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The following article by Niyazi Kızılyürek appeared in Yeni Düzen on 13 March 2011. Translated from Turkish by Tim Drayton.

The Survival Rallies and the Parade of Cynics

Niyazi Kızılyürek

Tanıl Bora, in the book entitled The Left, Cynicism and Pragmatism, describes cynicism in its day-to-day sense as, “merciless scorn without taking the sensitivities of the situation into account or even for its own sake”. If we were to turn to a more philosophical source and adopt Peter Sloterdijk’s interpretation, he says, “Cynicism is understood to be so-called realism, dirty and course realism”, but actually the cynical person “does this with a feeling of powerlessness in the face of that reality, or more accurately of the power that gives rise to that reality – genuinely believing that nothing can be done, he or she makes do with casting stones and passing comment. The edge of his or her mouth is like a crooked scornful smile; the cynical attitude. This is an extremely objectivist attitude. It is equipped with critical reason but, all in all, on condition of being obedient.”

Bora continues as follows: “There is a very deep feeling of powerlessness at the heart of cynicism. The sense of being faced with a force against which objection cannot be brought to bear makes opposition cynical. Cynicism, which opens the way for the loss of the capacity for subjectivity, limits the potential for the ability to act, for activity and mobilisation, or destroys this potential in its entirety.” In short, cynical attitudes pave the way for powerlessness and political incapacity. You proclaim the thing which overwhelms you to be “true”. The cynical person looks on political activity and resistance with sarcastic contempt. They think that no result can be obtained. They create through insinuation a “truth” out of the state of incapacity which engulfs them. The cynical person, having lost, together with their will, the potential to be a subject, embraces conformism. This paves the way towards a pragmatism guided by cynicism, i.e. opportunism.

We have become acquainted with various examples of cynicism in the course of the “crisis” surrounding the 28 January rally and in the wake of the 2 March rally. Certain persons confined themselves to making sarcastic comments; others embellished their sarcasm with opportunism. Neither the Turkish Cypriot community’s existential concerns, fight for identity, struggle for dignity and recognition nor demand for peace - the cynical subject sees none of these. Decontextualising everything and overlooking the sensitivities of the situation, they display “merciless scorn for its own sake”. Certain persons count the number of Turkish Cypriots’ cars, some calculate their salaries and others speak of their laziness and their being a “kept people”.

The Cynical Left-Winger

For example, a cynical left-winger treats opposition to the policies applied by Turkey in Cyprus with demeaning scorn and views all kinds of social reaction in opposition to Turkey as a “breakdown” that needs to be fixed. They say in a scornful manner that, “you will achieve nothing,” in other words they imply that “you are not strong enough,” and add, “It will go in one of Turkey’s ears and come out of the other.” Ignoring the fact that this is the very crux of the matter and in a spirit of “extreme objectivity” that decontextualises everything, they sprinkle crumbs of “truth” among their words: “We have no support apart from Turkey. The EU will not look us in the face. The EU does not object to the discrimination practised against us.”

It is no concern of the cynic why and how these circumstances have come about. They have subjected themselves to power and have fabricated their own “truth” so as to obey/turn towards that power: “There must be no tension with Turkey. This is vital … It is the country that gives you 800 million dollars, the country that grants you security – when the Greek Cypriots cut off the electricity Turkey sorted things out – whenever we are in trouble we go to Turkey … You give your friend financial assistance – I will not say your child so as to avoid misunderstanding - and then your friend’s child turns round and swears at you; this is not on… Put yourself in Turkey’s place and think.”

The cynic channels the conformism that arises out of the engulfing sense of incapacity in the face of power into opportunism and demands, so as to curry favour with the authorities, the prosecution of “provocateurs who give joy to the enemy”. While defending Ankara they make the UBP government the target of their criticism: “They do not sign and implement the protocol. Criticism should be targeted at the UBP government… It made the agreement. The policy being followed is for the government to get the praise and Turkey the blame.” And they add, “We are so good at passing the blame for our own faults onto others.”

The finely balanced opportunism, despite careful attempts to camouflage it, eventually moves into the realms of the totally ridiculous. The cynical left-winger now scales the very peaks of Turkish nationalism and declares that the Kurds who abandoned the mountains and presented themselves at the Habur Checkpoint are a “disgrace” to the mothers of the fallen. Since to their minds this will please the authorities more than anything else, they draw a parallel between the Turkish Cypriots and the Kurds in terms of being a “disgrace” to Turkey. That is, the cynic removes the problems experienced by both the Turkish Cypriots and the Kurds from their true context and examines events from within ruling-class nationalist ideology.

The Cynical Liberal

A cynical liberal, by contrast, dubs the 2 March rally a “two-faced rally”. “If a rally was to be held at all, it should have been against, not the AKP government, but the political parties and trade unions that have brought the TRNC to the brink of bankruptcy and hopelessness. But this could not have happened because it was the trade unions which organised the rally. Participation came chiefly from all of the political parties with the exception of the ruling UBP. In other words, those who have rifled the country’s treasury, caused every public enterprise without exception to go bankrupt and stripped the state banks of assets are holding a rally in opposition to those who are endeavouring to rectify the economic disaster that they have caused. (…) It was Cypriot politicians who opened the doors to migrants whom today they basically do not want (and want to get rid of). If the Turkish Cypriots wish to free themselves from the crisis facing them today, they must first and foremost stop holding rallies together with the political parties and trade unions and must grasp that the basic need is to hold rallies in opposition to them.”

The cynic is the master of demanding of his or her interlocutor the very thing that he or she believes cannot be done as a consequence of having vanished as a subject in the face of power. The cynic, taunting, “Go on, let us see you do it,” essentially wishes to ridicule the protesting subject. Implying that the situation cannot be changed in the face of the ruling power, they mock for all they are worth and derive sadistic pleasure from this. This was how Süleyman Demirel reacted to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the question of headscarves: “Is anybody telling you not to abolish it? (...) If you are strong enough, abolish it. If not, stop wandering around like a would-be wrestler.” Tanıl Bora quite rightly quotes these words as an example of “superb cynicism”. The liberal cynic in our example veritably strives to outdo Süleyman Demirel in terms of cynicism. They say, “Let them ship the migrants back. Then let them tell Turkey, ‘Do not send any more money or civil servants; we will fry in our own juice.’ Why do they not say this? What is stopping these bloated politicians and trade union bosses?”

It is clear that the cynic decontextualises everything and speaks with merciless scorn. Of course, they speak with the authorities in mind.

The Cynical Greek Cypriot Nationalist

Greek Cypriot nationalists, too, deliberate with cynical comments on the Survival Rallies. Undoubtedly, the cynicism which we encounter here is not a cynicism resulting from the loss of the status of subject in the face of power. What we have here is a cynical attitude deriving from an idea that the Turkish Cypriot community, having been definitively turned into “the other”, “will get it wrong whatever it does.” While some of them mock the Turkish Cypriots, “accustomed to being kept”, for wanting “more money” from Turkey, others reproach them for failing to wage an “anti-occupation” struggle. For example, a well-known nationalist said on the radio, “At these rallies, did the Turkish Cypriots say ‘Kyrenia is the Kyrenians’ and Morphou is the Morphians’?’ They did not. So why are we talking about them?”

It is apparent that sarcastic disparagement has here reached its zenith. The cynic, guided by their own “truth”, either ignores the Turkish Cypriot communty’s realities, or distorts them. The cynic declares everything which does not conform to their own “truth” to be “meaningless”.

The fact is that the Turkish Cypriot community has become the object of both home-grown and externally grown cynical attitudes. Overcoming this will be no easy matter, but is not entirely impossible. As Tanıl Bora has said, the antidote to cynicism is the development of the capacity to be a subject. “To open a conduit for the potential for the ability to act, to seek out that which may be done and to widen the bounds of that which may be done.” This is what must be done.

Archive of Turkish press translations by Tim Drayton