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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Killing Mockingbirds

"Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em. But remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."
- Atticus Finch to his children,
from the book To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Someone once told me flatteringly I was a man made up of books.

She was about right. Reading from a young age, books have helped shaped the thoughts and views in my life, and so have a part to play in the man I am today.

However, I am far from perfect and so my approach to life will not be perfect either. In regard to Tarkan Deluxe also, it is essential that everything I write is looked at critically, and for readers to make up their own mind about what they read. Although I touched on the issue of minorities when I wrote "Children of Lesser Humans", it would have also been right to highlight that the issue of racism is not confined to Britain or the West, even if the notion we are stuck with today is a Western concept at its heart.

And sometimes Western stories can have foreign cover versions, too.

Killing Mockingbirds

"You're father's right,...Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy...they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mocking bird."
- Miss Maudie, To Kill a Mockingbird

MockingbirdIn my mind, on the issue of how we can be inhuman to others on the division of race, there is no story more poignant that Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Detailing the conscience of an American town steeped in prejudice and violence, the most shocking parts of the book are when it becomes a mirror for own own consciences.

And when I read the news about murdered Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, I thought that the sin of killing mockingbirds had been committed in the world once more - and this time was again forced to question my own conscience.

Ignorance is the Real Sin

The real killer in this tragic tale of a misled 16 year old boy picking up a gun to defend his country's honour and gunning down a journalist is ignorance.

Ignorance is more than just the absence of knowledge, even though a lack of knowledge is often part of the condition. It is the negative opposite of wisdom: the absence of qualities associated with wisdom. Ignorance also implies a lack of compassion, and as such it constitutes a self-centered attitude and its subsequent destructive approach to life - because it is the failure to choose priorities correctly.

The 16 year old boy had read on the Internet's Turkish news sites how France was treating Ankara as a war criminal and that Dink had said Turks had "dirty blood". He thought a bullet would clean the honour of his people, only to find that tragically he probably did more harm to the country he loved than Dink ever could alive.

The most saddest thing was that Turkey's most prominent Armenian voice was changing his views on the question of the Armenian killings in World War I; and there were also suspicions that maybe Armenian ultra-nationalists had instigated the killing - all too easy in a country where gun laws are more liberal that Texas.

Turkey has a blame in the creation of this boy, so too have Armenia and France - along with its European counterparts - that have been driving up anti-Turkish sentiment across the continent and the world.

Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk had warned of this. Accepting a literary award in Germany in 2005, Pamuk had stressed: "The fueling of anti-Turkish sentiment in Europe is resulting in an anti-European, indiscriminate nationalism in Turkey."

In a society segmenting all aspects of life, people tend to see the mental and spiritual development of a country as separate from the rest of the nations in the world. This is a fateful error. As individuals we cannot separate our thinking from whatever we are doing - so too is it true of all the countries on our planet. We will only progress if we take up the challenge on all levels of development simultaneously.

I may be against economic globalisation, but spiritual and humanistic globalisation I am always for, a drive for one dominant human identity to underpin - not exceed - our racial ones.

Turkey must change to enter the European Union, but the EU must change, too. So, we must come together, develop as a whole. Change as one.

The First Step on a Final Step

Today at Dink's funeral in Istanbul, Turkish mourners carried placards reading "We are all Armenians" and Armenian government officials and religious leaders as well as some members of Turkey's Armenian diaspora were invited to attend the funeral.

It is a start, at least.

As a man of books, I continue to stress that education is the key. If we do not educate our children to respect differing viewpoints and communicate through peaceful dialogue, then we do not give ourselves room for development. We are in effect strangling the life of our future.

And the real mockingbird killed here will not be Dink but Turkey - a country that continues to sing while the world blocks its ears, with only a few - a small few - always trying to listen with hope.

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