Back in early 90’s, I have to admit, I felt the chills. When I started my first company that pioneered Internet business of its kind, started my first Internet radio, or online paper, all in early 90’s, I sincerely felt I was part of something new and incredible. But even in my boldest dreams, I underestimated Internet a great deal, it seems now. When it all started back in the States, before the age of corporate fundings, buyouts or Silicon Valley vultures, we were a bunch of dimwits trying to make it with a scarce dream. And the rest was history.
Or so we thought. We had to wait 15 or so years to witness what connectedness could alter in human history.
There was a debate on Twitter recently. About “the common man as a journo”. Professionals of Turkish media all stated that they don’t trust reporting capabilities of men on the streets. At the same time, many op-ed columnists were discriminating against Arab people, claiming that their lack of democratic experience would lead to their demise, once again as a people.
In a country where the daily agenda is full of lawlessness, personal political vendettas and vicious circles, we did not see what was brewing right under our noses. Global economical crisis and increased means of communications enabled our neighbors to organize and develop a mass behavior like no other people done before. They gave passive resistance and peaceful activism a new name. They have started in Tunisia, broke the back of a thirty years old dictatorship in Egypt, and only God knows what’s next.
But that’s not the purpose of this article. I will not brag about the peaceful revolution of the people, their braveness and so on, although yes, they wrote an unprecedented page in history, and yes, nothing will be the same ever again.
I wish to point out about the divide in this geography we call Middle East. The divide came out between the intrinsically autocratic societies like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Eastern European nations and revolutionary nations of Middle East and North Africa. It’s not a cultural divide, nor it is a political one. It’s rather an educational and behavioral one.
Since the start of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, commentators and editors from all walks of life in Turkey were putting down Arabs and their motivations/intentions. Their innate hatred and scare of the “other” made them discount the numbers in Tahrir Square. (A columnist wrote there were only a few thousand demonstrators at most) And finally, supporters of “social democrat” party claimed that what happened in Egypt was a military coup and people were pawns directed by the army and the United States despite the panic and disorder in the State Department during the revolution.
Even in the most liberal of all media, commentators drove away from the possibility of an uprising of sorts in Turkey, where the government is moving towards an authoritarian regime day by day, where people are disappearing for more than 30 years never to be found again and court case after court case were opened against military high brass with accusations of coup attempts. Yet, public opinion still claims that Turkey should “export” its democracy to “poor Arabs”.
Someone wrote on Twitter that only Kurds could rise in Turkey, another one answered; “what do you think they are doing for the last 30 years?”
In Turkey, rising against a regime is unthinkable. Only regime rising against its own people could be understood. Human life is dispensable, only state is everlasting. Even individual identity of a human being, even human dignity is minute. Mass graves are OK if you think people in them were acting against the state. “State knows better than we do, so if it’s doing something to us, it’s because it can think better than us”. Discrimination is essential if a group is or perceived to be against the good of the state as a holy being.
Given the same tools and conditions of their Greek or Arab brothers, Turkish society is passive comparatively. (There is immense Internet use in Turkey (48% penetration), but statistics show widespread use is not for informative or communications purposes.) Small sporadic reactions in the form of demonstrations or rallies are met by the harsh and destructive response by police forces and dispersed immediately. If you criticize the state, there is always Code 301 against defamation of the state which could put you in jail for several years just for expressing your thoughts.
Small but growing number of the population is fighting for its rights albeit the tradition of full or semi military interventions that swiped many generations but their actions are closely monitored by the state and appropriate punishment (lawful or otherwise) is arbitrary.
But then again, you might say that the conditions in Egypt or Tunisia were no different. That’s where the differences in perception play their role. The above conditions in Turkey are perceived to be normal by the majority of the population. Until the demand for democracy comes from the masses instead of being given different sets of democracies fit for the benefits of these or that group of autocrats in Turkey, hope for change is dependent upon the quality and purpose of popular politicians. And their interest, history shows, seldom coincide with the benefits of the people.