Have I ever been to China? I mulled the question in my head for a split second and said “yes, indeed” but that was a long while ago and just for a few days to Beijing only. I was attending bilateral talks on Iraq part of a small delegation of three when during lunch break I had the sudden thought that “wow, this white wine I am sipping has an unexpected knockout punch” as the floor started moving sideways under my feet. My virility punctured, I excused myself and tried to get up to go to the men’s room but couldn’t and held up on my shaky legs to the side of the big round table.
As if looking for an answer I turned my sheepish gaz to other attendants and realized they were looking back at me with I had thought at the heat of the moment as pure astonishment. “Well, I must look really like shit” I thought when one of our polite Chinese hosts pointed at the window behind me with an enigmatic oriental grin. I turned back to see the giant tower crane across the street on a skyscraper construction site oscillating right and left as a metronome. That earthquake saved my virility and I sat back to chat about how we are used to earthquakes back at home in Turkey.
This long unasked for introduction is to say outright that your humble servant does by no means pretend to be a China expert far from that. The Turkish reader may as well be invited to check Dr. Ceren Ergenç’s masterly column in our sister Gazete Duvar edition to thoroughly dwell into the nitty-gritty of the new Hong Kong law. Yet at the same time yours truly firmly believes that without any relativization anyone of us has the full right on the matters concerning in short “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” as we see them fit. By the same token, the recent constitutional modification in Russia too is a subject on which we must be able to have unflinching say without even having a modicum of familiarity with neither Russian history nor Russian culture.
In the case of Hong Kong, it is a case of national sovereignty and fight against so-to-speak separatism or even separatist terrorism. To re-install its full sovereignty that escaped till now its iron grip the mandarins of Chinese Communist Party decided to act quickly to eradicate any bubble of fresh air on the island. Exerting power is of essence when vigorously laying the foundations of uniformity. Uniformity is a must for sovereignty when one is a nationalist and pluralism is anathema. As being familiar with earthquakes, we are also pretty much familiar with that kind of approach down here in our country.
The recent explosion of interest in Turkey for the likes of Sebastian Haffner’s and Ernst Fraenkel books is telling on its own. These German exiles of pre-WW2 period relate the story of lockstep marching of their societies to outright fascism. They relate the story how big chunks of the German population were being stripped legally of their rights as citizens. And we relate to them. And we look at Russia and China and we relate to them as well. Our constitution too is changed, our laws are used as omnibuses that carry their regular loads of attacks against our freedoms. Our country is at war on three fronts and a half, namely in Libya, Syria, Iraq and the East Med theaters.
These unexplained and unaccounted wars feed in turn chauvinism at home and helps stifle any opposition. The opposition is rendered unable to come up with alternative policies as the current policies have the stamp of approval on them indicating that these matters are of “national interest” and “raison d’etat” trumps everything else.
Case in study the lawyers trying to protest the new bill that the ruling AKP introduced to break the bar associations into multiple branches. The tailor made AKP law is designed to eradicate any remnants of civil society action against the “dear leader’. Wait, and this time the joke is on us. You know why? Because the AKP spokesperson Ömer Çelik came up with the reasoning that this change is needed in order to insure pluralism! Exactly, how Stalin at the time loved the idea of pluralism when it was about according to tiniest ethnicity an administration of its own.
Ergo, both the Russian and the Chinese developing stories are not optional but compulsory reading for the whichever opposition calls itself democratic. Turkey’s raising the stakes on all above mentioned fronts are explained either as protecting the national sovereignty of those countries or as defending the national sovereignty of our own country. Whereas these moves are part and parcel of textbook sub-imperialist policies as Prof. Dr. İlhan Uzgel skillfully reminded us in his last Gazete Duvar column. Borders keep moving outwards as memories are selected from our history as an eager customer reaches out to products in a supermarket.
In my humble opinion, there should not be any hesitation to stand up to protect freedoms and liberty. Our maltreated lawyers at the hand of the police right in front of our idling parliament met with Kurdishness and human rights activism. However corny that may sound, Turkey is at a fork on the road. Hence Fraenkel and Haffner’s popularity.