Turkish PM’s conservatism is debatable
TAYFUN ATAYThere is indeed a continuity in comments that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has made following from his anti-co-ed living arrangement stance.
Yesterday, he was telling people, “Go and drink at home,” and before that he was mentioning restrictions on abortion. It should not be unexpected that the same person says these words.
However, it should also be noted that there is nevertheless a “qualitative” difference between them.
The prime minister’s previous views which were navigating at quite extreme ends had a degree of acceptability, whether we like it or not, within a “factual” evaluation and from a universal-comparative perspective, within the criteria of conservatism. In his last “bomb,” however, it is difficult to correlate his conservatism with being a democrat. The only explanation of this could be by “bigotry.”
For this reason, what looked the most artificial of all the prime minister’s comments on the co-ed living arrangements of students is his “conservative-democrat” phrase.
Conservatism is a “modern” ideology or an intellectual position. Conservatism is a pursuit on the road to overcome the damages stemming from change, without rejecting change. It is the option of moving toward the future by “holding on” to the tradition. And, yes, on this road, it is a concern that traditional values are weakening, the family institution is withering away and religion is falling from favor.
However, what conservative policies can do is limited to the “public domain.” Besides, even from this perspective, there are various positions within the scope of conservatism. As in any ideology, it also has radical and moderate wings. A conservative political movement opts to place itself under one of those “wings” also based on other principles that form part of its program. For example, it is impossible to accommodate a radical conservatism within the Justice and Development Party’s administrative mentality.
Radical conservatism, for example, may adopt an official censorship on artistic, literary and popular cultural products such as books, magazines, paintings and films on grounds of obscenity, etc. However, the moderate wing would not do it if it has concerns that this is against human rights and freedom of expression, especially if it is insistent that the economy should proceed with full speed liberalism; at the most, it can block state funds for those who produce such publications. Radical conservatives would resort to banning abortion all together; whereas, the moderates, with the flexibility portrayed above, at most, would insist on cutting off official funds to and support of health centers who carry out abortions.
However, be it radical or moderate, if there is one place where no conservative can extend his or her hand to, that is the “private sphere.” Conservatism, then, crashes to the walls of modernity which has actually contributed to its own existence.
Yes, unfortunately, the conservative policies could launch certain initiatives to restrict the individual’s certain demands and behaviors in the public domain, but it would not dare, it cannot dare to question, restrict and prevent what the individual does in his or her private life. If this is in question, then the equivalent of this is not conservatism, but bigotry.
With his last proclamations, Prime Minister Erdoğan, let alone being a conservative democrat, renders society to question how conservative he really is. And this is what should actually be discussed.