Alcohol McCarthyism

Alcohol McCarthyism

Mehveş EVİN
Man, the Turkish yogurt drink called “ayran” has been fashioned into an anti-booze symbol, bravo! A government can only interfere this much with the eating and drinking culture…

As a matter of fact, when I was writing about the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) latest regulation about alcoholic drinks, I had not thought the draft would be approved with so little change. Stupidity, you know. Did we not guess that one day or another some adjustments would have been made? Not having found the courage yet to ban alcohol all together but making it almost impossible, to put those who are drinking in a position as if they were guilty and those who sell alcohol as if they were doing an embarrassing business… And to demonstrate the cunningness of presenting this as a fight against the evil of alcohol, or shall I call it the hypocrisy? Didn’t we know that all of these were coming?

I am confessing: What bothers me the most was that I was on the defensive side when AKP first walked into power 10 years ago and when the secular segments cried, “Behold, monsters are here!” I had said, “Don’t exaggerate.”

I also remember being angry at those who said, “In the future you will have to veil yourself, you will not be able to drink and will have to live according to religious laws.”

Because when I looked at the pragmatism of AKP and its leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, I thought it would not suit them to form such an oppressive order. I was wrong.

Social engineering

You will remember the daily Cumhuriyet’s commercials that said “Are you aware of the danger?” Also those who interpreted AKP’s every step, the conservatives’ every discourse as hypocrisy… Well, they had a point.

In those days, it was AKP which worked like no other political party had ever worked before for the EU membership. However, together with the EU, the democratization discourse was also shelved. With economic growth, dreams of a Middle Eastern caliphate came around. A justice reform was needed, but trials turned into judicial scandals.

We are dragged from one social engineering project to another…

Oya Baydar summarized the issue perfectly in her article on T24: “The victims of yesterday who were justly complaining about the Kemalist social engineering, for being interfered with because of their lifestyle preferences and not being able to follow their beliefs in freedom, those victims of yesterday, now they have come to power, they are trying to take steps, not only on the alcohol issue, but in several other matters regarding life. These are attempts to design the society according to the framework of their own belief, ideology and life culture.”

Alcohol McCarthyism

I have always found it strange that the AKP defines itself as conservative democrat. To my understanding, a politician cannot be both democrat and conservative because the two contradict each other. Especially the conservatism in question takes its references from Islamic values…

Conservatives argue that the alcohol law is to protect the youth from alcohol and to fight against alcoholism. Those who argue the opposite, according to this mentality, are branded as alcoholics and sinners. The booze version of McCarthyism. Here you go…

Several businesspeople and media members do not drink publicly nowadays to gain favor with the government and they hide their true thoughts on the matter. While ayran glasses are toasted when business deals are made, nobody is bothered by this hypocrisy.

Is this the way to fight alcoholism? I know what kind of an evil alcoholism is from my first degree kin. You cannot stop an alcoholic with such bans. On the contrary, you would create an environment which will tempt the already inclined and will pave the way to bootlegging. Drinks are not a privilege for those who have a lot of money and access to luxurious venues.

Most pathetic of all is this despotic atmosphere created by this interference in the culture of eating and drinking, thus to an individual’s right to choose. I would drink ayran, or I would drink rakı, according to my taste. The state cannot impose on me what to drink where and how.

Man, I will start hating ayran!

Mehveş Evin is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this piece was published on May 23. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.