You can afford to be shameless if you are in Turkey

You can afford to be shameless if you are in Turkey

It is that time of the year when you take stock of the past 12 months. 

A recent episode of the Turkish edition of “Who Wants to Be Millionaire?” on a private broadcaster summarizes the state of the Turkish society in 2018.

A question on the episode was “If you come across a warning that says ‘it is forbidden to bring food and beverage from outside,’ where are you most probably?’”

The options were “space station,” “student house,” “tea garden,” a traditional open space eatery in Turkey, and a “car repair shop.”

It was the very first question which disqualified the contestant when she said, in all confidence and without hesitation, “space station.”

She made the headlines in Turkey, especially because of her CV, which said she was a graduate of Bilkent University in Ankara and had a doctorate degree from France. Bilkent is a rather well-known university, since it is the first private one in Turkey. The contestant was a graduate of molecular biology and genetics and had immediately answered the question, saying with a firm voice “it is my final answer.”

Professor Tayfun Atay, who teaches anthropology and gives courses on religion, culture and society, is currently writing articles for the news portal T24. In an article published on Dec. 24, he explains why a woman equipped with such academic background gets lured into being “seen” on television. Why would someone end up falling from a “distinguished” position to the level of “mediocracy?”

We are faced with people who are not content by a “respectful but calm” lifestyle away from others’ look at a university campus or research center, according to Atay’s article titled “Who would like to be embarrassed?”

When he asked, during a research, a participant standing in a long queue to be qualified for a TV show, why people who already are well-off with a well-established and well-paid job were willing to participate in these contests, the answer was: “As a doctor or an academic you are known by 10,000 or 20,000 people. But when you are famous, millions, perhaps the whole world, will know you.”

“That’s it,” wrote Atay and continued: “It is no longer enough for us to have a profession. We need to be famous, because if you are not famous you are not.” In other words “I am famous, therefore I am.”

“To be seen has become a ‘cultural norm,’” according to Atay.

We are ruled by mediocracy. And according to the rule of mediocracy, the criteria to get distinguished do not pass from working, education, or a professional career. No. Scrap all that. The only criterion is to be known by millions.

The result is a freefall from a place you have tried for long years to climb up via educations, diplomas, and doctorate degrees.

What is also worrying is the reaction of the contestants afterwards.

On an episode of the show in August, Su Ayhan, a 26-year-old economics graduate from Istanbul, was asked “Where is the Great Wall of China?”

“I know the answer but I’d like to ask the audience,” Ayhan said, using her first lifeline. After only 51 percent of the audience members suggested the correct answer, while the rest picked the other options of India, South Korea, and Japan, Ayhan used her second lifeline and phoned a friend, who gave the correct answer and saved her from an embarrassing disqualification.

She has obviously become a laughing stock on social media for using two lifelines for that question. Was she embarrassed? Not at all.

“The Einstein-like, beautiful people of my beautiful country, you are all geniuses. I am proud of all of you, especially those who wrote those bad messages. I am not crying. And let me tell you, I was given three lifelines. I can use them as I please,” she said.

There is no sign of feeling ashamed. No regrets.

One of Turkey’s most prominent poets of modern times, Murathan Mungan, said it in the mid 2000’s: “You can be anything in Turkey, but you can never be disgraced.”

We are now heading toward election times. Scores of election promises, lies, and smear campaigns will start flying in the air. As a famous Turkish saying goes, “Who died from lying?”

As long as we have people who are not ashamed of their ignorance and incompetence, for the sake of their ambitions of shortcut accomplishments rather than accomplishments earned by hard work, it is only natural for politicians to make maximum benefit from this era of mediocracy.

Turkey, society, culture