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Friday, May 12, 2017

The Boredom of Repetitiveness

Nearly two years ago, I published a post titled "Confusing the Issues Again" where I suggested it was easy to forget how grim things were in the past. I also wondered why people would stick their children in leaky boats and endanger their lives for thousands of miles, when there were closer places of safety than Europe or America.

If the highest percentage of refugees in exodus were Christian, atheist, homosexual or of some other minority normally persecuted in Islamic countries, and the civil wars were a last straw, I could understand endangering everything you hold dear to reach those countries where enshrined freedoms are like a blazing beacon against the darkness left behind.

But why would pious Muslims not want to live in an Islamic, (comparatively) safe haven of a neighbouring country, and choose to live in countries of "the infidel"? In these countries same-sex couples are respected, women have equal rights, different religions are protected at least in law, and the public respect the law even above their own prejudices.

I now wonder if it's partly because some of these refugees believe that these countries and continents are somehow to blame for the upheaval they suffered and they want recompense. Still, when you understand the absolute terrors these people go through, to be treated as intolerantly as they are seen to be intolerant, shunned and kicked and locked up in camps, you really do question your own humanity.

It's a world where no one has the moral ground anymore. Maybe that's a good thing, because there really isn't any such thing. The people whose ancestors fought and died for rights and freedoms enshrined so deep in their public consciousness have conversely also been the same people to cause some of the worst crimes against humanity.

Similarly, like taking the moral high ground, we have to be careful over what symbols we choose to represent us. Some Turkish quarters are protesting on social media in defence of the secular founder of their country, against Islamic historians who claimed on TV that he had a questionable sex life, and his mother had a questionable past.

Putting aside the fact the archaic foolishness of trying to judge someone by the actions of their parents or their private parts, and putting aside the fact there is no evidential basis for their claims, what often makes me smile in such situations is the "pot calling the kettle black" scenarios.

The fact is that similar and worse claims can be made over the reigning prophet of the religion they follow (with historical basis); and yet in some countries we would be tried and sentenced to death for blasphemy or insulting the prophet. In Turkey, these so-called Islamic historians are using what little freedom remains to attack a person who helped usher in a time where they could go on TV and courageously slander a dead man with claims that have no historical basis or scholarly value.

However, I'm all for the freedom of saying what you like about historical figures; let the quality and class of the argument speak for itself. It really says more about you than the figure you're lambasting if you can't even bother to frame it within a scholarly argument. But no one should be lynched, or imprisoned, or even censured over it - people should protest, if they have a mind to, with their opinion and their pockets.

I made my views on the founder of the Turkish Republic very clear over ten years ago. He was my father's hero, and my grandfather's war buddy. To most Turks he is a senior member of the family; even to me, a guy who doesn't like to categorise hinself wholly within one race or creed, and who understands that historical skeletons lurk in every nation's closet.

No one is above scrutiny or criticism; even those symbols or icons, living or dead, which we choose to represent our own beliefs. Maybe especially so. Not ourselves, either. And again, especially so. But the complete scrutiny I ask of myself, I ask of others, too. Before you attack another's beliefs, first ask yourself how well your own views hold up to scrutiny.

For myself, I no longer feel comfortable flying the flag of any nation, because they have been hijacked by extreme right wing groups. I've put away my Union Jack pillows, donated my Stars and Stripes sweats to charity and removed my Turkish themed avatars.

In the 13 years I've kept a blog, I only "flew" the Turkish flag for two years during the Gezi Park protests, but I never felt comfortable with it anyway. Neither Turkish nor British nor American flags have any moral right to be flying anywhere else but on requisite government buildings and in the privacy of our homes.

If we are to be judged by the symbols and icons we choose to represent us, then we need to realise that not a single one is untainted. It all depends on what you want to see, or the bias you wish to confirm. For me the symbols I am comfortable with are symbols of nature, not because they are inoffensive, but because they truly represent what I have been saying for over ten years.

Naturally, it can be a problem when you find that some people are only realising now what you said a decade before, and you feel like you are going round in circles repeating yourself. There are times when something is worth repeating, but I often find that if something is said well the first time, then belabouring the point is useless. What's more it's boring.

Not only do you run the risk of sounding obnoxiously repetitive by constantly saying "I told you so", but after ten years if you find yourself repeating the same things, then you are either mentally unbalanced or still haven't got over the bump Sigmund Freud called the "ego".

If something bothers me I take a good, long look in the mirror, think of the suffering Syrian refugees, quickly get over myself and move on.

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