Turks are unwell

Turks are unwell

There is a famous dialogue in Mike Nichols’ 1967 film, “The Graduate.”  It is a film about a young college graduate who has an affair with the older Mrs. Robinson, who is the wife of his father’s business partner. Dustin Hoffman plays the lead as young Benjamin. In this scene, he is talking to an old acquaintance of the family, Mr. McGuire, played by Walter Brooke. 

Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.

Benjamin: Yes, sir.

Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?

Benjamin: Yes, I am.

Mr. McGuire: Plastics.

Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?

Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?

That was the age of plastic surgery, which has always been a strange concept to me. It is a direct, aggressive kind of intervention that makes people look good, while inflicting physical and financial pain. Ultimately, it is unsustainable. Thankfully, we live in the age of wellness – vegetable shakes and pedometers – which I am told is more sustainable. Our lives have changed, even in Turkey. We say things like “I am tired, I wish I could go on a good hike.” The Lycian Way, an ancient footpath close to Antalya, is beset by sweaty, rotund Istanbullites aggressively relaxing. And it works. You do feel well at the end. And if you are lucky, you might even look a little better, all without plastic being injected into your face, or fat cut out from your sides.

I was thinking of this while reading Gallup’s 2016 Global Emotions report the other day. Turks are not feeling well at all. We are at the bottom of the positive experience list, right after the Syrians, mind you. The bottom of the list is Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Yemen and Ukraine. These countries are united by their suffering from some sort of internal conflict or another. Turkey however, is the only industrial country among them. 

When asked whether they smiled or had a good laugh the day before, an average of 72 percent of people around the world report that they had a good laugh. Not in Turkey, though. Here, that number is less than 50 percent. More than 70 percent of people worldwide said they experienced a lot of enjoyment, smiled or laughed a lot, felt well-rested and were being treated with respect. That is the average from 147,000 interviews with adults from 140 countries. Not in Turkey. At least half of the Turks, did not experience a lot of enjoyment, did not smile at all and just felt tired. They also did not experience anything interesting. 

Gallup’s findings are supported by MetroPOLL, a Turkey-based polling company. If you look at their numbers for “where the country is going,” there is a steady decline from 2014 into 2015. In June 2015, after the elections that lead to a hung parliament, the receding happiness pulse goes into free fall, while the fear factor shoots up. That was when the peace process broke off, war against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) restarted, suicide bombers detonated themselves in cities and news of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) cells in Turkey became widespread. As a result, by mid-October, nearly two thirds of Turks felt that the country was headed in the wrong direction. Once the Justice and Development Party (AKP) retook power in the second election, Turks’ fear levels significantly receded. However, results of the January and February polls show that as Turkey continues to spiral out of control, Turks are once again losing faith in the country’s future well-being.

What can I say? Turks just do not feel well. It looks like a kind of collective depression to me. It seems that despite having entered the age of wellness, we cannot manage to feel better.