One of the important problems facing Turkish community today is self-perception of people living under Turkish authority for almost nine hundred odd years. Although the composition and social desires of this community changed drastically over time, this issue among others survived all change the passing of time revealed. The roots of this problem have not been carefully investigated apart from some symbolic phenomena claimed by sociologist Prof. Mardin and otherwise mostly ignored by many Turkish and International scholars since it is derogatory in its primal hypothesis that neither Ottoman nor Turkish state provided a solid identity for its citizens (or rather flock) so they only define themselves as an opposition to their well defined enemies depending on the time and the circumstances of this definition. Many socially primitive societies have this common tendency. But as they climb the social ladder (as a result of such things as common language, feelings, culture, etc.), they define who they are and label other forces as enemies henceforth.
Traditionally since they have migrated to west and started having written records that we can relate to today, Turkish society is an autocratic society. There was never a traditional cast system or feudal relationships as we define for western society. The head of the family governed the nucleus of the society as the leader (the traditional ‘beg’) ruled the largest unit. Therefore the unity among families or cities or regions were not the union of cultural ties of a system but rather the union by a common purpose. And that purpose was very handy: Wealth in this world and promise of heavens in the next. That dual purpose was very cozy in practice; war on infidels, take their money, make them muslims or kill them and by all means you’re guaranteed of both pillage and heavens.
In the beginning they have modeled their formation on inexperienced areas on the institutions of their contemporaries. The empire was mainly modeled on Byzantium. The nation state was modeled on Mussolini’s Italy, France and Switzerland. However modeling in spite of adaptation hindered the effectiveness of the projects as a whole. Today the end result is a society that, unable to define itself with concepts that can endure with time and space, defines itself by what it does not want to be and what it is against depending on the circumstances. The educational system also encourage that result by officially claiming to produce “one set of mind”, “one set of persons” and “one truth”.
There are very interesting phenomena resulting from the fact. A typical Turkish mind wants democracy when it gives himself a set of rights and protection. Likewise he or she will be a defender of human rights when the concept protects his or her freedoms. Since these rights were “allowed” to them by the state instead of won by them or “demanded” by them as a result of a social contract, they would oppose such when they work for their social or ideological enemies. Enemies are defined as people who does not think the way he or she does and must be prevented from expanding their ideas or influence by all means possible).
That works the best against minorities of any kind obviously. They might be the followers of an ideological doctrine, they might be citizens of a particular city, believers of a different faith, or of a different ethnic origin depending on the circumstances as they present themselves. They are the worst of the enemies; they are “the others”. People living outside the country and that are not of Turkish origin are natural enemies. But evidently it is only natural that they are enemies. However, the ones that live in the country are the worst, because they somehow have the means of creating more damage than the external forces since they can disrupt the unity and uniformity of the nation.
Therefore the obvious minorities, who are really different in their culture, language, religion, lifestyles, etc., were and still are the scapegoats of every mishap in the eyes of the prevailing ideology. They suffer the results of every wrong turn that the global order might take or any mistake the state might make.
(… to be continued)