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May 02, 2011, Monday

Double freedom!

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is known for his penchant for double-lane roads. The sensitivity and importance he has attached to the construction of roads since the very day he was swept to power is known by everyone.

Inauguration ceremonies he attended on the eight anniversary of his sweeping to power hint that he is still sensitive to this matter. The prime minister makes inroads with the press by opening crossroads in very remote cities in Anatolia and in this way openly indicating the pride he takes in bringing villages in the farthest parts of the country to the center. The tone of his voice does not only reflect his pride in efforts to reconstruct Turkey, but also provides hints about the prime minister. The importance he attaches to becoming the head of a “government of action” is probably the best thing to describe Erdoğan.

Doubtlessly, Erdoğan is one of the most productive prime ministers that served the Turkish Republic. He is re-doing and re-constructing everything. He is very active in transforming the old into the new. He distinguished himself from other statesmen and politicians in this sense with the “crazy project” he announced last Wednesday. While his rivals could not even carry out rehabilitating so much as a river, he made public his “Kanal İstanbul” project, astonishing the entire world. His aim is to challenge geography and fate of the sea through human will and power. From this perspective, the prime minister looks like a positivist man who believes in development rather than a religious or pious one. His actions do not bear the traces of conservatism his critics frequently put forward.

It can be guessed that what Erdoğan wants to achieve is to make Turkey a strong country. Perhaps, he is trying to create the trappings of notions of power and prestige in his mind. He aims to stand behind the legacy he inherited from his ancestors and develop it. There is no problem with this. If you rule a country, you can see that country as your area of creation, your lego park. There can be nothing more pleasing than in addition to God giving you the chance to have any dream you want realizing your dream. Who can be luckier than an individual who forces the limits of his/her imagination? Nevertheless, although the dream Erdoğan has interests all of us, we are living in a country where the realization of that dream is not possible as there are many painful facts forgotten by the government.

Yes, Turkey's modernization and democratization until the 2000s were problematic. Today, the speed of modernization is at its highest level while cities have turned into building sites. Public institutions and buildings face a mentality transformation, although it is not as speedy as the physical renewal. Sectors that directly interest the nation such as social security, education, healthcare and infrastructure are changing rapidly. What about the speed of democratization?

Turkey has evolved from a state of a crippled process of modernization and democratization into a faster democratization adventure, which, however, keeps taking a step backward after moving two steps forward. So the question is this: What will a society that is not hungry, that has its roads and schools and that is equipped with the latest technology demand in terms of increasing rights and freedoms? For example, what will be done with the problem of societal conflict, identity crisis, religious demands and women's problems in a Batman that doesn't have a problem with double-lane roads and that is the Southeast's most modern and developed city? The truth is, Turkey's modernization and the improvement of its level of welfare is going on at a rapid pace, but its “problem of freedoms,” which is more strongly felt, remains in the same place. If freedoms could only be measured by standards of living, the prime minister's job would be easy. To see this point it is enough to look at Saudi Arabia, which enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the world. You can't really say that it is an “oasis of democracy” with its standards!

Turkey currently has a major desire for change. But the alternative cost of putting all of the country's energy into investment is very high. If you see the government as a group of technocrats, you will neglect the issues of expanding rights and freedoms, eliminating the regime of [military] custodianship and abandon your search for a new constitution. The expectation of Kurds, Alevis, the religious, non-Muslims and different segments is to see a democratic Turkey that comes with Turkey getting rich.

Because the way to true and just prosperity is through real democratization.

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