The terror of ambivalence

The terror of ambivalence

It is not only the fact that we live in oppressive political circumstances, that freedoms are immensely curbed, and that submission is becoming the only option. Worse, we are now supposed to live under the terror of ambivalence.

As a leftist contrarian I have never been supportive of any mainstream politics. I have always been anti-establishment at home, whether it be Kemalist, neoliberal, nationalist, or Islamist. I have never been an anarchist or libertarian, but I could define myself as a moderate leftist political idealist.
Up until now, it never occurred to me that the time would come when I would confine myself only to hoping for political stability based on law and order, working institutions, and a constitution that guarantees basic rights and freedoms, falling short of full-fledged democracy. As many friends, acquaintances and thousands of others have lost their jobs, been jailed, or gone into exile, I cannot help but lower my expectations, now simply hoping for a return to “normality.” This is the same “normality” that I refused to be satisfied with for many years, as people like me longed for a higher level of democratic rights and freedoms in Turkey. 

Although I have always been very realistic and (consequently) pessimistic political observer, who as early as the end of 2009 was deeply concerned by the authoritarian sway in Turkey, I now think that even I took the previous system for granted. I never really thought that the parliamentary system would be abolished so easily. 

Shortly after the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, politics took an even more authoritarian turn under emergency rule, and I started to think nothing could be done to hinder the ruling party’s ambition to achieve regime change. We now live in a political void and in a state of great ambivalence, before the old system is totally annulled and before the new one is properly known. 

More than 2,000 new laws and amendments need to be enacted to adjust to the new constitution. What sort of new laws will these be? What new powers will be bestowed on the president? What new tools of suppression? We do not yet know exactly. For example, most recently a new state of emergency decree law banned the so-called “marriage programs” on TV. These dating shows are indeed trash, but we do not know what will be banned next “by decree” or by regular new laws.   

As for foreign policy, the worst feeling is the terror of ambivalence. I have always been anti-war, anti-imperialist and anti-nationalist. I have even been critical of Turkey’s EU membership bid, not only because I thought Turkey’s full membership is not a realistic goal but also because such a reliance on the EU process encourages “laziness” on behalf of Turkey’s democratic dynamics. 

It never occurred to me that one day I would be alarmed by the scale of anti-Westernism in Turkey. I have always been intimidated by the existence of ultra-nationalist, irredentist, xenophobic, and conspiratorial foreign policy theories, currents and circles. But until few years ago I did not seriously consider that this line would gain such prominence in Turkey. I was often critical of Western policies whenever I met Western diplomats in Turkey. But I never thought that one day I would have to consider canceling invitations from such Western diplomats, just to avoid media harassment, the accusation of treason, and the accusation of being involved in a foreign plot.