No sign’s descended from the sky about the days to come

We’ve promised those days to ourselves.

I want a song about the days after we win …

‘Who knows, maybe tomorrow …’

(Nazim Hikmet)

It is a fascinating story, indeed.

 Turkey is undoubtedly the country of the future, but will it always be? Can it ever become what it hopes to be, or is it condemned to remain an unfulfilled dream, an exquisite fantasy that contains within it the seeds of its own failure?

There are as yet no answers to the questions, and therein lies the Turkish conundrum. This nation is still very much the a work in progress, a dazzling kaleidoscope of competing images and ideas. …

This is taken from Stephen Kinzer’s book.* May be something had been lost during the writing and/or revision? “We” are perfect, reached the end of history, are not work in progress, and “we” found all the answers? The cowboy speaks of the prevalent

 primitive mentality of rural peasants.


I am sitting on the 9 o’clock flight to Istanbul, later continuing to Bonn where I will have to speak the next day on the conference on Human Rights in a Globalized World – Challenges for The Media.

A modern aircraft – and of course I feel somewhat relieved – rather than being “the other”, barely being able to really thank Mehmet in Turkish words for all his kindness throughout my time at ODTUe (but words are surely not all – we developed an excellent relation of understanding; he will be surely one of those who would offer me asylum if needed), now being able to speak agin with words, most likely being understood by “the other”, just being an other, able to merge with others. And I still feel well looked after – sure, staff being paid – being paid by THY, but still not having lost their ‘natural friendliness’, a mentality of …, being human, being humane, being together – at least for the time of the flight, and with this at least for some time together in a limited space with a vast array of options: the most likely a safe landing, the unlikely but possible the end of …., well: personal history, of life as consequence of a ‘simple crash’, of being victim of any kind of politics …; and possibly also the beginning of a new history: lasting friendships can develop everywhere and anywhere where we still find humans, humane beings …

…. primitive mentality of rural peasants.

May be – finally we cannot simply shake-off our history, in political science we call it path dependency. And there had been countries of peasants and other countries may be seen as countries of cowboys. At least the first sort of countries never went to real war and pretended to be world gendarmes …

I remember some figures from Kinzer’s book:

A public opinion survey taken after Clinton’s visit found that 52 percent of Turks had a favourable opinion of the United States; by 2006 the number had fallen to an abysmal 12 percent. When asked in the 2006 poll which countries they believed threatened world peace, 60percent of Turks named the United States. (Only 16 percent named Iran, which George W. Bush was thendenouncing as part of the global ‘axis of evil.”)**

And shortly after presenting these results he states


particular reference is made to the anti-Islamist war of the Bush administration

produced a broad national consensus that Turkey needed to break out of Washington’s orbit and pursue an independent foreign policy – something Turkish leftists had been urging for years without success.***

Is it really by chance that around this year Turkey took over the Presidency of the Organization of the Islamic Conference?

And is it by accident that Turkey took also a leading role in the Economic Cooperation Union, for instance by co-founding the Economic Cooperation Organization Trade and Development Bank?


Later the day: I think it is the third time in my life that I am in Bonn – former capital of my former home-country – I stayed more often in most of the other capitals of the EU-member states than here. And the two times I had been here before “I came from Europe”, having been there in connection with some EU-business around asylum seekers and anti-social policy. Now I come from another perspective – a little bit another perspective: Human Rights.

On another occasion I will come back to it: unconditional, undeniable and indivisible. And as such only then meaningful, only then a matter of guaranteeing fundamental rights if it is possible to rebuke fundamentalism: the ruling of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s and  Ahmet Davutoğlu’s move towards tolerance and even supp-ort of Islamist fundamentalism and George Walker Bush’s Christian fundamentalism alike, the latter claiming according to the Guardian that

God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq.

But the really dangerous fundamentalism is the one onto which both obviously merge: the fundamentalism fundamentalism of unbridled market capitalism.

And this is surely exactly today, on the occasion of being here in order to discuss Human Rigths of special relevance

In 2009, UNCTAD, stated in a document titled

The Global Economic Crisis: Systemic Failures and Multilateral Remedies

Market fundamentalist laissez-faire of the last 20 years has dramatically failed the test


It is a long time ago – I arrived in the German capital – probably in the 1970s.

Sure, many things went wrong, showing – possibly – even disastrous consequences. But there had been one thing we knew during that meeting: Human Rights is surely not least about something different: rather than being a matter of “granting rights”, Human Rights are about another society. And that will be a topic that is more likely to be discussed during the workshop in Esslingen next week, the adage Humane Standards and Capitalist Greed****




* Crescent & Star. Turkey between two worlds: NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001/2008 (revised edition): 28

Leaving the cowboy aside, from my perspective it is – with all caution that is always required – a book that is worthwhile reading. A kind of rough guide to Turkey – though not as rough as the touristy thing with that name.

** 217

*** 219

**** actually it cannot be properly translated: Menschliches Maß und kapitalistische Maßlosigkeit – it could mean humane standards but also standards of humanity or standards defined by human beings …


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