Dictionaries define despotism as a system of government in which the ruler has unlimited power, the exercise of absolute authority, absolute power or control, tyranny, an absolute or autocratic government, a government or political system in which the ruler exercises absolute power, and arbitrary or tyrannical authority or behavior.
Given these definitions, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's state is not yet a despotic state, but it can be safely argued that it is a semi-despotic state. It is not yet fully despotic for a variety reasons that I have mentioned before, such as the military's and judiciary's current legal status and the composition of their personnel.
Despite his staunch efforts, Erdoğan has not been able to subdue the judiciary to his autocratic will, and the judiciary can still function independent of the executive, albeit within certain boundaries. With the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) election in October, he will do as much as he can to fully control the judiciary, but this depends on the willingness of the Kemalist, leftist, social-democratic and nationalist members of the judiciary cooperating with Erdoğan. Erdoğan has been in contact with them to encourage them to cooperate against the so-called "parallel state," but I do not think they will fall into his trap. Erdoğan has also been trying to fully design the army according to his ideological pretensions, but this is still a very sensitive issue, and the army has resisted his meddling with the junior ranks. Erdoğan's dailies have been publishing fabricated pieces on some military officers, arguing incredibly that they are volunteers for the Hizmet movement, but so far the army has not believed this ridiculous fabrication. Since Erdoğan cannot fully control these two institutions, he has not been able to realize his dream of establishing despotism. That is why I think Turkey is now in a stage of semi-despotism.
Let me now briefly look at what I think is the main cause of semi-despotism in the country. Despotism is the ontological other or opposite of the rule of law, justice and equity. Despots do not care about the law. They think that they are above the law with a Hobbesian mentality. Thus, they are always ready to bend and break the rules, norms, laws and even ethical standards to suit their whims and desires. Unfortunately, this is what the majority of the Turkish and Kurdish population does in the country, and that is why they are not disturbed by Erdoğan's semi-despotism. Turkey is a country of tax-evaders, where millions of rich people do not pay proper taxes. Turkey is a country where millions of people take or pay bribes happily. Turkey is a country where millions of people do not obey the traffic rules. It is a country where at least 20 percent, according to an official survey, believe that lying is not a sin. Ironically, these 20 percent are the honest ones. The percentage of constant liars is much more. The majority does not think that corruption is a bad thing. The list goes on like this. This list not only explains why Erdoğan still gets support but also why the majority deserves his semi-despotism from a democratic and also Islamic theological perspective. Despotism is about the egoism of a ruler who thinks that he knows best about everything regarding the nation, including the economy, education, international relations, etc. Despotism is a result of selfishness, which does not respect the existence of others, rights of others and demands of others.
I do not have much space left, so please complete the list of the majority of the nation's selfishness, egoism and disrespect for others, etc. Please start with how they treat the emergency lanes and ambulances in traffic, and continue with how they throw rubbish everywhere. Despotism is also about pragmatism and opportunism. This even culminates in a theology of power, which can be encapsulated in the creed: “Might is right.” The majority in the country are always siding with the oppressors, the mighty, the powerful, the absolutists, etc. This has always been the case in these lands, even well before Byzantine times. Either because of a lack of ethical standards or because of fear, the overwhelming majority in the country has almost always been silent about oppressors until the oppressors touch and harm themselves. Unfortunately, practicing Muslims have not been totally immune from this illness.
Published on Today's Zaman, 06 August 2014, Wednesday