20 June 2007

1757) If George Orwell Were A Turkish Journalist...

 This content mirrored from TurkishArmenians  Site © Click For Larger Image I am increasingly becoming annoyed by what is being passed as intellectual discussion in this country. I regret to say it, but discussion in Turkish intellectual life has absurdly come to mean agitation

Have you ever read George Orwell's magnificent piece on World War II era pamphlets?
. .
In his editorial for the Tribune in 1944, he pointed out a profound fact about these documents: His collection of pamphlets, from all points of the political spectrum, actually contained the same mentality. Unfortunately, nobody was searching for the truth; everybody was putting forward a case with complete disregard to fairness or accuracy.

The most plainly obvious factors were ignored by those who did not want to see them. This mentality blinded people to subjective considerations. Pacifists for instance, by obstructing the war, were objectively believed to be aiding the Nazis. Or the Trotskyites were objectively accused of being Hitler's agents, since criticizing the Soviet Union meant helping Nazi Germany. The fact that a pacifist or Trotskyite might personally be hostile to fascism or Nazi Germany was irrelevant.

Orwell eventually warned that “if you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions.” And an opponent, whatever the circumstances are, always “deserves a fair hearing.” The important thing is to “discover which individuals are honest and which are not.”

It is the ongoing intellectual chaos that prompted Orwell and his piece on war-time pamphlets to come to mind. I am increasingly becoming annoyed by what is being passed as intellectual discussion in this country. I regret to say it, but discussion in Turkish intellectual life has absurdly come to mean agitation. The overwhelming majority of present day analyses of Turkey, both in and outside the country, remind me of these pamphlets that Orwell brilliantly described in his said editorial. Let's clarify what I am asserting by focusing on some concrete as well as actual examples.

Who is a fascist in Turkey?

I have never denied the unfortunate presence of racist, fascist as well as ultra-nationalist people and/or circles in this country and every single sensible person should condemn them. Such sick people as those sending threatening messages to the Armenian community or the Patriarchate in Istanbul are the clearest example. If you examine the use of the term fascist – or reactionary, racist, ego-centric, and last but not least, (ultra) nationalist – especially in the Turkish press, however, you will paradoxically see that it is applied in all seriousness to all bodies of people in Turkey who ‘object' to something. But their motives or what they basically ‘object' to are categorically neglected. There are even efforts to dismiss them. Such terms have come to be used to discredit opponents or those who do not think ‘likewise'. In fact, herein lurks the real and rapidly growing danger.

Certain reactions to the mass demonstrations held in various cities just recently precisely exemplify this phenomenon. Do you remember those who implied that the insane massacre of three Christians in Malatya was presumably the outcome of the mindset of these gatherings' participants? Do you remember persistent efforts at trying to find similarities between the mass demonstrations on the one hand, and “Mussolini's march to power” on the other?

Who are the EU opponents in Turkey?

Let's take myself as the case study. I have always been a sincere and heartfelt supporter of my country's European Union membership. Nevertheless, I have always had a skeptical approach toward the EU. This being said, can I be counted as a EU opponent as well? For more than three years, I have maintained that it will be the level of disappointment felt by ordinary Turks rather than the elites that will eventually determine the future of Turkey-EU relations. Unfortunately, the chorus of EU supporters in Turkey blindly pumped up artificial expectations.

With the assumption that the process leading to admission poses the only means to transform the state they had been complaining about for decades, the doors to a healthy and alternative discussion were closed. In doing so, these supporters were solidly backed by Brussels. Ironically, EU skeptics in Turkey were regarded as reactionary, despite the fact that being skeptical does not necessarily mean being opposed. A little skepticism was essential for the healthy digestion of rapid changes, which were shaking the fundamentals the masses were keen on. They could have helped, however they were neglected.

In such an atmosphere, please tell me how one can honestly complain about the anti-EU rhetoric expressed in the aforementioned gatherings? As I wrote a short while ago, why do we not ponder instead, honestly as well as sincerely, how the Turkish middle class, the skilled and politically conscious people who would normally be expected to support the country's EU membership bid the most, have all of a sudden become the most staunch EU opponents?

Who are the elites in Turkey?

Due to its broader significance in Turkish politics, the enigma revolving around this striking paradox is actually of grave importance. The widely held assumption that the elites in Turkey – first and foremost the Army – object to EU membership as it would signify a blow to their enormous powers and privileges they have enjoyed so far is unreliable. It is as misleading as describing all people having a kind of discontent as merely fascist. It rather seems to be the outcome of the Turkish intelligentsia's old inclination to Marxist analyses.

I will in turn pose some naive questions that will help us better understand whether such assumptions might indeed be reliable: Who are the elites in Turkey? Which social class do the officers belong to? Which social class do the Justice and Development Party (AKP) members belong to? Is there really a profound contradiction between these two classes? What are the powers and privileges these elites are afraid of loosing? In the case of the Turkish Army, is it simply the maintenance of the officers' clubs? If more, why did the Turkish General Staff not object at a time when their so-called powers were actually much stronger than today? Was it really only because of the characteristic peculiarity of the former chief of staff? Or can their motives be something else?

I wish you were with us today, Mr. Orwell!

Orwell was employed for nearly eighteen months as the literary editor of the Tribune and briefly was a war correspondent. In my humble view, his performance in journalism is as significant and magnificent as in his literature. It is a pity indeed that we have not been blessed with our own George Orwell among Turkish intellectuals.

Orwell opened his editorial on the pamphlets with the following words: “The thing that strikes me more and more is the extraordinary viciousness and dishonesty of political controversy in our time.” He then brilliantly elaborated why subjective considerations can never lead to objective predictions. And in full respect to his talent, I will conclude my piece with another quotation from his piece: “It is this habit of mind, among other things, that has made political prediction in our time so remarkably unsuccessful.”

June 20, 2007


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