This article was written by Ece Temelkuran as a prologue to her opus; “For The Record” in Turkish. She revisits Turkey’s recent past and tells the tale of a peculiar social change from state oppression to outright fascism.
The times we live in are the times… The times when we will reminisce in the future and turn back and say; “Everything became clear back then.” The times that will be considered about by whom the clarity of the day had been recognized and who turned a blind eye to the truth. What I saw, what I wanted to present during the last few years, and where I stand should be on the record.
The times are confusing times. Amidst confusion, we all are blamed for supporting this today, supporting that an other day, or even supporting opposing sides on the same day. These are the times when aspersions and hearsay are on the record, but the truth is hidden far from the investigative eyes. The times when a malign lie let into the marketplace could get the best of our age-old articles over and over until we lose our mind over it.
These are the times when no-one abstains from boasting about the venomous joy they feel over the agonizing pain of others. The times when we could hardly tune in with the human conscience to keep the worldly records, and even if we could, these are the times when we could hardly make our voices heard; the times we are not recognized. I guess that’s the nature of those times in human story…
On the other hand these are the times when we should meticulously keep the record. I have looked at the last two years of our history with due diligence. I have inquired into how I was forced into silence as a columnist who always has tried to write what was happening in Turkey, the daily encounters. I’d like you to have a look, too. I’d like you to have a look and see the story of a sharpening of the edges- albeit an inevitable sharpening of the edges. I’d like you to see how naive I was when I proposed a social contract that I called “The Great Encounter”, and then how bitter my rhetoric became. I’d like you not to see only what has been written about me, but what I have been writing, too. I’d like you to see how many articles I have written on the journalists in detention or on the Kurdish issue, or how my concerns about the psyche of our country became a reality. I’d like you to have a look at how my uncertainties became clarities, how my worries became fear.
“We’re going through weird times.”
These days everyone is exchanging these words with an anxious tone all the time.
What I’d like to say is not for the “almighty du jour.” I’m not interested in those any longer. My words are directed to those who say “we’re going through weird times,” and end the line with a worrisome, hesitant, and dark silence. Because I believe that, if we do not get rid of those silent three dots at the end of the sentence, we would never pass through “the weird times.” We would end up accepting with grief and despair that we have reached our destination and there is nowhere left to go for us.
While the students sensitive to the issues of the state are being throttled,
While girls are being thrown to the ground and pushed around and dragged from their hair,
While people who filled the streets out of hunger are being attacked with teargas,
While the words of endearment spoken to loved ones on our tapped cellphones are thrown at our faces in courts of law,
While people are dragged out of their houses in thousands and put in jail,
While the killers of our Armenian brother Hrant Dink make fun of us in courtrooms that release them with haste,
While even the number of children dying due to cold in plastic tents after Van earthquake is hidden from us,
While grandmas defending the nature of a beloved country are being threatened,
While those who are getting crazier by the day because of these events are forced into a solitude,
And while all is explained to be for “our own well-being,”
And if we can all bear to live with all these facts around us, we must all have a share of the guilt. Something wrong must have happened to us if we can bear to live with all this. What happened to us?
During an inspection pupils used to ask their teacher “What can we do to help?” in the 70’s. There was something called solidarity. Then there were the 80’s. One day I saw a coat on the ground at school’s garden. Kids were running over it without notice. When I shouted at them to pick it up, the answer came: “It’s not mine!” Then there were the 90’s. They have introduced such a system that the children didn’t even know each other. There is no such thing as a classroom any more, there is no friendship.”
This is a small tale that my mother, who got out of the prison in post-coup 70’s and started to work as a teacher in her 20’s used to tell me. A tale that many of her generation could tell on how the composition of people had changed over the years. A tale. maybe not an accurate economical or political analysis of what’s happening in Turkey today, yet one that tells the profound history of mankind. Maybe one that explains how in 2010’s, people that openly declare their joy when their colleagues are fired or jailed came to happen. Or…
Those who said “she shouldn’t be in that demonstration in the first place,” when a young pregnant woman lost her child after heavy police brutality,
Those who said “they shouldn’t be smuggling in the first place” when kids were murdered by air force bombs at Uludere,
Those who compared plastic tents with “palaces” when people were freezing to death in them after the major earthquake in Van,
Those who said “he shouldn’t have rebelled in the first place” when Metin Lokumcu died after he was teargassed by the cops,
All those who gave it up…
A tale which resulted in me asking; “when did you grow up to be that cruel” in the face of the ignorance of those.
You know that as well. We do not only pass through weird times. Something weird happened to us, to people who live in Turkey. This is more than the political pressure we endure, more than the disgusting chaos we witness. It’s a plague of cruelty. An unscrupulous plague has engulfed us from the torture chambers of the jailhouses or the outright and vulgar terror of the government to the most confidential encounters of our private life. Nobody believes in no-one else anymore. Political violence has destroyed the most powerful friendships by clouding our common sense. I’m sure you can see people who have ended their friendship due to different political views recently. Corrosion of our relations disabling any kind of fraternity made it impossible for us to gather behind any reasonable goal. It is difficult to stand together any more since everyone obsessively questions each other’s trustworthiness and candor. Everyone doubts everyone else. Everybody is alone. When one of us, even someone we know well is taken into custody, even though we know every minute detail of his life, we end up with the same question:
“Did he do something?”
Or when people talk about their chances of being arrested, they are in fear even when talking to their closest relatives:
“Will they think I have done something to fear about?”
People do not fear from the government any longer. People are afraid of each other. Hence, in those weird times, I reminisce quite frequently the words of Ingeborg Bachmann which I thought I understood, but only now I realize that I can understand it only recently:
(Fascism) begins in relationships between people. Fascism lies at the root of the relationship between a man and a woman….”
Yes, we live through weird times, and in history of mankind, that weirdness has a name.
Fascism is not some bad people suddenly starting to beat up good men. Fascism is humanity deserting human behavior in a slow pace. It is really a gradual process which can hardly be observed. If it wasn’t for that fact, none of us could bear today’s circumstances.
Among all disasters, fascism is the best impersonator. That old chum, although his semblance and character is well known by all, when he approaches from a distance, no-one could ever have identified him accurately. And yet when he introduces himself intimately, it is too late for all for he has an ever-corrupting secret in his mixture. Not killing, but corrupting. Something like excessive humidity… Something moldy…
Fascism extends itself through time. It creates a hibernation-like wavering ambiance. “What if?” “Let’s wait a tad longer.” “Maybe it’s not as bad as we think.” Ideas like these put people into a deeper sleep. It’s one of the magnificent illusions of modern times; it has a way of making you perceive malice as benefaction. This talent correlates with another secret that prevents humankind from seeing the worst in him to carry on during the greatest disasters of time. After those disasters are over, after a period of time, men always dealt with the perpetrators or maybe with some culprits of the catastrophe, but never were able to rid our planet of that dreadful phantom completely.
Fascism don’t necessarily kills people, it rather transforms them. The victory of fascism comes with its ability to change the make-up of the humankind. At first it destroys human dignity. Game starts when majority accepts the legitimization mechanism that results in willingness of the masses making pain more tolerable. For this willingness to be achieved, the population should be first traumatized in excess. And history books are full of examples when a whole nation went berserk, even got sick, or even got invalid and never healed again as a result of soul-scattering practices.
In the history of nations, each non-repented murder, every committed massacre, each experienced cruelty slowly inject a poisonous blood to the veins of that nation. And when the transfusion of the whole nation is complete… A little blood, a little flour… A little more blood, a little more flour… The new human is ready to applaud when the statue of cruelty is being erected under his sight. That new kind of human was never remembered well in the latter years of history.
Once the make-up is distorted then the rest is quite easy. The poor could be stuffed into big cement towers in the suburbs. Writers, professors or kids could be stacked in prisons.
People who are neither Sunni nor “Turkish” could be beaten then trucked to far away places…
Everyday as the media speak less and less, government supporting talking heads could pass as serious opinion makers.
Everyone you disapprove could be labeled as terrorists…
And everyone who calls all that madness madness could be deemed madmen.
When all are sewing webs between courthouses to free their loved ones, mothers carrying their dead children’s pictures could be indicted as criminals…
And the keys to that nuthouse we live in could be distributed as a prize in a lottery in a county fair.
No, it’s not fear that prevents people from ending that pattern. Incertitude halts humankind. To the very last day. The most dangerous venom in that blood filling the veins at the end is hesitation, not the fear. The incertitude between the good and the bad, and the right and the wrong will always take more than expected. As long as the silence embodied in the three periods at the end of the phrase “we pass through weird times…” will not identify that venom in our blood, we will continue to sacrifice the ones dearest and nearest to us.
And no, these times are not the brainchild of only the current government or of the political and social movement that carried them to the government. We came here through a long and winding road. We have a long history of brutality on these lands. From the macro scope of infamous massacres to the private encounters of individuals, cruelty is embedded in our bones. When you try to investigate the roots of brutality in this country and start unweaving the fabric of time, you start discovering frightening and confounding facts. What I discovered is the following:
Turkey always makes you kneel down before she bestows her mercy. That has been lived at least a million times on this land. Do I have a hope for that fate to change? Not much! I always say that. Hope is not a concept I have trust with, I prefer persistence. Even when I lose hope, I always have determination. Nevertheless I still have faith in the goodness of humankind, that in this country, there is a good seed beaten down inside my fellow men. I am cautiously determined to say and say again that I, and people like me have a place in this country. We exist. We exist as well!
(Translation: Stratos Moraitis)