Turkey at the dawn of 2018
Report of a Listening Post held on 14 January 2018
PART 1: THE SHARING OF PREOCCUPATIONS AND EXPERIENCES
In this part, the Listening Post participants were invited to identify, contribute, and explore their experiences in their various social roles, be they: in work, unemployed or retired; as members of religious, political, neighbourhood, voluntary or leisure organisations; or as members of families and communities. This part was largely concerned with what might be called, ‘the stuff of people’s everyday lives’: the ‘socio’ or ‘external’ world of participants.
PART 2: IDENTIFICATION OF MAJOR THEMES
In Part 2, the aim collectively was to identify the major themes emerging from Part 1.
Theme 1: The dynamics of uncertainty and fear, them and us; poor and rich, educated and uneducated
”First thing that comes to my mind is the young people who are thinking to leave their country in birth and want to live abroad, because of the uncertainty and rapidly changes that is happening in our everyday life contexts. Those, families who are in good economic condition are thinking of leaving the country. They are trying to settle abroad because of their faith that their children will not have a good future here. My fear is that, those who are educated and who are in good economic condition will leave the country and those who are poorer and are not well educated will stay here. That’s what happened with immigrants from Middle East. While the uneducated and poorest immigrants are settled here in Turkey, the educated and the richest immigrants go the European countries.’
Theme 2: In-between destruction and reconstruction of the institutions and society; faith and trust that have been lost, identity that have been broken and fragmented, ‘exclusion’ from the management, feeling of ‘ alienation’, no space for ‘ thinking’
‘I am a health worker, there are injustices in appointments made in the field of health institutions. What determines hiring is measured by close proximity to power. People are determined according to which community they belong, whether it is related to the party or not. The institutions have become evacuated, emptied. I feel I’ve lost my faith. There is structuring according to religious and ideological communities. The secular identity of the country gradually began to withdraw from the corporate sector. That’s what worries us. This division is especially in the management field. Management is shaped only by those who are close to power, those who have religious identity or membership of the congregation. ‘There is no place in government for those who are not “like me”; ideologically, politically different people can not take place in government. There is no problem being an officer , a civil servant or working in public institution, but there is a problem if the issue is related to being in management staff. ”
‘The education system is in the same position. It seems that the people who do not question, do not criticize, are wanted figures in the education system. The model of the person who does not inquire, does not criticize, does not think is in the process of raising. When one person criticizes, there is fear of being thrown out of his job. Parents are concerned about the constantly changing education system, interventions in the curriculum content. We are facing constant intervention in our systems. There is no boundary perception between different systems anymore. We are experiencing an alienation of ourselves, from our environment and our institutions. Even an indication of the alienation that we experienced can be seen from increased applications, to get Bulgarian citizenship of persons whose families immigrated during the 1893 Ottoman-Russian war from Bulgaria to Turkey.’
Theme 3: Politics as a ‘waste of time’ and ‘scapegoat’; destruction of the ‘goodness and angel’, attacks on ‘identity’ and ‘existential values’
‘Our generation get raised with belief and emotional sensitivity, not to get involved actively in politics, in the right-left ideologies or parties. To get involved in politics was a waste of time and people who get involved were those who have ‘no work to do’. We are a generation, or children of these generations, who are exported from their country, mainly from Eastern European countries, in my example it is Bulgaria and for others it is Bosnia; and who experience an ethnic quasi-genocide. Politics has been seen as the reason for this. Politics has become a scapegoat for us. To be fired from our lands, to be forced to leave our loved ones, ongoing anger that is still in our inner lives was seen as a result of harsh and inhuman politics. Because politics has always been used as a tool of evil, we have been away from politics to avoid being part of this evil. Once we have begun to see politics as a victim itself, now we are real victims of politics and it is very bad feeling and it is not easy to accept it. As if the old demon or evil return back to destroy the goodness and the angels. While our parents choose to be on the side of the Goodness and the Angels, even they experience genocide, as if for us it is not so easy to stand on its side and to built this goodness and angels beliefs in out everyday life, while every minute we experience different kind of attacks . Sometimes attacks on our identity, sometimes on our existential values.
Theme 4: Fear from politicization of religion and everyday life; being ‘Stranger and The Other’ in your country; remembering the forgotten part of the identities; being forced to choose a side, social forgetfulness and madness
‘We feel ourselves obliged to choose a side. We’re in the middle of nowhere, of in-betweenness. After the politicization of religion, we feel ourselves away from the depths of religious feeling, emotional part of religiosity, because its political instrumentalisation is so introverted into everyday life. We are witnessing difficult times that are surrounded by feeling of being a ‘ Stranger’ in your everyday context, being ‘The Other’ in your country. Alienation, splitting around ethnical and religious identities, open space for forgotten part of the reality which is relating with remembering the forgotten part of our identities that connect us. What are the other parts of our collective identities which combine and unite us? We are witnessing a social forgetfulness and madness. What happened to us, why we have become like that and how? We need to think on that. Even I am saying that we need to think, at the same time my inner voice is saying ‘there is no need for thinking nowadays, no place for thinking as if…’ Very painful contradiction. It has become very difficult to remain an individual on its own. It seems that you are forced to be a part of something, a part of a group, a part of a community, a part of a political party. ‘’
Theme 5: Broken balance of the world, re-emerging of the ethno nationalistic identities; ‘belonging’ to a nation, history, myth perceived as a ‘bad thing’
‘The balance of the world is broken, we are in a world that has returned to the battlefield. As a country, we are experiencing what it means to be in Middle East marsh. We’re surrounded by countries that are in a battlefield. We are at a time when sub-identities are on the forefront; where ethnic and religious identities began to cross the foreground. We are in a period of re-emerging of the ethno nationalistic identities. Belongıng to a nation begins to perceived as a bad thing. When I say ‘ I love my country and I belong to my country’, I feel the fear of being stigmatized as a nationalist or fascist. We forget the inclusive and positive part of the ‘nation’, nation that combine and unite all different ethnic and religious identities without othering them; feeling of belonging to a nation, to a city, to a history or myths is the forgotten part that we need to remember again and as soon as we can. As if everything is shattered.’
Theme 6: Villages that turn into a ‘ home for elderly’; migration from villages to cities, eastern border cities to western cities; fear from Middle Eastern migration
‘I am a person that is doing village sightseeing relating my job. I talk to the peasant, the farmer. The villages are getting empty, there is no production. Olive groves disappear. Everywhere is filled with the building. Young people from the villages are running away. The villages have turned into homes for the elderly.
Just as the villagers migrated to the cities, migrations started to the western cities from the eastern cities near the Syrian border. With these migrations from Middle East, the illnesses have increased as well. Some paediatric illnesses that have not been seen since the last 50 years have yet to be seen. Influenza types appeared and the recovery times were longer compared to those of the older ones. The chemicals used in wars are in the air we breathe. I feel very insecure.’
Theme 7: Totalitarian state of minds; ‘rejection’ of multiple identities and ‘difficulties’ in its acceptance
‘I’m afraid to share posts in social media. I am a civil servant. My posts shared by social media are being followed by my director. I have an experience that I am questioned by my director relating my post which was related with politics. After that experience, I think before I share any post. I take care not to make political exchanges. ”
‘There are also difficulties in having more than one identity and one role. Work identity, family identity, political identity, citizen identity etc… One of my clients that I have worked for many years, cut off his working relationship with me when I get a member of a newly opened political party; party that is different from his political party. His explanation for that was ‘ I fear of being removed from my party if they knew that I have working relations with you. That’s why I cut off, not because of personal reasons. I am very sorry for that.’ For him it was very difficult to accept my professional working role with my new citizenship role and new civilian identity which is being a member of political party. ”
PART 3: ANALYSIS AND HYPOTHESIS FORMATION
In Part 3, the participants were working with the information resulting from Parts 1 & 2, with a view to collectively identifying the underlying dynamics both conscious and unconscious that may be predominant at the time; and developing hypotheses as to why they might be occurring at that moment. Here, participants were working more with what might be called their ‘psycho’ or ‘internal’ world: their collective ideas and ways of thinking that both determine how they perceive the external realities and shape their actions towards them.
It was appreciated that the preoccupations around the recent experiences of bombings in London were real and that this was a genuine societal concern. However, the members sought to go beyond this in an attempt to understand what was occurring at a psychological level in society. The resulting analysis has been distilled into the following two interrelated hypotheses:
Analysis: Feeling of ‘losing your skin’, ‘ boundary and space’; society unable to perform his function; hearing and not being heard; emotional drought, opacity, despair, disappointments, pessimism, frustration prevails
When we look at ourselves in the light of these shared thoughts and experiences, we recognized that as a group main feelings that we are surrounded are feeling of being excluded, frustration and witnessing how we become obstructed people. ‘I feel tired because I have to transform myself according to the needs of the context. I wish that I feel myself like a bucalemun (chameleon). Bucalemun is very adaptable animal to his environment and needs to change his skin related his context. But unfortunately my situation is opposite to that adaptability. I feel being forced to be adaptable to my context. I hide my real emotions and thoughts. I feel myself in contradiction with my values, like I am acting ‘as if…person’. It is very bad feeling. We do not even want to say what we want to say, because there is no process of listening and no listener. Emotional drought, opacity, despair, disappointments, pessimism prevails. We feel betrayed. We feel that we are searching for a savoir like an Atatürk; new Ataturk who will save us. Which of course is not possible. Which is an illusion.’
State, organisations, institutions, family and neighbourhood systems, each has the capacity to simulate containment, lost the capacity to act as a container of meaning and anxiety. A struggle for survival is primarily a struggle for collective psychological survival rather then physical. As if all objects-nation, tradition, Ataturk, West, East, Turkey, Muslim, Islam, Other, state, organisations, friendship, colleagueship etc… are emptied of their symbolic content and lose their capacity to contain meaning. There is no space and place for melting pots and experiences; emotional drought, opacity, despair, disappointments, pessimism, frustration, fragmentation, autistic state of society and culture is experienced and society as a social body, looks like unable to perform his function.
Convenor: Muzaffer Mustafa