Daring to disturb the sound of the Turkish State

The state in Turkey treats its people as tenants without rental contracts. The people of the land are vassals who must obey. Minorities are expected to comply and there are dangerous crowds who are never to be trusted.

The state in Turkey treats its people as tenants without rental contracts. The people of the land are vassals who must obey. Minorities are expected to comply and there are dangerous crowds who are never to be trusted.

Most people in Turkey have migrated from other places. This population is sometimes told that the locals are enemies. At times, the people are pitted against each other in order for the “security concern” to be upheld. This “concern” must never abate. For this country must always be surrounded by enemies and be full of traitors. 

In this country, society and the state have never gathered around the same table for talks. The people never are treated like minors who aren’t mature enough to have a place at the table. 

The people of this country cannot make their voices heard, though their voices are rich and diverse. The state’s magnificence, meanwhile, is only seen on television and perhaps heard in epic and heroic speeches. But even at its most helpless, weakest, most feeble condition, the sound of the state’s voice is always at a higher volume than any other sound. 

When it comes to the continuity or the survival of the government, the sound of the state demanding obedience comes roaring back. This comeback is at times, accompanied by a powerful rhythm, at other times, by a noisy outburst. 

It did not take long to realize that those who came to power by promoting top down reforms, who sought to engineer a transformation of society and praised a form of governance foreign to its own people were not actually concerned with the characteristics of the state. 

The main slogan of the regime change here, which claimed that it was a Turkish-type presidential system, was “powerful Turkey.” It was crystal clear that the “Turkey” in this slogan was just made up of the government’s permanency sugarcoated in a false ideological cover.

From the media and the judicial system to civil society and the bureaucracy, it is expected that they declare their loyalty to “the state,” stop complaining and voice their gratitude. Those who meet this demand do so in the most inappropriate manner, but those who oppose it even in the slightest manner are attacked in disproportionate dimensions. When the most unacceptable incidents emerge, they are defended with absolute contradiction with the principle of separation of powers and the simplest procedural rules. The rhetoric that is constantly imposed upon us is that independence or freedom constitute weaknesses, and the absence of loyalty is unusual. 

Those who complain about the economy are stigmatized as ungrateful and those who voice their concern related to the epidemic are branded as traitors. While the state and the executive power, the government, are deemed equal in the most basic and crude manner; they are forced to seem like they are the same, causing the sound that comes out of the state to be more cacophonic. 

While the benefits of the presidential system were promoted – during the campaign prior to the plebiscite, the most emphasized aspects were the suggestions that there would be fast decision-making and the creation of harmony within the state.  

This new version of an extremely personalized centralization has bounded the sound of the state into one individual, one mouth and between two lips. It has locked it and highly restricted it but harmony is not achieved. Nowadays, sounds do come, strangely, from those who feel the need to emphasize that they are speaking with the permission and the instructions of the President.        

When the Health Minister speaks on behalf of “the state,” he sounds like the head of an agricultural cooperative calling on everybody to collective work. “Come on, we can do it; taking measures is our power.” Then we lend an ear to the Economy Minister: He makes a mockery in an accent that is difficult to detect which region it belongs to, but, in fact, he is mocking what the people are experiencing. There is no use in trying to understand the sounds coming from party spokespeople because they are incomprehensible. Somebody suddenly starts a solo, who is somehow enchanted by his own voice. 

Meanwhile there are vocalists ranging from the head of the General Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) to Devlet Bahçeli and Doğu Perinçek, who are all in the same chorus but all of them sing a different tune. Which one is the sound of the state, one wonders.

Everyone claims that they are following the same conductor’s (the chief) baton and performing the same piece. However, some of them are not able to play or blow their instruments; some others are unable to hear what they are playing. Some of the instruments are not real ones; some of them cannot generate any sound from their instruments. There is absolutely too much noise, but apparently, both those who fear this rumble and those who have gotten used to it do not seem to care about the totally lost harmony. The loud noise coming from one source, on the other hand, continues. When one tries to lend an ear separately to different sounds, then some side figures draw an undeserved amount of attention, making the platform of the discussion slippery again.  

It is claimed that the state’s solemnity is lost and authority is in the hands of the incompetent ones. The opposition comes forward, somehow more interested in what has been done to the state rather than what has been done to the country (the people). They cry, “What have you done to the state?” In fact, the chaos of today does not only stem from the haplessness of the rulers, but it also shows how the sound of the state is constituted, the one that was previously thought to be “harmonious.” (Maybe the real opportunity lies here.) When the rumble that is closer to a regular marching band rhythm evolves into a folkloric dance music, then it becomes more shocking. Our society who has not been able to generate its own polyphonic tune took this cacophony as its own sound for years. Now, the society may be deriving some familiarity from the authentic tones that reach their ears.   

The bottom line is actually which sound to lend an ear to and which sound should be encouraged to be heard more. This is the reason why the bid to tune the sound of the state is not considered adequate to hand a conductor’s baton to one individual. In this country, the state does not voice what it hears from society, on the contrary, it attempts to implant a strong rhythm to the society’s ears and tongues. It is almost impossible to separate the ears from the sound the state makes. Sometimes “a pied piper and the following herd” is created with the chord of this sound; sometimes the fearful rumble prompts a lockstep. As it is often referred to, before “lending an ear to the people,” it is necessary to find the way first for the people to make their own sounds and that this sound is not muted by the sound of the state.