The Turks are everywhere!

The Turks are everywhere!

I gazed at the tiny graffiti on the interior wall on this Greek island’s oldest tavern, Zouboulis. “The Turks are everywhere,” it said in Turkish, and signed by E.B. and E.D. on Dec. 28, 2013. I wondered why it should make someone so proud to be visiting a neighboring island as if they were on history’s first-ever successful visit to an alien galaxy. I wondered if the half-dozen or so Chinese families who run businesses on the same island ever thought of writing graffiti anywhere: “The Chinese are everywhere.” Probably not, because they really are everywhere.

Lost in thoughts, I admitted how Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s (and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s) almost daily propaganda dance on the theme of newfound Turkish pride must have successfully penetrated into the Turkish psyche, devout or secular. The Turks are everywhere!

A long time ago, I stopped counting how many times a day Mr. Davutoğlu reminded the Turks how good, better than the others and best they and the “New Turkey” are. The European Union needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the club. So do the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, NATO, the United Nations and every other pact or country on earth.

Recently, Mr. Erdoğan claimed that the EU would not be able to shape its future without Turkey. More recently, he claimed that “the Turkish passport symbolizes great value at every foreign checkpoint; it is so respected.”

Probably as an indication of extreme respect for the Turkish passport, over 130 countries presently require entry visas from Turkish nationals. Turks are everywhere – after having their visas inserted into their passports. These countries that have extreme respect for the Turkish passport include most of the African continent, Afghanistan, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, “one nation-two states” Azerbaijan and the Turks’ other next of kin in Central Asia, Turkmenistan.

But apparently the Turkish propaganda for the Turks works well. We are feeling imperial again – because, despite visa queues, we can visit a neighboring island that happens to be in the Schengen zone: The Turks are everywhere!

But forget the big list of countries requiring a visa from Turkish nationals; in fact, there is one simple test the Turks can apply to better gauge the “greatness” of their country. Would the leaders of real superpowers tell their nationals how great their country is – about five times a day? Do the nationals of great countries need to be reminded of their greatness on a daily basis? How does it sound that the nationals of a superpower proudly write graffiti that “they are everywhere?” Do the Americans need to be reminded every day that their country is a superpower? Do the Chinese need to be reminded every day that their country is the world’s most populous? Do the Saudis need to be reminded every day that their government signed oil deals worth $1 trillion in the last three years alone? Would a really great/rich/powerful country need to remind everyone that it is a great/rich/powerful country?

A nouveau-(near)-rich man may like to tell everyone about his bank account – a dozen times a day, perhaps. He may love to start every conversation with a phrase that tells everyone how rich he is. Does Bill Gates need to remind everyone of his wealth? Would a really rich man tell everyone he really is a rich man?

Mssrs. Erdoğan and Davutoğlu are, no doubt, cultivating their crops in fertile ground: the Turks’ post-imperial failure syndrome. The national longing for the glory days is so powerful a feeling that anything sells in the market, including front-page stories that relate how well Turkish footballers in Europe played that weekend and how many goals they scored – which is the equivalent of a front page headline in The Times that says Gareth Bale scored twice for Real Madrid.

With a per capita income of barely $10,000 and embarrassing rankings on the world’s most illustrious democratic indices, the Turks should awake from childish dreams of “being everywhere” to the reality.

For a start, they can ask themselves why every Turkish courtroom is decorated with the famous dictum “Justice is the Foundation of the State.” Then they can ask themselves why only 22.6 percent of Turks trust Turkish courts.