Monday, February 8, 2010


I was taking another walk through my neighborhood yesterday and gaming out, in my head, what would probably happen here after an earthquake as big as the one expected.

There would be a military coup, for sure. Connoisseurs of Turkish politics will be familiar with the words "Sledgehammer," "Cage," "Emasya Protocols," and Blonde Girl." Lately the press has been full of lurid claims that the military has been scheming to create a pretext for a coup by bombing mosques or provoking Greek fighter jets. Whether or not this is true, it's pretty clear that this country isn't far from a coup on the best of days. In the aftermath of an event like that, it would be inevitable. It would probably have a lot of popular support from an enraged public, initially. Frankly, it would have my support -- as you can see clearly in Haiti, the most important thing after it happens is to have someone running the show. Anything to maintain security.

But we all know what happens here after a coup. Another generation of intellectuals would die, be imprisoned, go into exile. It would be the end of all attempts here to build civil society. Human rights? Forget it. Democracy? Forget that, too, for a good long time. And how long could the army hold on to power? Things are different here now than they were after the last three coups. The centrifugal pressures on Turkey are extreme. Ethnic tension seems to be mounting in ways it hasn't before; the polarity between the politically religious and the politically secular seems more acute than ever before in the history of the Republic. Any economic progress the country has made in the past decade would be erased, and quickly. It is not hard to imagine how bad it could get.

Whenever the inevitable disasters happen, the nutcases here gain traction. After the flooding last fall, I saw a proliferation of Islamist and communist graffiti, websites, banners, propaganda. The nice Islamists who run the corner grocery down the street from me were muttering darkly to themselves, watching the 24-hour Koran-a-thon station.

Even people who don't much care about Turkish lives should be able to see that the death and displacement of half a million Turks in an earthquake would be the end of any hope of stability and peace in this region. This is actually a problem people outside of Turkey might really wish to consider.

And no one seems to give a damn. “This is Turkey,” they say. “Nothing can be done.”

I’m appalled by this wall of passivity and fatalism —this isn't abstract. Hundreds of thousands of people will die because of shoddy construction and corruption, tens of thousands already have, and everyone goes along, lambs to the slaughter, murmuring we’re all powerless, it's so sad, we’re all powerless, would you like some more tea before they kill us? “Nothing can be done, it’s Turkey” ... “Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown” ...


  1. It has such a double or multiple meaning though.
    "For isn't noir, in the end, about the fact that evil is always there, and although a good man must go down those mean streets, there's no guarantee he'll win, or even survive?"
    JJ Gittes after he goes and "gets" the truth will never really be able to forget it. In Chinatown the corruption and evil are reccgnized and dealt with. They can't be eliminated but they can be worked with through and around. The danger is the rest of the city where this is not so. Evil is hidden and denied. That gives it it's power. When the connections are uncovered in Chinatown they can be dealt with even though not removed. After all, the city really did need the water and the San Fernando Valley. The passivity and hiddenness of the problems and corruption made it hard to deal with.
    Jake never really is doing as he says "as little as possible". He helps who and where he can, esp. those he sees as powerless.
    Your project, if it can be done, won't get rid of shoddy practices but can mitigates against them by bringing them to light and plannig forr the future. You can learn to fight like Jake by making reality seen, by "getting it".
    Just don't get your nose cut. your face is too lovely.

  2. Dear Claire,
    First of all thanks for your thoughtful concerns about Turkey. I could't find a connection between the earthquake and a military coup. If this is a plan made at Hudson Institute, I don't know but the times of coup are done. Military do not have that unity at all. Even though I find your concerns sincere your determinations are so shallow.
    We had 3 military coups before, it is nothing but chaos. Antagonists, leftists, and some part of Islamists will suffer. Military coups works like casino "house always wins", SAME people will survive and win like the previous ones.
    My family suffered from March 12, 1971 and September 12, 1980. The last thing I want to see a military coup.
    I still can't/don't see the connection between earthquake... Military Coup conditions are severely different when you look at 3 military coups before 60 years behind. If you say that earthquake will be the trigger, it might be... but as I said military is not that powerful any more.
    I'm writing a thesis about Coup d'etad May 27 1960 so military coups are my special subject.
    For the pessimist talks, yes that is the real danger we have to face with. As Abdi İpekçi said "Negligence is the worst thing you would do". We have to keep on fighting with fascism, fascist governments, fascist military, child abusers, animal abusers who ever is fascist..
    Thanks for your time for reading.

    Ceren Candemir

  3. Dear Ceren, thank you for this comment -- I wonder if you'd be willing to send me your e-mail address so we could discuss this a bit more? I'd be very curious to learn more about your research.

  4. I would love to...I'm sending it form facebook ok?

  5. Its an amazing place in all its splendor, even if its not always glamorous.