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.

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