Extremity in the discourse of heroism
One of our significant weaknesses in our thoughts and political life is the “extreme acknowledgement of heroism.”
While our conservatives have heroism-loaded concepts such as “the Ottoman geography” and “the geography of the religious community,” our nationalists also have heroism-loaded concepts such as “the Turkish world,” while our leftists have “the downtrodden nations,” don’t they?
Without researching the meanings of these concepts in real life, when somebody delivers a speech with these concepts, don’t we get excited?
Of course it is an asset to have strong feelings; the issue is to be enchanted by these concepts without searching for the information necessary for rational actions, without analyzing the complicated facts and without calculating the balances of power… And most importantly, without thinking about the possible consequences of our actions…
By extreme heroism, I mean thoughtless and measureless acts fueled by rage and victory.
The Arab Spring gave birth to hopes of democracy in states across world. Except for in Tunisia, it ended in disaster. However, the players of the problems were not only states, but at the same time terror organizations, tribes and sects. Moreover, the bipolar world of the Cold War era does not exist anymore, and interests and clashes among the states have become complicated.
The bloodiest and most complicated and difficult to solve issues have emerged right next to us in the Middle East. We are experiencing its bloody effects domestically.
Of course our government did not create these issues, but in such an imbalanced, slippery and dangerous region, making foreign policy with dangerously heroic language such as “We will conduct our holiday prayers at the Grand Mosque at Damascus” or “We will be closing the ‘parenthesis of 100 years,’” has made Turkey’s foreign policy issues even heavier.
Wasn’t it necessary to conduct foreign policy with diplomatic language instead of heroic language?
The chain of incidents triggered by the Arab Spring did close a “century-old parenthesis.” Yes, the borders drawn by the Sykes-Picot agreements in 1916 by the U.K. and France are shaking. But no “Ottoman geography” is emerging out of this. The tremors they have caused are even threatening the Lausanne borders.
Respected historian Prof. Şükrü Hanioğlu wrote a couple of articles on the subject. In his last article, he said, “The Ottoman past is not a ‘value’ that could be used as a tool in terms of relationships with societies [such] as the Bosnian Muslims and Palestinians. We have learned through experience that it is rather a ‘load’ that may trigger the ‘New Ottomanism’ concerns.” Bülent Arınç told CNN Türk television: “Foreign policy cannot be made in town square rallies with heroic speeches; it is not correct to stimulate states.”
I wish before we went through this “experience,” the cost of which was heavy, we had opted for a diplomatic language and stance instead of the heroic and epic discourses.
Free criticism and the existence of a free press in domestic politics are not meant to fuel heroism but to mature ideas through calm debates.
Inner-party democracy is also for freedom of thought inside the party for the same aim. Group meetings of parties were like that here in the past. Unfortunately, for a long time, the party group meetings in parliament have been political rallies held at town squares. Hostility and heroism are preventing our political life from being rational; they are fueling polarization.
My concern is that the work to write a new constitution will also be smothered in heroism and inflated with hostility.
We have seen the damages of heroism in foreign policy through experience. Without smothering a basic law document such as the constitution that will also bind future generations, without filling them with heroic speeches, we should be able to succeed in conducting the process with calm and rational shared wisdom.
In the Islamic world, only Tunisia was able to do this.