The Turkish ideal, too, is youth

The Turkish ideal, too, is youth

The American author, Henry Miller, once wrote: “The American ideal is youth – handsome, empty youth.” According to the findings of a survey, the Turkish ideal, too, is youth – conservative, empty youth.

Prominent Turkish think-tank SETA, otherwise known to be a fierce enthusiast of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, recently released the findings of its research, “Turkey’s Youth Profile.” It refreshed national hopes that British politician and author Benjamin Disraeli was right when he said that “The Youth of a nation are the trustees of posterity.”

In order to get a socio-cultural snapshot of Turkish youth, a SETA team of academics interviewed 10,174 youths, aged 15-29, from all of Turkey’s seven regions.

According to SETA’s findings:
1) A fifth of interviewees did not have any social security coverage.
2) Most (SETA did not mention a percentage here) do not speak any foreign language.
3) Only one in every 10 has been abroad (and only 1.5 percent has been abroad to study).
4) For those who have been abroad, the top five destinations are Germany, (Turkish) Cyprus, the United States, France and Bulgaria. In the top 10 destinations there are only two Muslim countries: Syria, raking sixth; and Iraq, ranking ninth,
5) The most popular cultural activity is watching TV, and the most popular TV shows are soap operas.
6) The most popular TV soap is “Valley of the Wolves,” whose hero is a Turkish James Bond, plus Rambo, plus Superman, plus every other hero known, with his deeply violent anti-western and anti-Israeli adventures.
7) One-third of the respondents do not read any newspaper (this reminds us of a recent survey which found that books, for the Turks as a whole, are the 235th most important item they need in their lives).
8) Only 12 percent regularly read a magazine (and the most-read one is a pop magazine),
9) They listen mostly to Turkish pop music (52.4 percent) and foreign pop music (22 percent).
10) Slightly over one-third smokes; 21.7 percent drink alcohol and 21.4 percent play lottery games and bet.
11) Forty percent do not do gym or sports.

The person a large section of the Turkish youth most admire is Mr. Erdoğan. Unsurprisingly! And there is not a single woman in the top 10 list of people to admire. Unsurprisingly…

Mind you, the group interviewed by SETA represents the 5-19 age group, growing up at a time when Mr. Erdogan came to power. I am not sure if this is the “devout generation” Mr. Erdoğan has pledged to raise, since there are no findings to measure their devoutness, but the “most admired person” choice gives a clue.

It may sound intriguing that the devout Turkish youth are tempted to visit mostly non-Muslim countries when given a chance to travel abroad. But for the careful observer this should come as no surprise, since Muslim countries have never been the preferred destination - either to visit or to live in - for Muslim refugees all around the world.

It must be a simple twist of fate that dozens of Muslims (and Christians) from neighboring Arab countries and Africa try to infiltrate the border into Israel every day; that “tens of thousands of Arabs and Muslims have put their lives at risk by crossing the border into Israel from Egypt, where (Egyptian) border guards often open fire at women and children,” according to Ramzi Abu Hadid, a Jordan-based Palestinian journalist.

So, this is the profile of the Turkish youth: a not-ignorable percentage of them being outside the social security umbrella; the Turkish youth do not speak a foreign language; do not travel abroad; their top cultural activity is watching TV soaps, most notably the Valley of the Wolves; a significant percentage of them do not read books or magazines; do not do sports, but do not smoke or drink alcohol either. On top of everything, they adore their prime minister!

Is anyone surprised? Not this columnist.