The public represent the audience, and politicians are staging a drama act together with the intellectuals who are trying to impress the public. There is no other explanation for why the recent theater debate has so suddenly settled at the very center of the political sphere.
For the first time, the General Staff made a statement to condemn those who are calling on the military to overthrow the government. The head of the İstanbul Bar Association openly said he was sorry for the military’s failure to overthrow the government. The fact that he is a lawyer and is supposed to pay utter respect to the rule of law gives us hints as to the seriousness of the performance being staged. The political arena is a stage and everyone plays their well-memorized part.
This prime minister-induced theatrical debate is not actually about the art of drama but the performance being staged by the state. The republican regime used drama as a tool for indoctrinating the general public in Turkey. To this end, the state established theaters where actors and actresses working as civil servants stage plays. That is, we have the state theaters staging plays featuring the state’s actors and actresses. And they are not successful. The audience size shows that these theaters are failures. Moreover, many of the state’s actors and actresses have not played a part for years. The government is seeking to give autonomy to these theaters. It prefers to financially support private theaters instead of those that are like public corporations. The fact that this policy has triggered an ideological debate shows the democratizing face of Turkey.
The state had an ideology. The public had to be indoctrinated into this ideology using all available tools, including education. State theaters, official festivals and the way these festivals were celebrated all served to ensure this ideological homogeneity. The incumbent Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) democratization program is replacing these homogenizing policies with diversity and pluralism. This is the reason why the drama debate is accompanied by the debate on how official festivals should be celebrated. State ideology is leaving the democratic sphere. Society is being liberated. But the last strongholds of ideological hegemony are defending themselves. But they cannot resist for long in the face of society’s demands for freedoms and the power of democracy.
The May 19 ceremonies were modeled after fascist Italy in 1932. Since then, they had been maintained as a mass show of power that meant nothing but torture for students and teachers. The education minister canceled these ceremonies, but kept the festival going. The advocates of previous totalitarian policies rushed to eulogize this festival. Even so-called leftists and socialists glorified these fascist rituals. The political battles between the parties were like a theater performance and political developments sometimes give way to inconsistencies. In the end, this change is being undertaken by a democratically elected government. And it is quite natural for this change to be extended over a period. Every debate that emerges is turning into an advantage inside the democratic culture. This is because these debates show to the public the true face of these ideological devices. The democratic camps wins at the end of every debate and this means progress.
Turkey’s theatrical culture is weak. It should correlate with the weakness of democratic traditions. Both politics and drama were established under the state’s hegemony. Pluralism is the formula that will solve all of Turkey’s problems, including the Kurdish issue. Moving the performance outside of state control, giving it autonomy and freedom, is a good sign for democracy.