The country I grew up has neither a clean record nor a bright present towards the minorities it is home to. Putting some exceptions aside, our governments have never liked minorities, and not only the ones it officially recognized, like Greeks or Jews, but also the ones that you could call, in my native language, “aykırı sesler”, which can be translated into “incongruous voices”. The ones, who know exactly how governments treated those voices because they were once underrepresented, are in power now, and they ironically have adopted a similar discourse to their oppressors’. And including the last one, every government acts as if they treat the minorities fairly. This is what I call “grand hypocrisy”. If you wander in Turkish academia, you will find quality research on the history, but this “grand hypocrisy” is not my topic today. I want to talk about something similar but different in level and size. I want to talk about “minor hypocrisy”.
My academic interest to minorities does not rise from an awkward personal affection, as some fellow students ridiculously put it with funny statements like “You know, I love Islam. So I study Turkish society.” I believe how institutions and people treat minorities reveals a lot about their set of minds. In a responsible academic environment, an accurate study should distance the people from the institutions to a possible extend. What strikes me in my own life is how, sometimes, those people we dissociate from their governments actually behave the same way. The hypocrisy I call “minor” emerges when those people proclaim themselves strictly distinct from their vicious past and present governments, but they treat their friends and loved ones just like their governments did, does, but hopefully will not in the future.
No theory is good without an example. Here, take O.N.L. He is an educated, so-called humanist friend of mine. He likes to distinct himself from the society he lives in with his artistic expression, clothing, personal attitude, and his total adoption of and adaptation to the “humanist” discourse which welcomes “everyone as they are”. If you ask his friends or family, or even to those who watch him and his plays on the stage, he is a very nice person with a big heart. He detests the current government not because of political differences but also because the government does not treat the differences in an embracing way. He, himself, is an incongruous voice; and he mourns for the catastrophes that the minorities of our country went through. He even shared a video on Facebook condemning the past. Maybe not a good citizen for the current mentality, but such a good friend, and even a good intellectual, right?
However, when how he treats his friends who had to leave the country unfolds, we see a different story. This “nice person with a big heart” tends to consciously forget some of his friends live abroad. In addition, the departure of his friends, who were close enough to confront him with truths about his life, enabled this person to passively expel them. Their choice of living outside the country, or their obligation to do so, gave him the opportunity to gentrify his environment. He cut the communication with them, he deliberately lost touch, and it was something he could not do before, not to hurt the humanist image he is counting on in his personal relations. This virtual supporter of minorities failed to distance his behaviors from his country’s past and present towards his friends of a different type of minority.
So, when I saw the video he shared on Facebook, I immediately recognized a minor version of the grand hypocrisy I always condemn. He is the bearer of the pieces of a grand hypocrisy, and I am sure he sleeps well with his minor belongings. On the other hand, I feel the need to address any hypocrisy I detect, and minor or grand, it doesn’t matter.
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