Ashamed to be happy

Ashamed to be happy

“Markets huge slap in the face to lobby of fear” wrote the headline of pro-Justice and Development Party (AKP) daily Sabah last March 18. Dollar sinks, stock market [at] all-time high; we shall not give in to terror and chaos callers.” It was less than a week after the deadly Ankara bombings, a day after the German embassy’s warning about a possible terror attack in Istanbul. And of course, it was a day after the U.S. Central Bank’s (Fed) decision to keep the interest rates intact. Sabah showed us once again that the markets have absolutely no virtue, no humanity. 

Some papers make us believe it is okay when 37 people die, as long as the dollar goes down and the stock market rallies. Sabah’s editors may think its readers are absolutely stupid. But its owners and its shadow owners have a duty not to. It is one thing to keep the morale of society high, but it is a complete disgrace to make money on a situation that is hemorrhaging society.

So come March 19, a Saturday, when newspapers supposedly print all their glossy pages and advise people on where to go, what to eat, what to wear, etc., another suicide bomber hit the center of Istanbul. “We are not afraid, we are here” shouted the headline of pro-AKP daily Yeni Şafak. Sorry gentlemen, but we are. And so was more than half of Istanbul. That Saturday, during a relatively mild and rainy morning in the well-off neighborhoods in Istanbul, there were fewer cars on the streets than during a snowstorm. Parking lots were empty, shopping centers were ghost towns. So stop lying. We were all afraid and we will continue to be.

People were not simply afraid; they were ashamed to be alive and happy. Cafes and restaurants were vacant.

Buses and metro lines operated for only a few people. Neighbors started eyeing each other’s backpacks with fear. You could almost touch and hold the sadness and darkness in the air.

Not only just that, thanks to pro-AKP and pro-President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan papers (and they are not always the same) news outlets became a lying machine. While crossing the Bosphorus Strait on a chartered Üsküdar boat, a 70-ish lady sitting next to me told her friend that “the death toll in Ankara was definitely more than 50,” that “the media was hiding stuff and telling lies” and that “on the Istanbul bombings, the news channels would absolutely NEVER tell the truth.” 

“She may be right,” I thought. Our so-called colleagues have created such a fictitious atmosphere that we may never hear about a bombing at all. 

Once you start bending the truth to keep your seat and lofty salary, once you start hiding the facts just to appear on TV screens and brag about it, once you become the slave of the lie you’ve told, there is no turning back. 

That is why people ended up watching the gameshow “Survivor” last Saturday night. They think there is more real life there than anything else on news channels. All the bickering, backstabbing, gossiping and physical strength to stay in a stupid game became something more real than the stuff they hear from “terror experts.”

On Saturday, Sunday and Monday, we were ashamed to live and enjoy life as normal people do. But then again, after all the lives lost in the southeast, this may be too little, too late.