God vs. technology
In Turkey the belief that everything that happens to a person is God’s will is very important. Other countries have the same kind of belief, but the Turkish version might be the strongest. When something bad happens it is God’s will, and we cannot go against it. There is only one way to have peace, and it is to accept that you cannot change fate. It is a matter of ignorance more than religion.
When you believe that everything is God’s will and you can’t change things, running a city becomes a totally different thing from what the rest of the world understands. For example, two years ago during a drought, the people of Ankara did not have any water to use for several days. The head of the municipality said there was nothing he could do. It was God’s will. Two years later when there were floods all over the city because of rain, he didn’t have anything to do either. It was God’s will that there was rain. He only had the responsibility of providing services when the weather was just fine.
This approach is very common in many municipalities, bureaucrats, politicians, NGOs and basically every person who has a responsibility to look after us when there is a disaster. If you can recall, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said it was the fate of the mine workers to die when there was a gas explosion in a state-run mine last year. The minister responsible for the safety of mines said the workers had died beautifully.
When a country is run on the belief that there is nothing that a man can do against disasters, then science and technology cannot prosper. When science and technology does not prosper, people suffer. It happens because no one feels responsible. Ankara’s municipality does not feel responsible for the floods, Erdoğan does not feel responsible for the miners and now, the municipality of Van does not feel responsible for the earthquake devastation. If they had felt responsible, they would have searched for answers and methods, seeking out new technologies. Ankara’s municipality would seek new technologies to balance water reserves in drought and new plumbing technologies for the times when there is too much rain. The municipality of Van would look for safer building technologies and keep a close eye on every building if they felt responsible.
Do not get me wrong, it is not just a Muslim approach. The world-renowned geologist Celal Şengör described his visit to the U.S. this year. He said that when he and an American geologist were strolling through Hollywood, the geologist told him there were tons of houses right on top of the earthquake line. Şengör asked the geologist, “Why don’t you do anything?” His American colleague replied, “Because we cannot make them understand how serious the situation is.” Ignorance can take many forms. Unfortunately, in our country religion is used to cover up ignorance so that often religion and technology or science are presented as being rivals. However, each has its own value.
Turkey just revoked 300 building auditor licenses on the grounds that they were committing various crimes to mislead officials. Three hundred auditors in 19 cities were found guilty of frauds such as employing dead engineers, employing engineers over the age of 80 who cannot go to the field, sending different samples of concrete than what they got from buildings and writing false reports for unsafe buildings.
As I have written before, it is a matter of ignorance rather than religion. Turkey must fight with ignorance first if it does not want to lose anyone else in disasters