Education Minister is very good, but Health Minister is even better

Azmi Karaveli writes: No offense, but I have decided to believe every word of Turkey's ministers with all my heart. Accepting this is much less abrasive and tiresome. As the Romans say: “Credo quia absurdum est — I believe it because it is absurd.” Thus, we will be successful in the fight against COVID-19 even if we are truly successful, but we will also be successful even if we fail.

Azmi Karaveli

A significant segment of concerned moderns who have already applied or who are planning to apply for a green card and who have lost hope in the future of this country, were very happy the day Education Minister Ziya Selçuk was appointed. That day, they cheered a disproportionate amount. To be fair, Selçuk had written a book on the multiple intelligences theory. He had persistently written “radical” articles in the daily Radikal. He even owned a school. What more can you ask for?

If you remember, there were some who had the same feelings and thoughts about the previous Education Minister Nabi Avcı. He was one of the legendary lecturers in communications departments of both Anadolu University and Bilgi University. Nabi Avcı was a person of such caliber that he wrote the book titled “Informatic Ignorance” in 1990. It took quite a while to recognize that Avcı and his team were actually the ones who designed the theoretical infrastructure of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). They were the representatives of those justifications.   

If only everything would have been conducted so naively that it would have been adequate to just take a look at the names and backgrounds of newly appointed ministers. The government frequently brings up such commonly held names so that a wide level of consent is reached and some of our steam is let off. Each and every time, we fall into this trap. Despite all the experiences we went through, some people and some of us still have hope in these officials who have accepted a cabinet position for the AKP. Some of these expectations are in reforming and improving the education system, the world of culture and the health system. These almost naïve expectations can only be the product of a certain segment of society who have a problem seeing the whole picture. As a matter of fact, when the same Education Minister Selçuk praised religious high schools (imam hatip) for being the path to “finding the meaning in matter and the hidden cause in the universe,” believers in Selçuk started to break down. The real peak of this disappointment was reached during the minister’s response to the EBA scandal. When the online educational network EBA collapsed on the first day of online education, he said, “This is positive news for us because it shows that there is a remarkable demand." 

We also did not refrain from showing the same dose of approval and compassion to Health Minister Fahrettin Koca. This minister never stopped showing us the compassionate hand of the state during the pandemic. After 18 years of AKP rule, we came to realize that “information” is our basic need. We thought this basic need of ours was being met by Koca and his daily press briefings. In a short time, his social media posts reached millions. In friendly environments, we kept on hearing very good comments about the Health Minister and how successful he was in managing the pandemic. There were claims that he was a member of a religious order, the İskenderpaşa Community, on several news websites, but no question was asked on this topic during any news conference, so we just glossed over that.

I wrote about this at the beginning of the pandemic. For the past 18 years, wehad forgotten about regular press conferences providing information. In the past month, we have been ecstatic by the attention given to our needs. Nevermind the content, we were so happy with these question and answer sessions; they were something we hadn’t come across in quite a while. For the first time in a long period, we were not slammed by an official telling us that what we were doing was not journalism. It was a new situation that our questions were answered, or looked as though they were answered. Moreover, the Health Minister thanked journalists after each question. This was too much for us; really, it spoiled us. We asked ourselves, “Do we really deserve this much?”  

Meanwhile, the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) and certain accounts on social media were probing the credibility of the data provided, but in this flood of emotions, nobody took these claims seriously. On the contrary, these warnings were criticized and looked down upon. 

The postmodern human being relies on the motto “Positive thinking saves lives.” The result of this is a distancing from facts and leaving information and knowledge to the official channels. The state of this postmodern human being is ready to deny, to believe in the good, the beautiful and in hope — even if the latter is empty. When the curfew was lifted on June 1, this was the emotional and mental atmosphere when millions took to the streets. Unfortunately, the outcome was just as the “pessimists” had predicted. The numbers on the daily chart by the Health Ministry were not the “cases” but the number of sick patients admitted to the hospital.

Doctor Feridun Baysal made a perfect summary on his Twitter account: “Temel, from the Black Sea region, tested positive. He rushed to the hospital. When he entered the building, there were two doors: one with a sign that read “positives,” the other “negatives.” Temel went through the “positive” door. Two more doors appeared. One’s sign read “outpatient,” the other said “inpatient.” Temel went in the door that read “outpatient.” Two more doors were in front of him. One of them said “People showing symptoms” while the other said, “People showing no symptoms.” When Temel walked through the door that read “People showing no symptoms,” he found himself back on the street. When he got home, he was asked whether he was treated well at the hospital. Temel replied, “I did not see any of them. They did not see me either, but the organization was superb…” Well, this is because Temel is not a patient, he is a case…” 

Again on Twitter, on the account @dzepm, the top tweet of the week was this: “Test positive with no symptoms: you are not recorded on the daily chart. You have symptoms but the test is negative: you are not on the daily chart. You have symptoms and the test is positive but you have been sent home: again, you are not on the chart. For you to be included in the new Covid cases in Turkey, you have to be on your deathbed. But if you test negative when you die, then again, you are not on the chart.” 

When the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Murat Erim announced that the number of daily cases was 29,000, it was not even appropriately heard in this chaotic environment. In normal times, these kinds of bombastic figures needed to have been announced by the CHP leader. But this was toned down to the “deputy Murat” level, when the mentality of the opposition is not to take any risks. 

It had been repeatedly reported that, especially in Istanbul, there have been far more deaths compared to the monthly averages of previous years. However, there was a lack of a political opposition that functioned systematically. This data was not supported by an opposition. This lack of opposition may not be the primary cause, but it was definitely the secondary cause of the manipulated life we had to experience in the past six months. However, everything is clear. The World Health Organization is also well aware of the facts. We were all there.     

Being success-oriented since the beginning brought us here. Again, nobody resigned and nobody will resign. The reason is that they wholeheartedly believe they have been successful. As I wrote before, one of the most important handicaps in the coronavirus fight was that the political authority based its entire strategy on “success.” They opened giant hospitals during the pandemic knowing that our national fetish is “the biggest” of anything. Unfortunately, this did not work in the pandemic. 

Well, anyway, they have been successful and perfect in their every action for the past 18 years. They can never do wrong. They can only be misled. This is the reason why the press conferences by the health ministry, for six months, started with how good we were in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic and how perfect our situation was, and it ended like this. No matter that some 60 or 70 people died daily according to the official figures.  

This is actually a premise that we have to accept from the very beginning. God forbid the number of cases and the death toll multiplies, but we will still be “successful” because “Thank God, 200,000 people have not died. Look at Italy, look at the U.S.,” we know they will keep saying. Thus, we will be successful in the fight against the virus even if we are truly successful, but we will also be successful even if we fail. There are millions of people from every segment of society that are hungry for a good piece of news, ready to believe. 

Well, in this case, no offense, but I have decided to believe every word of the ministers with all my heart. Accepting this is much less abrasive and tiresome, and it creates a more secure spiritual space. As the Romans say: “Credo quia absurdum est — I believe it because it is absurd.”