Turkey as a giant panic room

Turkey as a giant panic room

Belgin Akaltan - belgin.akaltan@hdn.com.tr
Turkey as a giant panic room

Cityline ferry in Istanbul. Hürriyet Photo

Turkey is cornered. Turkish people are confused. We cannot even begin to think about the future because we are so immersed in the problems of today. Most of us, maybe all of us, are surrounded by fear. 

We use our homes as safe rooms or panic rooms to find some comfort. Wikipedia defines a panic room as “a fortified room … to provide a safe shelter, or hiding place, for the inhabitants in the event of a break-in, home invasion, tornado, terror attack or other threat.” 

We have all of these. Our country has been broken into; we have tornadoes, terror attacks and other threats. Our homes are fortified and isolated emotionally, socially, politically and physically so that these outside threats are minimized and we can breathe a sigh of relief when we are in.

The panic room allegory does not belong to me. I took it from writer Mehmet Tez, who has a column in daily Milliyet which was once a good newspaper. 

He wrote in his column on Feb. 2 that we have two separate lives; we have to be politically correct on the street – the public domain. Then we have the privacy of our homes. He said that when outside, we do not really communicate with each other, but are very careful to be politically correct. Everybody cites politically correct declarations to each other every day, he believes.

Afterward, we withdraw into our shells, into our closed worlds in our private lives. We are “trying to exist and survive in our panic rooms.” 

Columnist Mehmet Tez likens our situation to the Islamic veil. (I just recognized I am talking as if I am not a Muslim woman. As if I am a Muslim “person,” maybe a man… I guess there are two kinds of women and men in Islam. Interesting... I should write about this. Who am I? I am a woman. I am a Muslim. But I certainly am not a Muslim woman…) 

He wrote that men have deemed women suitable to go out only if they put on a veil. He believed that we (including me), just like these women, have an unveiled head, mentality and lifestyle that is far from being politically correct at home, but have to put on a veil when on the street. At home we have no veil, on the street we have to put on a veil. 

I love this. I especially love the extended metaphor when he sums it up as “as men deem it suitable,” and “women suitable to go out with only a veil.” Could this have been explained any better? 

In his Feb. 16 column, he wrote the situation was no good for us, for them or for any of the others: “War can erupt any time. There could be an intervention into Syria. The number of refugees has reached 3 million. We don’t know what to do with them. This is our biggest problem today. The cost of living is growing bigger. Income distribution is worsening, educational problems are piling up. We have urban, environmental and cultural polarization and scenes of civil war coming from the east.” 

On the other hand, we have individual successes, gains, excitements, loves, happiness… When night sets in, Tez pointed out, restaurants, pubs and clubs are full. On weekends, outdoor cafes, the ferry to the islands are jam-packed. We have good concerts now and then and maybe a pleasant exhibition, he wrote. 

“We have meals with friends, nice chats, family visits… Life in the micro-size is like a TV commercial where children run around in a sunny garden,” he said.

We may have made individual gains in recent years, but we have lost so much in our collective life. Tez also wrote that all kinds of condominiums were selling like hot cakes and that the concept of “condos for investment” has appeared, implying that we have all bought a home and are now looking for another as an investment. 

For most of us, the bridge to be built in İzmit Bay, which will take us to İzmir in five hours, is more important than the Syrian border or what is going on in the southeast. A five-hour ride to İzmir, paying the installment for the apartment, car payments, waiting less at the bridge and having a metro station built near your home are all more important, Tez correctly stated. 

We, today, as the people of this country, do not cohabit. We are just passing by, keeping up appearances. Double highways and condos for investment do not heal any of our broken social values… 

In a recent Stanley Weiss article in The Huffington Post, it said that “Mr. Erdoğan’s problems with the Kurds are largely of his own making.”  

All of our problems are of our own making. Maybe we, too, will be able to solve them by our own means… 

A little help from the world would not be bad either…