Why do the Turks have a fascination with the State?
Looking for a difference in attitude between the Turks and the Europeans? Let me tell you one. Turks do not trust each other but have a deep-seated trust towards the institutions of the State. Europeans are just the reverse. They trust one other but have a distrust of all governmental institutions, when compared to the Turks. Deep distrust with respect to institutions of the government is definitely related to corruption. There is a study on that. The European Quality of Life Surveys say that Europeans have this perception, but Turks do not. Does that mean that corruption is less of an issue in Turkey? I do not think so. Just look at the recent corruption allegations in the country. We can discuss the political dimension regarding the timing of the graft probe, but the allegations do need a thorough examination, if you ask me. The poet Özdemir Asaf has a beautifully fitting couplet, “All colors were getting dirty at the same pace/they gave first place to White” of course, maybe Asaf’s White was only claiming to be white. Does all that happening around us imply that Turks have a stronger stomach for corruption? Let me differ here, too. Let me elaborate a little more.
I see this fascination with the State, with the capital “S”, as the Turks’ respect towards their state apparatus. It is not trust, but a respect for everything stately. In this country, we have this respect towards our administrative apparatus. Why? Not because of something in our genes, but because of something in our education system, which feeds us an authoritarian culture, I am afraid. Turks still have a rather militaristic education system, eulogizing the grandeur of a State, written always with a capital “S”. Why do we eulogize an administrative apparatus? That only shows how Turkey still has a long way to go in the European transformation process. Turkey’s EU transformation is not only about establishing a more efficient administrative apparatus, but also about changing this weird attitude Turks have. That was the basis of all the coups in Turkey, and as far as I see, it is still alive and kicking.
Let me give a few examples. The highest level of trust is still towards the army. Despite all the trials and all arguments about the end of the military regime period in Turkey, the status of the army as the most respected institution of the State has not changed at all. The approval rating has a minor dent but it still polls at the top. Second come the primary and secondary schools, and the third most respected institution of State is the judiciary. And there is also the police that can easily compete with the surveys of TESEV and TEPAV on corruption. The latest TEPAV survey was done in early 2013.
Political parties on the other hand are not considered as part of the State apparatus. They all are down below the list of most trusted institutions in the country. We simply do not have the same level of respect for anything outside the state apparatus. It is sad to see just how slowly habits change in this country of ours.
Turks do not trust each other. Among the Europeans, Turks have the lower percentage when asked if they have someone to ask for money in times of need. Ninety percent in Iceland versus 10 percent in Turkey. That much apart. Turks however, do have a respect for their administrative apparatus. For Europeans, the trust for the court/legal system is around 5, out of a scale from 1 to 10, where 10 is the most amount of trust. In Turkey, the score is around 6. We do trust our prosecutors, courts and what not, at least more than the Europeans do. The Ergenekon case has not changed this deep-seated trust, so let’s now see the impact of the graft probe.