Shared values, not shared enemies

Shared values, not shared enemies

I was 15 years old in the mid-1990s. Turkey’s Aegean port city of İzmir had started becoming too small for me. I was dreaming about going away to cities foreign to me. I had many different lives in my mind; my dreams could have filled a notebook. And this country was in none of them.

I was a teenager and I was extremely under the influence of American youth culture. I was surprised at Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley’s marriage. While my tears shed for Freddy Mercury had not even dried, I mourned for Kurt Cobain. As if I knew life very well, I was repeating the quote from Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates.”

Amid idealism on the borderline of whimsicality and amid optimism on the borderline of stupidity, one day an essay question and I were looking at each other: “Can there be only one world civilization?” Even though the concept of globalization was introduced as of the 1980s, I did not know what it was and what it was not at that time. I had answered this essay question with a childish naivety.

“Of course there could be. It would be awesome.” I fictionalized a just and free world where borders, weapons and states did not exist, where everybody lived wherever they liked and spoke any language they wanted. I had never thought that globalization would standardize the world and its biggest advantage would be to come across a MacDonald’s, IKEA or Zara everywhere. 

A long time passed… I went abroad and then came back to my country, where I started travelling around; then my identity developed. 

The Aegean was my home anyway. While I travelled through the Black Sea, eastern and southeastern provinces of Rize, Van, Hatay, Gaziantep, Diyarbakır, Kars, Mardin, Sinop, Giresun, Artvin and the Central Anatolian province Eskişehir, the versatility blew my mind. I fell in love with all of them. The more I loved, the bigger my heart grew. 

Geography was a destiny and I recognized in all the places I visited that we were different but at the same time we were sharing the same destiny. 

Meanwhile, let alone one world civilization, with 9/11, the only issue became “the clash of civilizations.” The clash that had always existed here became sharper. 

It became so sharp that when famous actor Tarık Akan died last week, there were those who said, “Let his fire be the hottest,” after the beloved actor whose films we grew up with. 

Or, there were some academia who – knowing that their colleagues were innocent - filed a complaint against their friends that they were members of a terror organization. 

Daily Hürriyet is now asking what our shared values are. I thought about it for a long time. Well, those who shared hospitality, our traditional value, left long ago. Instead of a solidarity culture, a new “lynching” culture has taken its place. 

The shared value of society has become, for a long time, being “valueless.” 

Now, citizens do not have shared values with the society as a whole, but they have values they share with the segment they belong to. One of the things that bind them together is animosity for others.

I am unable to count how many pieces we have been separated into. We are like children who constantly fight, quarrel, brawl and make each other bleed. We are surrounded by insults, stigmatism, fights, clashes, wars and death. Can you keep the names of those who have died every day? I cannot even keep the figures in my mind. 

If we cannot meet at our shared values, either the country will disappear or we will leave the country. 

Our glue can only be shared values, not shared enemies. It is apparent where we should look to rebuild our shared values. We have to adopt universal values, the shared values of humanity. They are tolerance of differences, respect for women, children, the environment and life, economic and social justice, honesty, moderation and freedom. Only these values will save us from the quicksand. 

Most importantly we should cling to justice, peace and democracy like we embrace our child, because the future depends on the establishment of these. Only when more people have the opportunity to have their voices heard in peaceful ways will everything recover.  

In a world that has been standardized for 30 years, if we learn to enjoy our differences, not only we will recover, we will even start our sprint.