Turkish artist and author Âsûde Alkaya reflects on the state of affairs in Turkey, and how the government is shaping religion and morality to distract from its failures towards its people in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Recently, it was announced by the Turkish actor Emre Kınay that for the month of Ramadan, RTUK, the media and censorship organ of the government, has banned the display of food and drinks items on Turkish television broadcasts.
This decision came days after the accusations directed at the strongest opposition leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, for disrespecting Islam by stepping on a prayer rug that was on the ground during a photo-op.
The pattern of bending religion to control the morals, and movement of “others” is one that is hardly unfamiliar to the collective human psyche. An ongoing tradition of control that has been utilised by a multitude of traditions, which to this day forms the strongest basis for fear driven communal control. But what happens to a tradition when in the pursuit of conquering the world through it, you forget the base pillars that its philosophy stands upon?
One good example of this phenomenon that has been brought to attention after the Kılıçdaroğlu incident is the simple fact that no object holds a holy position in Islam, and in fact, the teaching of not giving any object a semblance of holiness is one of the foundational teachings of the religion, and of Hz Muhammed.
But of course, when it comes to petty squabbles over an election that the majority of the supporters know is slipping from their blood-stained fingers, the mask of grandiosity falls, and behind it reveals what hard power always labours to conceal: fear and vulnerability. Simple humanity – that which they hate most in themselves and work to eradicate in the rest of the society. For that is the part that deep down is aware that they do not in fact know what they are doing, or why. This is the point where such immaterial reasonings are born. When faith becomes objective, logic turns subjective. After all, something’s always gotta give.
In the materialised religion of oppression, subjective practices like morals and religion start being treated like the objective. While the objective, information based practices like sciences, critical thinking and research are placed as the things that are up for questioning. The oppressor loves this trick because through this convolution of thought, they hold in their hands the means to bend reality to their will. Suddenly, the word of a geologist with 40+ years of experience under their belt is not worth nearly as much as that of the religious studies graduate when it comes to the matter of an impending earthquake.
Fear-mongering, that’s the name of the game. Nothing can be more scary than what we imagine. And nothing is that scary, as long as we can find a path into understanding. By switching the treatment of two fundamental concepts such as experience and comprehension, the oppressor finds the perfect environment to easily push people into making fear-based decisions, which further strengthens their populism and creates a growing divide between all sides of the community, from left and right, to left and left.
That is what has been so refreshing recently in leftist Turkish politics. The strong emergence of the Turkish Workers Party into the limelight, both through their active missions in the impact zones following the February 6th earthquakes, as well as through their rhetoric of simplicity. They do not rely on grand and useless gestures, but rather make simple and hopeful promises such as doing their best work to bring all the perpetrators of the crimes of the government into justice. That is an ideal that I would personally want to invest my labour towards.
But take my praise of the Turkish Workers Party with a grain of salt, since I as of recently am a full and active member of their organisation. What brought me to take my first plunge into party politics was one sentence and one thought.
The sentence came from my mother, about the earthquake: “It is our fault too, for continuing to stay away from politics and dismissing it as a place for dirty men. For not going and cleaning it up.” The thought followed a couple weeks later: “I either actively help my country heal, make sure it blossoms yet again–or I am forever going to live as a foreigner.”
Call it selfish, but even if the equation was wrong, I think that I still got the right answer at the end of the day. I will never be as helpful anywhere else as I can be in Turkey for Turkish people.
This is a long and convoluted way to come to somewhat of an understanding of a long lasting and convoluted manner of governance. Here is why it was journalists and social servants who first went to jail. The people who asked questions. Because in the materialised religion of oppression, the power is found in the absolute that can not be questioned. If a people are barred from knowing the origin of an idea, they will forever be incapable of fully comprehending its logic, or lack thereof. It’s a gimmick, a big old inflated act. Therefore, questions are its one true kryptonite, finding the cracks within the facade to reach the Ultimate Nothing.
What collapsed in the aftermath of the February 6 earthquakes though, was a value beyond any moral questioning. That of individual human life.
How much money made can clear your conscience of entire families buried in the rubble of their homes? How much concrete can pave over the knowledge that people died, not as a result of the earthquake impact, but as a result of hypothermia, hunger, thirst? Their families had to beg for help from search and rescue teams that instead abandoned them in the middle of the night.
What can justify the fact that a 20-year-old government, two months after the earthquake, can not even provide shoes to its children? Banning food and drinks from TV during Ramadan, and the fact that the opposition leader stepped on a prayer rug I guess.
Artwork by the author, photos by Emilio Bellu.