Friday, May 18, 2007

If there is no democracy

There are several reasons for the dilemma at the heart of Turkish politics today. In fact, all solutions lie in understanding the reasons of that very predicament and its historical background. Let’s pose a few questions now: Why is a country with an 80-year-old past still experiencing the problems of the period when it was being built? Why are there still doubts about the borders, the regime, and the public’s loyalty and adequacy in democracy? Why can’t we still accept that this is our country and instead struggle to recapture and recapture it every single day? Why are we in need of putting up the hugest flags on the highest posts so that they can be seen from everywhere? Why is this lack of self-confidence, this fear, and this anxiety? Why can’t we calm down and focus on the actual problems of today? What’s more, why are there no REAL political parties in a country which is claimed to be ruled by the Republic and democracy?

The answer is quite simple: Since the beginning, a dictatorial approach which is imposed on and ignores the public has been insistently perpetuated. The Republic was adopted as a polity, but the rules of the regime were for the most time dismissed. Secularism, a concept the regime dotes on, has been mostly battered by the guardians of secularism themselves and has had part of the public against it. Economic policies diverged from its focus on investment and production and in lieu, especially in the late 1930’s, pivoted on plundering the non-Muslim minorities. The notorious Varlik Vergisi (Wealth Tax) of 1942, Yirmi Kura Askerlik (Work Battalions), 6-7 September 1955 riots and the 1964 deportation of the Greeks were in fact dark periods when both regime and democracy received a severe blow. Since the target were non-Muslim minorities, this situation, at first, did not bother the country in general. However, the plundering mentality shaped at that point targeted the very entity of the state in time. The same mentality regarded all endeavours to democracy as a threat to its own being. As a matter of fact, coups came out as the products of that mentality which placed itself above law and democracy. The elite circle who profited from the policy spun a bureaucratic web around themselves as a permanent protective shield. The majority distorted the law so that this web would remain instrumental. This was how both democracy and law turned into a means, not an end in itself. Since it was interpreted differently in different situations and was violated very often, democracy could not reach its own standards. It could not get institutionalised. It failed to take root in the country as a whole. As it closed its doors to the outside world, this shallow mentality stunk just like a still water does. It got devoid of healthy and prolific dynamics interacting with the world. This political structure hollow inside could no longer promote itself and satisfy the needs of the country. This situation was most conspicuous during the UN Process.

Today we have reached a point where I guess no one is happy. On the one hand, there are hundreds of people filling the squares after the provocations of “secularism is going out of hand;” and on the other hand, hundreds of people in their homes thinking these meetings are being organised against them. Both parties coalesce around one common fear and anxiety: things are not going that well in the country… People are unhappy about this splitting into camps and public polarisation. Everybody has a different subject to which s/he shows sensitivity. But they are extremely confused about the solution. This feeling of being over-stimulated and helplessness leads to the options - which are in fact dictated and embraced by no one - being viewed as a solution. We seem to be in the “it’s all or nothing” mode. This reflects the mood of people who say, “I want coup if Islamic law is to come”, “Let’s vote for CHP so that AKP won’t rule”, “As the regime is in danger, we could make concessions to democracy and law.”

We need to calm down as soon as possible and realise that the basic need of people of every turn of mind, whether secular, religious, or liberal, is democracy. The fact that we are in such a dilemma today arises from the fact that we did not protect democracy in the past, that we do not face our mistakes, that we embrace anti-democratic processes that are in our interest. While we continued to twist and distort democracy, preferred bullying to the supremacy of law, we wasted all the necessary opportunities of our children to lead an honourable and prosperous life. Now the streets are crammed with hundreds of angry, desperate and damaged youngsters. They are in fact holding their meetings in the squares and streets.

In brief, there is no solution apart from democracy. If there is no democracy, there is no peace, no comfort, no trust, no money, no love, no pride, no future. There is nothing at all.

Agos, 11 May 2007

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