”We are not meeting anymore over dinners” said a friend of mine lately, over telephone line:
‘There is no more any will to do so. Many of us realized that after a glass of Raki or so, we start dragging each other down on the state of things in Turkey. The air of depression, bad mood takes over. So, more and more live in a coccoon format.”
The meyhane (taverna) life in Istanbul, İzmir, Ankara and along the coastline cities of Turkey has always been informal, colourful political forums of sorts, as many foreign visitors also have noticed.
Friends and concerned folks, intellectuals or not, regularly (used to) assemble over long dinners to find an answer to the eternal question, ”whatever will happen to this country of ours?” which reflected the dynamic of a country in pursuit of better conditions.
But what he told me, as many others also do, is clear: Exchange of ideas, animated discussions are no longer fun. The fear has become far too dominant, alienation so apparent, sense of finding oneself in the midst of a fierce Kulturkampf so striking, the mode of injustice so intense that, as he mentioned, more and more have been hit by depression.
We understand that the gloom has become a collective phenomenon. A parliamentary deputy of the main opposition party, CHP, had discovered that there was something wrong with the psychological state of the nation in post-coup that she had directed a question to the Ministry of Health about what its data base says on the number of people visiting clinics with complaints of mental health disorders.
The official response was worrisome. Usage of anti-depressants had gone up by more than 25 percentage points in the past four years. Nearly nine million Turks had as of the end of 2016 gone through mental disorder examinations. Only between January this year and now, the number of those who visited clinics are more than 3 million 240 thousand, the ministry confirmed.
”According to this data one of eight adults in this country visited hospitals on mental disorder issues” commented the deputy, Aylin Nazlıaka:
”This number is surely much higher because there are many other who because of social pressures and prejudices have not done so. The solution lies in the restoration of justice; that democractic order will have to be put back in action, that suppression of people who oppose the power must stop, that the land must quickly normalize. Otherwise we will all together sing a song called ‘I am going bananas’.”
I was in a flash reminded of a movie I had seen long time ago. The great Serbian director Goran Paskaljevic’s picture, ‘Bure Baruta’ (Powder Keg, 1998). He paints masterfully in it the rage, frustration and intolerance which takes Serbia into its grip, due to extraordinary cirumstances.
This unforgettable satire applies to large urban parts of Turkey: The State of Emergency in political order which evolves into a collective state of mind, merging with it.
The ‘March for Justice’ – initiated by CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu – which has entered into its most delicate phase is at the core just about that. If it is ‘allowed’ to reach its final destination before Maltepe Prison, where a CHP deputy Enis Berberoğlu with a background as journalist sits behind bars, will it be able to have any impact at all on the lifting of the State of Emergency? Although many people agree that the genie of now also out of the ‘CHP’s bottle’, nobody has any idea whether or not the ray of hope on the horizon will brighten up.
Yet the march has given a boost to the realization of secular, politically cautious Turks that once they lose their part as stakeholders for the future of their country; they will be condemned to a slow-motion implosion of their identity. They have started to see that there is no stopping of a resolve, by the AKP, to bring its ‘cultural revolution’ to a resolution, which will end up creating a Nationalist-Sunni supremacy over the other identities.
Thus the shock or depression, that the educational system not only abolished the teachings of evolution, but also makes it de-facto obligatory to teach pupils, Islamic Law – which is Sharia – and force them to pray in the mosques. They grasp more cleary what some CHP or pro-Kurdish HDP figures say when they talk aout Turkey as ‘open-air prison’.
Some went even further, having inserted the term, ‘gigantic concentration camp’.
These descriptions will be persistent and more widely used, to decribe Turkey as long as the State of Emergency lasts.
It has finally dawned on the ‘tame middle classes’, who feel with a great deal of justification that their ‘no’ vote in the referendum has been hijacked, that the the streets, the ‘domain outside parliament’ has to be a ground to take the struggle. Every day that passes, more and more feel emboldened to join; they are perhaps learning what the director Michael Moore had said:
”Democracy is not a spectator sport, it’s a participatory event. If we don’t participate in it, it ceases to be a democracy.”
On many fronts, they are facing a monster a ruling machinery which sees a political survival only by gobbling up more and more of freedom, as it becomes less than minimally rational. Despite growing calls, there is absolutely no sign of the AKP to abolish the State of Emergency.
On the contrary, the statements are, that there will have to be another three-month extension.
In this mood Turkey is approaching the first anniversary of the coup attempt – a collective act of suicide, which gave Erdoğan and his circle all the power tools to switch off dreams of democracy. In many ways, a cycle of twelve months is nearing a closure: dissenters of all sorts loudly refusing to be criminalized, main opposition decided about a long march and a self-confident, oppressive AKP preparing a week-long ‘vigil for democracy’ across the country. No anti-depressant will be strong enough to make one ignore this massive entrenchment.