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A Small World After All? by Ethan Zuckerman

I have written comments about Ethan Zurkerman’s article “A Small World After All?” but I would also like to pin point to some other issues concerning the issue.

While the empowerment we get from the internet is undeniable, as the article suggests, it cannot be said that we completely understand and use that power, neither is it very easy to do so. First of all, using that power would mean taking responsibility and action and while we’re busy living our lives, it may not always be what we want to do (unless the situation threatens us or the ones we love). Secondly, most of the times we are not aware of the cultural dynamics of a country (which is totally understandable) to be able to use the power we have. How do you decide on the right action or how to help people when you don’t know what the right action to take is.

I came here from Turkey several months ago and in the past couple of years more and more I have been feeling like a minority in my own country. We, the liberals, are becoming much less powerful and our freedom feels threatened by the current government.

On October 29, the Independence Day of the Country, for example, there were disputes all over Turkey between state police and citizens, -men, women and children- who wanted to celebrate their Independence Day as they had been doing every year. Imagine the government forbidding you to celebrate the fourth of July – that’s how absurd it was. And while the news did get national coverage, nothing happened:

It was also around the time of Sandy but even if it hadn’t been absurd new laws and restrictions have been going on in Turkey for quite some time now.

Though many international platforms may not be aware, Turkey is rapidly going towards what may end up very similar to the events of Iran and the Shah. Day by day, basic rights are being taken away and there is repression within the society towards the liberals. Many military figures and people opposing the government have been arrested for ridiculous reasons.

The problem though is still not that simple. There are many sides to this issue that I don’t believe even the Turkish people are capable of comprehending. The mystery is much deeper than it seems like and raises many questions with it, even though I don’t like what’s going on.

Some possible issues/questions?

What is democracy?

Is democracy the “right” answer for everyone?

Is more than 50% of a country want a more religious leader, than is that not what they should have?

What about the people who want to live freely?

Was democracy and secularism imposed too soon, too fast (though with democracy, secularism and freedom in mind, most of the changes were imposed on people) on the Turkish people that they did not know what to do with it?

Is the country divided?

Whose responsibility is it to fix it?

Did the liberals ignore the voices of the conservatives for so long and this is the consequence?

I personally support a democratic Turkish Republic. Yet, the problems in these areas never have one point of view and is much deeper than one might anticipate. While a part of me firmly believes in the power of the people and is very intrigued by what went on in social media during the arab spring, social media alone did not cause the revolution. It spread the news faster, but the behind the scenes and power games are a bit more complicated than it seems I believe.

When all is said and done and the questions and their answers are not enough (and this sometimes takes many many years, as it did with the arab spring) than there comes a need for change and revolution is inevitable. And that’s history. What social media has to do with this is a bigger question once the people make the decision to start the revolution. It is a tool. A very powerful one indeed, definitely one that has been posing a threat to the Turkish government (last year, Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister condemned facebook and twitter). However, it still cannot be said to be the cause of a revolution.

Food for thought: The dynamics in the Middle East are certainly changing. Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister and one of America’s closest allies, sees himself as the leader and peacemaker of the Middle East. What a coincidence it is that the governments that would have posed as a threat to the desired new world order just conveniently were thrown over by the people. Had not those governments been overthrown, would the middle east really need a peace keeper is yet a question to be answered..

2 comments to A Small World After All? by Ethan Zuckerman

  • HanByul

    To arrive in here, I took Turkish Airline because it was the cheapest ticket that I could get. When I told this fact to Asli, Asli explained how Turkish Airline treated their laborers, (Do you remember? Oooh, it is 3 months ago already! :0) I still don’t know details, but more than 300 employees were fired using SMS due to their strikes to get their democratic rights. After this this conversation, I found that my decision is related with much more complex context than I had thought. I don’t think it is only my problem, in this age, every one’s situation is related with everything. In terms of physical thing, (Atom in ‘Being Digital’ by Nicholas Negroponte, I mention this thing because I already watched the author’s ted talk, he compares the Internet to atom, and atom can be better than bits in terms of being spread.) the coffee I drink in the morning is from Laos, and the cup it contains from China. However, I don’t know what context these things are from, so there the bits’ , the Internet’s (Bits also in ‘Being Digital’) role is. However, it is not very easy to do in our web surfing life, so I also think people who spread the information like you in more interesting, and appealing form are also important. Thank you for sharing your knowledge about Turkey, truly appreciate it.

  • Asli

    Thank you for remembering that 🙂 You know what the most ironic thing of the whole situation is. I could take you to Istanbul Today and we could go clubbing and partying and to the nicest restaurants and museums, exhibitions, many places during your entire stay, with you leaving Istanbul amused. That’s the Istanbul I lived in for 9 years (I was literally in love with the city) and it is as real as the other stuff going on. How and when to react becomes so much more difficult when that’s the case. A lot of people just ignore politics even within the country and that’s part of the reason things have gotten so bad – to those who can see it of course.