Monday, April 23, 2007

Monday, April 16, 2007

Who should be our next president?

Since I came back to Turkey a month ago, everybody seems to be concerned with one thing: Who should be our next president?

Actually, we already know the answer of another question. Who will be the next president? Unless he gives it up himself, which is unlikely, our prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will be the next president.

It's hopeless: Some try to stretch the law in place to come up with a magic interpretation that will render Justice and Development Party (JDP) unable to elect him. Some say it is undemocratic that a parliament gets to pick the president only five months before its term ends. Others say it is undemocratic that a parliament that represents only 52 % of the votes gets to elect the president (thanks to the general election threshold and the weakness of the alternatives, only 1/3 of the vote was enough for JDP to secure 2/3 of the seats in the parliament.) Some remind Erdoğan's conviction for reciting a non-laicist poem. Some try to convince Erdoğan by claiming it would be strategically wrong to leave his party right before the general elections.

What is unnerving to all is how beautifully everything played out for Erdoğan and his party. After struggling with current president Ahmet Necdet Sezer's vetoes and filings at the Constitutional Court, it will be lovely to have one of their own up there, especially if they can secure the majority of the parliament again in the upcoming general election. All the appointments and legislation will be streamlined. If an opposition coalition comes to power, a president with a JDP past will be a nightmare.

Does it have to be Recep Tayyip Erdoğan? There are plenty within the party who would be happy to "take on the duty," they could even find someone whose wife doesn't wear a headscarf. In situations like this, however, usually the party leader is the presidential candidate. How could he pick a candidate "among equals" without making the others upset? Moreover, he has a stubborn streak which would keep him from backing down against criticism.

The Chief of Staff Yaşar Büyükanıt spoke in a press conference last week. Among other things (the situation in Northern Iraq and the comments of Kurdish leader Barzani, the clashes with the terrorists in the South East which left many soldiers dead, and the alleged coup plans in 2004 which resulted in harsh investigations of the magazine that published the story) he naturally touched on the presidency elections. He said our next president should genuinely believe in Kemalist principles and secularism. JDP said he was describing their unannounced candidate.

A couple of days later, this time President Ahmet Necdet Sezer made a harsh speech at a military school for airforce officers. Sezer was the head judge of the Constitutional Court before his presidency. The PM of the time, Bülent Ecevit, did not have a chance to run because he wasn't a college graduate. The coalition came up with the "compromise" candidate Sezer, and when Sezer scolded Ecevit because he didn't do enough to fight corruption, the 2001 financial crisis broke out. In short Sezer is a principled, blunt man who is not afraid to tip the balances by voicing his opinions.

His speech was clearly the result of careful analysis. I agree wholeheartedly with his conclusions about the independence of the judiciary, the need to reduce the 10 % general election threshold and limit the immunity of the parliamentarians, the need to improve democracy within the political parties and the dangers of media agglomeration. By being so cross with the government, he said he tried to protect the republican and laicist principles and prevent the "tyranny of the majority."

Sezer's opinions, however, are very static. They are so static that they can be called a belief. Sezer believes in the NATION STATE and the need to protect it against the big threats and conspiracies and games. He is the prototype of the "defender of the laicist republican NATION STATE." Of course, those who spend their lives serving the state legitimate their existence and powers with its sustainable strength. He said "the regime" had never been faced with a bigger threat. Laicism could not be "reduced to religious freedoms" because the "conditions" in Turkey called for a wider interpretation (which justified the protection of our state against anti-laicist tendencies, of course.)

Those who spoke of a more democratic state in fact wanted to turn Turkey into a moderate Islamic state, he said. "Without domestic peace, political stability, economic development and the advancement of the society has no meaning." The "outside powers" wanted to weaken the role of the military because the "global system" wanted to divide and weaken the "nation state." He was cautious of privatization of sensitive sectors. See the comments section for an except from his speech that sums this line of thinking beautifully.

Sezer never mentioned Article 301 or Freedom of Expression in his speech. Neither did he mention the investigation over Hrant Dink's assasination. His cold reception of Orhan Pamuk's Nobel Prize is still at the back of my mind. He said every effort should be made to improve our defense capabilities, but he didn't say a word about education.

Then finally Atatürkçü Düşünce Derneği (Kemalist Thought Association) organized a rally in Ankara on April 14. Although the rally addressed wider issues than simply the presidential election, its urgency clearly stemmed from Erdoğan's looming presidency. According to estimates, some 300,000 people joined the rally, chanting "Turkey is laicist and will remain that way." Some professors made speeches. They resorted to enthusiastic, simple slogans against the conspiracies of global powers. The lack of rational argument in their speeches and the fervor in their voices reminded me of the fetwas of Imams. Yes, to me, this rally wasn't any different from a rally by religious fundamentalists. Their beliefs were unfalsifiable because they didn't want to hear anything else. They say they want to bring the light, but they are the ones who keep Turkey in darkness.

Should Recep Tayyip Erdoğan become the next president? No. At first his liberalism seemed fresh to people like me who were sick of corrupt politicians, the sleaze and unlawfulness of the "deep state," and the secularist establishment with their nationalist, anti-globalization rhetoric. But he proved much of the suspicions against him correct. He didn't do anything to change Article 301. He didn't do anything to improve our education system. He didn't do anything to improve the independence of the judiciary. (How can one forget the attacks on the Danıştay (Council of State) judges who approved a verdict against the headscarf?) He started a campaign to appoint his supporters everywhere. He didn't remove the immunity of the parliamentarians as he promised. He has sketchy business relations. He's acted immaturely in many occasions and has a bad temper. I would rather have a more refined person be our president.

Will he become the president? Yes. The opposition proved over and over again that they are self-interested and incompetent. They wouldn't reduce the general election threshold because it was in their advantage. They don't say anything against Article 301. They are not capable of concrete policy-making. They are responsible for the exceptionally favorable situation JDP finds itself in now. They deserve the outcome.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

"Suddenly, it seemed to me that the entire world was like a palace with countless rooms whose doors opened into one another. We were able to pass from one room to the next only by exercising our memories and imaginations, but most of us, in our laziness, rarely exercised these capacities, and forever remained in the same room." My Name is Red, pg. 496

"I understand Tamina's self-reproaches. When Papa died, I did the same. I could not forgive myself for asking him so little, for knowing so little about him, for allowing myself to lack him...
A symphony is a musical epic. We might say that it is like a voyage leading from one thing to another, farther and farther away through the infinitude of the exterior world. Variations are also like a voyage. But that voyage does not lead through the infinitude of the exterior world. In one of his pensées, Pascal says that man lives between the abyss of the infinitely large and the abyss of the infinitely small. The voyage of variations leads into that other infinitude, into the infinite diversity of the interior world lying hidden in all things.
That the infinitude of the exterior world escapes us we accept as natural. But we reproach ourselves until the end of our lives for lacking that other infinitude. We ponder the infinitude of the stars but are unconcerned about the infinitude our papa has within him.
It is not surprising that in his later years variations became the favorite form for Beethoven, who knew all too well (as Tamina and I know) that there is nothing more unbearable than lacking the being we loved, those sixteen measures and the interior world of their infinitude of possibilities." pg. 225-227.
"Memories are scattered all over the immense world, and it takes voyaging to find them and make them leave their refuge!" pg. 229, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

800 words

For a talent contest I'm supposed to write 800 words to describe a person who is important to me. It's the hardest thing I've tried to write so far. Upfront I decided not to write about someone in my family, it's just too difficult to share someone dear to me with strangers. Maybe it's too difficult to analyze a person who's dear to me and confront what I find out. Then I tried writing about someone semi-important to me. But I don't know him that well, and I pictured him getting so angry that I'm describing him to people. I realized I don't know him that well, anyway. Then finally I asked my mom and she suggested a person. (First she suggested I should write about a friend whom I love, I get angry at, and I decide to love again in the end... I told her it happens with all my friends, but sometimes I remain in the "angry" phase.) I will try to write about him. But not only him. I will try to write 800 words about everyone who's important to me. I will think about people, how they are.

Tonight my parents and I watched Ferzan Özpetek's Saturno Contro. It reminded me there are two things that matter in life: The love you feel towards people you shared something with, whatever that is. The people whom you're comfortable around. And the loss of those people. There are no rules when it comes to those things. It's not black and white, it's not pure or simple. So now I will write about a friend who taught me that.
Ms. L forwarded this to me, enjoy :)

Unlocking The Wanderlust

Submitted by Howard Hudson on Tue, 2007-01-23 14:37.

Ever wondered where you're going in life? I suppose we all do sooner orlater, unless everything is perfect. I've been thinking about all thetravelling I do, of making new friends from Italy, Spain, Flanders:wondering if it's one priceless experience after another or more of a series of costly diversions. Costly in the sense of time, and if these friends arearound for the long haul or are simply transitory.

Many of my friends are settling, marrying and having kids – but for now I'm still enjoying the wandering. More and more though I'm questioning the motivations. One of these was an idea put in my head by an older woman: that all we ever do is swap one prison for another. She had moved from the badgering of her mother to the bullying of her husband at an early age, so she was always forced to compromise. We've lived totally different lives but her words seem to have become part of me. Will I ever be satisfied? Why do I always feel the need to escape?

People talk about biological clocks: tick, tick, ticking away for womenaround my age. Ok, so I'm not getting any younger and I don't want to be a Charlie Chaplin dad, but I'm thinking more about a wanderlust clock. Where to next I think: but is this wanderlust or restlessness? Should I keep pushing the boat out? This many questions means it's time to hole up or cut loose.

The problem is that I keep doing both. Like flirting, flitting from one place to another is like dipping your toes in the water and never going swimming. It means nothing unless you really get in. Total immersion is an addiction: learning a language, finding your niche in a foreign city, and really getting to know the locals and their culture.

But like relationships, when do you know you've found the right one, that you've found something that will last? You try, you fail. You try again, you become more cautious or more bold, depending on your experiences. You find a place or person that feels right, that keeps you calm but also on your toes. But after a time they change and you realise you need to evolve with them, keeping up with their pace of change… unless you set the pace. But then you're the one who's always restive, which is as paradoxical as it sounds.

restivec.1410, restyffe "not moving forward," from M.Fr. restif (fem. restive)"motionless," from rester "to remain" (see rest (2)). Sense of "unmanageable" (1687) evolved via notion of a horse refusing to go forward.

Rome encapsulates a lot of this, beautiful as it is. Visit for a week and you'll have a great time. Live here for a year or two, and you'll feel it getting under your skin… like a chilli pepper itch. Scratching is oddly satisfying for a while but you wonder if it'll always feel that way. I said to Mia, my assistant, the other day how this place is "fantastic yet frustrating as hell". She replied: "Damn, you got the definition I've been looking for for the past 10 years". So will Rome just be another stop-off, like London, Florence, Brussels and Barcelona? Is the prison a state of mind, like a little black cloud thatfollows us around? More importantly, does a person or place exist that could settle all the restiveness? I've got a sneaking suspicion that it's as much a sign of the times – of being part of the Easyjet/Erasmus generation – as something in my mind.