I once wrote that we have a well of affection inside us that needs to be channelled. If noone takes it, we start feeding cats. But that was incomplete. We also have a well of hostility. Our inconsistencies are borne out of the co-existence of these emotions. And we can feel both affection and hostility towards the same person. Before I thought if someone treated me mean, it canceled out all their kindness up to that point. If they were able to treat me mean, all their good deeds lacked truth, genuinity. I thought they hated me all along, and they were just good at hiding their real feelings towards me. I was so stupid for not having seen it earlier.
Meanwhile, I felt so guilty if I felt something I shouldn’t have felt towards someone. I questioned the purity of my motives constantly: Am I being helpful and nice for the sake of being helpful and nice, for the sake of this person, or my own sake? Am I writing this to show off my liberal, inquisitive, reflective mind, or am I writing it to get my point across? Is my need to help someone or write something genuine, or is it merely a manifestation of my need for self-gratification?
Now I think differently. Kindness and hostility can both be genuine. When we help someone, it can be part kindness and part self-gratification. Admiration and envy mixes together. Mothers can feel hostile to their children from time to time, children can contempt their parents. We have all kinds of heresies within us, they just wait to rise to the surface like the bubbles in a boiling kettle. Sometimes our hostility towards someone runs through words and glances like a colored liquid passing through tiny veins. They seem random and innocent, but they are not. They are poisoned. Those words taste bitter, they look green.
Sometimes the guilt we feel about our impure motivations, our insecurities distort our perception, blur our judgment. At times like those it is we who poison others' words and actions, not they. It's our conscience speaking, not them. We poison ourselves with imagined insults.
But with intelligence and maturity, we can learn to keep the lid on our emotions. It means that we care enough about someone to protect them from our own hostility. It means that we know someone well enough to trust their kindness towards us. Mothers care enough about their children, children care enough about their parents. Friends care enough about each other. I no longer accuse people just because they feel hostile towards me, but I accuse them because they didn’t try hard enough to contain it. I no longer feel guilty for my impure emotions and motives, but I feel guilty (and stupid) when I let them seep through my words, deeds and perception.
Finally, we can choose to be someone better. There is nothing wrong with liking the idea of being an open-minded, liberal person, and acting like one. There’s nothing wrong with liking the idea of being a couragous person, there is nothing bad with liking the idea of being a nice person. There is nothing wrong with performing these qualities consciously and actively. Unless, of course, we are delusional about who we are, and we should be attentive to this possibility.
After all, even the fact that we like the idea of being a helpful person, as opposed to the idea of being a selfish person, shows something about the kind of person we are.
ps. I told you I’m an extraordinary machine.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Kürt sorunu ile ilgili son tartışmalar alevleneli beri net bir fikir oluşturamadım kafamda. Sorunu iyileştirmesi beklenen çözüm paketinin içeriği henüz tam olarak belli değil, ancak bu da sessiz kalmak, bu konuda düşünmeyi ertelemek için bahane olamaz. Sorunun varlığını ve ne olduğunu bilen, sorunun ortadan kalkmasının ne anlama geldiğini de bilir. Seslendirilen (ve seslendirilemeyen) seçeneklere ani ve duygusal tepkiler vermektense, soğukkanlı bir şekilde sorunun nereden kaynaklandığına ve varılması gereken noktanın ne olduğuna karar vermek, bu kararı verdikten sonra da çözüm için atılması gereken adımları kararlılıkla atmak gerek.
Türkiye'deki Kürtlerin, özellikle de Doğu ve Güneydoğu Anadolu'da yaşayan Kürtlerin derdi nedir? Adaletsizlik duygusu ve kızgınlık, insanın kendi hayatını kontrol edemediğini, yönlendiremediğini farketmesinden doğar. Ömer Laçiner, Türk ve Kürt milliyetçiliğinin psikolojik nedenlerini, Birikim Dergisi'nin son sayısında çok güzel analiz ediyor. Milliyetçilik ve ayrımcılık, insanın "doğası"na, en temel ve hayvani duygularına hitap ediyor. Ancak dış siyasette ve olimpiyatlarda kullanılabilecek semboller, iç siyasetin bir aracı haline geldiğinde toplumu zehirlemeye başlıyor. Bir ülkede bir grubun bir diğerine göre (ve karşı) hissettiği üstünlük duygusu, kendi başına verdiği tatminin yanında, sosyal, siyasi ve ekonomik güce daha kolay ulaşmanın yolu. Üstünlük, imtiyazı haklı çıkarıyor. İşte bu yüzden Kürtlerin verdiği tepki hem Türk milliyetçiliğine, hem ekonomik adaletsizliğe karşı; hem Kürt milliyetçisi, hem solcu düşüncelerden besleniyor.
Çoğunlukta olmak bizlere imtiyaz sağlamıyor, Kürtlere göçmen muamelesi yapamayız. "Kendi iyilikleri" için asimile olmalarını bekleyemeyiz. Sorunun kaynağı üstünlük duygusu ise, çözümü bu duygunun yok edilmesinde. İşte bu yüzden sorunu sadece ekonomik ve askeri yollardan çözmeye çalışmak, kanseri tedavi için aspirin kullanmakla eş değer oldu. Bu yüzden kültürel hakların iadesi, üstünlük duygusunu çağrıştıran, bir grubu diğerine, bir bireyi diğerine karşı "gaza getiren" her türlü sembolün yok edilmesi bu kadar önemli. Ancak bunu kabul edersek her birey için fırsat eşitliği sağlanabilir. Bu zaman alacak, ancak aklımızdan bir an bile çıkarmamamız gereken hedef bu olmalı ki, sorunu çözebilelim.
Şimdi sorunun çözümünde "muhatab"ın kim olması gerektiği, teröristlerin "affı"nın tahayyül edilip edilemeyeceği konuşuluyor. Terör örgütüyle müzakere etme, Türk askerlerini, öğretmenlerini, doktorlarını öldürmüş insanları "affetme" fikri, bende de içgüdüsel bir tepkiye yol açıyor. Şimdiye kadar verilen kayıplar boşu boşuna mıydı? Hepimizin içinde, "bizim için", bizim imtiyazlarımızı, üstünlük duygumuzu koruyabilmek için ölmüş askerlere karşı bir suçluluk duygusu var. Halbuki soğukkanlılıkla düşündüğümüzde göreceğiz ki, suç aslında ne ölende, ne öldürendedir. Suç, ölene de, öldürene de bu emri verendedir. Suç, yıllardır milliyetçiliğe karşı durmak, insanları şiddete yönelten adaletsizliklerle yüzleşmek yerine, akıntıya kapılıp gitmeyi seçen, süre giden savaştan kendisine güç deren Türk ve Kürt liderlerdedir. Aslında yıllardır bunun ayırdına varmadığımız için, belki biraz hepimizdedir. Savaş, ona neden olan milliyetçilik duygularını daha da körükledi, sorunu iyice içinden çıkılmaz hale getirdi. Ayça Şen'in çok güzel dediği gibi, bir yerden başlamak, bir yerde durmak gerek.
Bazen bir sorunun gerçek nedenini görmek, gerçekçilik insanda çaresizlik yaratıyor. Bu kadar temel, hayvani milliyetçilik duygusuyla, onu yıllardır besleyen, yılların acısıyla beslenen savaşla nasıl başa çıkılabilir ki? Gerçekçilik, bazen hareketsizliğin, korkaklığın bahanesidir. "Tamam sorun çözülsün ama nasıl çözülecek?" deyip çaresizliğe kapılmak, sus pus oturmak korkaklıktır. Bu sorun kafalarda çözülecek. Hakkımız olmayan imtiyazlardan vazgeçebilecek kadar vicdanlı ve dürüst olabildiğimizde. O yüzden yüksek sesle konuşmak, insanları iknaya çalışmak, misyonerlik yapmak gerek.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
From a "global market" to a "global society" - 2
This article is the edited version of my long response to Nihan's From a "Global Market" to a "Global Society".
Constructivism argues that actors' understanding of the pay-offs may change without an actual shift in material interests. In crisis situations actors may be open to new ideas, as they realize that what they have always believed in does not work. A crisis provides the "policy window" for a charismatic actor ("an institutional entrepreneur") to come up with new ideas and persuade the other actors. As they interact and negotiate ("social learning" within the existing institutional framework,) actors change their minds about the pay-offs associated with each option.
A change in values could be what is meant by a change in pay-offs. The important point is having greater awareness about the non-immediate consequances of our actions. Once we are aware, we feel more responsible. Realizing the far-away consequences of our individual actions, inactions and transactions is key to an evolution from a “global market” to a “global society”. There are people who can no longer bring themselves to drive SUVs, or throw a glass bottle away without recycling it, because they are not able to act despite their knowledge. People should think about security and development issues in the same way, as well as the cross-border regulations and supervision of financial markets. Western societies are no longer isolated from the poverty and violence in "remote" corners of the world. Injustice breeds insecurity. Not only politicians, but “thought leaders” from all fields have a duty to tell these hard truths without commercializing or sensationalizing the subject.
It is time for leaders to evaluate their assumptions about their constituents. Are we knights, or are we knaves? Knaves are self-interested, they serve others only when that will serve their own material interests. Knights, on the other hand, put the interests of those they serve above their own. They serve others even when they gain no material reward, or they actually face a cost doing so (Le Grand, 2003).
The resulting organizational structure will be reinforcing the assumptions that gave rise to it. When a leader thinks that his constituents are knaves, he mistrusts them and treats them like naughty children. He tries to keep information hidden because he is afraid that he will be punished for telling the truth. He establishes a structure that is based on close monitoring, strong incentives and harsh penalties, even if they are not always enforced. The constituents will perceive this system as a controlling form of external intervention, which leaves no room for intrinsic motivation, inquiry and innovation.
What if we are more knights than knaves?
The questions that need to be asked to bring about the transition from a "global market" to a "global society" can be very exciting and inspiring. They give people’s lives a meaning beyond day-to-day survival characterised by tedious office jobs, family lives and consumerism. They give each person a stake in improving the humanity’s well-being, bringing about change. This is what today’s left-wing politics should embrace. People would be far more receptive to this than we (and politicians) think. Only one leader fully grasps this: Obama.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
this morning it was drizzling
and my oyster didn't work
had to cross through the underpass
the tube was packed
and it was slow
I was pressed against the door
all I could do was look around
and I didn't see any point at all
in everything we were doing
but I didn't give up, in my head
I searched for something
there was only one thing:
making people's lives easier.
that was the only thing.
Saturday, October 03, 2009
When I was a student and when I was given an assignment, first I would diligently read what the "authorities" had to say, and then I would mix and match their arguments like reporting on a panel discussion. Sometimes I would write a sentence or two explaining why I particularly like one view, why it seems more plausible, but usually I would just let them do the talking. Because they knew, and I didn't. I was there to learn.
Then Nong said that she would first put all her ideas about the topic on paper, and then start on the reading. This seemed like a refreshing idea to me, this giving your "consciousness" a chance before it is constrained by everything that was thought and said by the wise men and women before you. I remembered the conversation with my professor while I was trying to pick a question for my dissertation. When I told her that I wanted to write it on something I didn't know about, because I wanted to learn, she said the purpose of writing a dissertation is not to learn. It is to contribute.
But then, as Vidi pointed out, when one has opinions about a subject, their attention will be drawn to the supporting views, even if they don't actively seek it. (Am I still doing the same thing, just reporting on what people said instead of stating my own views?! Well I honestly don't have a view on this one.) When we recognize an idea that confirms our own views about a subject, it's like a shining gem in the middle of all the "irrelevant" clutter. It jumps at us from the page and we do a little self-congratulatory dance in our heads. When I wrote for the school paper, I would always find the right quote to prove the point I'm trying to make. When journalists call my colleagues to ask for their "expert views", they are often not trying to learn, but they are trying to make a point without making it themselves.
How to free our minds from others' words, how to free others' words from our minds?
How to free our minds from our minds?
Isolated actions and usual suspects
Since Polish/French director Roman Polanski got arrested, I am trying to come up with a consistent way to think about this: I'm trying to put his actions in different compartments, so that his raping a young girl has no bearing on his films, and his films have no bearing on his crime. But while the latter seems so obvious to me, his crime will always hang over like a shadow over his films. I feel the same about two Turkish columnists, Deniz Gökçe and Sevan Nişanyan, who have degraded their wives in much-publicized cases of domestic violence. It's not even like what they think and write is genius, for the record, they always have that bad-ass attitude whenever they write or say something. But even if they said something bright, I don't know if I could open my mind wide enough to let it in.
It is easier to disentangle things when I think of the Doğan Group. At first my view of them as victims in their spat with the government was tinged with the knowledge that all these years, they used their newspapers to secure favors. This is karmic justice, their bomb exploded in their hands. They never said anything to fix what was wrong when things were going their way, did they? But then I realized that this in no way frees the government of the responsibility to fix things, replace this power game with the rule of law, where journalists do their jobs and bureaucrats do, too. Judges will (hopefully) not allow their judgement in one case to blur their understanding of another one.
But when looking at an art work or reading the wise words of someone who claims to be an authority in economics or linguistics, I am the judge. And I can't prevent my knowledge about the person from standing in the way of my full understanding. I can't put my trust in them enough to lend my eyes and ears to them. It may be simplistic to say only good people produce good work, but I can safely say that I only really listen to good people. Because really listening to someone or really looking at what they show you requires to let them guide you for a while.
That said, over the past few years I have come to realize and accept that good people may be inconsistent, inconsistency is sometimes nothing but the passage of time and people can change their minds and break their promises, people may be good despite their mistakes. It is not always wise to throw something or someone overboard just because they disappointed me once or twice. But it's also not wise to forgive anything and everything. Our actions do point at something about us, sometimes to fundamental personality defects. Moments of weakness are not always moments, they are not completely arbitrary or unintended.
Thursday, October 01, 2009
A little less than a year ago, I wrote this. Since then a lot of things happened, inconsequential in some ways but very consequential in others, some only in my head. Today I realized that I did get delivered - to my own doorstep. Now I'm looking at the package through noone else's eyes, but my own, and I'm liking it. (And I'm not saying this just to impress you with my newly-found maturity and independence and confidence or whatever. OK, maybe a little, but it's not just that... The only way you or I could be impressed is if we believe that it's not just empty words, it's not just to impress. We'll see. And I know these things don't have to make sense.)
Anyhow, the package does have a lot of flaws, what must be corrected and fixed will be, but overall it's good value. I'm finally happy with it.