The sociology of the International Turkish Olympiads by Ramazan Gözen*
The 10th International Turkish Olympiads were held in 41 Turkish cities between May 30 and June 14.
Among the activities were singing Turkish songs, reciting poems and performing folk dances. With the participation of 1,500 young people from 135 countries, the events took place in 35 football stadiums and on 65 stages. Thus the activities acquainted Turkish society with different cultures from all over the world.
The guest groups met local administrators, political party representatives, media people, deputies, and ministers and even met the president at the Çankaya presidential palace in Ankara. People from a variety of countries mingled in jubilation with people from all corners of Turkey, forging social and humanitarian ties. We can say that the series of events had a special meaning and importance not only for the 1,500 participants but also the Turkish people. The gathering was not only a form of cultural and folkloric entertainment, but more importantly, it had widespread sociological ramifications. The meeting of thousands of international young people with a population of 75 million in Turkey has had a serious impact on both sides. As was expressed in this year’s slogan, “Humanity hand in hand,” activities of that kind encouraged the strengthening of international unity, cooperation and solidarity. It showed that the young people from countries hostile to one another because of wars and other reasons could meet in a medium of peace and love. These activities, though giving a picture of festivity in form, showed that a family of humanity steeped in tolerance could be created.
These activities can be seen as the manifestation by some of a naive, imaginary and overtly idealistic intention. The realists, in particular, who say that humans are in a constant struggle of power and dominance, may easily find that perception utopian and far-fetched. Some others claim that the Turkish Olympiads boost Turkish nationalism. It is indeed true that those events and activities provide certain advantages to the Turkish language and Turkey, bringing the country’s image, prestige and importance in the world to the forefront. With that dimension in mind, no one can deny that they serve the Turkey’s national, cultural and foreign-policy interests.
However, it should not be ignored that activities of that kind also have a dimension serving what are essentially the common values of humanity. They open up the Turkish nation to the multicultural family of humanity on the one hand, while bringing that family closer together with Turkish society on the other. The people of Turkey and the world’s children, despite the fact that they are multicultural and heterogeneous, express through this gathering that it is possible for them all to co-inhabit. These interactions have the high potential for paving the way for a new understanding in Turkey and the rest of the world.
Viewed from Turkey’s perspective, those activities demonstrate the success of Turkish schools spread all over the world and their teachers in disseminating the Turkish language over a vast geography. In addition, they contribute to the Turkish people’s globalization by ensuring their mingling with different cultures. Turkish people hosting diverse cultures and displaying their hospitality not only boost their image but also strengthen their perception of the world. Viewed from the angle of the young participants from around the world, the activities in question provide for the international community to know Turkish society from close and the laying of the foundations of a multi-cultured micro-community of humanity based on friendship, dialogue and cooperation.
The impact on international politics of those activities, besides their educational, psychological, linguistic and sociological dimensions, should also be taken into consideration. Most important of them all is the message of world peace and stability. Their implication is that diverse nations can meet with a common denominator to find common solutions. In light of these facts, it is imperative that the spirit of youth be reflected onto the world of politicians for April 23 (National Sovereignty and Children’s Day) and the Turkish Olympiads to yield fruitful results. First and foremost we have to separate the requirements of our community life from the struggle to gain political power, and strengthen this life with universal values. Political aspirations and interest-oriented calculations should be abandoned and humanitarian values be taken as the basis for inspiration. Additionally, those programs must be conducted continuously, sincerely, inclusively and transparently so that everyone’s support may be garnered. And last but not least, it must be proven both at home and abroad that Turkey’s cultural codes are based on the principle of “Love for the Creator and love for the created beings (yaratılanı yaratandan ötürü sevmek)” and not such arguments as the “clash of civilizations” suggested by the late Samuel Huntington, who made a delirious prophecy about the future of the human society. These youth activities performed in Turkey show that civilizations do not necessarily clash, buy may cooperate, even colorfully. I hope that this can be the lesson and reference for the politicians and decision-makers in charge of state governments.
*Professor Ramazan Gözen is an instructor at Yıldırım Beyazıt University.