With world powers competing for the primacy of their differing ideologies having ignited a new cold war, the battle for the hearts and minds of men is hotting up. And the West’s well-oiled persuasion machinery is using all its tried and “true” tricks to convince its vassal states, just who the bad guys are and who are the good. And so, with the fate of the world in the balance, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
As an ex-pat Kiwi living in Turkiye, I’m a lot closer to Donbas and Kiev, Syria and Armenia, Iran and Afghanistan, than to Wellington or Auckland. And so I take a close interest in how differently states are projected and, not least in respect of Turkiye, I question their assertions.
Despite the clear need to find another way between ideological extremes, not forgetting that both China and Russia are now in the capitalist camp, the West’s worldview still seems set in the concrete of cultural and historical bias, and the political and economic dichotomy of socialism versus capitalism.
Caught up in this charade, Turkiye, despite all its efforts to be an exemplary global citizen, seems nevertheless doomed to eternally be the victim of a thousand-year fear of and prejudice against Islam.
This has resulted not only in a denial of the debt Western civilisation owes to Islamic culture and learning, but a persistent failure to accept that Islam could have anything to teach it. And the consequence of that is a failure of the West to accept the role that Christianity played in the development of Western capitalist imperialism. And, despite post-modern atheism and godlessness, it still plays a role in defining Western political strategy.
The UK, for example, has never been a secular state – the monarch is the head of state and the established religion. And as such, the monarchy and the Anglican Church continue to be powerful forces of social control.
Though less formalised in the United States, religious blocs there still exert disproportionate influence on government via their respective institutions vis: the Pope and Roman Catholicism, Israel and Judaism, Protestant and eastern orthodox Christianity (Greeks and Armenians), and Mormonism.
There is also the development of Communist/socialist thought in the West in opposition to the unholy alliance of Christianity and oligarchic capitalism. An important pillar of this is atheism, based on the observation that religion is not only “the opiate of the masses,” as Marx described it, but also an active instrument of social control and enslavement.
Western thought tends to associate religion with right wing conservative political parties, because that’s the case in their societies. It can’t grasp the fact that Islamic-based parties like the Muslim Brotherhood (sibling-hood would be better gender-free Arabic and Turkishii translation) often fulfil the role that socialist/Communist parties do in the West. The big difference is that they tend to gain more widespread support because religion still plays an important part in the lives of ordinary people.
The West is also prey to the persistent and touching belief that allowing the people to vote for a “government” results in a democratic society. There’s some disagreement about who first said it, but that doesn’t make it less true: “If voting changed anything, they wouldn’t let us do it.”
Douglas Adams summed it up perhaps more aptly when he wrote in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy:
“The President [of the Galaxy] in particular is very much a figurehead — he wields no real power whatsoever. He is apparently chosen by the government, but the qualities he is required to display are not those of leadership but those of finely judged outrage. For this reason the President is always a controversial choice, always an infuriating but fascinating character. His job is not to wield power but to draw attention away from it. On those criteria Zaphod Beeblebrox is one of the most successful Presidents the Galaxy has ever had — he has already spent two of his ten presidential years in prison for fraud.”
So, why can’t Westerners of either the left or the right understand what’s going on in Turkiye? In answer to my own question I’d say, it’s because that long-standing inherited prejudice against Islam won’t allow them to accept that, for the following reasons, Islam in Turkiye is unique;
Turkish Islam is a result of its prophet’s teachings having been grafted on to the earlier shamanistic spirituality of the Turkic tribes.
It’s also important for the West to understand that Turks in Anatolia (Asia Minor) have a history of a thousand years of interaction with Christianity, and that a strong tradition of Sufi mysticism developed which downplays religious differences and emphasises common qualities and aims.
As to politics in Turkiye; – people in Turkiye expect to choose a leader, and then they expect him (sometimes her) to lead. And if they trust that leader, the majority will stick with him or her.
Another barrier to Westerners understanding Turkey better is because of cultural and historical brainwashing which, for instance, means they can’t accept that Turkiye may have perfectly valid reasons for its position on certain matters, such as the Armenian and Cyprus problem, Turkiye’s cross-border involvement in Syria, current difficulties with undersea drilling in the east Mediterranean and the purchase of air defence missiles from Russia. Just as they can’t (or won’t) recognise that Russia may have valid reasons for not wanting Ukraine to join the NATO “defence” club.
To sum up, because of its geographical location, standing with a foot in both Europe and The Middle East, and its unique cultural and ethnic composition, Turkiye is confronted by difficulties that few Western countries can appreciate. These force its government to face up to realities from which most Western countries can maintain a safe distance. Consequently, and since long experience has shown that Western powers cannot be trusted, a government has emerged in Turkiye that is pursuing domestic and foreign policies focusing on self-sufficiency and self-determination
Alan Scott, a former teacher at Auckland Grammar who for the past twenty years has lived in Turkey. Alan has been a long-time campaigner for political change, not least monetary reform, and actually stood for Parliament back in the 70s representing Social Credit. An ardent Turkophile, the essay Alan has written is an attempt to make people a little more understanding of Turkey’s difficult position in the world.