Sunday, September 27, 2009

Kevin Costner and the Shallow State

(Not Kevin Costner)*

I almost called this "Dances With Wolf-men," a reference not only to a famous movie but to the Turkish nationalists' favorite wild beast. My regular readers (all six of them) would have immediately caught on, but I feared that newcomers might not get it. And so I went instead with the above title, an even more obscure reference, a play on a certain politician's first name. In any case, here's the news: Kevin Costner seems to have endorsed the Turkish government's Kurdish "move," and in doing so has ruffled the fur of the nationalists.

No one seems to know why Costner did it. I myself learned long ago (in 1966, to be exact) never, EVER, even to hint in a public place that you might know something about Turkish politics. (But that's another story.) Costner didn't know this. He and his band (don't ask me to remember their name) played a gig in Istanbul a couple of years ago, and as a result he was booked this year to do an ad campaign for Turkish Airlines. Now he was asked to say that he endorses the current government's Kurdish "move" (we still don't know what it is, really) because he knows the Turkish Government "respects human rights." The result was this:

Opposition leader blasts Hollywood actor’s support to Kurd move

CHP leader Deniz Baykal responds to American actor and director Kevin Costner’s support of the government’s Kurdish opening. ‘Why are you interfering in Turkey’s domestic affairs? Do your job as actor,’ says Baykal

The main opposition leader has blasted famous Hollywood actor Kevin Costner’s open support to the government-sponsored Kurdish initiative over the weekend, labeling it as interference in the country’s domestic politics.

“Why are you interfering in Turkey’s domestic affairs? Do your own job as an actor. Who are you, my brother? What do you know and speak?” said Deniz Baykal of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP.

Baykal criticized the government for seeking remedy from Hollywood actors.

“The prime minister is hiding the truths from the public regarding the opening. He has a project on his mind and plans to make it accepted slowly in the face of possible reactions from the nation. Is it the prime minister’s job to deceive people?” asked Baykal.

“They [government officials] have found an actor from Hollywood to make it amiable. I don’t know how they convinced him [Costner] to come out and say ‘I support the opening.’ Why are you interfering in Turkey’s domestic affairs?” said the CHP leader, referring to the actor. “If you now put a map in front of him [Costner], believe me he cannot spot where Şırnak is,” he said.

U.S. actor and director Costner, who visited Turkey in 2007, voiced support for the government’s Kurdish move. Ruling Justice and Development Party’s, or AKP, deputy chairperson Edibe Sözen said last week Costner had been invited for the party’s general congress on Oct. 3 but the actor was unable to attend.

Debate over language

The CHP leader also criticized the government’s approach toward language. He said a person could come from a different origin, tribe, race or ethnic identity but “all of us must establish a unity under a common language.”

He continued: “What is the prime minister doing today? He is initiating a conflict on the language unity. The state’s duty is to teach the official language to everyone and help it to develop and strengthen. The state is not in a position to accept another language and present it as a rival to the official language. Turkey’s official language is Turkish and it will remain so.”

‘Aim is to split nation,’ says MHP

Opposition Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, leader Devlet Bahçeli, in a message issued on Language Day over the weekend, said those who support a second language aimed at splitting up the nation. He argued that beginning to use other languages than Turkish would speed up the process of weakening the Turkish language.

“It should not be ignored that the equal use and spread of a different language besides Turkish in the public domain could lead to the formation of a new nation out of the blessed presence of the Turkish nation, spoiling the thousand-year nation truth,” the MHP leader said.

Minister defends

In the eastern province of Van, Industry and Trade Minister Nihat Ergün commented on the government’s “democratic opening” commission. He said: “When you use the name ‘Suzan’ it doesn’t split the nation. Will the name ‘Zozan’ split it?”

Explaining the government’s move to businessmen and representatives of non-governmental organizations, the minister said there was a state that understands its citizen, instead of a state that doesn’t understand its own citizen. “That’s the case and that’s the process,” he said.

“Why do you ban people from using their local names? Why can’t you use the name ‘Zozan’? We would get divided. Why did we ban the name Berivan for a girl? The birth registry clerk didn’t write it because it was banned,” said Ergün.

The minister said there were differences in Turkey and asked to “let the people exist with their own colors.”

This is not all bad. Anyone who can provoke the anger of such as Deniz Baykal and Devlet Bahceli certainly deserves some credit. These are nationalist politicians, one (Baykal) of the "social-democratic" left (though Social Democrats in Europe disown him), and the other (Bahceli) slightly to the left of Genghiz Khan. One (Baykal) has taken as a surname the name of a lake in Siberia. (Don't ask. Maybe his ancestors were mosquito-herders [sinekci?] in that region, known for the heft and meaty qualities of its insects.) The other (Bahceli) carries an even stranger name. His first name (Devlet) means "State" in Turkish. This is like someone in English calling himself Government Jones. Much has been made of the "deep state," that combination of security forces and right-wing gangs that holds such power in Turkey. Devlet Bahceli, with his shrill warnings against language Armageddon, could be called the Shallow State.

Still, Kevin, I would advise a swift retreat from the Turkish political scene. An Ataturk biopic? Forget it. It will never get made, and if made it will do zero box office. An appearance at the AKP general congress in October? Oh my God, you made the right choice. Anything--your kids' ballet, the H1N1 flu--will do as an excuse for that one.

Meanwhile a government minister, of all people, seems to making sense. Kurdish names, he says, will not split the nation. But do Kurds actually name their kids "Zozan"? Zozans are nice places, of course, summer pastures and favorite places of Kurds and (when they're called yaylas) all Anatolian people. But I didn't know it was a name. Call me ignorant. But please, don't ever call me "State."

*Bozan Tekin, PKK commander

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, Gordon. Zozan is used as name. Quite an irony about Kev and wolfies. Speaking of wolves, have you ever looked into and compared the wolf-oriented myths of Ergenekon and Romulus and Remus? I wonder if Ergenekon tale is the hardcore adaptation of Romulus and Remus?


September 30, 2009 at 4:19 AM  
Blogger Gordon Taylor said...

Z: estagfurullah, of course.

Zozan is actually a pretty cool name. Question: Aren't zozan and zoma different words for the same thing? Which Kurds use zoma instead of zozan? Or are both of them used? If you had a son and daughter, I think it would be cool to call them Zozan and Zoma.

Re. the wolf thing, Ergenekon and Rome, I haven't really compared these founding myths. I'm sure someone somewhere has written a book about humans with wild animals in mythology. But I don't know it.

September 30, 2009 at 10:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zome, yeah, pretty much same with Zozan. Zozan is more of a feminine name though.

It seems I need to do some research on the Ergenekon vs rome thing. I have been thinking about it and it's rather odd that I have never heard of any historical document, tablet, or wall painting that actually spoke of it. But that may just be my ignorance.

October 1, 2009 at 7:12 PM  

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