index ::: Rejection Episodes

Vooruit
daily from 19.00 till 23.00
7-16 DECEMBER (closed on sunday)
De Centrale
daily from 18.00 till 20.00
7-10 DECEMBER

participating artists and designers are Hatice Guleryuz, Ali Cabbar, Yesim Agaoglu, Nermin Er, Zekiye Sarikartal, Koken Ergun, Arzu Ozkal - Orhan Telhan, Osman Bozkurt, Bengisu Bayrak, Extrastruggle, Banu Cennetoglu, Ceren Oykut and Ali Taptik.
Against The Fabrication of “Yes” and “No”
by Süreyyya Evren

We know that ‘East’ and ‘West’ are not really geographical, but actually ideological terms. And nowadays, they work like a vacuum; the relationship between Turkey and the EU is defined in terms of these ideologies- how we understand and confront them.

Turkey is currently a candidate for membership to the European Union together with a couple of other countries. Yet, it goes without saying, that there are some exceptional conditions specific to Turkey. However, the uniqueness of Turkey’s potential accession to the EU and its prospective consequences for regional and global politics is not what I’d like to discuss here.

Rather, I will argue that such major decision making processes on the international scale compel us, the ‘ordinary people’, to think like diplomats do. Moreover, we are losing our authority and ability to transform our own living conditions. The task of transforming our locality is totally engrossed by the imagined prospect of this representative promise of entering the EU, integrating with a much more democratic and wealthy territory posed as an exquisite paradise that warmly awaits to welcome us with the promise of mental and material salvation. The differing views on this issue are succumbed to fit into two categories: ‘yes to the EU’ or ‘no to the EU’ (the same goes for the other side of the negotiation: ‘yes to Turkey’ or ‘no to Turkey’). Some critical views posit the problems around these debates as the central controversy regarding the prospect future EU expansion. However, this synthetic double bind has a more distressing impact on those who dread exclusion, namely Turkey.

Prejudices are being forced to become new opinions; in-between positions are gaining less and less attraction.

We need to concentrate on the stories of ‘ordinary people’ and how their everyday practices relate to the ongoing diplomatic debate. We have to question how these major political decisions of large scale involvements affect daily life. How do we react to these pyramidal developments, and what clues can we get about ourselves through examining our reactions?’

Accepting or rejecting the EU or Turkey really doesn’t matter. However, how we react to the hegemony of these questions is significant.

Unfortunately, not only political actors but intellectuals, artists, writers and philosophers as well sometimes uncritically identify with the position of ‘consultancy for the state’. The term ‘state consultancy’ addresses the enterprise of using and mobilising knowledge for the benefit of the state. “What the state should do” is the main concern for such reasoning.

Under these circumstances, the modern ideal role ascribed to the intellectual to reveal and communicate the hidden truth for the common interest disappears. The truth is no longer about ongoing life politics. The truth has been imprisoned into the tight constraints of diplomacy…

We find ourselves in this game of trying to figure out which expert is closer to the truth (best for the state). What is left in shadow is: our lives, our decisions and our empowerment...

The representational pressure wants to lock us in conventional dilemmas. We find ourselves stuck between two extreme choices. Very much like the Italian and US nationalist motto “love it or leave it,” –also frequently used by Turkish nationalists. The ‘society engineering’ viewpoint combined with this logic leads to everything being coded by mega diplomatic projects with weak ties to ordinary daily life.

The process forces people both from the EU and Turkey to take sides by insisting on abstract questions: “do you support Turkey’s entrance into EU or not?” “Should Turkey be in the EU?” “Tell us which side you’re on.”

We are discouraged from thinking on a minor scale, from pursuing the repetitious, recursive strategies of the demonstrative... Instead we are led to consult state officials for their forthcoming decisions.

However, we can re-formulate our own multi-perspective questions. For example we can question the EU-process’ affect on daily life in Turkey, how the motto ‘another world is possible’ affects ideas on changing and transforming life. And symmetrically, how would Turkey’s accession process affect life in the EU?

Discussions run in such a way that they lead people in Turkey (even figures from the left-wing) into conceiving the EU as a homogenous block, and the EU citizens into conceiving Turkey as a homogenous unity. When we say Turkey or the EU, it can either mean the EU Governance and Turkish State (the government and other governing elite), or it can signify everyday life in the country called Turkey and life in the lands governed by the EU.

When addressing a ‘European audience’ about Turkey-EU relationships, it is extremely vital to underline Turkey’s heterogeneous character, just as it is vital to signify the heterogeneous character of the EU when addressing a ‘Turkish audience’. Many people know very well that the Turkey of belly dancers is just a window display. Images shaped by early orientalists hundreds of years ago are still used in the advertisement business, and Europe as a block only exists when you are not in Europe.

There is always a need to re-emphasize that Turkish society has many façades, different cultural layers, various divergences. Different regions have different histories, different traditions, diverse political interests, class conflicts. And there are many distinctions between the European elite and the European labourer.

The aim of the state-consultant perspective is to tie us to strategic managing roles so that we can look at Turkey and the EU through the eyes of the ruling elite, or as their consultants. The strategic pleasure of this interpreting machine pushes today’s agenda way into a fictional futuristic plot.

An editor of a Turkish socialist magazine recently said; “if we become more democratic in the end, it doesn’t really matter who leads us there.” Yet, as the counter-argument goes, it actually does matter, - the path is more valuable than the destination...

These recent days have been witness to the crippling of democratic rights by devolutionary measures that have recently been introduced in a revised constitution. And sadly, there have been no major reactions to this. ‘Rulers’ grant certain rights, freedoms, and later they whimsically take some of it away. Everything remains on paper, in closed rooms, far away from our will. It is possible that the Turkish government might give in to EU pressures and restitute some of the freedoms - playing yo-yo with democracy...

It is generally assumed that a transforming vision is the property of the Left. The political left aims at transforming and trans-valuing life, turning it into something else -“another world”. However in the case of Turkey, when the prospect of transformation is ascribed to the authority of a broader unity like the EU –operating absolutely from the top, through the governmental hierarchy, pyramid-like – the project of the left starts loosing its meaning. Why should people actually struggle to transform their locality if the EU is going to accomplish this task for them anyway. They just feel like they should sit and wait, and ‘after the EU finishes its job, democracy can be further pursued’. This is the kind of reasoning in charge here... The logic ascribing redundancy to fierce reactions against undemocratic laws, since ‘they will have to change in order to enter the EU’, renders the transforming potential of the left to nothing.

Therefore, the problematic issue for us is not in finding the right strategist who will decide whether or not Turkey should enter the EU, but rather the manner in which we will go through the process of contemplating and realising ‘another world’. How can representative politics be disrupted? What actions will we take when strategists do not include us in the decision making process, but instead lead us to the illusion of inclusion by granting the expression of pre-formulated options? Relative democratisation coming with the EU bid might even harm leftist politics because of the revoking nature of such freedom.

Isolation certainly is not the answer for to this situation. However, the present nationalist and conservative wave in Turkey make it difficult to empower the left, specifically what we conceive as the horizontal left. The ‘nationalist left’, the boosted fraction that nowadays claims the leading role in maintaining (!) the status quo and organising the anti-EU block, is particularly repulsive. Reactive politics for active political stands are weakening.

The Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoon controversy has also reinforced reactive sentiments against the EU. It sets a good example for understanding the nature of global cultural polarizations active today and how they are fabricated. 12 editorial cartoons, most of which depicted the Islamic prophet Muhammad, were published in the Danish right-wing newspaper Jyllands-Posten on September 30, 2005. The controversy grew; the cartoons were reprinted in newspapers in other countries, which led to protests - particularly in the Muslim world... And soon we found ourselves in midst of a strong polarisation which caused further trouble for critical voices on both sides: people struggling for freedom of expression in Muslim countries, and people striving for improvement in immigration policies, minority rights and sympathise with no-border campaigns in Western countries. The fantasy about the clash of civilisations has gained more followers.

The ‘idealism’ of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in trying to ‘resist’ the self-censorship of political correctness and ‘defend’ freedom of press and expression has turned into a totally negative function for freedom fighters in both Western and Islamic contexts. Quite resembling the doctor in Danish film director Lars von Trier’s Epidemic – the idealist doctor who was actually the source of the epidemic. Dr. Mesmer (played by Trier himself) inadvertently spread the very disease which he fought against.

**

It is tremendously important not to fall into the traps of essentialism. Strategies are needed to avoid reaffirming prejudices and reflecting what was given. Various artists have been working in this field –rejecting to stay on only one side, nevertheless not being able to sufficiently overcome walls, trying to find ways of walking inside the walls, being able to continue through in-between positions. They direct strong criticism to both sides and to divided walls, creating energy to show the contingent nature of divisions. As Frida Kahlo once said, “nothing is black”…

index ::: Rejection Episodes