Ergenekon in the eyes of the ordinary citizen

Ergenekon in the eyes of the ordinary citizen

The Ergenekon issue is mainly discussed in regards to the court case and its actors. The debate over the Ergenekon case and other concerns surrounding it are among the most important indicators of the deeper political polarization developing in society. Indeed, this debate is one of the dynamics – and at the same time one of the outcomes – of this polarization.

Let’s sum up the data of the KONDA surveys. Some 55 percent of society regards the Ergenekon case as “a fight against gangs,” while the other 45 percent thinks “the government is punishing the opponents” through this case.

Some 87 percent of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) voters regard the case as a fight against gangs and 83 percent of main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) voters and 70 percent of opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) voters assess the case as punishment against opponents.

A similar finding is observed in society’s reactions to the idea that “the military should be able to take over if required.” While 47 percent of society rejects this idea, 14 percent have a neutral position and 39 percent support it. The question is this: Why, in the debates surrounding this case, are there different positions taken, as if society is split in the middle?

Behind this are different mind maps, sensitivities, perceptions and expectations of different social, cultural and political clusters. However, the effect of how the case was conducted is just as crucial. What has emerged today as a situation of two almost equally sizable social clusters has somehow gone beyond the mentality of old-school state and military tutelage and looks to be the most important mental and political obstacle before becoming a democratic society.

The ecosystem that fed this mentality of old-school state and military tutelage has fractured and started to change with the global and domestic dynamics of the past 20 years, as well as the changing rhythm and actors of daily life. When there was no consensus reached among actors over policies and methods as there formerly were, a search developed for the rhythm of a new life. Certain actors, though, have organized themselves, splitting from the ecosystem to prepare for coups the way they know how.

Consequently, we are talking on the one hand about acts and organizational activities that are crimes to be prosecuted and on the other hand about a mentality that needs to be fought against.

In order to fight this mentality, there is a need for a number of changes in several levels and fields, from law to education, in political and social platforms. There can be a mentality transformation only if the struggle against the state perception embedded in the existing education system is conducted not through individuals but in parallel with changes in the mentality based on controlling the citizen. That, or the democratization of politics, society and life can be provided by transforming the administration system from centralization to decentralization and by producing permanent institutions and regulations for these transformations.

For this reason, if these cases had been directly focused on the offenders, if Parliament’s current commissions on coups and other similar commissions had been set up at the beginning and if the political showdown had been pulled to the political platform, then today we might have been talking about a different political climate. As a matter of fact, these cases have grouped together those who have committed crimes with the holders of this mentality. Because no discrimination was made between crime and mentality, there was an opportunity for those being tried for committing a crime to form a new defense line. Those who have directly planned coups, those who have started acting concretely within this context and those who have been engaged in psychological warfare, found the opportunity to minimize their actions and drag the issue into a political fight.

For this reason, since the democratization and restructuring of the state regarding its institutions and regulations has still not been accomplished, and because the required changes have not been made necessary for the mentality change behind education and law, because democratization has not been presented as a political vision before society, no matter how these cases end, they have not been able to create a new consensus and an opportunity for hope; they have served as tools for polarization.

Bekir Ağirdir is a columnist for daily Taraf in which this piece was published on Dec. 20. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.