The reason for this article is the assessment of a fellow friend with a liberal stance in a meeting. My fellow liberal friend said “In the light of the definition of Şerif Mardin, Turkish Idealism (Ülkücülük) has remained as the stumpiest mass movement in the walk of Anatolian children from “periphery” to the center. Unfortunately, at the moment, Turkish Idealism (Ülkücülük) is the greatest mass movement of Turkey that has detached from its village and but stuck between rural and urban.” Upon this assessment, and getting angry a little bit with an orthodox idealist (ülkücü) reflex, I thought of commencing a counter attack by saying “What about the Kurds?” but I preferred staying silent and making some contemplation on this critique. Fortunately I did, otherwise I could not reach the inferences below which I think will make some angry.

“Ideal” (ülkü) at its literal meaning, means “the thing that is set as target that is desired to be reached, ideal, the thing that can be acquired only with thought”. In fact, it is very pathetic that a movement which adds the suffix “-ist” to its end and makes an abstract term an ideology, an understanding of politics, remains at the very back in the cultural walk of the periphery to the center which has put its mark on the last 15 years of Turkey.

This means that idealists (ülkücüler) miss the “spirit of time”, in Hegel’s words, by not being able to re-interpret their movement with an intellectual buildup and a critical approach. Their still-ongoing attempt to jail Idealism into the high walls of fear and the cages of paranoia inside them, and as if that is not enough, shackling this movement to the thousand types of conspiracy theories, in fact, worsen this pathetic scene. An author in the nationalist movement whose intellectual depth and analytic thinking talent I appreciate, expresses this mood which in my opinion has come into a level of mass-euthanasia with the following phrase: “All the Idealists must be more careful and diligent nowadays since global powers and their local collaborators have declared war on MHP which stands up like a mountain in front of the global winds blown from overseas for “Turkish Spring.”
For some reason, after reading these remarks which emphasize the “sacred and honorable” stance of idealists against anything globaI, I remembered the photo of baby-face dictator Kim-Cong İl who challenges (!) the world by reclining on the Great Wall of China who was waving on an old fishing boat and the haughty expression on his face on that photo. I think, I must add the mood of the citizen replying the warning of the police about a vehicle going in the wrong direction in the highway “What, just one!? All the vehicles are going in the wrong direction” to the haughty expression on Kim-Cong İl’s face. Despite knowing that the orthodox idealists reading this article will now stigmatize me as “a fame enthusiast who is after economic or political benefit, perhaps a traitor who denies his origin or a subcontractor”, I think that the time to make the following ontological statement has come and maybe is passing: “Perhaps the vehicle going in the wrong direction is ours”.

The absolute obedience to the leader, the organizational culture which is away from self-image and which dominates the differences, the short-sightedness in reading the socio-economic and political change in Turkey in the last 15 years, the blindness in reading the changing global trends, reactive attitude to the intellectual knowledge, the insistent manner about defining itself continuously through the state and as a result of all those, not being able to read the spirit of the time created the illusion “everybody in the wrong direction” in the idealist mass. It is so sad that in today’s world in which the political borders have lost their meanings, mutual economic dependency and cultural transparency have increased, a global homogenization is being experienced, the idealist movement which in fact is a non-governmental organization since its origin could not constitute a transnational non-governmental charity organization within itself even for – put aside being global – only the Turkish World.

Or ,it is how sad not to encounter any idealist in the media performing robust analysis at the level of global system without falling into simplistic approach of finding “foreign powers” under every stone in an environment. Or how thought provoking that at least one third of the friends from Facebook or Tweeter of the children of the people saying that the only way is to build mythical mountains around the political borders of Turkey and putting Turkey into deep freezer are the ones that must stay at the other side of the mythical mountains. While waiting for the orthodox idealist discourse which has missed the train of “globalization” at least or to surf into the deep wave of “localization” which has appeared as a reaction to globalization in the last 10 years, it happened just the reverse. The fact that the orthodox idealist discourse could not carry out a transformation in line with the Central Anatolian people’s reading of the era, who were once feeding it, appear as the second strategic error of it.

The skidding of the official idealist discourse – which both cannot read the global changes and also cannot analyze the basic motives of the Central Anatolian people walking from the periphery to the center; in addition which cannot discover wholly the civilization background of the rising societal dynamics – into a European type of nationalism which tries to preserve the status-quo and the official ideology with a deep secular rhetoric must be the result of these two strategic blindnesses. It is beneficial to state that this blind reading does not remain limited only to acquiring and interpreting the country matters, but also produces a barren political standing which leads to miss the fault lines of political fractures and detachments and therefore causes the limitation of their own political situation with “hostility and revenge politics”.

So, can the official idealist discourse be civilized, in other words, is civil idealism possible? The word civil has the meanings “belonging to citizens, out of government, civilized, urban, not wearing uniform” at the Dictionary of Turkish Language Foundation. In fact, it is possible to say that even those simple meaning in the dictionary carries us important ends in conceptualization of civil Turkish Idealism. This means that the idealist movement should define itself again by putting away the hierarchical structures resembling uniforms on itself in a way that will be human oriented with an urban interpretation. In this re-definition, it seems like necessary for the idealist discourse to move away from the ethnic based structure which looks down on others (ethnocentric) to get a structure of multiple centers (polycentric), to get closer to the democratic norms and negotiation culture, to steer for multiculturalism and a discourse which is right based, non-state and somewhat individualistic, to be open to criticism, to obtain intellectual depth to be able to read the global course of affairs in cultural and security fields.

The first requirement to be able to do all of the above is putting Turkish Idealism away from being a communal political term and re-definition of it as a right to culture. This right, which I try to conceptualize as “civil co-idealism” (sivil ülküdaşlık) in fact is an individual right in which every individual constituting the “nation” can express himself, use his imagination and can reach a unity of language, history and mythology. It is possible to define this right not as a political but a cultural right of every individual constituting the “nation” without taking into account the differences in ethnic origin, religion or religious sect, social class and gender. That is, if we apply the concept of “civil co-idealism” to the context of Turkey, while the “Turkish Man, Kurdish Man, Armenian Man, Greek Man, Laz Man, Caucassian Man” will be able to find themselves in the definition of nation and feel like it; they will not add “ Turkistan, Kurdistan, Armenistan, Greekistan, Lazistan, Caucassistan” definitions as the political baggage. The definition having a liberal side, in fact, denies the famous thesis of Ernest Geller “nationalism, is the principle that the political and the national must be congruent”, pushes “civil co-idealism” out of every political structure, and primarily the state, and gives it an a-political character.

I have the opinion that considering civil co-idealism as a concept on which only the idealists should ponder on is a mistake. According to the Gregory Jusdanis’s Belated Nationalisms Thesis which he puts forward in his book named “Belated Modernity and Aesthetic Culture”, which I strongly recommend everybody to read, the late era nationalisms which have missed the 20th century such as Kurdish Nationalism, are interestingly imitating the nationalisms they are marginalizing and copying their strategies one to one. In the light of this thesis, if we assume that Kurdish Nationalism will follow a course of maturation imitating Turkish Nationalism, I think it would not be so necessary to become an oracle to say that these two will quarrel each other. So, how can this spiral be broken?

It is gaining importance to cut the ethnic sides of these two nationalisms with a change of paradigm and thereby to raise them to the civil co-idealism level. With civil co-idealism, the national and the political are separated from each other, the individual is having the opportunity to experience the micro nationalism in cultural field by detaching from her communal connections on one hand, and is finding the chance to express freely this “voluntary” connection which is the necessity of being a nation in private and public space on the other hand. According to Michael Ignatief who has important works on Quebec Problem in Canada, a country is on the verge of ethnic quarrel if the nationalist identities in that country “get politicized” and preclude the individual identities. The solution of this problem is to unite the ethnic identities under the framework of individual rights and freedoms by separating the political and the national. Here it is, the term “civil co-idealism” I am trying to conceptualize is a cultural right which works for individual rights and freedoms. At this point, I feel like hearing from some the criticism that I am assuming that Turkish Nationalism and Kurdish Nationalism are modern concepts and I am ignoring the pre-modern, primordial and ethno-symbolic sides of both of these nationalisms or I am in a useless effort to merge a concept emphasizing particular and local (particularistic) with liberalism which is a universalist approach. I at least tell my idealist brothers that it is time to question how much space does the Turkish Idealist identities they have been using and familiarizing cover in their individual identity and which one of them they should acknowledge as the primary identity, to get out of mass psychology, to read the era correctly and to evaluate themselves as individuals. In my opinion, although its liberal side counter balances, “civil co-idealism” in this questioning provides an opportunity to them for upgrading to a paradigm more consistent with the soul of the time in the name of building a more brotherly livable Turkey of the future. I sincerely wish all my Kurdish brothers to do the same questioning. I am one of the people thinking that if we do not want to see the 2020’s politics in Turkey as a zero sum game which is quarreling, feeding from marginalization and tension, aiming polarization along the ethnical references; it will be appropriate to recognize all the needs originating from ethnic identities under the civil co‑idealism concept and as a cultural individual right without politicizing them.

Alaattin ALDEMİR
Former President of Association of Forges of Ideals (Ülkü Ocakları Derneği).

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