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October 13, 2011, Thursday

Givens, desired answers, solutions…

Back in my teaching days when I was trying to solve a physics problem on the blackboard I would underline the givens and the desired answers and then ask my students, “What information do we possess to help us find the solution?” and “What do we know about this question?”

Now of course, social events are not the same as physics problems. But still, I'd like to use my old physics methods to find some answers.

Before touching on the givens, I'd like to take a look at where we stand. Turkey is at a historical turning point. We have begun the process of rescuing ourselves from the mentality of a guardian tutelage that has reigned for a century. We are also freeing ourselves from those who insist on trying to rule despite the will of the people, and from the status quo created over this period. Old ways are being turned over, and the buttresses supported by regimes that consolidated their power through coups are being destroyed. What was placed front and center during the September 2010 referendum was a strong public will for democratization. That will was the same one that granted the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) a 50 percent mandate in the June 2011 elections, bringing it to power for the third time in a row. And we are trying to consolidate these efforts for more democracy, and to see it instilled on a firm foundation, with a new Constitution. All of this is why we are entering into a period of serious debate.

Now let's take a look at the givens. There is a phenomenon called globalization at hand. Capital, ideas and technology all transcend borders these days. Basic principles such as the expansion of freedoms, the protection of individuals and society from the state or leadership, the supremacy of law, accountability on the part of everyone and basic universal human values have all moved to the forefront. Those who resist these factors are slammed by “Arab Springs.” People protest the skewed incomes in societies. There is a desire and a demand spreading for a world based on justice and humanity.

Democratization has made differences clearer. People want to live with their identities and a sense of belonging. There are those who are religious and those who are not. There are those who live only for the world, those who exaggerate the world around them and those who place importance on the afterlife. But the question is the same everywhere: Since it is impossible to get rid of the differences, shall we make these differences a reason to fight, or a source of wealth?

Now let us move on to the desired answers. If differences are not to be a reason to fight, how is living together to be possible? In other words, how are we to protect human honor, the freedoms of ideas and expression, the freedom of religion, prayer and consciousness, the supremacy of justice and the equality of citizens? How is a balance to be formed between democracy and security? In short, the answer we are looking for is to the question of how we are to live as humans in this world in serenity, security, prosperity and happiness.

Now let us take a look at the final part of the equation. What do we know, in searching for solutions? This part really does not fit with the laws of physics. People everywhere look for solutions to the world's problems in different ways. So we need to find a path that can work for everyone.

First and foremost, let us underline the following: Everyone is a child of the era in which they live. We need to read the era in which we live, as well as the country in which we live, correctly. We need to be able to recognize absolute necessities. And so, for these reasons, an advanced democracy that embraces all people and is based on transparency is a shared foundation that works for everyone.

The first step on the path towards a solution on which we can all agree is recognizing we are all human. For those who are religious as well as for those who are not, being human is very valuable. We can all meet on the common ground of universal human values. All we need for this is one single thing, and that is dialogue rather than conflict. If we are to come to an agreement we need to first get rid of any chasms that lie between us. And dialogue can do this. If we talk to each other, if we listen to one another and if we try to understand one another we can come to agreement and compromise. However, we cannot do this without abandoning our preconceptions.

When we decide to opt for dialogue, the second step then is to be respectful of everyone, regardless of position. Doing this calls also for respect for ideas and thoughts of others. Being respectful regardless of position means that no one can count anyone else's sins and wrongs. Also, the mistake of turning some into “others” is something that must be taken out of circulation. Dialogue is not the same as using people. Wording and manner become very important. Belittling others only ensures that you will be belittled. Those who have gained an understanding of how this all works are careful not to hurt others even when they themselves have been hurt.

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