A chicken and egg situation: Peace and democracy
İSMET BERKANThe new debate of our intellectuals seems to focus around the question of whether it would be peace first or solution first.
Actually, I cannot say this is a totally empty and vain debate question, but it seems to me that there is no existing dilemma. This is a fake dilemma that is assumed to exist.
It was this that has always been told to us: “Actually, democratization and freedom plans are ready but because of terror we cannot apply therm.” In other words, when there was no peace, our democracy and freedoms were restricted.
A portion of those resorting to terror and who took up arms said they were doing this because of the shortcomings of democracy and freedom.
A chicken and egg situation.
Now, for almost five months, there has been no armed clash. Nobody is dying. It is indeed difficult to say that terror is over but the terror coming from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has stopped.
What was the government saying in the past? “When there is terror, it is difficult to advance democracy; first the arms should silence.” For some time, the arms have been silenced. Moreover, the PKK armed units are ordered to leave Turkey.
So, we should be waiting for advancement moves in democratization and freedoms. These are to come from the Parliament; the ruling party holds the initiative.
Let’s take a look at the latest debate of the intellectuals… I tried to explain that there is nothing “new” about this argument.
In the past, it was said, “Once terror stops, democracy will come,” and that terror was a block to democracy. Today, a different version of this is being debated: Without democracy, there cannot be peace; first democracy, and then peace.
Again the fake dilemma: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Just as much as “There cannot be democracy without peace,” is a controversial statement, it is equivalently controversial to say “There cannot be peace without democracy.”
Instead of debating between these proposals, wouldn’t it be better to channel the energy of the intellectuals to constructive criticism of the process?
For example, the process unfolded with dazzling speed after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared, “We are negotiating with İmralı,” at the end of December until last week; but it seems as if it has slowed down a bit with the PKK saying “We are withdrawing.” Wouldn’t it be better to divert the energy of the intellectuals to the reasons of this slowdown?
Before deducing deep meanings from every act of the government and each statement of the prime minister and perceiving them as universally valid behavior, should we not focus on the issue right in front of us, the democratization stage of the “resolution process?”
But, No. Unfortunately none of us have an independent position. Everybody positions themselves according to the government. Actually, the “resolution process” is in the background. What is important is our view of the government, our judgment, even our feelings.
Strangely, most of the time, the prime minister and the government also position themselves according to the media, at least in their communications with the society. Especially according to the critical media.
Those who say, “First democracy and then peace,” catch one sentence of the prime minister and immediately take the most pessimistic position, saying, “Look, now you see, there cannot be any democracy coming out of this and consequently no peace either.”
The prime minister also replies immediately to those who talk in such a way about him, saying, “Can there be such an intellectual? They are feeding from the flow of blood.”
As a matter of fact, as I am trying to explain, it is possible to be constructive and critical simultaneously.
It is of course possible to utter this sentence: “Is this mentality that is not able to celebrate May Day expected to achieve democratization and then solve the Kurdish issue?” However, let’s assume this sentence is 100 percent true, there is also the fact that there is no better mentality on the horizon that would beat “that mentality” in the next elections and replace the government.
What I’m trying to explain is exactly the deadlock of the Turkish-style opposition: While opposing the government, the probability of the democratization of the country and freedom for all of us is also being opposed.
As a matter of fact, democracy and freedoms are more necessary for the opposition and the opposing intellectuals than the government.
İsmet Berkan is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published May 7. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.