Eyes wide shut

Eyes wide shut

Since the clashes in southeast Turkey began, two important things have happened in the entertainment world. 1) Total ignorance and disillusionment 2) Punishing the reality. That is how viewers have been reacting to the realities of Turkey, these days. Pretend it doesn’t exist. Think of it as it is gone. When you open your eyes, it will disappear.

TV business and shows are having the hardest times in their ratings these days. Popular historic drama “Kösem Sultan” is struggling to make the top 10. Comedy and dramas on Turkey’s prime time television channels are getting canceled one after another. News channels are getting hit even worse. Nobody is tuning into the evening discussion programs. Instead they are watching cooking and travel shows. People want to watch drama and fighting only when it is fiction. “Real life on our TV screens? Not in my house,” they say.

More and more people are interested in desperate love stories than what is happening in the southeast part of their own country. Look at the ratings for Feb. 3. The top 10 programs are about lost love, desperate love stories and a historic drama about the early days of the Ottoman Empire. But then again, the absurd comedy of Recep İvedik still makes the top 20, even after 10 airings. 

Indeed, this psychology is striking. Turkey has turned inwards in more ways than one. Once a politically fascinated audience, Turks now tune out every time there are political leaders on camera. The Turkish intelligentsia is slowly dying and nobody seems to care about it. There are hundreds of new books on the shelves every month. None of them are making the headlines. Sadly, even Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk feels obliged to give out prime-time interviews to promote his new book, “Red Haired Woman,” and nobody (and I mean nobody, even in literary circles) is excited about it.

A couple of weeks ago, Ertuğrul Özkök, the Hurriyet columnist, claimed that we as a society are losing our Mediterranean spirit, our joie de vivre. He is more than right. We are not just losing our gusto and spirit, we are losing our resilience to stay alive, to stay together and change things. “Nothing will ever change, so why bother,” people say to each other. And things can only get worse. 

This society, right next to a war in Syria, right in the heart of clashes in its homeland, is behaving like rich Baathist society. We are all pretending to stay in bed under the covers, closing our eyes to the reality. Ignorance, apathy and complacency are the biggest causes of failing societies. And it does not have a cure.

One former soldier asked me this in a very calm and disappointed way. “How many people should die to make this part of the country wake up? Are they really in a dream? Or is it actually helping them to stay that way?” It hit me then, he was right on target. There will be more buildings knocked down in Diyarbakir, more construction to do. More money to flush the pro-government businesspeople. European Union funds for Syrian refugees are already giving a heartbeat to some strange NGOs. So why should they feel bad?

When it’s dark, you can’t see the truth. That’s when you lose your dignity.