GKHAN – A la Turca forever!

A la Turca forever!In Turkey, the major recommendation of both secular and Islamic politics is being in line with the West. No matter if they are from a secular or Islamic political background, all have tried to prove that Turkey has the ability to be as prosperous and democratic as the West. But in the wake of the Soma mine accident, we are again reminded that Turkey is still living in an a la Turca atmosphere.After hundreds of miners lost their lives in Soma, one has no refuge other than in mourning or melancholy. Soma is an experience of human tragedy. Turkey does not even know the exact number of workers who died in that mine. Yet, just a day after this desolation, Soma has become a terrain of political competition.As usual, it has been declared that this disaster was not due to anyone’s mistake. So why did hundreds of workers die? The government is innocent. The company that runs the mine is innocent. So who is in the position of responsibility? The usual answer is, of course, “God.” The politicians, who should by default at least bear the official responsibility, are quick to remind us that we witness divine providence behind all worldly events, including disasters. People must submit to the will of God for to do otherwise is to disrespect God.So what about those who accuse the government of being responsible for the Soma accident? Well, they were quickly declared to be provocateurs. It is another dismaying development of our a la Turca atmosphere that we are watching riot police spray the mourners in Soma with teargas. We are being told they are not mourners, but provocateurs. Our a la Turca system tells us a genuine mourner sits at home, crying silently.Political science as a discipline tells us that everything we see is normal. If something comes into being, it means there are enough sociological and other dynamics to make it real. So, Adolf Hitler was bad but normal. The Spanish monarchy is normal. The civil rights movement in the US was normal. In other words, if you are surprised by a fact, it means you are not a good student of political science.Though I profess this theoretical basis of political science, I do in fact wonder whether some developments in Turkey are truly normal. Are the Soma developments normal? Or are we in a dream? Turkish democracy has never been a developed one, but we have never seen a prime minister slap a citizen. Can this be normal? Or is this something else? If a prime minister slaps a citizen, then, as a political scientist, I might say, “Well, this is normal as this slap is the result of certain political and sociological dynamics in Turkey.” We cannot explain this slap by blaming European colonialism or American foreign policy. Thus it must be normal.That academic standpoint would make it easy for me to understand why some millions of Turks endorse this slap. Rejecting that standpoint, I take myself to task for being a bad social scientist who fails to understand that this slap is sociologically and politically normal. So, should I take to slapping those of my students who boo me? “Well, no,” some may say. “Turkish normalcy recognizes only the state slap — that is, the slap delivered by leading statesmen.” (Do I surmise correctly that if this had happened in British “normalcy,” it would have been deemed a “right royal slap”?)Meanwhile, I am sure some of my pro-government colleagues will accuse me of failing to understand my own culture. “You are an Orientalist,” they will say. But I would like to put forth a simple question to those of my colleagues who purport to know Turkey better than I do: Can you imagine the chain reaction of slaps that a “state slap” can create? If we normalize the prime minister slapping a citizen by not condemning it, should we not care about its domino effect, such as the police slapping people in custody, etc.?

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman

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