Turk­ish Em­pa­thy fa­tigue and Kur­dish Heteron­omy

The Kurdish Globe - - EDITORIAL - By Behrooz Sho­jai

their be­lief in the su­pe­ri­or­ity of the rul­ing group (the Turks) over an in­fe­rior group (the Kurds). Th­ese be­liefs have led to the emer­gence of con­sen­sual stereo­types that are used to dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween the ad­van­taged (Turks) and dis­ad­van­taged group (Kurds) in such a way that the ex­ist­ing so­cial or­der, with its at­ten­dant de­gree of in­equal­ity, is seen as le­git­i­mate and even nat­u­ral.

For the av­er­age Turk it is nat­u­ral for them that their coun­try has a clear Turk­ish iden­tity and the right­eous owner of the coun­try are the Turks, be­cause they have fought for ev­ery inch of the coun­try, while the Kurds, a kind of un­wished plague, should van­ish or in the best case ad­just them­selves (as­sim­i­late) to the Turks to show in­creased sup­port for the sta­tus quo and sys­tem jus­ti­fi­ca­tions. How­ever, the long-term con­se­quences of sys­tem jus­ti­fi­ca­tion can dif­fer for both groups. Whereas Turks ex­pe­ri­ence in­creased self-es­teem and sub­jec­tive well-be­ing to the ex­tent that they en­gage in sys­tem jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, the Kurds who buy into the le­git­i­macy of the sys­tem suf­fer in self-es­teem and sub­jec­tive well-be­ing and hold more am­biva­lent at­ti­tudes about their own group mem­ber­ship.

This false con­scious­ness has also per­me­ated the psy­che of the Kur­dish move­ment in Turkey. The post New Left Kur­dish move­ment in Turkey does not pos­sess any Kur­dish iden­tity; it does not put the ton­omy. Au­ton­omy con­cerns the ex­tent to which a na­tion acts are self-de­ter­mined in­stead of be­ing co­erced or com­pelled. The Kurds, in gen­eral, are prone to heteron­omy, the op­po­site of au­ton­omy, which refers to reg­u­la­tion by “oth­er­ness” and thus by forces “other than,” or alien to, the self. In Kur­dish ver­nac­u­lar we call it “ke­sayetiya xu­lametiyê” that is “ser­vant per­son­al­ity” hint­ing those many Kur­dish rulers, lords and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers who have served the op­po­nent na­tions. Kurds have been sub­or­di­nat­ing their ex­is­tence en­tirely to that of the Turk­ish State. No room was left for the ex­is­tence of free choice or, more of­ten, ra­tio­nal crit­i­cal re­flec­tion. tive shift” in the ref­er­ence of in­dex­i­cals, where the imag­iner (the Turks) re-cen­ters their ego­cen­tric map. If we sur­vey the em­pa­thy sim­u­la­tion of the av­er­age Turk, who an­swered the poll, then we should ask some ques­tions. 1. Does the av­er­age Turk know the Kurd’s in­ter­nal state, in­clud­ing his or her thoughts and feel­ings? 2. Does the av­er­age Turk adopt the pos­ture or match­ing the neu­ral re­sponses of a Kurd? 3. Will he come to feel as the Kurd feels? 4. Does the Turk in­tuit or project him­self in the sit­u­a­tion of a Kurd? 5. Does the Turk imag­ine how a Kurd is think­ing and feel­ing? 6. Can he imag­ine how he would think and feel in the Kurd’s place? 7. Can the “yes” to any of above men­tioned ques­tions. There is a tiny mi­nor­ity, es­pe­cially among in­tel­lec­tu­als, who sin­cerely are dis­tressed over the Kur­dish suf­fer­ing and who are not so much con­cerned about “Turk­ish sen­si­tiv­i­ties”, rather “long­ing for peace”, as the Turk­ish ac­tor Kadir Inanir ex­pressed. How­ever, as the con­ser­va­tive opin­ion form­ing in­tel­lec­tual Er­tu­grul Özkök ex­pressed, “can Kadir Inanir con­vince his own fel­low towns­men in Black Sea coast about this?”

It is hard to imag­ine that Inanir would have any success in this en­deavor, since the very Prime Min­is­ter lacks the slight­est of em­pa­thy for the con­tin­u­ous suf­fer­ing of Kurds. Ev­ery ba­sic right – like Kur­dish broad­cast­ing and recog­ni­tion of the ex­is­tence of Kurds in Turkey – that he has ac­knowl­edged to the Kurds has been con­sid­ered as char­ity. With firm se­ri­ous­ness, he ad­dresses the Kur­dish ques­tion as a ques­tion of ter­ror­ism. I tempt to go as far as to say that the late pres­i­dent of Turkey in the be­gin­ning of 90s, Mr. Özal, was more em­pathic than Er­do­gan. They dif­fer­en­ti­ate in that Özal had the qual­ity but not the power to solve the Kur­dish ques­tion, while Er­do­gan has power but not the qual­ity of solv­ing it.

Turkey can only solve its Kur­dish ques­tion if it cre­ates, as Jeremy Rifkin la­bels it, “the Em­pathic Civ­i­liza­tion”, in which em­pa­thy is the “so­cial glue” that keeps so­ci­ety func­tion­ing as a co­he­sive whole. So­ci­ety, as he ar­gues, re­quires be­ing so­cial and be­ing so­cial re­quires em­pathic ex­ten­sion.

The Kurds in Turkey suf­fer from cen­tury’s long heteron­omy and the Turks lack the “so­cial glue” to be able to ac­knowl­edge any rights to the Kurds. The Turk­ish State may dis­arm the PKK, but the Kur­dish ques­tion is far from be­ing solved. I wish I were wrong.

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