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Modernity or modernized barbarity ?

Reader comment on item: Goodbye Ankara
in response to reader comment: "Turkey ... a model of modernity and moderation for other Muslims to follow"

Submitted by Ianus (Poland), Sep 11, 2011 at 15:01

Dr. Pipes wrote :

>but my article was not about attitudes toward Jews, it was about Kemalist Turkey as a whole. While there were many problems with it, it was the most successful Muslim country of the Middle East in adopting to modernity.<

You also mentioned "moderation", didn't you? And I guess that a government's attitude towards its own Jewish minority can serve as a fairly good indicator of its moderation or lack thereof. If discrimination, pogroms, extortionist taxes and forced Turkification may be used as an indicator of anything, then hardly of moderation of the government that has consistently applied these measures.

A broader question is, of course, what is "modernity" ? I understand it as meaning in principle two things.

1/ For me it is essentially humanism, enlightenment, freedom of thought and speech which we didn't have in pre-modern times and most probably won't have them when modernity is replaced by any other alternative.

b/ But, obviously, modernity can also have another, purely technical and organizational meaning. It implies technology and its production - machines, power stations, infrastructure, industrial potential, and advanced weaponry like jet planes, tanks, bombs etc.

I am not sure to which kind of "modernity" you are speaking of "the most successful Muslim country of the Middle East in adopting to modernity"? If measured by the first criterion Turkey fails as dismally as the rest of the Middle East, except Israel of course. But I agree it doesn't if one measures it by the second criterion. Billions of US taxpayers' dollars, enormous technology transfers and investment in production and infrastructure in Turkey over the last six decades, mass purchases of the most advanced weapon systems from the US, Israel and Germany , a massive know-how and training transfer have made Turkey look externally modern. But Turkey in this sense seems to be as successful in adapting technical modernity as Saudi Arabia or Jordan which also rely heavily on transfers of Western technologies.

Anyway , a more interesting and disturbing question is now, how the primary aspect of modernity or its lack is related to the secondary purely technical side of modernity ? I mean what happens e.g. when we have no humanism but modern highways and trucks ? Then maybe we can use them not only to transport oranges and sunflower seeds from Iznik to Istanbul quickly and safely, but also a few extra trucks full of stones and patriotic thugs ready to smash the windows of the Jewish shops in the Istanbul district of Beyoğlu during a pogrom we are planning to stage to show the "cowardly" Jew who is the boss in the house? When we have no enlightenment worth the name and yet boast of being the second-biggest NATO army equipped with the most advanced arms available on the world arms markets, then maybe we will gladly use our napalm purchased abroad to burn as many Greeks in Northern Cyprus alive as we can blaming them for perpetrating a genocide against the Turkish minority there ? When we have no freedom of thought and speech and yet an extremely efficient, ruthless police force excellently equipped in terms of technology and a modern prison system from which no one can ever escape if once trapped inside, then most probably in a short time our prisons will either be crammed with dissenters and insulters of Turkishness and Ataturk or out of fear of our technical efficiency dissent and criticism will disappear for good ?

To sum up, I am afraid that modernity à la turque - i.e. external, technological modernity without humanism, enlightenment and freedom of thought and speech- amounts in fact to modernized barbarity. And I am afraid that this kind of "modernity" isn't so new but has quite a long tradition in Turkey. You may see it e.g. at the beginning of Kemal's career when the Soviet generals, engineers, technicians and advisers contributed their best in terms of transferring Soviet technology and know-how to modernize Kemal's army thus enabling him to finish the Armenian genocide and commit two new genocides (against the Greeks and the Assyrians). One can argue that a bit earlier technology transfer from the Kaiser's Germany to modernize the Ottoman state not only allowed the Turks to win at Gallipoli but also to exterminate the Armenians. And going even deeper into Turkey's history one could argue perhaps that the super-cannon made by the Hungarian engineer Urban for Mehmet II was also an effort to modernize the Turkish army by using the most advanced technology available in the mid-15th century.This ultramodern cannon smashed the otherwise unassailable walls of Constantinople and thus enabled the Turks to conquer the city and enslave its infidel population.

Submitting....

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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