Turkish Empathy fatigue and Kurdish Heteronomy
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.