Hating the educated: Doctors, diplomats, writers
In the political domain, the crisis with the United States and the economic outlook are issues dominating Turkey. But in the public domain, there are a number of heated issues dominant among the general public.
One of them is the attacks on medical doctors in hospitals, either by patients or their relatives and friends who think they should be prioritized for treatment at that exact moment. The attacks are physical. In the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, the relative of a patient hit an emergency room doctor in the head with a brick of cobblestone because the doctor refused to treat the attacker’s relative since he was treating another patient. The doctor was hospitalized for suffering traumatic brain injury. There are many similar examples happening almost every day across the country. The Turkish Union of Physicians has asked the Health Ministry and Interior Ministry for extra measures to protect them from attacks by patients or their relatives. The attackers say they were unfairly treated. Most are from rural areas, are poorly educated and financially poor; they think it’s their right to receive public service — which is 100 percent their right — but each of them thinks he or she should be prioritized over others, who also think the same way. They believe doctors are discriminating them just because of who they are. The potential attacker thinks: “Does she or he have the right to kick me aside and treat others just because they are university-educated?”
That has the potential to turn into hatred from the educated. Doğan Tılıç, a sociologist and journalist, says the poor and poorly-educated masses that migrated to big cities tend not to differentiate between the rich and the educated. They believe they are all the same: They own cars and deserve to have their tires slashed. Except, the rich are not as vulnerable. There can be a benefit for you if you play up to them. But a doctor, writer, teacher, or diplomat is vulnerable. You can do whatever you like to them and get away with it out of your self-righteousness.
The reflections of this plebian motivation could be seen in the political domain, for example, when it comes to the diplomatic service. Only a few politicians truly respect their experience, expertise and art in state and international affairs. Some of them pretend to respect them for the sake of not giving a bold impression and the rest simply dislike them and try to snub them whenever the opportunity occurs.
Of course in representative democracies, it is the elected leadership that draws the political line and diplomats, soldiers, treasurers and all other bureaucrats are expected to implement policies. Nowadays, there is a silent debate about the transformation of the Foreign Ministry in accordance with the new presidential governance system.
Like in other ministries, the diplomatic service, which is a structure that is almost a century old, is waiting to be restructured. Ottoman historian Şükrü Hanioğlu wrote in his column in Sabah newspaper on July 30 that some state traditions should be protected from abrupt changes and the diplomatic service is one of them.
This is not something particular to Turkey. United States President Donald Trump has been criticized for trying to sideline the diplomatic service and tends to carry out all negotiations himself, leaving no place to maneuver, as in the last crisis with Turkey over the arrested pastor Andrew Brunson. The public messages with Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan did not help much with the situation either.
Going back to the subject of the tendency of hating the educated is not something particular to Turkey and should perhaps be studied by scholars regarding its possible links with rising populism all over the world.