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” ...