Please less paranoia, more self-respect and confidence

Please less paranoia, more self-respect and confidence

Our minds are still obsessed with, and conditioned by, the 1916 Sykes–Picot Agreement, officially known as the Asia Minor Agreement, and the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres.

True, they both sought to carve up the decaying Ottoman dominions. True, they both led to the disintegration of the 624-year long Ottoman Empire on three continents. But still living under the heavy burden of this period after more than 90 years is not healthy. It makes us paranoid and we suspect that every move is a conspiracy against us, our territorial integrity and survival.

True, we live in a treacherous geography, surrounded by neighbors not known in the world’s league of high achievers in democracy and prosperity, but where we are located and what we possess offer immense opportunities if well utilized and smartly harnessed. 

It’s difficult to believe, but we are seeing village coffeehouse-style conversations often prevailing and being taken very seriously in Cabinet deliberations and newspaper commentaries. If it is about the external “dark” forces at work against us, even the dummy “information pollution” in social media gets circulated widely without questioning.

According to such scriptwriters, these forces, whoever they are, have never stopped undermining and plotting against us; they grow a malicious desire to divide, discredit and eventually dismantle our great nation. They are seen as responsible for all misdeeds and failures, not us.

Let’s take the Armenian problem, which it seems will give us a terrible headache over the next few years due to the 2015 commemoration of the historic calamity perpetrated in 1915 during the Ottoman wartime.

If we persist in brushing aside our emotional intelligence in dealing with the so-called Armenian “genocide” and argue that “we did not slaughter 1.5 million Armenians; historians give the 350,000 figure,” it is hard to imagine how this tragic episode in both nations’ psyches could disappear, and how we can leave this deplorable era behind us for a long overdue “reset” in our relations.

Believe it or not, the deep seated fear that holds us back from deploying emotional intelligence is that the Armenians will one day come back from Marseilles, Beirut, Sydney and San Francisco to claim large portions of our eastern Anatolia, which borders today’s land-locked Armenia, if we show any signs of weakness and empathy.

The defenders of our harsh response argue that the Armenian diaspora may even ask for us to pay billions of dollars’ worth of compensation and insurance, and that the U.N. could brand us as “the perpetrators of this century’s first genocide.” There is no way can we make meaningful progress or achieve reconciliation with such a mindset.

Another example is the “Kurdish reality.” To invalidate Kurdish aspirations, some of us maintain that the Kurds have never had a state of their own. “Being mountain tribes and rough people, they do not have a proper language and civilized manners.” We also like repeating that these lands were washed with the blood of our warrior martyrs. So not even a bit of it can be left to the Kurds, the rhetoric goes.

Some sincerely believe that the Kurds are simply toys in the hands of our enemies, as they have been throughout history, and resort to shameless separatist terrorism to wrestle territory from us. “The Kurds of Iraq also harbor feelings of enmity for us, and are awaiting the most opportune time to declare independence. Then, our Kurds will merge with them, as well as with Iran’s PJAK and Syria’s PYD, to create a Greater Kurdistan, at the expense of Turks.”

“The Greeks have never abandoned the Megali Idea in a bid to recapture Constantinople and Smyrna from us.” Yes, such romantic dreaming might exist, but why do they forget that the population of both cities is twice that of today’s Greece.

“Russia, of course, still pursues Peter the Great’s (or “Peter the Mad” in our jargon) dream of reaching the warm waters of Mediterranean through our Bosphorus. It is promoting subversive activities in our country and the regions where we wield serious influence.” They think Putin is going to resurrect Tsarist Russia, again forgetting that Moscow can barely even manage the territory currently under its tutelage.

“The U.S. Congress has never ratified the Treaty of Lausanne and has a hidden agenda to enforce one day Wilson’s Fourteen Points of 1918, governing the self-determination and independence of all the peoples on the Anatolian soil.”

“The EU, started as a Christian union, has no intention whatsoever of letting Turkey join, despite a formal engagement of more than 50 years, because we are Muslim and a powerful country to reckon with. They want us to disintegrate first, so that those digestible European parts could accede to the Union by imposition of its blueprint acquis communautaire.”

“Do not be naive: Israel has a sinister plan to expand the boundaries of the Promised Land to the Euphrates River in the north, which God promised to the descendants of Abraham, as indicated in the Bible. The global Jewish diaspora controls international finance, media, universities and technology, and deploys all their mighty power and instruments against us.”

The list could go on and be expanded to match the degree of one’s suspicions.

All these in a country claiming regional superpower status, with close to $1 trillion GDP, the second largest army in NATO (and the biggest in the region from China to Russia and the United States and Saudi Arabia), the largest agricultural output in Europe, a huge cultural hinterland, a dynamic, well-educated young and entrepreneurial population, 30 million tourists each year and still with an imperial spine...

All these fears and paranoia are too much, even if there is some truth in them.

We are not alone in such behavior. Middle Easterners love being immersed in conspiracies. There are millions of people who actually, wholeheartedly, believe that September 11 was the work of Mossad, contrived to trick America into launching a fresh round of crusades. Remember the vicious Taliban assault on Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani school girl, who courageously spoke out against extremism and in favor of educating girls? Well, many Pakistanis believe that was an American operation — despite the Taliban’s very public claiming of responsibility.

There are those who believe that The Illuminati has planned a global financial collapse that will make the great depression look like a picnic. This will occur, they say, through the maneuvering of the great banks and the world’s financial institutions, through stock and interest rate manipulations.

We have no shortage of such thinking, bordering on the paranoia. Why don’t we try to be more relaxed and have more respect and confidence in ourselves and our capacities, enough to pre-empt and deter any ill-intentioned designs that some might have against this country? At the same time, why don’t we try to be a respected, non-threatening, humble “soft-power,” boasting of its happy and prosperous people, trade and investment levels, cultural diversity and richness, ethnic harmony, natural beauties, and technological innovations?

Then, believe me; whatever threat may be posed, real or perceived, will be minimised and will evaporate. Let’s change this self-defeating mindset. There is no need to be paranoid, instead we should focus on our positive energies and constructive engagements both within and abroad.