Yet another defeat for the center-right CHP (which disguises itself as center or even center left, as usual) in Turkey and all the patterns from the previous defeats start popping up in no time. The most common “post-defeat” pattern has two elements in it: those cursing the people\voters for their stupidity, ignorance, etc. and the other camp blaming the “elitism” of the left and calls the left to “go down to people” instead of making demands which were “contrary to the peoples values”. I will not really deal with the first group in this post. I believe that reaction has some truth in it (i.e. ignorance and superstition of the masses are definitely exploited by the bourgeoisie ) but essentially these sentiments are reflections of a lack of political understanding\will which gives birth to hopelessness. So the cure for this illness is simple, ask people to do politics and they will find better use of their time than cursing, which pragmatically does not serve any purpose. It’s the second illness which is more worrisome.
The idea of “sharing people’s values” or at least “not provoking\hurting” them has a long history in the left, not specifically in Turkey. The specific idea which lead me to write this post is the article by Ross Wolfe: http://thecharnelhouse.org/2011/04/16/the-stalinization-of-post-revolutionary-soviet-art-and-architecture/ . In it, we learn that the Soviet era architecture did not start as nor was destined to become “Stalinist” architecture, which is characterized by its references to pre-modern Russian architecture under the name of “proletarian” architecture. We learn, to the contrary, that in the golden first ten years of the revolution, the union was seen by not only the revolutionaries but also by foreigners as a castle of modernism in an era where people still had to fight reactionary forces in their home countries. Many important projects were done in the Soviet union by setting up international competitions which allowed the artists\architects to design without the boundaries they are imposed in their own countries. Now how is this related to the slogan of “going down to the people”, you ask? OK, the relevance is understood when we observe the rhetoric of the regime in transition to Stalinism, i.e. the process of corruption of the revolution. We see that the rhetoric is very clearly reliant on the themes of “such unbounded modernism is detaching us from the masses”, “we should not go too far ahead of the masses else we’ll lose them”, “the art should have a basis in the nation’s traditions” (face-palms…) etc. Yup, there you go.
Now the detailed interpretation of these relations\similarities is left to the reader, recommended to be done after a thorough reading of the aforementioned Ross Wolfe article. But for me the case is clear, “going down to the people” symbolizes the retreat from revolutionary ideas in order to “settle down\slow down” and “take a breath”, e.g. degeneration of any progressive reform\goal. I say, think the other way around: you are part of the “people”, have\make the others come “up” to you.
I recently finished reading the interesting book on a signature event in the foundational period of modern Singapore, the Bukit Ho Swee fire. The book is named “Squatters into Citizens” with the subtitle “the 1961 Bukit Ho Swee Fire and the Making of Modern Singapore” and is published by NUS press.
In brief, Bukit Ho Swee fire is a major fire among the chain of fires in the rural (Kampong) settlements of Singapore during 1950s to 1970s. Among the many things that sets it apart from the other fires is its immense scale (16000 people left homeless because of it) and its timing: right when PAP gets elected and is trying to implement its policies (a modernist capitalist society), the fire allows the PAP government to create a national emergency and enables faster implementation of its modern housing projects and clearing of slum areas.
The book explains the events before, during and after the fire and shows how and why it came out to be such an influential turning point in Singapore history. I will try to briefly mention these discussions and point out a few areas where the “mainstream”ness shows itself.
1) Anyone who read a bit about Singapore culture would know the nostalgic “Kampong” sentiments. An in cases such as this book, it is all too easy to fall into such a nostalgia in an attempt to please the readership and look “objective” (by taking a different position than the modernist PAP accounts). However, this book excels in trying to convey both viewpoints on the life in rural areas. You will occasionally read parts where interviewees display this nostalgic attitude; but you almost always will also notice an appreciation of the modern lifestyle. Furthermore, the author makes an interesting case by saying the rural areas were actually very open to modernism in the first place, due to its strong relations with the urban center.
2) Transition from urban to rural, primitive accumulation and centralizing the means of production. One subject where the book is very lacking is conveying how this fire event is placed in the history of humankind. The book is structured to give the sense that this is a particular and unique event, where the possible relations to similar progressions in other societies are hidden\not mentioned. I think it is pretty well known that, the transition to “market economy” always includes a stage where the means of production are centralized to bourgeoisie and masses are forced into wage labour markets. This event, among other things, shows a very clear demonstration of this phenomenon, where previously the ties of the people to the wage labour markets were previously weaker than desired due to a certain level of autonomy and a period of primitive accumulation purges these to set up the stage for markets. This also allows one to better interpret the dual nature of the PAP government both as a moderniser and a bonapartist party. All these chances are missed in this book.
3) Fire itself. This subject is obviously well researched and tells the story of the fire with its tragedy and heroism very well. Of course, in this regard, this is a story about how humans respond to seemingly overwhelming catastrophes.
4) After the event. The sections concerned with the results of the fire is where the meat of the book is. As I already hinted, there’s no grain of a dialectic understanding of the process; but the events are viewed in the simplifying glass of mainstream sociology. Without due attention to conflicting processes and dualities; one is often forced to declare something (“in the final analysis”) “good” or “bad”. However, the story as told in this book is still important to understand the makings of Singapore. The fact that HDB and PAP are so tied in various ways makes this worth reading to political theorists as well.
The world is in pain and there’s widespread conflict. Not only military conflict mind you, but conflict over simple things like the right to love (https://plus.google.com/+TheYoungTurks/posts/9yZrwe7EnE8), the right to education (http://www.unicefusa.org/news/news-from-the-field/feeding-girls-hunger-to.html) and the right to fucking use ones mind (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discrimination_against_atheists , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment#Islam). To many, it seems religion is always there somewhere in the stories. See Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey; all under some sort of crazy religious governments and the people are on streets to have a say about this. “Down with Mursi”, “Resign Recep”,… Doesn’t it seem religion is killing all that is good? Anti-abortionists, war mongers, anti-homosexuals, anti-science idiots, anti-women-education, etc. Try your hand at almost any important conflict between human progress and reactionary agents, you will invariably identify religious crazies.
So is that it? Is our age the age of struggle of science vs. religion? The age of atheists vs. Muslims/Christians/Jews/Buddhists/whatever?
The new atheists certainly seem to think so. One recent and popular interpretation is “religion as parasites”, where the religion is likened to the kind of parasites that controls their hosts to their destruction ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpniCBZYEU8 ). In our case, we have “memes” (social analogues of genes) that control certain regressive behaviour patterns that blocks progress. So the fight is to change the culture, so that the progress becomes faster. And everyone is happy thereafter..?
Is this really it? Social science done solely in terms of analogies to biology and physics? As if we do not have sociology, nor economy-politics! As if we do not have a rich history of debates about every state of human societies and their transitions. As if we have never analysed the industrial societies. We never inquired on the nature of economy in the age of industry. Never did we ask how our society is shaped w.r.t. the current relations of production. It never occured to us to separate the concepts of “means of production” and “relations of production”. No as if none of those ever happened and all we have is “memes”…
How do we explain such detached generation of atheists: those that claim to uphold reason and rational thinking but forgot all their heritage?!
Remember Afghanistan; it was not in this state always, it had a majority supported communist government once! Those people DID want a future where people were equal and affairs of mankind were rationally organised, NOT religiously!
Remember Indonesia: They had the biggest non-ruling communist party in the world! No, they were not only slaves of capitalism dressed with Islam, they DID want something else!
Remember Iran: They had an immensely popular socialist (and secular) movement TUDEH! No, certainly not all of them were Islamic ignorants.
Consider Turkey: Before the bloody coup d’etat (just like those events in Iran, Indonesia and many other places..), we had very popular (albeit fragmented) socialist/communist movement, all of them being secular in nature! Actually, the Islamic movement only flourished after the left was surpressed in a bloody manner; because they could NOT do it when we were strong!
Who tried to uproot the 4 olds in the Culture Revolution? Who placed secular rule instead? Who successfully improved the women’s position in a backward society? Who changed the country of Mujiks to one that contributed to modern science in immense and innumerable ways?
Yet, the new atheists, in their quest to replace religious ignorance with rationality; decide to attack all this history as well. To what end you ask? popularity.. Because, we are in a dark age and currently communism does not sound too well. So instead of rationally criticizing, they simply oppose it. But that can not be it, they should also be replacing this rich body of history, theory and experience with something better right?
What do we have? “Memes”…
You are going to change the world with “memes”. The world is in pain and you offer “memes”…
The complexity of our minds depends on the complexity of the tools we use. We certainly need something strong and firm that get things changing again. This tool is not a set of ad-hoc analogies from biology. This tool is Marxism and rational analysis of human cultural and economical evolution.
Eppur, Si Muove..
We are in a dark age, but it is still the age of transition from capitalism to socialism.
The paths to success in politics are varied. Political Theorists and Sociologists are long interested in understanding the patterns of political success. On the other hand, layman’s political vocabulary is dominated by “charisma” of leaders, “masculinity” and so on. The problem with such unprincipled approaches are apparent when one thinks about the elusiveness of these terms. Take charisma for instance, there are many “charismatic” figures in the history such that, the same person after some time, almost invariably becomes very hard to take seriously at all. Hitler is just one famous example. It is of course the tragedy of certain people to see through the “charisma” of such leaders the ridiculous elements before the herd does.
In the night of 23 of June (in Singapore time), a very curious event occurred. The mayor of the capital city of Turkey, as expressed colorfully by Andrew Duff (Andrew_Duff_MEP), had gone “completely mad”. The events that lead to this outrage is out of the scope of this article; but the readers are referred to http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/ankara-mayor-accuses-bbc-turkish-journalist-of-being-an-agent-in-twitter-campaign.aspx?pageID=238&nID=49345&NewsCatID=341 .
In this article, we will be interested in Ib. Melih Gokcek’s proficiency of using Turkish and English in his tweets. We will quantify the alleged “lack of sufficient proficiency” and also answer certain questions that were posed by many, including whether his English usage is better than his Turkish. Of course, the results are shown with complete objectivity and statistical care. However, the implications may be considered by political theorists and, of course, the people of Ankara. It may be particularly of interest to analyse the correlation of language proficiency and voter behaviour. But without further speculation, the results are presented.
Before giving the results of statistical analysis and the interpretations, the procedure of data collection will be briefly explained. To facilitate the analysis, the data regarding the discussions were collected by manually copying them from twitter (from 06 Ib. Melih Gokcek’s account) from a 24 hour period. Some very small tweets (say, less than 3 words) that are not indicative of language skills were omitted; but otherwise, all the tweets have been included. The data is divided into English and Turkish tweets; because one of the main goals of this study is to be able to detect a difference between the usage of these two languages, if any. Overall, 51 Turkish tweets and 15 English tweets were collected. It is, of course, a valid question when one asks how so many tweets (remember, there are also many smaller tweets that were omitted) are posted by someone with supposedly so many responsibilities. But, in this article, we are not concerned with this fact.
After the data collection step, the tweets were individually inspected to find any misuse of language. But, the following points are to be noted;
Errors due to spacing and common techniques to fit into twitter restricted message spaces are omitted.
Some errors can be attributed to typing, but they are still considered as errors. So some rate of error would be justifiable (i.e. we do not expect perfect usage).
Sometimes the “…” is used correctly; but it is most of the time wrong. Therefore, we analysed the errors in two parts, with\without including such cases. The complete errors (including misused “…”) are denoted as less-serious errors and the ones without those are called the serious errors. The results for both these cases are given in the text.
Errors due to EN/TUR keyboard differences were omitted.
Some notes on ellipsis usage
Many people believe that the characteristic of 06 Ib. Melih Gokcek’s tweeting style is the all-caps writing. One example among many is;
“@TheRedHack BİR RİCAM OLACAK…ŞİMDİ SELİN GİRİT’E ATTiĞIM TWİTLERİN İNGİLİZCESİNİ ATAĞIM…Bİ ZAMET BUNU DA SERVİSLERİNİZ VASITASIYLA TÜM>> TÜM DÜNYA YADA YAYIVERİN…”
The above example also shows the extents of horrible communication. But returning to the point, one of our findings is that, it is actually the misuse of the ellipsis that characterizes his style. The usage of ellipsis is thought to indicate intellectual depth and it is a common pitfall to use it too much. Our analysis of 06 Ib. Melih Gokcek’s tweets indicate that he uses it way too much (%84 of his Turkish tweets, though all-caps usage is slightly more: %92; but we believe ellipsis misuse is more unique in adults). Without further discussion of this issue, we leave it to the reader and the experts to make their deductions.
Is His English better than his Turkish ?
When the responses to 06 Ib. Melih Gokcek’s tweets were analysed, it was found that a significant number of people claimed that his English skills were better than his Turkish skills; this is, of course, odd for a government worker. According to proper usage of statistical methods, we set up our hypothesis before collecting the data, which is whether the propensity of errors in Turkish is greater than that in English or not. The equal tailed hyper-geometric test (which is used as an approximation to the UMPU test as the author felt lazy) at %5 significance level indicates that the propensity of errors in Turkish can not be claimed to be greater than that in English, using his tweets at the indicated day.
To deepen our understanding, a point test of equality was also conducted which also showed that there’s not enough evidence to claim a difference in propensities of errors. However, when we inspect the ML estimates (lesser-Turkish-errors: %69, serious-Turkish-errors: %34, English errors: %66), we see that there is actually some reason to think that his English is actually worse, which is the more natural result. However, as indicated previously, statistical significance of this difference is not enough.
In this article, the language misuse of a government official was quantified and several questions from the general public were answered. Contrary to the wide claims, it was found that the misuse of both of the languages are almost equal; that is equally horrendous.
I saw it in Esplanade tonight. It was there when the brave young soldiers of the long march were saying farewell to their families, it was there when they broke the blockade of chiang kai shek, it was there when the Zunyi conference was held, with red flags and pictures of Marx, it was also there when the Red Army bravely crossed the Chishui river and captured the Luding bridge. I saw it when the Red Army soldiers passed through the snowy mountains and reached at Wuqi Town. It was the clapping hands of the crowd, the sympathy towards the struggle. It was the cheers at the end.
It was the rays of the bright red sun piercing through the haze.
As mentioned in the recitations of the Long March Suite, the dark clouds will go away; but the bright red sun always stays.
One can get many benefits out of a good movie, depending on its type and goal. But, for me, all good movies share one thing, that they all give me the feeling that there are so many smart people thinking about various aspects of life; and this is encouraging. One would think that this kind of feeling should be commonplace in a university; but it seems academic excellence does not directly translate to cultural excellence.
The movie that gave me this feeling again was a Danish film The Hunt. This movie does a good job in creating the setting and playing the plot that makes you question the basis of society. The essential theme is this: what seems like a clockwork solid rational social relationships (job, friends, lover, etc.) can fall apart in a whim and you get to return to the almost barebones of human behaviour. I guess the idea of a rational environment suddenly becoming a mess with inexplicable events is appealing to me. Sort of like the “I was only trying to make a call” short story of Sadik Hidayet, where the protagonist hitchhikes after a car breakdown, her new carries turns out to be transporting mentally ill to the asylum and in the destination she gets confused as one of them.. Maybe the effects of reading Kaan Arslanoglu too much?
The last time I remember feeling like this was after a student theater: Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay played in NUS museum.