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.