In Praise of Turks and Turkishness

In Praise of Turks and Turkishness

One of the most irritating things about being a foreigner in a host country, particularly after living there for over eight years, is the amount of generalisations we have to put up with, and how so many conversations end up in racial or national sterotypes. English people (not British) are cold, aloof, and secretive; Americans are loud, arrogant, and rude; Turks are dangerous, untrustworthy and chaotic. Ok, the citizens of these countries who travel often don’t correspond to the image, as they tend to be the more open-minded – or at least strange – ones – but the fact is the opposite is true for the above descriptions, in numerous cases.

Since the Republic of Turkey booted the British out of Anatolia in the War of Independence, the country has not been allowed a positive image abroad. Whatever it’s many internal issues, the ‘west’ has never known where to ‘place’ Turkey, because of a perceived mercuriality, and a degree of religious fear and suspicion. This piece is a personal, social-media style attempt at re-addressing this. Some positive cliches: Turks are warm, generous and hospitable. These are all true – though to be honest only when the subjects are from the same social class – pretty much like any other western country.

Some areas where the pre-mid-capitalistic Turkey thoroughly trumps the west: helpfulness, and social politeness. People do not break wind in public in this country. It is unacceptable for others to do so, thus it is unacceptable for you to do so. As in the love of personal grooming in oriental cultures, to please the others’ eyes as a politeness, so this sensual respect exists in Turkey. The annoyance of European/American/Antipodean voices talking loudly on public transport is shared by Brits and Turks alike, though Turkey would never insist on those voices shutting up – it’s none of your business. While foreigners may have some problems with the easy attitude to personal space, that is actually the problem of the foreigner (watch how your host country treats each other, and how little problem they have with it) and the pointless side of the Cult of the Individual.

In their natural state, I have observed Turks, not only the European leaning western Turks, but also in their myriad minority forms, to be the most instinctively collaborative, co-operative, helpful, supportive, fundamentally caring people I have known. This behaviour is a threat to the capitalised west, who can never understand. such non-prioritising of money. The country may be going through a rampant capitalising process at the moment, but this system doesn’t fit socially, culturally, or humanistically – and as usual, Turkey will find it’s own way through somehow.

Despite all these good things, the position of women in Turkish society is still troubling for any conscientious east-or westerner, but this is maybe too complex for this article – suffice to say the writer is a man, and life is far easier for him than his foreign female, and often Turkish, counterparts. A degree of sexism, or at least particularly unquestioned social roles, is embedded in the social fabric, and Turkey will also find it’s way through that one in this century which will see the final removal of every last drop of sexism in the world, one way or another.

Negative aspects appear to foreign eyes, frustrate (this is called ethnocentricism – one’s own ways are always more correct), but at the end of the day all we can do is observe – Turkey is not multicultural in the truly accepting form, yet. The application of common sense, comfort through familial support, a gentle sense of care – sometimes confused as naivety – a genuine pride in doing the right thing, and a strong and natural sense of independence permeate the social culture at it’s best – and yes, the visitor feels warm.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.