Murat Tuncel, bir gezi yazısıyla Varlık dergisinin Mayıs 2020 sayısında: “Pombal Markizi’nin Çok Kültürlü ve Çok Adlı Şehri Lizbon”

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Lizbon balıkçılarının “tuzlu balık”ını da buradan alıp Akdeniz’in öteki limanlarına taşı­yorlarmış. Kartacalıların güçlen­mesiyle Fenike kolonileri bir bir el değiştirince, Sao Jorge Kalesi’nin temelleri üzerine Kartacalıların yaptığı geniş duvarlar yükselme­ye başlamış. Bu arada kalede pek izleri olmasa da buralara gelen Yunan kabileleri içinde en büyük grubu Truvalılar oluşturmuş.


Varlık’ı edinmenin en kolay ve ucuz yolu abonelik. Abonelerimiz 200 TL karşılığında bir yıl boyunca tüm yeni sayılarımızı edinmekle kalmıyor, 1933’ten günümüze Varlık dergisinin tüm içeriğine de adresinden erişebiliyorlar.


“21. Yüzyılda Afrika Asıllı Amerikalı Romancı Gözüyle Gündelik Hayat Eleştirisi” başlıklı yazısıyla E. Lâle Demirtürk, Varlık dergisinin Mayıs 2020 sayısında.

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Edebiyat ve Kültür Çalışmala­rı alanlarında yer alan siyah-beyaz ırk kimliklerinin konumsal karşıt­lığı hakkındaki tartışmalar, bu tür­den karşıtlıkları bilimsel araştırma­ların gündeminden düşürmüştür. Yaptığımız çalışmalarda, edebiya­tın gerçek yaşamla ilgisi konusun­da açmazları aşmaya çalışırken, tüketim toplumunda gündelik ha­yatın nesneleştirilmesi gereğini do­ğuran çıkarımları enine boyuna düşünmek gerekiyor. Günümüz­de gündelik hayat çalışmalarını (everyday life studies) Afrika asıllı Amerikalı yazarların romanlarına uygulamak, beni, siyah roman ki­şilerinin toplumsal değişim ve dö­nüşüme yol açabilecek mikro-dire­nişleriyle gündelik hayatta ne çeşit değişikliklere neden olduklarını ir­delemenin önemini görmeye itti.


Varlık’ı edinmenin en kolay ve ucuz yolu abonelik. Abonelerimiz 200 TL karşılığında bir yıl boyunca tüm yeni sayılarımızı edinmekle kalmıyor, 1933’ten günümüze Varlık dergisinin tüm içeriğine de adresinden erişebiliyorlar.

Robert Bernasconi’nin “Heidegger ve Sartre: Tarihsellik, Kader ve Politika” başlıklı yazısı Varlık dergisinin Mart 2019 sayısında. Elif Çağatay’ın özenli çevirisiyle.

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“Hümanizma Üzerine Mektup”ta Heidegger, önceki düşüncelerini sonradan gelecekleri göz önünde bulundurarak yeniden yorumlamıştır ve bu, Heidegger’e Sartre’ın “Varlık ve Zaman”ı yanlış anlayışını abartmak için fırsat tanımıştır. Oysa Sartre (kendisinin) önceki düşüncelerine karşı genellikle ilgisizdir. İnsanın özgürlüğü hakkında tavizsiz bildirilerinden bazıları için özellikle doğrudur bu.



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Nuray Mert, an exceptionally  outspoken journalist (fired from a mainstream daily –friendly to the PM- precisely for this reason) recently wrote that  she sometimes questioned herself as to the purpose of writing a column couple days a week in a newspaper. One should be able to answer the question ‘what good does it do’” Some people write because they know a lot,some make a living and gain privileges thereby. But who really cares about what we all know if it doesn’t do any good for anybody?

All along I have been asking myself similar questions, like why do I contribute to an organisation like Eurozine, and why write articles in Varlık?. I have penned down the following while searching for an answer.



(whereby a whole bunch of intellectuals, opinion makers -the very people privileged and respected on the merits of their critical faculties- were duped by a new generation of  politicians, into believing that a democratic society  could be constructed and held together by and with elements of political Islam or a derivative of it. (PM Erdoğan calls it conservative democracy.)

The theme of the Bienal 2013, opened about 3 months after the Gezi  events  in Istanbul was “Mother, are we barbarians?”

That Sunday, the last day of this big event, the banner headline of one (liberal, mildly critical daily Radikal) read:  “The Bienal hosted a record number of visitors” (this year the entrance was free) . The headline of the opposition paper Birgün announced a midnight raid by demolition teams of the metropolitan municipality of Ankara accompanied with dozers and other heavy equipment  and riot police into the controversial wooded area of the Middle East Technical University to cut down about  5.000 trees to clear the way for a controversial throughway project, opposed by the METU and the citizens living in the neighborhood.  Those journalists, members of the  METU  graduate club, students, and ordinary citizens trying to record on cameras and protest the unauthorized incursion were beaten up and scattered by municipal workers armed with clubs, and by the riot police with water cannons and pepper gas, etc. Another Gezi-like government intervention in a major metropolitan area to carry out an unpopular and contested project.

A week later, an interview with the bestselling author Ahmet Ümit revealed his sense that the “The City (referring to Istanbul) is going through its barbarian age”.

So it seems like we are now engaged in something more than a class war, something even beyond  a quest for democratic society, but actually in a modern version of the ancient  struggle for civilization, for a civilized social existence, and ironically,  for the conservation of our natural habitat as homo sapiens, at the same time .

A pro-government daily commented on the various technical difficulties the recently –and due to the PM’s insistence to inaugurate it on the 90th anniversary of the Republic, prematurely- launched Marmaray rail system ran into (it got stuck mid-tunnel on its first trip due to a power failure; its doors would not open automatically, some kids pulled on the emergency brakes out of curiousity and stopped the train, hence guards were stationed in front of the emergency brakes in  each car ). It said all this was again due to the continuing mischief of the Gezi-vandals!  (In fact, some engineers involved in the project had warned weeks ago that the system and the vehicles had not been sufficiently tested yet, and the premature “grand- opening” on the 29th October would place future passengers at risk.)

A week later, allegedly based on a report submitted by the police department of the province of Denizli to the PM, Tayyip Erdoğan added an even more outrageous comment: The state has an obligation to intervene when men and women students live together in rented apartments, under the same roof, as this would be against “our conservative democratic principles”.

A week or so later the vice president of the Turkish National Assembly, an AKP deputy, out of nowhere declared  his “personal” opinion that “it has been a big mistake in the past to allow for coeducational schools” and that “in the years to come we (the governing party) will be taking legislative action to correct this policy” Reminded of this statement, the leader of the Kurdish BDP (Party for Peace and Democracy) Demirtaş responded on a TV talk show,”really now, what can I say to this except advising these people to think with their brains rather than some other organ.”

Then, for some years now, we have been hearing  insistent remarks by the PM Erdoğan that women should bear at least 3 children (so the Turkish population could sustain its vitality and dynamism) and the recent draft law to financially support early marriages (before 25 years of age) with interest free credit as well as early retirement for women who bear children. (To Germans in their 80’s it must have an uncanny ring of “Kinder, Küche, Kirche”)

All this taking place, incidentally, while the first female deputies with Islamic head-cover  triumphantly entered the National Assembly hall “ending decades long repression of Turkish women’s right to dress in accordance with their  faith” as the parliament’s dress code was officially changed.

A very interesting and telling incident in this context:  The same “conservative democrat” Erdoğan (esp. with respect to gender issues) could only smile when his Russian counterpart Putin, during a press meeting in  St Petersburg, quipped “How can he (Turkish PM) can take her with him, while he is being accompanied by his wife!” in return to a journalist’s question to Erdoğan as to whether he would be taking the young Turkish girl (the young Greenpeace activist Gizem just released by the Russians against a hefty bail paid out by Greenpeace) home on their trip back. Most of those present in the room  guffawed, very amused at this remark which would be much more fitting if it had been directed at another one of Putin’s favorites like Berlusconi, for instance, with his preference for young girls in bunga-bunga parties.

You would have expected a politician with  Erdoğan’s convictions to retort “my wife and I  would definitely take this unfortunately mislead young girl with us and deliver her to her family, where she belongs (instead of an activist vessel)  and hope she gets married soon and has many children”. ( It seems his sense of dignity with respect to Turkish women  waned somewhat when faced with the embarrassing insolence of a leader holding the tap to more than 60 percent of Turkey’s  natural gas imports.)

After 11 years of AKP rule, these kinds of things which would have been once ample material for political scandals, uneasiness among some military commanders, have come to be regarded calmly as “normal”, not even covered and followed up by the majority of the national press in any serious manner, just causing a flurry of tweets and comments in social media. All this is taken by some observers as a sign of “normalization” in Turkish public affairs, the drift in the direction of Islamic life style with women dressing in “tesettür” Islamic modernity, etc.  Whatever we may understand under this concept of normalization, it was very much yearned after by all sorts of Turkish intellectuals. They saw the appearance of “covered” female deputies in the National Assembly as an affirmation of civil liberties. After all, they had been lending their  support  to the AKP  and its leader Tayyip Erdoğan who started out with the promise of establishing “advanced democracy” and the elimination of a decades- long tradition of “military custody in political life”.

If nothing else that has happened during the last decade suffices to convince the observer, a general account of the Gezi  uprising and related events and the aftermath should certainly provide a good measure  of Turkish democracy in its present state of “advancement”.  A significant number of retired or active military leaders and their alleged allies in the press, in academia, in the business world and in politics, who were regarded by the same Turkish liberal intellectuals as the guardians of that “custodian regime” are now either sentenced to long terms or are still on trial, most of them held under arrest.

The Gezi demonstrators, and the chain of events they unwittingly triggered, made a wake-up call to many of those  feeling snugly  justified in their support of the AKP’s policies of “reform” and “normalization” . The shock was not limited to those circles either; very recently, no one less in stature than the chief justice of the supreme court (his appointment brought about mainly by AKP’s endorsement) even remarked that “he felt like  a girl deceived with the false promise of wedlock” when the chair of the parliamentary  commission working  on the much advertised “new constitution” as part of the “democratization package” announced there was  no deal reached among the parties and the commission would be disbanded,  after the long negotiations between the parties ended in gridlock, mainly due to the insistence of AKP to install a presidential  system into the constituton (read:  to satisfy PM Erdoğan’s ambition to become the next president of the Republic, as under his own party’s internal  statutes, he would not be eligible to serve more than three terms in the parliament) That another one of those baits for Turkish liberal intellectuals would come to this was a foregone conclusion, but the con artists, in this case too, were very adroit in playing the right tunes to lull them into a slumber with dreams of an advanced democracy.

Meanwhile, a news report disclosed some data extracted from the files of the Turkish Security Directorate which ran a study by sampling the participants of the Gezi-uprising:

-in the first 112 days after 28th May there were 5.532 demonstrations in 80 cities.

-3,6 million actively participated, 5.513 taken into custody.

– 189 were arrested upon interrogation by legal authorities.

– 4.239 persons were wounded, 5 died (due to police violence- not to mention the 11 or 12 people who lost an eye according to the Turkish Medical Assoc.) ,697 policemen were wounded, 1 died as he fell from a roof top as he chased an activist.

– Level of education:  15 % elementary –secondary school, 24% high school, 36% university students,  25% university graduate.

-demographics: 50 % of the “suspects” were female. 56% 18-25, 26% 26-30, 17% 31-40, 1%  40+ years of age.

-socio-cultural background: About 78 belonged to the Alawite sect.  12 % associated with political parties, 10% involved in “marginal” groups or “terrorist” organisations

-income level: 50% over 1000TL/month ($500), the rest below that subsistence limit.

Government authorities from the PM’s office  down to various ministries like finance and culture, the commission for the investigation of financial crimes, all the way to local boards of education,  have ever since been hunting down at all levels (schools, universities, public offices, performers, artists, etc. ) anybody and everybody of any public stature suspected of participating in or voicing support to Gezi- activism. Financial transactions on the securities exchange as well as corporations have been under investigation to find out if they were involved in a plot to undermine the economy or to lend support the Gezi activists. Among the most recent victims of this manhunt  (or witch hunt) have been school administrators who refused to report names of students who took part in Gezi-related events, some well known performers,  artists, and actors. Private theater companies who were blacklisted by the Ministry of Culture found that  their application for the annual financial support administered by the Ministry to promote theatrical arts were rejected -of course, on different grounds than activism. (The protocol that financial aid recipients have to sign includes a provision that texts of the plays programmed for the coming season be submitted to the ministry prior to staging and that the performances had to be in line with common rules of morality, and the funds would have to be returned to the Ministry with interest accrued if an aid recipient theater company be found in violation of that provision.)

In a public which regards civil liberties as their “inalienable rights” all this would be seen as abnormal, and regarded as intolerable violations of their dignity as equal citizens. However, the perception of “normality” can be radically different between cultures.

In my 65 years as a Turkish citizen, I have witnessed scenes of normality like these time and again:

25 years ago, my business partner and I were dismissed from a local mayor’s office (where we had applied for a building permit) because   I had my hands in my pockets, and my jacket unbuttoned.  This was the smallest of the townships in the Istanbul metropolitan area, consisting of half a dozen small islands  (2010 resident population:  14.000) and the mayor , a former accountant,  a member of the ruling party (Turgut Özal’s ANAP) which claimed to have  liberalized the economy and changed the attitude of government towards citizens. (A year or so later the same mayor was gunned down by a small local contractor who felt humiliated by him).

Couple days  ago, I was down by the local tailor’s shop on the same island, and the old man in his late 70’s was grumbling about the PM Erdoğan who appeared on his TV screen shouting down  as usual to his opponents on the private tutoring schools controversy. “I can’t bear to hear this man’s voice, “he said, “you know how much HE pays me as retirement pension? How can I get by on that meager sum?”

Earlier this year, a huge billboard sign on the E-5 throughway read:


We thank our Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who paid back our debt to the IMF!”

 It is not surprising that at the other end,  the object of such public gratitude  would have no qualms in habitually ordering “his ministers”, or “our justices”  or  “his governor”  to act on a certain issue, or praises “his police” for having fought an “epic battle” against subversive vandals  during  the Gezi  – events and instructs the police department to award them with bonuses..

Public space in this part of the world  has always been occupied by the good (or bad) shepherd and his flock, the exceptional (newspeak: marginal) sheep going astray brought back into the flock by the watchdogs  or neighborhood pressure or simply eliminated ever since the time of the Ottomans. Legitimacy used to be inherited from up above, and now it comes from the ballot box down below.

Needless to say, the separation of powers, the primary principle of democratic regimes,  as the CHP candidate for the mayor’s office in Istanbul  quipped, “got stuck in Istanbul’s traffic”. The ruling political party, itself almost totally subservient to the party leader and prime minister, has been using all opportunities to take full control of the legislative and the judiciary. In this age of electronic communication, and the presence of a political opposition, necessary to maintain the facade  of democracy,   the government-friendly media owned by business people profiting from government contracts and, if necessary, the security forces are also deployed  to execute the leader’s will (or whims), represented as  “the people’s will” ,  as fully as possible.

To be honest, the majority of the Turkish people –whom AKP relies on- like their Russian neighbors under Putin seem content with their lot (as evidenced by the long terms both leaders have remained in power), despite their incessant bickering about the traffic.

All this, in my reading of political science, describes a totalitarian regime under the guise of “parliamentary democracy” ruling at will a generally subservient and apathetic public in total disregard of human rights.

On the other hand , there are observers who maintain that, like Halil Karaveli, The current polarization over secularism and Islam distorts the view of Turkish history; the conventional narrative of Turkey’s march conjures the image of an epic struggle between a supposedly Westernizing secularist state establishment—until the Justice and Development Party (AKP) conquered the state—and a religiously conservative population. But the key word for understanding why Turkey looks the way it does is capitalism, not secularism.”

In this view, “it is capitalist development that has determined the politial journey of the Turkish Republic” and all the military coups, to some extent backed by the U.S.A, have been staged to clear the obstacles standing in the way of economic growth. (Here, I would use the term “development of underdevelopment” as defined by Keith M. Griffin in his Underdevelopment In Spanish America.)

Essentially this argument holds that in underdeveloped countries, politically anti –democratic political systems and liberal economic systems  and the regimes to sustain them have been necessary, or have served to, lay the groundwork for the accumulation of capital in private hands. The tools used in this process have been, in general,  repression of  anti capitalist and / or  environmentalist political oppositon as well as dissident movements, pacification of trade unions, and most importantly redistribution of income –through regressive taxation, investment incentives, privatization etc.-  to favor the capitalist class.

Russia, China, most Southeast Asian countries, and Latin America as well as Middle Eastern countries such as Turkey have been cited as examples.

In its simplified form, the deduction is that strong man or totalitarian regimes –whether they be set up through coups or thanks to landslide election victories whose legitimacy the ruling party boss then uses to gradually consolidate his hold on all the organs of the state-  are formed (or installed) to serve the  ultimate end of capitalist growth and then are dismissed (or brought down) when they cease to function to this end. Hence the analysis for the rise and fall of the Democrat Party government headed by Menderes between 1950-60, and the predictions about the possible decline of, or split inside, the AKP government dominated by its leader and PM Erdoğan who have come to power in 2002 after the worst financial crisis in the Republic’s history and are now working on sectarian and moral and other traditional sensibilities of the masses to win yet again in the coming triple (local, presidential and national) election race.

Hence the out-of-the-blue, sometimes outrageous, comments of the PM and other prominent party speakers on the subjects of gender, family, lifestyles (in particular consumption and sale of alcoholic drinks, and women’s place and role in social life, etc.) and procrastinating tactics of the AKP’s parliamentary majority in “the peace process” and in the inter-party negotiations for constitutional reform.

On all accounts, there is an obvious regressive shift in AKP’s political behavior, whether it be authoritarianism, repression of dissent and opposition in all forms, or imposition of an Islamic way of life on the public (esp. women) and intervention in private space AND the business world (such as the carrot and stick approach of dangling plush incentives and contracts in front and coming after suspected “unfriendly” bosses with tax investigations and cancellation of contracts – altogether incongruent not only with their professed claim of building an “advanced democracy” (which not too many international or domestic stakeholders really care about), but also with the preconditions of an advanced free market system that would function predictably and smoothly in today’s global environment. (The latest in a series of intrusions into private life is the weird questionnaire of the Turkish Statistical Institute posed to a sample of 36.000 citizens in its latest survey on inflation: Which religious faith do you belong to? Are you Alawite or Sunnite? Which one of the prayers below do you practice? Do you cover your head outdoors? Is it a sin to drink without getting drunk?)

In this sense, some observers point out that the AKP is shooting itself in the leg at a time when alarming economic signals like the steadily widening current account deficit, the approaching end to cheap credit in global markets, and clash of interests –due to the neo-Ottomanesque postures in foreign policy- with sources of hot money such as some Gulf states,  (which have thus far been helping to close the current account deficit) and last but not least, the fallout with the “Cemaat” (the missionary Fetullah Gülen Hodja’s immensely influential community of businesses, schools, media outfits, NGO’s, bureaucrats –especially in the judiciary and the security organs of the state-,  politicians at all levels of the AKP hierarchy)  on the issue of power sharing in ruling Turkey. It is an open secret, too, that in the past the Cemaat has not only exerted enormous influence on the electorate, but also has been a big source of material support for the AKP.

After all this, one may now ask:


(1) did all this come to happen because the ruling politicians and their accomplices were basically evil people with no interest in anything else than their own hegemony and fantasies of grandeur like the 1000-Jahr Reich or Mare Nostrum, which evokes images of Hitler and Mussolini, or was it because they were prime specimen of homo-politicus who instinctively and naturally –with no consciously evil intent-  smell out weakness in their opponents and exploit and feed on them in a kind of survival game, in a cynical Animal Farm-world.

(2) looking at the general trend of AKP rule culminating in the -at times brutal- repression or disregard of dissension, opposition and/or criticism –whether by activists or journalists or artists- at all levels (out in the streets or in the social media or the printed and broadcast media), how have all these developments escaped the educated eyes of most of the intelligentsia for such a long period of time? Were they all intimidated or bought out by the ruling power, or were they just fooled by the perfect show staged for the last decade? Or were they in fact devoid of that critical faculty which is supposed mark an “intellectual mind” and were just displaying conditioned reflexes like Pavlov’s dog?


What good did they, and still do, serve, really?


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