The Extinction of the Unique

An army of demonstrators facing off riot police in Istanbul.

An army of demonstrators facing off riot police in Istanbul.

I’ve been steadily watching the ongoing riots and demonstration happening in Turkey the last week, it hits a bit close to home since I spent several years living and working there and consider it in some ways my second home. The names of the squares, the neighborhoods the news reports mention are all dearly familiar to me.

Kizilay, the center of Ankara.

Kizilay, the center of Ankara.

I left Turkey in 2002, just before Ergodan got in. In fact I actually had a run-in with him while he was on his election campaign. It was in the ancient city of Amasya. Me and a group of friends were there spending the weekend and staying at one of the old Ottoman houses which have since been converted into boutique pensions and hotels.

Amasya, sits along the banks of the river-valley of the Yeşilırmak River. Full of old, preserved Ottoman homes and tombs of ancient kings carved into the mountainside, it's a wonderful place to spend time. The region is also famous for it's apples.

Amasya, sits along the banks of the river-valley of the Yeşilırmak River. Full of old, preserved Ottoman homes and tombs of ancient kings carved into the mountainside, it’s a wonderful place to spend time. The region is also famous for it’s apples.

We were there to do some serious hiking and investigate the ruins and tombs of Pontic kings which have essentially been carved into the mountainside. We saw Erdogan give a speech in the town center and an American in my group yelled out “Hey Eddy” while frantically waving. Erdogan waved back but then when he realized we were a bunch of foreigners, looked confused and then stopped waving.

The Migros mall in Ankara.

The Migros mall in Ankara.

Anyway, I’ve returned to Turkey several times since then and the country becomes more unrecognizable each time I go. It saddens me immensely that the small things which made Turkey unique, like the Pasaji malls, the small old-fashioned cinemas and neighborhood weekly food bazaars (farmer’s markets) are disappearing quickly.

Weekly neighborhood farmer's markets or "pazaars" usually rotate around the city so everyone has a chance to buy from local farmers.

Weekly neighborhood farmer’s markets or “pazaars” usually rotate around the city so everyone has a chance to buy from local farmers.

Historical places which were off-the-beaten path like Olympos have been overtaken by mass-tourism, losing it’s charm and soul along the way. American-style subdivisions have swallowed up Ankara. You can easily mistake some of them for a suburb in New Jersey or California now. Mega-malls and multiplex cinemas are everywhere, and foreign franchises like Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, The Body Shop sit at every new corner.

Karum, is a super-posh mall at the base of the Sheraton hotel in Ankara.

Karum, is a super-posh mall at the base of the Sheraton hotel in Ankara.

I have many friends there who are involved in leftist politics and the litany of complaints just goes on and on. Turkey is awash with NATO money, condos, malls, resorts are going up everywhere. It’s the usual arguments for globalization, the classes and sectors most closely entrenched with the bureaucracy and with technocrats, profit the most while everyone else seems to experience nothing but diminishing returns. There are now restrictions to access to things like abortions, birth control, the Morning After pill and alcoholic beverages. There are even some shades of lipstick which are now deemed “inappropriate”!

Most of the Turks I know are very progressive politically and can’t stand what their governments are doing in their name. They don’t like the fact that Erdogan has gotten involved in the mess in Syria. They don’t like the fact that Turkey has such cozy military arrangements with the US and Israel. They don’t like the fact that journalists and activists who call for social reform and more freedom of the press are regularly jailed and imprisoned.

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Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows how much of a leftist, anarchist anti-globalization sympathizer I am. I hate the way the world is becoming more generic everywhere with each passing day. The blandness, the uniformity and in the name of “progress”. In that regard, I can understand why someone would become a Luddite. If I go to Japan, I don’t want to get off the plane to see another GAP, identical to the one at home. I want to see all the unique things, the foods, the buildings, the temples, the plants, animals, the geography, the farmer’s markets, the legendary fish markets which make Japan unique in the first place.

This could be, literally anywhere.

This could be, literally anywhere.

It’s not just countries transforming themselves to all look a certain way. I see it in the way people dress too. Everyone pretty much wears the same uniforms now. T-shirt, jeans, sandals/sneakers whether it’s Montreal or Mozambique. Everyone is eating the same food, burgers, sushi, soda pop. Everyone reads the same books, the same best-sellers whether it’s Dan Brown or Stephen King. People are even starting to think the same way and I’m noticing that it’s starting to take even greater reserves of psychic energy to maintain your uniqueness, to stay different and to stay outside the box.

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Talk to any scientist with even half a functioning brain and they will be the first ones to tell you that diversity, heterogeneity is a good thing. That having genetic diversity gives organisms genetic strength. That being in a state of homogeneity is dangerous for extended periods of time and leaves the species vulnerable.

This kind of homogeneity is not a good thing.

This kind of homogeneity is not a good thing.

That if you were to wipe out all varieties of say, rice, but just keep one or two strains for mass agriculture and plant all the fields with these two strains. In case a parasite or fungus is introduced and wipes out these two strains or rice, because you didn’t keep the other varieties which might have been immune to the fungus, you’ve now lost all your rice. That example can easily be extrapolated to humans, our minds, our opinions, our way of life.

Stay unique Folks, these are very homogeneous times.

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Categories: Ch-ch-ch-changes, Politico, Pop culture, Raise your EQ, Travels, Yoga | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “The Extinction of the Unique

  1. Dear Irasna,
    Thanks for bringing awareness to what’s happening over here (#occupygezi Istanbul + Turkey) from your end and putting your ‘unique’ perspective. To be honest, I was wondering if you were following the news and cover it in your blog somehow.
    So..
    There you are. 🙂
    Hail to differences, diversity and uniqueness!
    All the best,
    Neslihan

    • Hi Neslihan, I’ve been following the stories closely and have friends who send me private messages nightly about what they are seeing in their neighborhoods in Ankara, Istanbul and Antalya. It’s good in some ways because the leadership need to know that they can’t just go around bossing the people around. It’s also sad that the security apparatus have to come down so heavy and with such heavy-handed methods.

      • There are no words, no rationale to describe the sad, tragic part, BUT, the other end is good, it’s really good because whatever’s gonna happen, it won’t be the same again. Not anymore. I hope for the better of course. This is a country full of surprises. Turkey is confronting its Uranus!

  2. safetyharborwoman

    Great article. I’ve always wanted to visit Istanbul, as it always looked so beautiful and exotic. Your article is both informative and sad. It sounds like Turkey is “losing it’s soul,” among the other places around the world. It’ll be a great day when everyone finally realizes what you (and few others) have realized.

    • Unfortunately, people who think like I do are powerless in face of the kind of money and “economic benefits” developers, real estate tycoons, multinational corporations and politicians carry nowadays. Money talks and so does greed. I mean the protests initially started in Istanbul because a few activists wanted to save a tiny park, a few trees from being bulldozed to make way for another stupid mall. And now it’s escalated into something else entirely.
      Can you imagine, just for the sake of a green space, an entire country’s police force comes down on a bunch of harmless, unarmed activists and concerned citizens. What does that say about the state of the world? Our priorities?

      • Hi Israsna,

        Responding to your comment What it means is that the citizens of any country, can protest all they want. The big wigs, will do JUST what they want! As you stated before “Money talks and so does greed. Us citizens are powerless to this effect. SAD, but true. So, let’s live our lives as best we can with what we have and enjoy life to the Max!

  3. Pingback: Merci beaucoup à vous tous! | The Shift Has Hit The Fan

  4. Pingback: The Diversity Card | The Shift Has Hit The Fan

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