Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why were the Gulenists inevitable? (III)

-Published in Hurriyet Daily News on July 14, 2009-
-Hurriyet Daily News'te, 14 Temmuz 2009 Tarihinde Yayinlanmis Makalem-

In my previous two columns I analyzed some of the shortcomings as well the changing attitudes of the Gulen Movement in light of the recent presentation made by a member of the movement in Washington, DC. Only criticizing the movement does not give the whole picture. The conditions that have given birth to this movement also need to be examined.

First of all, it should be known that the Gulen movement is one of the most genially structured organizations on earth. There are few movements in the history of mankind that have had such ambitions and aspirations: Patience, hard work, planning, leadership and purpose. Every single building block for revolutionary work was embedded in the movement. These elements have been perfectly matched throughout time.

At the beginning, the movement had its own historic reasons, firm steps and right nuances. And even today, the movement still has these elements with unprecedented success around the globe to further fuel the excitement of its members. In the past, the movement established and worked only from houses and dormitories; subsequently it established schools and classes preparing students for university entrance exams. During the last decade, these same structures have been carried out outside of Turkey in the form of universities and other institutions.

Now, let's look at the current Turkish Republic's regime and how we reached this point. The Turkish Republic also was founded on strong and legitimate pillars. Young Turkey had an independent vision, contemporary ideals and aimed for the well-being of its people. The Republic was created out of hard-fought wars, from a heroic rebellion with the solidarity of its entire people, despite the fact that the peasants of this new Republic were extremely poor, illiterate and as Yakup Kadri's "Yaban" tells us, were even tired of their independence wars.

The new republican regime, combined with secularism and democracy, prevented this new Muslim country of becoming one of those third world countries that continually struggles and yet fails to reach these very ideals. Despite all the misdeeds and weaknesses, the new Turkish regime had enough components of a modern democracy. The Republic was founded on the very premise of big 'change': shifting to new and modern times with a novel and fresh regime as its aspiration.

Unfortunately, the Republic that has been created on these strong pillars has been mismanaged. The people who were the leading figures in society and politics of this new Republic, along the years, started to think more about themselves than the people. After a time, Mustafa Kemal, who led the soldiers and the nation to triumph, has been taken hostage by this new elitist class that aimed to protect its own status. Serving the Republic and making it better for its people became a secondary priority, replaced with the protection of their own well-being.

For a few decades the Republic’s mistakes were forgiven. After all, it was a matter of survival. When one looks at America, the beacon of democracy in the world at the time, one would find a very cruel and unjust picture of a culture which the current American society is still struggling to outdistance itself from with its new black president. In the 1920s, American society’s approach to equality was, in essence, far worse than that of Turkey. However, that America emerged from its backwardness, and yet Turkey, though it certainly doesn't have that kind of a cruel past, its rulers wanted the country to be frozen in those years, maybe forever.

The product of a great revolution or change, young Turkey took exactly the opposite direction of the tenets of its foundation and its raison d’ĂȘtre. Through the years, the regime focused more on self-preservation. Instead of binding together the different segments of society, trying to achieve democracy and opening it up to everyone, the same class strived to preserve the regime untouched by the influence of changing times and the aspirations of its own people. Amid this vicious circle of seeking its own security only, the Republic has shut itself to the outside world and started to stumble. Of course, many international reasons also played a huge role in this inward closing.

The young Republic had most of the elements infused in the system by its founding father to catch up with the Western peers, but it missed its chances to take advantage of them on many occasions. Not only was the republican elite to blame for these lost chances. The reactionary administrations also seemed lacking in the vision to carry the regime to its final destination of being a modern and secular democracy. Compared to other Muslim and third world countries, Turkey indeed was very lucky to experience a modern way of managing a country. In particular, intellectuals from many other nations continued glimpsing at our modern state regime, wishing that they could have the same experience as we did. Nevertheless, they never had their own visionary leader, nor an uprising to bring or even understand the notion of democracy or secularism.

Yes, although it had many historic reasons and barriers, the Republic did not live up to the expectations. Many of the bureaucratic, judiciary and military elite or elitists wanted to have a republic that only works for them and the people that come after them.

This Republic was not exactly the same republic that was once envisioned. Turkey stopped evolving and wanted to remain as if it were in its first decades. This elitist attitude irritated the average individual and made them turn their backs to the state. The people of this independent country even started not to celebrate or even remember its Independence Day or other republican holidays. This reaction of the people created its own intellectuals and waves, in many different ways and forms, in recent decades. The Gulen movement, as one of those reactionary movements, also emerged at about this time.

It is now virtually inevitable. The movement moved to fill the gap that was left between the regime and its people. The Turkish people, especially the pious ones, felt squeezed out and left behind by their state, and searched for alternatives. What we need to do now is to ask the tough questions to try to inject the right tones to the emerging conscience so that these alternatives feel the need to explain their visions openly and spell out the manifestations they have in their mind for Turkey. I will ask some of the starter questions in my next column to finish this series, for now.

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