From Gezi to the Coup: The Epidemic of Intellectual Laziness
The details of the coup attempt of July 15th are slowly starting to emerge. The leaders of all the opposition parties have made calls to respect the will of the people. Selahattin Demirtaş, the political representative of the Kurds, who are the biggest victims of the current administration’s brutality, has made a statement to defend civil government by saying “It is legitimate to resist on the streets to defend elected representatives of the people.”
But some sections of society who consider themselves progressive and open minded have suddenly started acting as though they were disappointed by the coup’s failure. It could very well be asked, what use is there in fixating on a handful of urban elite intellectuals? But it is about time we re-examine the responsibilities of those who have found themselves at the forefront of public debate due to their access to certain privileges. A small herd which considers itself to have a “disproportionate intelligence” needs to urgently face the reality that they do not have a god-given monopoly over intellect. They need to face the fact that their unjustified confidence in their own mental faculties is currently making them more likely to trust any old picture that is circulating around on the internet . This elite section of society who is unaccustomed to having their logic questioned is fabricating cheap conspiracy theories and think that they are ahead of the masses, when in truth they are seriously restricted by their own vanity.
When in 2013 we thought that we were starting a revolution in Gezi Park, there was a real coup against a revolution in Egypt. On August 14th, 2013, 635 people with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood were slaughtered in Rabaa Square by the military while praying. The people I had played revolution with in parks, the people I'd called comrade in the preceding months, have suddenly abandoned their consciences and started to denounce those in Turkey who are gathering to mourn this massacre. It is not entirely false that the coup in Egypt has been used by the AKP government to veil its own oppressive policies. But we have seen the rise of a mentality which is incapable of grasping the magnitude of this tragedy and insists on revealing “secret plots” and maliciousness behind a very conscientious desire to mourn its victims. And now the junta in charge of Egypt has blocked the UN from making a statement to condemn the abortive coup and an invitation to “respect the democratically elected government of Turkey”. We are faced with the bizarre solidarity and the elitist global vision of those who beat the drum of law and order through the violence of small juntas, instead of objecting to military governments who slaughter their own people.
This vision has manifested itself during the July 15th coup attempt. It is without a doubt that the images of violence from the Bosphorus bridge are bloodcurdling and need to be condemned with great urgency. But getting too caught up in the enthusiasm of condemnation and painting the military personnel who fired on civilians as the principal victims of the coup they initiated belies a moral double standard. To overlook the disasters that could have befallen all of us had the coup succeeded is plain foolish. Objecting Erdogan and AKP has become such an entrenched reflex that it has become acceptable to use discourses leftover from the 1960’s to legitimise military intervention.
University educated people with the privilege to spend a considerable amount of their time reflecting on world affairs need to channel their resources to come up with new ways of thinking, that will help build bridges of empathy between different sections of society. Instead they seem to be purely concerned with fighting to hold on to their privileges, by maintaining their monopoly over public debate and commentary.
The primary responsibility of those with easy access to diverse sources of information and an education which provides them with the tools to express themselves with eloquence, is to ease collective adaptation and cohesion. But instead of unclogging chokeholds, they are engaging in protecting their privileges at the risk of shutting down existing channels of communication by disregarding them.
An elite class who is merely concerned with upholding its privileges instead of pushing intellectual boundaries is of no use to anyone but themselves. Just as plumbers, electricians and train conductors have certain responsibilities that come with their technical knowledge, intellectuals also have certain responsibilities. If tomorrow electricians were to close shop and make a row in public about how everyone should show more respect to them, no one would have the same patience for them that they have for intellectuals. Elitist intellectuals are in the midst of a schizoid breakdown resulting from their occupational groups expectation to be respected not for its work, but for its existence. We are facing a class who is more afraid of the sound of prayer and cries of allahu akbar than the military force outside which is opening fire and flying jets over them with the intention to terrorise.
Violence is not an outcome that anyone desires, but this is a situation where violence is two-sided. Anyone who finds it easier to have greater empathy with uniformed soldiers than with civilians in jubbas should be ashamed of themselves. A mentality so alienated that it seriously believes the racist insults directed at their President are not also directed at them. This estranged vision which imagines itself as if it were Parisian for seven generations needs a very urgent reality check.
The lack of moral compass in their momentary reactions can be forgiven to a certain extent. But it is harder to digest their irremediable laziness. Like children who make up excuses along the lines of “the dog ate it” when they haven’t done their homework, they are grabbing on to the first conspiracy theory within their reach. Instead they need to stop, think and be productive. We may have been saved from having to be held accountable to the military regime for our laziness. If we are not standing in front of the blackboard on one foot with our hands tied, we owe that to our non-elite classmates . There are yet very serious exams awaiting us in the days ahead. I wish the best of luck for everyone.