's territorial integrity but to the citizens' corporal integrity as well. yet, the statement from the top security officer of turkey that the carnage will not stop may cause the tour industry to bust, which translates to a few billion dollars' loss in revenues; just as the stock exchange fluctuations during the (non-)election of the president cost a fortune to the economy.

Monday, May 21, 2007

this is alfred e. neumann

he comes with the famous caption "what? me worry?"

palestine has to be solved: king abdallah

this morning i watched a bbc interview with jordan's king abdallah. nothing he said was new but nothing he said was unimportant.

king abdallah openly stated, emphasized and underlined that the crisis in the near east, the crisis at the core, is the palestine - israeli conflict. unless that is resolved, he itirated, there can be no peace, no solution to any other issue plagueing the region.

the interview came just as lebanon is once more being drawn into the cauldron of war, after having regained its prosperity - the sole reason being the intransigent ignorance of muslim militants or militant muslims, who, instead of creating or participating in any productive economic activity, prefer to function as semi-amateur mercenaries for the axis of evil between syria and iran, killing and dying as pawns in somebody else's war.

anybody with slightly more equipment for cogitation than the dimwit(s) who claim "ariel sharon is (was?) a man of peace" is aware that unless a more equitable balance between israel and the palestinians is struck than what war and raw power dictate, the very porous near east powder keg will keep on catching fire from one hole or the other.

even the cause of the main trouble in palestine today, the electoral victory of hamas is a metastasis of the same cancer. because israel found an excuse for its belligerent policies in the late yasir arafat's opportunistic incompliance and corrupt regime, hamas could come to power.

then again, the other problematic issues in the region, the matter of iran and its nuclear ambitions; syria, whose main industry in the last three decades has been terror and insurgence; iraq, which is the main and frequently only concern of the west; are all offshoots of the essential trouble between israel and palestine.

that is what king abdallah tried to draw into the very british field of vision of the bbc interviewer; who kept trying to put -especially- iraq on the burner as the main menu.

i have little love to lose for the english. i am, admittedly, an established anglophobe. however, the insistence of the bbc journalist to draw abdallah into debating iraq and iran, with his carefully modulated ox-bridge tones and manners, the slightly condescending attitude when speaking to the wog (*) king of a state, virtually created by "great" britain, while simultaneously paying obeisance to him because the king is a far larger piece of the establishment in which he is a minor pawn; would have done away with most sympathy, if i had any to spare (**).

the passive aggressive technique he employed is taught in interrogation 101 classes, to people whose job is to question others for garnering information, and does not necessarily always manifest the biases of the interviewer. he actually intends to draw out the speaker / confessor by implicitly contrasting him, without putting forth any real contrary argument. i believe the british educated king, too, is hardly alien to the technique, though there is no reasonable cause to accuse him of complicity with the bbc. furthermore, yes, i am an anglophobe but politically, i am not that quite often anti-british. her majesty's governments have had a far deeper grasp of the near east than the u.s., even better than bill clinton, and seem to be more aware that there can be no settlement to any of the dangerously escalating hostilities in the region.

lo... even antonius blarus was conscious of that and did try to warn dubya!..

iran's main and most utilitarian armament is not the shahab missiles, it is the perceived injustice against the palestinian people. hamas? that is just an egg laid by the anka, the mythical giant bird of the persians that signifies the empire(s) of iran.

(*) westernized oriental gentleman
(**) i am not essentially an undistinguishing lover of the human race and have a grand capacity to hate and despise all nations and their states with equanimity but i do reserve some credit to advance to some races. among her majesty the queen's subjects, the irish and, be "british" as they may, the scots are entitled to it. i used to like queen elizabeth personally but in my heart, although i think i understand her motives, she is badly implicated in the princess diana tragedy. nevertheless i may forgive her if she outlives charles or persuades him not to succeed and thus spares the world a king of brittania who reminds me (and possibly many more) of alfred e. neumann, the symbolic face we used to see often on the cover of mad magazine when we were kids.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

love, love where did you go?

just an example of the church's cantankerousness, the holier-than-thou attitude that may not always be so holy indeed: after the first communion ceremony of the two girls and a boy last sunday, there was a holy communion for the rest of the attending public. a nice little girl of maybe 12 was in line just before me and when it was her turn to take the host (*), the priest suddenly stopped and yanked the sacred bread dipped in consecrated wine out of her reach.

"have you had this before?", he demanded the bedazzled girl rather rudely. sparks were flying out of his eyes, which he now centered on me. "has she had first communion in church?" he asked me. now, according to church rules dating back 1000 years, last revised toward the end of the 19th century, a child goes through an initiation into catholic rites by way of first communion, before (s)he can receive the eucharist, that is, unite with jesus by eating the sacred bread/body and sipping the wine/blood of the christ. it is the parents' duty to ensure that the child is duly prepared and does not take communion before the induction. so, i guess the priest thought i was the girl's father and was expecting an answer from me.

i almost said yes. the girl was a total stranger to me - i did not even know she was christian or not.

the catholic church is a creature of habit. it has survived and will survive by clinging to its very well planned and ordained rituals and norms. however, in my view, the priority of the church is, or should be, promoting the love of jesus, and promoting itself as the conduit of that love; rather than enforcing strict liturgical discipline with an unsmiling face. so, for me, a child's happiness and joy and possibly also the pride of being accepted by community, of becoming "somebody", is more important and in decorum with the spirit of christ (and christianity, or any religion) than observing some canon with militant precision.

however, i did not dare tell the priest to go ahead, give the child the host - how was i to know whether her family aggreed with my interpretation of catholic dogma?

the girl, now hesitant and not understanding why she was subjected to this turndown, was visibly disquieted and dejected. she did not fathom why she was denied what was available to all, including the three children - who were all younger than her by the way. she was also somewhat afraid.

some people from the queue told the priest that yes, she was eligible for the eucharist. after that, the fierce eyes, self satisfied with upholding the law of the church, turned with discipline on the girl who was now allowed to eat the holy bread dipped in wine. yet, i guess, this time, the child took the host not because she wanted to but because she was afraid not to, lest she would be the focus of yet another scene! she ate the host, broke away from the row and disappeared through the pews.

later, in the patio, i asked her mother how she fared after the ordeal. the mother told me that she had thrown up in a nervous fit, caused by the anxiety she suffered by reason of a servant of the church.

yes, god's rottweiler, if he really wishes to revive the house of jesus christ, has to fetch love back under its roof. barking for more obeisance, apparently, betrays the purpose.

(*) the round, flat and thin waffle that represents the body of jesus he offered the disciples at the last supper. only the faithful who observe catholic rites and norms fully are supposed to partake of it.

god's rottweiler

last sunday, i was at a first communion. the first communion is a maturation rite for catholics that is as important as boys' circumcision for muslims or the bar mitzvah for jews, though it is a unisex affair.

normally, i would mourn for the dwindling catholic presence in istanbul but the occasion calls for a more comprehensive critique of religious practice. on the same calender day as the ceremony i attended, the pope was saying mass in brazil, on a trip he set forth in the hope of regaining the popular attraction the catholic church has long been losing.

the sociological reasons for the exsanguination of credence in the church are rather obvious: catholicism, as opposed to the far more strict and pervasive but mobile protestant cliques, is basically far more a rural faith. since the (catholic) reformation, it has done little to address the statistically and politically growing urban masses, preferring to appeal to the peasant masses in europe and its global extensions, mainly in the hispanophone third world and brazil. the rather reluctant secular move to legalize divorce in italy was one example of this obsession with the old, essentially rural practices despite the exigencies of a modernizing world. such fixations persist in other matters as birth control, the attitude toward gays and lesbians, "adultery" etc.

the catholic church makes it difficult to lead an urban, contemporary life without fear of divine retribution. however, since hollywood has come up with zillion more imaginary horrors than st. john the theologian (who, incidentally, rests in ephesos, in the basilica to his name in selçuk) could come up in the "apocalypse" while exiled in patmos, the fear of god can hardly stop an individual from adapting to modern modes and styles of living. man takes a shortcut between his self and his faith and ignores or excludes the church - exactly the protestant thesis.

in the 16th and 17th centuries, the catholic church remarkably renewed and reformed itself, in order to answer to the emergent needs of the remaining catholics in europe. that was done through disciplining the clergy, organizing revenues and finances, better public relations and the allure of vatican's immense cultural wealth.

such a move is again necessary if the church wishes to bring back its glory. true, there are a number of "renegade" priests out there, urging for a more active church that must get involved in society to alleviate hunger, suffering, misery, torture etc. yet that movement, apart from being only seedling if that, is only an extension toward the underdog of the same lord-to-peasant attitude that cripples the church's style. personally, i am very much for a socially active and vocal catholic church but i also resent the dominant style in the clerical hierarchy that views the layman as little more than an ox driving, cattle herding, superstitious and stupid medieval villager. i want a church that argues and debates its positions rather than impose truths based on dogma on ignorant masses who simply do not exist in an age of information. i need a church that can help me become a better, wiser and more adaptive person who can cope with the vagaries and cruelties of modern, urban, contemporary life through the knowledge of my soul in addition to my city-smart, informed mind.

pope johannus paulus II, who, in matters celestial was as dogmatic as his forebears in the middle ages, nevertheless put his stamp, as head of catholicism, on the history of the late 20th century. he made the world go round faster, the force of his personality thus attracting followers all over the world. johannus paulus II was revered all over the world, even in russia and turkey.

cardinal ratzinger, "god's rottweiler" who succeeded him as benedictus II was known for his harsh doctrinalism even before he ascended to st. peter's throne. he was reputed to have kicked out hundreds of people from the cathedral in cologne because reportedly he did not approve of the way they were dressed or their comportment. ratzinger might have been a good choice at a time when the church was bleaguered by decadence, corruption, heresy and desertion to bring order to god's house with an iron fist, albeit in a boxing glove. however, at a time when morality or the sense of good and bad is less explicable through imperious and unchallengeable maxims than the machinations of a far more complex society than the church was ever geared for, more urbane attitudes toward divine salvation might be in order.

and apparently, god's rottweiler would rather guardian an empty house than fetch the urban manna modern souls are craving and which can boost the catholic church on its holy road to eternity.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

i'm american!

oh no i'm not jumping on the recently trendy wagon in turkey, declaring "we are all armenian", "we are all christian" etc. - i did that kind of things when i realized, in my latter teens, that "make love not war" is more than a slogan. it just tells you we bloody well are all human...

i say am american because when i wrote about the ugly american, by no means did i use it as a blanket epithet to include each and every citizen/member of the usa. that label has evolved from the title of a 1958 book by william lederer and eugene burdick. the "documentary" story is based on the behavior of some american technocrats running the american aid business in southeast asia. as the date indicates, the events correspond to american international experience in its very early years as a superpower, not fully able to understand the world it has found itself trying to run. it depicts americans face to face with peoples who in their innately intraverted culture, are thoroughly foreign to those alternative but well rooted civilizations. the picture of the ugly american, arrogant, ignorant, thoughtlessly blundering, complacent and snobbish; summarily unpleasant came out as the caricature of a bungling, rookie imperialist in contrast to the suave, sophisticated 19th century euro-colonialist, pretender to a mission civilatrice that was the white man's burden.

that picture of america has never been totally accurate, even during the cold war. true, the u.s. policy machine is guilty of creating and supporting such monstrous political characters as augusto pinochet of chile, georgios papadopoulos of greece or our very own kenan evren but despite a plethora of practices that made itself the subject of hatred and loathing throughout the world, america also was where faces turned when people described what or who they were or wanted to become. one way or other, even sometimes by the abject examples (the rosenbergs come to mind, or dear joe mccarthy) it set, america showed the world how to be free. it was the north all compasses turned to, thus describing all the directions. yes, in many ways, america epitomized evil, yet without for one minute ceasing also to promise the good.

and it was the good peoples saw in the u.s. that allowed it a far more comprehensive and lasting hegemony than britain, for instance. half a century has passed since the ugly american by hit the stands. it may well be 60 years since the authors observed the events they wrote in that milestone in self criticism - including the film version starring the deathless marlon brando. in all that time, even under ronald reagan, the drugstore truck driving man to the woodstock generations and the teflon president to the political intellegentsia, the promise never vanished.

probably, the administration of texas's chief executioner is the lowest point in the post-isolationist history of the u.s., in the way of international sympathy. the current, pathetic image of the u.s. signifies the point where a leader has metamorphosed into a bully. dubya has resurrected the ugly american, not only because he thrusted a totally unnecessary and already lost war into the world's primary field of experience, but because he represents that unfeeling, self righteous, arrogant, ignorant, avaricious, patronizing brute power that rather than persuade, prefers to impose its view and style of life on others. if you think i am speaking loosely, allow me to remind you that a major media issue just prior to 9-11 was how mr. john ashcroft, the then (possibly slightly senile) attorney general, had ordered the marble statues of "naked women" that represented justice at the entry to the department of justice dressed up to cover their nudity. the complex of which dubya is only the spearheas has seldom been so evil in the country's history, evil to the point of jeopardizing its firmest institutions - who could believe that the berkeley university, the heart of the 1968 revolution would shrink from publishing rosa luxembourg's memoirs just because 9-11 happened?

i am still american, that goes beyond dubya, who, thankfully is already a lame duck and thankfully again, is "irreplacable". i am american because for a huge, world-smart, globally minded portion of the u.s., although it may numerically be in minority; the entire universe is also america, and the entire humanity is as good as americans. it is the america of "be and let be", the america that, even in business, knows a richer, freer world is more profitable as well as more fun than a deader world. the america that recognizes its errors and moves first to correct them, even though they may often be hindered by the america of dubya.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

alons enfants de la patrie- le ugly american vous attend

the french sunday elected monsieur nicolas sarkozy, or sarko for short as their president.

if you ask me, since general charles de gaulle, whom history should have no qualm calling charles XI (the last king charles, no. X, a post-bonaparte bourbon, abdicated in the upheavals of 1830), the only man who ever filled le trône français to truth with a physical, psychological and political presence, was the late françoise mitterand. les autres were like midgets sitting on a gigantic horse. that probably is the difference between a jockey and a chevalier du sang.

at any rate, sarko, whose track record identifies him with a rather racist annotation of peronist opportunism, represents an a l'americaine retrogression of mainly france but also most of the rest of europe to varying extent.

when the ex-chief executioner of texas dipped his war loving presidential nose in the cess-pit that was iraq, despite my unfounded hopes that the world-wary sector of the american establishment would find a way to stop him, i wrote a piece trying to analyze the motives of the bush-cheney gang. what i came up with was rather revealing, for me at least: despite its immense size and volume, american economy is inbound or intraverted to the tune of 3/4. in short, the foreign trade deficit that supposedly plagues america is, in one sense, caused by the fact that three fourths of u.s. economy is hardly universally competitive.

economy is the most obvious and most quantitatively measurable aspect of social life. i do not hold to the marxist dictum that it is the infrastructure of society and culture etc, are secondary, superstructural phenomena. however economic activity is an indicator, though not in a causal way, also of life styles and, maybe more importantly, cognitive styles - the way we know our world.

an inbound economy, therefore, signifies an inbound mentality, which does not care where the rest of the world can or will head, as long as a gallon of petrol is available at 25 cents in nebraska. nor does the inbound mentality mind in what state the u.s. will leave iraq and the near east when compelled to withdraw; because the obvious is happening in a war america started despite the world and more and more poor g.i.'s are returning home in body bags. the introverted, world-dumb section of the u.s. population is only interested in its narrow world equilibria and the policies to keep them intact - which is unlikely to happen in a world where the wings of a butterfly in valparaiso cause a storm in odessa.

the inbound mentality is one aspect of the arrogant, incompetent, exploitative ugly american of the 60's; whose daily version you would meet in that fat, sunburnt, unsophisticated tourist anywhere from paris to antalya, asking "but how much is that in real money?".

are we now looking at the prototype of a français moche, a transatlantic update of the ugly american? possibly...

the wave of "opposition" that carried not only sarko, but also his rival mme. segolene royal to the trône was the reaction prompted by the now-almost -proverbial polish plumber episode. there is no secret in that a good portion of the french society has lagged behind in the global race and is suffering from an unhealthy dose of incompetitiveness. add to it the rather strong and despotic state structure, a remnant of the code bonaparte; a not-so-productive labor force protected by unduly strong unions etc.; and the extra euros the frenchman has to pay in taxes to look after the new(ly accessed) europeans, while his products cannot find the easy markets they are accustomed to; the over all balance hardly favors a fully extravert french outlook on world economy or society. the french displaisire already manifested itself in the rejection of the e.u. constitution. the revolution de paisans came with the preference of ultimately provincial presidential candidates as the socialist sego and sarko and the coronation of the latter. the whole phenomenon is reminiscent of american intraverted conservatism.

yet, whatever the cause, france has no chance of withdrawing into its borders as the isolationist (*) americans wish their country to do. but in the immediate future, the necessity prevails to look inward, to do some economic, political, racial etc. house cleaning toward liberalization and to upgrade french economic, political, cultural capital as well as output to more universal levels of attractiveness. however, the problem is not the resolve of french business to secure for itself a fine bite of world economic cake - france already invests a sum in the u.s. about equal to what american companies have invested in france. the resistance, as before, will come from the provençal foci of power, which were strong enough to give sego and sarko the impetus in becoming the major political figures they were not cut to become. if sarko is about to prove his métiere, he has to show virtuoso mastery in conducting that gelatinous peasant renitence into a less viscous gush toward globality.

in the race for supremacy in the world, france has long been eating out of its own capital. and with his intraverted backing that has been the main reason for france's lag, sarko can reverse the trend if and only if america extends him the necessary credit in all fields.

bien venu, le ugly american, ici le français moche. ensemble let us march toward the urbane horizons of globality...!

(*) there never was any true isolationism in american politics. the term simply refers to the cautious u.s. policy of avoiding europe and confrontation with european powers until world war I. neither can america ever withdraw into its continent and turn its back on the world, at least in the near future. a global political-economy does not allow that simply because globality is more profitable.

Friday, May 04, 2007

who is the patriot?

a friend of mine in the tourism industry received a message from a business associate in the u.s. who (previously) intended to expand his operations in turkey. now he is back pedaling.

reason one: the virtual putsch by internet. we may love, like, be very proud of, many
of us might even prefer to live under a military regime instead of islamists but the
world according to the normal man generally abhors a place and people who fail in
democracy. within the last week, even the usually pro-turkey cnn made us the
stock of laughing matter, commenting extensively on the army's readiness to delve
into politics. we learnt another patriotic lesson on how to slide back into the last
century in ten lines online...
reason two: the may 1 scandal in istanbul. all tour agencies i know are up to their ears in letters
asking whether turkey is safe to visit. loss of revenues adds up the cost of loss of
face... all because one man decided that protecting the virginity of a town square is
good "public administration"; while he condemned the public to suffer, to be beaten,
tormented, humiliated, arrested, gassed and treated as criminals. the governor of
istanbul is incompetent for the job if only because he still confuses "state authority"
with "public order". that is a giant step backward to th 19th century.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


just to make a point, a footnote for the future:

it is true that the possibility is quite low that the western world shall willingly accept as its equal associate into its civilization, a turkey whose head of state has a wife who covers her head in religious fashion - no politically correct rhetoric can alter that fact.

however, the possibility that the same civilization will ever accept a head of state in turkey, soldier or civilian, who wears a uniform inside his head is absolutely nil.