November 20, 2015

‘There is an asymmetrical war between sheer power and values in Turkey’

Sevgi Akarçeşme

Psychiatrist Vedat Bilgiç, the author of the book “Müşfik Diktatör" (Compassionate Dictator), recommended that people hold on to their values in the face of mounting pressure and hate speech while also offering a number of insightful observations about Turkish society.

In an interview with Today's Zaman Dr. Bilgiç argued that today there is an almost a “conservative paganism” in Turkey.

According to him, those who oppress innocent people through the ideology of political Islam today believe in God but do not have trust in God. Dr. Bilgiç argues that someone who has trust in God could not commit illegal acts that easily. In reference to the period following the Dec. 17 and 25, 2013 corruption investigations, Dr. Bilgiç says there is an “asymmetrical war between sheer power and values.” He further argues that values are bound to win regardless and those who fight for their ideals will never lose. Comparing the Dec. 17-25 period to the winter solstice, in which night begins to shorten and summer gets closer, Dr. Bilgiç says the summer for believers will arrive as well. For those who feel victimized, he recommends enjoying the sense of freedom that fighting for an ideal brings.

In response to the increasing hate speech and incidents in Turkey such as booing one moment of silence for victims of the Paris or Ankara attacks, Dr. Bilgiç talks about the concept of “dehumanization.” According to him, people who are considered as “other” are “dehumanized” as a method of propaganda and, as a result, are not considered human. “If you call a group of people leeches, insects or something else, people will believe that anything can be done to them,” Dr. Bilgiç says as he talks about how much the state has been sanctified in Turkey. “The over sanctification of the state or of anything leads to the belief that there is no need for morality when religion is concerned,” Dr. Bilgiç points out. According to him, in the history of Turkey, for the first time the political Islamists believe that they own the sacred state.

Dr. Bilgiç, who works at İstanbul's Fatih University Medical Faculty Hospital, says those who rely on their values are currently tested by their very beliefs. “People watch to see who will win this war: power or values,” he comments. According to Dr. Bilgiç, throughout history there have always been struggles between the powerful and the idealists, and in the end oppressors always lose, no matter how much they seemed to be winning in the beginning.

In response to a question of whether it is healthy to expect divine help for victims, Dr. Bilgiç says belief, even if it is wrong, is a healthy thing. According to him, the people are aware of the illegal actions and oppression conducted by the regime in Turkey today, but they are not ready to face it until they experience great pain. “Unfortunately the people will hurt before they face the problems,” he comments.

When asked why many people remain indifferent to the oppression, particularly against the Gülen (Hizmet) movement, Dr. Bilgiç talks about the fear factor: “There is pressure. People's property is confiscated, TV channels are shut down. Some people even tell me not to interview with you in order to protect myself,” he openly said, while adding that being able to talk comes at a price.

Muslims are not succeeding in this test

According to Dr. Bilgiç, in this war between power and values or beliefs, Muslims in Turkey are not giving a successful performance. “Do they not take the atheists who are ready to give up their lives for their ideals as an example?” he asks, claiming that in Turkey, certain segments of society suffer from a “conservative paganism.” Dr. Bilgiç states that Muslims have become too “materialistic.” He argues that political Islamists do not trust in God, given the oppression they impose [on the Hizmet movement] without any hesitation. On the contrary, he argues, the Hizmet movement both believes and trusts in God, which makes it defiant against oppression. He notes that people follow Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen not because he promises anyone any material gains, but because he gives people a meaning for life.

Dr. Bilgiç believes that for many political Islamists religion is nothing more than a “cultural outfit.” He says they are deprived of substance. “They are born into a Muslim society, receive religious education and cling to the symbols, but there is nothing left in terms of values,” he comments. He criticizes these people for not being able to think in abstract terms. Dr. Bilgiç says that in any society, the masses have an intelligence level that is below the critical threshold.

Finally Bilgiç states that perception wars end with the failure of the propagandist, as seen in the example of Joseph Goebbels in the Hitler era, since he committed suicide in the end.

Published on Today's Zaman, 20 November 2015, Friday