Absurdstan: A Turkish theory of heaven

Absurdstan: A Turkish theory of heaven

The country, east and west, has been in flames: Bombs, asymmetrical warfare and death. It is an extremely painful job to keep count of the dead since July 2015 when Turkey moved from “less violent” to “very violent.” The final count shows “too many.”  

Scandals, political tensions and tragedies no longer shock a traumatized nation. The coup attempt on July 15 did. The sweeping purges in its aftermath do not. Conspiracy theories galore. Fear and paranoia abound. Abnormal is the new normal. Scenes of insanity no longer deeply bother.  

But the economy is performing well? Does it, with the country’s credit rating cut to “junk” level? Moreover, Turkey boasts the third worst income distribution in Europe. More than 17 million Turks, or about 20 percent of the entire population, live in poverty. More than half of Turks live on a monthly income of $300. Nearly 8 million Turks, who make up the poorest 10 percent income slice, must survive on $107 a month. The poorest 20 percent takes only 6.1 percent of the national income. 

In 2015, there were four murders a day. According to official crime data, there were a total of 1,263 murders from the beginning of 2016 until Sept. 9. That makes five murders a day. In the same period, 248 women were killed, primarily by their husbands, sons or boyfriends. Ironically, 82 victims had appealed to security officials complaining of domestic violence. Thirty-four of the victims were in the police protection program. 

The man who hit the driver of a metrobus in Istanbul last week, causing a big crash and injuries to 11 people, will soon be erased from the collective Turkish memory. Just 11 people injured? Mere triviality in a country that stinks of death. Without the scenes of half a dozen cars under the bus, the incident would not have even made it into the front-page headlines. The man who kicked a young nurse in the face on a bus because she wore shorts last week, too, will disappear soon from the Turkish memory. Just like another bus driver who, only a couple of weeks before the latest incident, stabbed a passenger for merely asking that the air conditioner be switched off. 

Someone badly beating a boy with disabilities, 54 fatalities in road accidents in just nine days of the recent holiday, a police officer shooting dead someone who had called him a “Gülenist,” another police officer who shot dead his wife and father-in-law and injured his mother-in-law and 50,000 purges from government jobs in one night are some of the forgotten headlines from the past few weeks. 

Against such a backdrop, the Turkish judicial system, now hit by thousands of judges and prosecutors purged or detained for being Gülenists, must decide if Gollum is evil.    

Fortunately, there was some expert help for the Turkish court that must decide if JRR Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” character is evil or not. A court-appointed panel of Turkish experts ruled that the character Gollum is not evil but just an innocent victim. 

Even the line “a court-appointed panel of experts ruled that the character Gollum is not evil” is more than amusing in a country that fights coup-plotters, a multitude of terror groups and must also fight radical Islamists in a neighboring country.  

Despite a potential happy ending, the story of how Gollum found his way into a Turkish courtroom is not amusing. Last year a Turkish physician posted on his Facebook account a series of pictures of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan alongside images of Gollum. He was taken to court for insulting Mr. Erdoğan.  

Two filmmakers, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, earlier said that the images posted on the Turkish physician’s account were not even Gollum, but Smeagol, the other half of Gollum’s split personality.

Fortunately, the filmmakers described Smeagol as a “joyful, sweet character who does not lie, deceive, or attempt to manipulate others.” That is good news for the suspect.  

And, judging from the filmmakers’ description of Smeagol, who else could have thought that the images on the physician’s account were Gollum’s? Positively Smeagol!