Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Thousands? A Post In Which I Get All Ranty About A Lot Of Stuff But I'm Just Thinking About The Children

The mainstream media are reporting that thousands of people attended an anti-censorship demonstration this past Sunday.

This is just in Taksim, where they marched from the Meydan to Tünel, which is 15 to 20 city blocks.

Now, I don't know what "thousands" implies to other people. Technically, I suppose it could apply to any number over 2,000. But since there are also things like "tens of thousands" or even "over 10,000" in our vocabularies, it seems to me that referring to the numbers of anti-censorship demonstrators in probably every big city across the country, plus a lot of small ones, as "thousands" is deliberately downgrading the whole thing, making it a fringe annoyance, as though anyone who could be worried about Internet censorship must be either a crazy leftie-throwback or an angst-ridden delikanlı upset that his Internet porn and chat rooms are being taken away. Because, you know, anyone who likes reading stuff on the Internet must be some sort of deviant.

And maybe the demonstrations weren't as Earth-shattering as I hoped. I'd hoped they'd rock our broad-minded and forward-thinking leaders to the very core, causing them to reverse the whole stupid Ruin the Internet for Everyone plan before today. At the very least, I'd hoped they'd planned to announce and then cancel the censorship thing to pander for votes.

No dice.

Here's one thing I keep thinking about. I keep imagining a day in the future, having a foreign friend come to visit and we're sitting together watching TV or I'm going through some sort of ridiculous online contortions to "open" the Internet so my imagined foreign friend can read some innocuous thing. And then my imagined foreign friend says something like, "Why is all this stuff blocked and blurred out in Turkey? Well, I guess it's a Muslim country after all..." (A lot of my imaginary friends are liberal like me, with a certain sense of moral relativism when it comes to international travel).

Wait, Imaginary Friend! This is not okay! The needle of my liberal  moral relativism compass has just reached its Not Okay Zone! Granted, that zone also includes female circumcision, whale-killing, animal torture, forced marriage, bound feet, state-controlled gentrification/relocation, honor killings, and cannibalism, so it's hard to say where, exactly, the Not Okay Zone starts but I definitely know what's in the Not Okay Zone.

Turkey is supposed to have a reputation  of being a "cool" Muslim country. Yeah, they're Muslim, and yeah, there are sectarian issues and covered women and the call to prayer, but in the end, Turkey is somewhere you can go to experience "the East" without all the stonings and beheadings and secret homemade basement booze. Plus, they use the Latin script so that's really helpful, and everyone is just so nice, so what's not to like?

What is a Turk?
I, and every other foreigner I know, have had many conversations that start something like, "What do people in (your country) think about Turks and Turkey?" A German person or a Swedish person or even a British person might have an answer for this, but as an American person, my answer is *blink blink* because in America, pretty much no one I ever talk to has any opinion about Turks and Turkey. No one thinks about Turkey in America. Some people know where Turkey is, and many know it is a country whose name we were supposed to know even before the Iron Curtain fell. Very few people I know have actually seen Midnight Express, and if they have, it was around the time it came out (1978). I've never seen it myself, and I admit I often confuse its title with Midnight Run and Midnight Cowboy. So.

Does this symbolize Turkey?
Sometimes American people ask me, "What language do they speak in Turkey?" and the only time I enjoy answering that question is when I want to make the person I'm talking to feel stupid. A very few people say something like "I/my friend/my dental hygienist's sister-in-law went to Turkey about 20 years ago. I/he/she had a great time and everyone was very nice and even though it's Muslim it wasn't like visiting a Muslim country at all."

Even this baddie is kind of hot!
So, given that so many individual Turkish people appear greatly concerned about Turkey's image abroad, the Turkish government seems to not give flying fuck about it. The government seems to adhere to the principle of "Turkey is the greatest and most powerful wonderful country on earth and if you don't know that, it's just because you're a slave to anti-Muslim/anti-East/anti-Turk/pro-Kurdish/pro-Armenian/Christian EU and/or Zionist propaganda."

The government seems to do a lot of stuff that not only shows no regard for actual human Turkish people, most of whom live well outside their imaginary, prescribed demographic boxes, but they also do stuff that appears to contain the twisted notion that the world outside will gaze in admiration upon the Democratic Republic of Turkey with great respect for the perfect and forward-thinking mandates it applies. Other countries who seem to think like this include China, North Korea, and Iran, and perhaps countries a lot of Americans aren't sure are real or not, like Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. You know, those scary closed countries with low literacy rates or such heavily censored media that not many people in them have much of an idea of the world outside.

Click me! I contain tiny enlightening statistics!
Sadly, the only news that usually makes it out of Turkey on any mainstream scale is the stuff that's funny, and worth posting for a giggle on Facebook. Check it out, you can't be artificially inseminated with foreign sperm in Turkey, way to protect a pure race! Hey, did you see how that Turkish Prime Minister put all those poncy international whatever guys in their place by repeatedly interjecting "van minut!" into the debate? News from Turkey: Goat Shoots Man. Wow, Turks are the only people in this list of 34 developed countries who believe in evolution less than the Americans! Please "Like" my post about how you can't have "sister-in-law" in your domain name in Turkey, because they're really thinking about their children over there (but my goodness, what are they thinking about their sisters-in law?)"

And I'm not at all saying that the people who snicker at this stuff have some sort of anti-Turkey prejudice. Based on the Dubstep grandpa alone, there are a lot of people who have a very favorable view of Turkey. At worst, they might think Turkey is passionate but ultimately harmless.

Coming full circle here, really-- I've gone a bit ranty, I admit, but there's more to come, not to worry.
Except now it's getting a bit creepy. Or maybe it always was creepy and I'm just noticing it more now, it's hard to say. But this Internet censorship thing, although it seems funny at first because WTF is Adrianne and why am I banned from her, it isn't funny at all and it's kind of chilling. Chilling the way they're pulling it off, chilling that this is not at all the first step towards Something That Can't End Up Good For Turkish People, chilling that there's really fuck-all to be done about it, and the worst part is that it's the kids that are going to get hurt. The grown-up kids, I mean. The students and young people. The ones that get all fired up when you tell them that they can't have porn or Adrianne, because according to their prescribed demographic box they couldn't possibly be interested in anything else on the Internet. They're ones who are going to take their best minds out of Turkey first chance they get because there's not much good for them here, and certainly not a lot of ethical ways to make money. Those are the ones getting gassed and beat up and goodness knows what else. They're the ones to whom I pretend to stress the importance of future perfect progressive, the ones I can't help worrying about.

This caddis fly shows that caddis flies have gone unchanged since the beginning of fly fishing, because God wanted it that way.
Oh yeah, that's right. I'm thinking of the children here and I'm not afraid to say it because I know this whole censorship thing is All About The Children. I'm thinking of the children I see crawling around in trash bins looking for bits of wire and broken glass, and the ones feverishly memorizing, for a stupid exam, a bunch of crap they'll mostly forget in 3 months. More honestly and selfishly I'm thinking of my own child who's probably going to grow up here for awhile so maybe I'm invested enough to have some say, if that's all right with you. My son might someday want to know what a condom is, but be too embarrassed to ask his old mom, and then find he can't learn it from the Internet either. Or when he has a school project on evolution and the only thing he can find online is the Atlas of Creation. Or maybe when he has some sort of critical thought, and he goes to look it up on the Internet, then finds he can't, and I'll be able to tell him, "Don't worry, sweetheart. If you can't find it on the Internet, it's a thought you shouldn't be having anyway and it is some sort of decadent fantasy. These aren't the droids you're looking for, move along."

At least I can abdicate to the state my parental responsibilities like teaching him personal accountability, self-control, and responsible behavior.

I want to be in the Lost Generation
And so I have another glass of wine (whine?) because WTF else are you going to do? I'm still naive enough to be looking for my Ernest Hemingway Ford Maddox Ford Scott and Zelda Talented Mr.Ripley Oscar Wilde expat cool kids high-class drinking buddies and I'm not finding them, but anyway. And with this fine glass of downright drinkable 6.99TL on sale at Carrefour liquid haram, I'm thinking about why, when Turkey decides to pose itself on the international stage as a Muslim-identified country, does it go for a host of new repressive laws and regulations? In fact, what is it with Muslim countries all being like this?

And then I'll just go ahead and spread the insult all over the place and wonder why any country that identifies itself strongly with a religion, any religion, and yeah I'm talking about you whackjob Christians in America I'll very much miss looting this Sunday when the Rapture comes, because you guys have all the good stuff and the guns, but also you truly wicked Catholics in Latin America and Africa, and you too Israel, why does any strongly religion-identified country have to do horrible things and call it love of God and morality and family values when everyone knows it's about something else entirely?

Can't we just all outgrow this shit already?

Here are some things that bore me to death about religion, and why religion has no business meddling in legislation:

1) The obsession with sex, sexuality, and the possibility that someone may be enjoying either in some way other than missionary style, lights off under the covers with someone of the opposite sex you're legally married to.

2) Building on 1), the obsession with the imagined purity of women who never fart or scratch themselves, women's sexuality, and the fact that they might have any sexuality that involves anything other than perhaps being pawed and then appropriately penetrated by a legally married husband for the purpose of making lots of babies. Lots of babies for whom the women might need to work in order to support, but for whom Good Family Values will prevent from doing so, officially anyway, and those that do work can expect no assistance whatsoever.

3) The obsession with fun stuff other than sex, like drinking and dancing and skin and hair and the meat of certain animals.

Bad. Bad bad bad bad bad and not modern
4) The issues religion has with thinking for real about the Universe and our place in it and where we came from and why.

5) I have lots of other issues with religion and otherwise, but those are the big ones for now.

I'm thinking of the children here. For the children, the Internet is the least of their problems. For Turkish children, and children everywhere, the Internet could be the best thing that's happened to them, and in any case, the Internet is inevitable no matter what kinds of censors are placed on it. I have the utmost faith in the Turkish youth who will immediately find simple ways to subvert stupid systems and make the government look ridiculous in the process. So there.

I have to wonder if anyone in power starts asking himself (or in the rare case, herself) if these steps being taken are really the best direction to be taking?


nevermore said...

i must to add about concept of Turk and Turkish. this concept is created after collapse Ottoman Empire in early 19^th century syntheticly. To be a Turks means consist of mix different kind of origine and races who lives in Anatolian such as Armenian, Kurds, Greek and many other... moreover i pretty like this blog, because intersting thing is can see turkey where from in foregin view.

Stranger said...

Thanks for reading, nevermore.

I think one of my favorite things about Turkey is the ongoing struggle with identity. I've never lived anywhere where this is such a slippery and nebulous concept, divisive and unifying at the same time.

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Stranger, I don't know if your Turkish is up to this but this piece about 'being Turkish' was popular a while ago.

Stranger said...

It's quite a few steps above my level, and Seslisözlük is banned by court order for some reason (did some bureaucrat confuse it with Ekşisözlük? Or maybe they want to stop the yabancıs from looking up 'haydar'...)

But from the first few sentences the piece looks worth poring over, once I subvert the court order :)

Nomad said...

I love your rants. That purge is what I sometimes need.

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

I understand the issue with Seslisozluk is an intellectual property dispute and whoever is accusing them is getting those injunctions [through a civil action] in local courts. The bureaucrats merely seem to be applying court orders.

If this were the US, the offending content would have been removed (by court order) or the side would be shut down completely. They probably cannot legally reach the actual machine that hosts the disputed content from here so they block. In a way, whatever Turkish courts and bureaucrats do is more visible than what the law does to the 'net in the US. In the former case you know the content exists and the law prevents you from seeing it, in the latter case it just disappears it isn't as clear that it did.

Stranger said...

@Nomad, purge is exactly it. I was reading back on some old post a couple of weekends ago and discovered that I had completely forgotten most of it. It's a good way of dumping bad feelings, and far more satisfying than a journal...

@Bülent-- Bummer! I liked my mistaken bureaucrat image better. Oh well. Somewhere in my reading a few days ago, I came across the same point about stuff just disappearing in the US (it could have even been from you, or someone you linked to because the reading came from Kamilpasha's comments). I've come across sites before where the owner has removed content and left a note up about why, but other times I've just been left wondering where stuff went. Interesting that Turkey feels more compelled towards transparency, in this case at least...

Anonymous said...


you're several steps ahead of me on the acculturation/observation process, and I never fail to enjoy your posts. This was so interesting, and here -- a glass of wine on me! Afiyet olsun!


Stranger said...

Thanks, Jess! Goodness knows I need it.