My country, good or bad!
I spent the last two weeks mostly in London and then in Vienna for two days. My latest journey only confirmed my resolve to live in my country, good or bad. No, I did not go abroad to check if I could ever consider living in these places, but I often encountered this question if I would think of living outside of Turkey, given the political crises and difficulties at home. Both my old friends and the new people that I met for various occasions kept asking whether life in Turkey had become so unpleasant due to political pressures and the changing face of the country that I would consider moving abroad. Each time, I only thought that, God forbid, I hope I will never be obliged to leave my country.
I have never been nationalistic, but I have always thought that there is no place like home. Besides, I realized that such questions offend me, since I have never been so individualistic or elitist to care for my own well-being alone. I know that for many people it is not their choice to leave their country, but it is a real tragedy to be a political or self-imposed exile. Otherwise, even if we suffer from the limits of freedom of expression in our countries, what is the point of living somewhere else? There is no point in enjoying freedom in places in which you do not even need to express your ideas. The problem with freedom of expression derives from the fact that our ideas on politics disturbs the status quo and the ruling ideology; in such a case, what is the point of going somewhere else where our ideas do not matter at all?
Freedom of speech is so important, but only if you enjoy it in your own country, since they are all about your country; otherwise, nobody cares and suppresses your ideas. I have to admit that I do not believe in the advantages of participating in political debate from abroad, especially at times of trouble. The fight for a better, democratic and free society is not possible in an isolated environment outside your country. I realized that even two weeks’ isolation from Turkey’s politics confused me and I missed the mood of the recent opposition “march for justice.” I could only see the real situation when I got back that the most important issue was not to discuss the possible political outcomes of the march, but to support the freedom of protest unconditionally.
I have always thought that it is a futile hope to contribute to democratic debate and struggle from outside. Moreover, I believe in “sharing the experience” with others (hopefully not in prison) who live in the country that I claim to be wanting to improve in democratic ways. Finally, there is a moral question. Of course, I do not think that it is treason to express one’s ideas and criticisms outside of the country, as often suggested by authoritarian rulers. Nevertheless, politics are politics everywhere and the political dissent in one country is taken seriously, mostly if it is in tune with others’ politics. I am absolutely not denying some universal values altogether or failing to appreciate those who really take them seriously and support democratic values on a global basis. Nonetheless, the moral question is still there, since any engagement, other than moral support, at home or abroad is a threat to freedom.
I do not take the saying “my country, good or bad” is an expression of unconditional support to the rulers, but an expression of determination to contribute to the democratic struggle at home rather than from somewhere else.