like the Ottoman Empire. He taught us that survivability in the modern worldfor any nation requires: (a) rational thinking and behavior, (b) exclusive secular education (no religious schools), complete separation of Church and State (Laicism), (d) a democratic government system, and (e) education and emancipation of women, among other things. These conditions are timeless truths that any society should learn and apply. This lesson was already proven clearly by the end of Ataturk’s life (1938)”.
A Moment in History
In fact, Kemal Ataturk analyzed correctly the reasons the Ottoman Empire was not survivable, by means of a comparison with the then technologically and ideologically advanced European states, England, Germany, France and Italy. But his analysis bears all the characteristics of the period it was carried out, the 1910s and 1920s. Seventy years after Ataturk’s death, can we still use his method, accept its results, and implement the same policies? I believe this question is very significant for Turks, but perhaps it is even more important for Europeans. At the times of Ataturk, the Western European societies were in a mutation which was the result of a long revolutionary process that had started in Renaissance. The Ottoman Empire and the Islamic world in general were – quite contrarily – a crystallized world in decay and decomposition, plunged into rigid thought and barbaric behavior. Ataturk opted for Knowledge and Science, opposing the uncultured and uneducated pseudo-imams of the Ottoman Empire, who opted for Darkness and Ignorance, and survived until our days in the disreputable realms of Saudi Arabia, etc.
What is the prototype change?
But, what if suddenly Europe turned irrational? What if the Europeans startedcanceling Mozart’s Idomeneo because the theatrical representation of Muhammad would disturb some ignorant Gastarbeiter in Berlin? (It is however true that the disputed scene ws not part of Mozart’s opera, but was added by the director, Hans Neuenfels. In it, the king of Crete, Idomeneo, carries the heads of Muhammad, Jesus, Buddha and Poseidon on to the stage, placing each on a stool).What if deconstructionist theoreticians, coupled with relativist ideologists andpolitical opportunists, shook the foundations of the European Rationalism? What if religious education was reintroduced in the primary and secondary education syllabuses in Europe? Would Kemal Ataturk have accepted a state as model, if the Evangelical bogus-Christianity had infiltrated its institutions, corrupting and besotting the minds of its citizens, as it happens today in the US?
And what if the emancipation of the women, after being thoroughly implemented, derived up to the level of utter Epicureanism, materialistic hedonism, and commercial exploitation? All these fundamental questions have one simple answer: Kermal Ataturk didnot admire and did not select as model the technologically advanced states of early 20th century Europe without any reserve and condition. He did choose them as models because of their characteristics and of what they stood for. If these states had different characteristics or at a certain moment abolished the traits that Kemal Ataturk identified as basic for a state’s survival and genuine progress, he would simply withdraw his admiration. In fact, in History there is nothing left unchanged; ideas are transmuted, states are transformed, and patterns are transcended. Concepts remain only unaltered. Reason is certainly a concept; freedom is another concept; equality is also a concept; Turkey and Europe have every reason to stand by these concepts, if they want to prevent another period of Darkness from invading the Euro-Asiatic landmass.
Today’s environment: Multicultural Societies
I believe Orhan Tarhan’s reference to Kemal Ataturk’s method should be carefully read by all establishments in today’s Turkey: “in a political environment the only way to survive would be to be “as fit to the environment””. Whereas the 1920s represented the times of the rise of the National State, the early 21st century is the period of multicultural societies and multi-collectively organized states. We moved from the Monolithic Unity to the Multifaceted Unity, and it is within this new context that we have to implement the basic concepts that guarantee progress and enlightenment, knowledge and science.
“Civilization is one”.
Another critical excerpt of Orhan Tarhan’s analysis of Ataturk’s thoughts is the following: “He thought that civilization is one. It is the Western Civilization. Turkey should be part of that civilization. This means, Turks should contribute to it, by doing scientific research, by composing music and creating other works of art. It is not enough to live like Europeans; one must contribute to Europe’s creative development”. This shows that, although admiring Western technological advance, Kemal Ataturk was not naïve enough to believe the Manichaean Western European separation of the world into two parts, the West and the East. This theoretical fabrication of the Colonial Classicists and Orientalists serves colonial intereststhat targeted in the past the existence of the Ottoman Empire, and nowadays target Turkey’s integrity.
In fact, Islam and Christianity, East and West, all are One World, and within this world the West introduced novelties that changed the world’s face in its entirety. There is no resistance to the Western civilization from other parts of the world, and there is no theoretical background dynamics available for this purpose. Simply, the Western civilization, with all its unbalanced approaches, inaccuracies and inconsistencies, misinterpretations and schemes is open to severe criticism from inside; so pointless the Western civilization has been, so inhuman its motives proved to be, so discriminatory its moving source seems to be that the criticism will probably be explosive and castigatory. It will lead us to a genuine Global Civilization whereby the only to survive will be those, who understand that diversity does not mean disunity and that alteration signifies death, whereas authenticity ensures life. Within a Global Civilization, it would be clear to all that two cultures authentically expressed constitute the only way of establishing parallels and similarities reflected on one another, whereas two cultures peremptorily altered and deliberately transfigured lead to confrontation, as they set up the environment for the Tower of Babel.
Picture: The Babel tower; Ataturk’s crystal clear rationalism helps thwart confusion, our main enemy. By Prof. Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin MegalommatisPublished: 1/20/2008