On democratic dissent
Last weekend, I met two leftist friends of mine at a restaurant and “the issue” came up, although I have avoided discussing why I had been expelled several months ago from an opposition republican newspaper I had been writing a political column for at the time.
I avoided making a fuss about it only because I did not want ruling party supporters to abuse it in order to justify the suppression of the opposition.
As we talked and talked, it was finally a veteran socialist friend of mine who supported me by stating it was an unfair decision.
Nevertheless, I was disappointed that my left-liberal friend sort of tried to justify the newspaper’s decision. I did not think he was very happy with the decision, but he still came up with possible reasons I had perhaps wanted to provoke the newspaper by writing a very controversial article. Then, I had in fact contradicted reality by questioning Darwin’s theory of evolution, he said.
Now is the time to explain what had happened in the first place. Last summer, there was a debate on the ruling party’s decision to remove the topic of evolution from biology textbooks and place it in philosophy courses. I wrote that despite opposing many of the ruling party’s measures about the education system, I am among those who think Darwin’s theory of evolution is no more than a working theory of science. In response to the reactions of readers, I wrote another column to try to explain my point—that we should not confuse matters of science with those of philosophy—to no avail.
Then, another debate came up on the ruling party’s decision to allow religious authorities to register marriages. I argued that the real issue must be about protecting the secular civil law rather than focusing on who registers marriages. However, it was too much for the managers at the newspaper. They called me to tell me I had violated their Kemalist principles and they decided to end my column.
In fact, I have always been a keen supporter of Republicanism and have been “accused” of being a Kemalist by liberals when Kemalism was a bad name for an intellectual. But no, I was not a Kemalist since I had been critical of the rigid understanding of Kemalism that had led to the suppression of conservatives and the Kurds and always called for the democratization of Republican politics. In the end, I turned out to be a kind of persona non grata by different people at different times.
I am not writing to complain about my solitary opposition nor to claim that there is no difference between the ruling party and its opposition in terms of tolerating dissent. I believe that it is always those who have more power who should be more tolerant since they have the means to suppress others.
Nevertheless, I always feel more disturbed by the intolerance of those who claim to be liberals and democrats and it is an odd feeling to be censured by two different political circles. Finally, it is not a personal matter, it is a greater matter concerning the absence of genuine understanding of liberties in my country. It may be the reason behind why we have ended up with the current situation. After all, if it is the powerful who have to be more tolerant, it is the democratic dissent who has to be more careful about moral superiority.