29 Kasım 2011 Salı

Arap Baharı: Pandora'nın Kutusu Açılıyor

21. Yüzyıl Türkiye Enstitüsü tarafından yayınlanan son makalem "Arap Baharı: Pandora'nın Kutusu Açılıyor" adlı çalışmayı okumak için lütfen buraya tıklayınız.

Dr. Ozan Örmeci

18 Kasım 2011 Cuma

On the Contradictory Nature Of Democracy Rhetoric of the West

What are the West and the East? A nationalist-conservative Turkish writer Nihat Genç defines the East as “the places where the Western bombs fall” whereas for Palestinian origined famous American scholar Edward Said, the East and the West are more than geographic positioning concepts and they refer to historical concepts that reflect cultural stereotypes and political struggles based on some countries’ and cultures’ dominance over others. “The West is the best” not only for late modernizing “third world” Eastern countries that have already accepted their backwardness and tried to catch up the "contemporary civilization” but also for Jim Morrison’s legendary band The Doors[1]. The West and its superpower USA has assumed the role of global policeman especially after the fall of USSR and began to export its most admired but also bloodiest product; democracy. However, democracy rhetoric of the Western countries sometimes seems contradictory for people living in the East.

During the Cold War, US help and support to dictatorship regimes in Latin America, Middle East and even in Europe (remember Salazar’s Portugal and Franco’s Spain), coups and what Stephen Kinzer calls “overthrows” that reflect excellent technology of American engineering left a bad taste in people’s mouths living in these countries. Turkey and Turkish people also experienced all the negative consequences of military coups and civil authoritarianism during the Cold War. With the fall of USSR, a new democratic hope was flourished around the world which even led to Francis Fukuyama’s “helter skelter” prediction about the end of the history. But unfortunately American fast-food meals and European wines of the new century can also sometimes leave a bad taste in people’s mouths. Contradictory dimensions and nature of Western democracy rhetoric still bedevil people’s minds. Take popularly elected Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou’s recent resignation due to government debt crisis and its replacement with a technocrat Lucas Papademos for instance. Western countries and institutions that always promote democracy and human rights (!) during the so-called “Arab Spring” in Tunisia, Libya and Syria, did not hesitate to organize a kind of civil coup against a popularly elected Prime Minister because of its insistence of holding a referendum for new economic measures in his country where the term democracy (demos + kratos) was born. After witnessing what happened in Greece and later in Italy simultaneously with so-called Arab Spring process, during which Western bombs fall for establishing Western friendly not secular Islamist regimes which will share their natural resources with the Western powers, one might think of remembering Kaplan’s question; “Was democracy just a moment?”[2].

The question becomes even more meaningful after seeing Time magazine’s cover “Erdoğan’s Way”, showing a charismatic photograph of Turkey’s democratically elected authoritarian leader Recep Erdoğan, who established a regime which is democratically mature enough to imprison maximum amount of journalists and create a system of meritocracy in state’s bureaucracy based on piety level instead of qualification. Even ordinary people in Turkey are afraid of criticizing the deeds of the government or some religious groups openly and most of them think that their telephone calls are wiretapped. This shows how the West embraces an authoritarian leader if he is economically and strategically (concerning foreign policy) useful even in the 21st century. I wonder the limit of flexion of Western democracy rhetoric since mass political arrests in Turkey is carried on for nearly four years and as a young Turkish writer and academic I feel myself under more pressure day by day because of my political views and lifestyle different from the Prime Minister.

[1] Reference to The Doors’ famous song “The End”.
[2] Reference to Robert D. Kaplan’s article “Was democracy just a moment?”. See; http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1997/12/was-democracy-just-a-moment/6022/.

Dr. Ozan Örmeci