Should we let our curiosity get the best of us?
The Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari’s book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” became enormously popular a couple of years ago. It is a must for everyone in Turkish politics and bureaucracy to at least read the chapter called “The marriage of science and empire,” if not the whole book.
Harari looks for answers to how Europe became the Europe of today, when it was only a microscopic and primitive region compared the Middle East and Asia up until the 1600s or 1700s and Asia was 80 percent of the world’s economy.
“Up until 1750 or around 1800, there was no important difference between Europeans with Asia and China in regards to technology,” Harari says. “But Europe had created a huge potential. And this potential was not about technology but about the difference in ‘mentality.’”
The following example that Harari gives is very interesting: “When the U.K. started constructing a railways France, Germany, and the U.S. immediately followed. But, China, for example, has lagged behind. Actually, they even destroyed the short railway they had built before!”
Then why was it the case European countries, even Russia, were fast to follow each other in the industrial sector, but it was not the same case for Iran, Egypt, and the Ottoman Empire?
The author gives the answer to this question as follows: “The values of China and the Middle East, their justice systems, and socio-political structures were not appropriate to keep up with this change.”
Harari explains the connection of science and European imperialism. He says what made Europe today’s Europe was the appetite European scientists and explorers had to discover and conquer and the foundation for this is that “they recognized their own ignorance.”
Certainly there is nothing to defend about the invasive exploitation of Europe, but in that period, most people living in places Europeans had colonized had thought the world only consisted of themselves! They were not aware of the existence of other continents and other islands next to them, which had been burned and destroyed by colonizers, and now it was their turn!
The Roman, Ottoman, and Chinese empires ruled people under the definition of imperialism, with more human values, which in no way could be compared to European colonization. However, their main difference was the latter had accepted their ignorance and they had a mentality to explore and search. European exploration attempts and early voyages mark the first step of the continent’s progress.
European colonizers violently killed people living in the areas they went to and seized their natural resources. But, at that point, they also did something we can learn a lesson from in modern times: They came back from those primitive regions full of knowledge, thanks to their curiosity!
For example, they found out from American Indians that quinine was good for the treatment of malaria, and then with the help of this discovery, they invaded Africa.
They discovered the Harappan Civilization in India, which Indians were not even aware of! They deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs, and what is a pity is that up until then, no one in Egypt had even attempted to do this!
We do not even need to go out and explore. Three million people have come to Turkey from another country and what do we know about these Syrian guests? Before talking about the possibility of them gaining citizenship, should we not learn about what level of education they have, how many of them are engineers or farmers, and what percentage among them are women, men, youth, and elderly?
Do Turkish institutions have detailed information regarding this issue? Curiosity about their culture set aside, what we can learn from them, what kind of culinary traditions they have, their language, the details of their customs, etc. These are all now a luxury. We do not even know exactly how many of them there are in Turkey! And the year is 2018, I would like to point out!
A snap election will be held on June 24, and what I wonder is the following, rather than how much is promised by the candidates to the pensioners or students and what is going to happen to the dollar: Who is going to prepare this country for the oncoming technology revolution? Or before we confess we do not know, will we say we have the answers to everything and carelessly stay away from exploring, research, curiosity, and new information?
Because we have been unable to reach a mentality that is open to change, curiousity, and holds knowledge above anything else, will we waste time with nonsense debates and watch countries run to pass us before our eyes?
What do you say to thinking about the long-term this time?