Words and manners matter
A few days ago, the driver of a metrobus, (a public transport means used by millions of Istanbul residents), was attacked by a furious passenger who had asked the driver to open the door to let him out although the vehicle had not stopped. The vehicle was diverted from its line and crashed into cars heading in the other direction.
Thankfully nobody was killed, but everyone living in Istanbul felt as if their everyday life was on the hook once again.
Last week, a woman wearing shorts was kicked in the face by a man on a public bus. The man who was detained said women should dress “appropriately” or otherwise be considered “satan,” adding that the government should do something about it.
From these examples, it is hard to shake a sense there has been a rise in public violence.
Small things lead to big changes. Some time ago we stopped being polite to people we don’t know: To strangers passing on the streets or to people with whom we share the same bus or metro.
We stopped saying sorry, we stopped smiling and we started to act as if we are enemies: Angry on the streets. Angry while driving. Angry while walking.
When did this happen? What happened to manners? When did we become harsh people who cannot even say “sorry” to someone who we accidentally bump into while walking?
Anger has become a collective behavior. And when you try to trace its origins, all signs lead you to politicians.
I blame politicians. All of them. The ruling party, the opposition, left, right, Turkish, Kurdish, liberal or conservative. No matter which “world” they belong to, they act in the same way.
The language that politicians use creates a behavioral trajectory for the people. For a long time, people have watched politicians speaking loudly and furiously with each other through television, especially ahead of elections.
In Turkey, election campaigns mean verbal violence. If you watch TV during this period, you can feel the anger haunting every TV studio in every news station.
Politicians speak angrily, as if they are all enemies with each other, as if they don’t live, work and care for the same country.
This verbal violence they have for each other polarizes most of the voters. Not only politics itself, but the language that politicians use has started to seep into everyday life. We have started to experience rudeness on public buses. We have started to experience the irrational fury of people for each other thanks to politicians’ verbal abuse for each other.
We have learned by example.
The rudeness that has “blossomed” on TV screens, watched by more or less every single household in this country, has effectively normalized verbal violence. We have become the people that we watched on TV.
Violence is like a contagion. It might start small, affecting a small number of people, but suddenly you find yourself in a public bus that is crashing into cars heading in the opposite direction on a highway because a passenger and the driver have had a fight over a minor issue.
It’s only a matter of time before you bump into someone who feels that he can kick you because of your mini dress.
Words and manners, the language that we use when we communicate, mean everything. They mean life itself. Politicians need to acknowledge the fact that if they do not “soften” their voice and tone to make it more humane, violence will rise.
Have we reached a tipping point? Not yet. But politicians certainly need to make a big change to the way they talk and act. One Trump is more than enough for the whole world.