Whenever I hear academics preaching the discourse of “there is no ‘West’ and no ‘East'”, I know that there is the ultimate confidence and ‘superiority’ of a western passport behind it.
By Firat M. Haciahmetoglu. Published 10-16-2015 at openDemocracy
On the ninth of October, I had a long discussion with a renowned European professor about Europe and non-Europeans, about the West and the East in a nice, neat café, somewhere in the Western Europe.
On the tenth of October, two blasts took place at a peace rally in my hometown, Ankara. Almost one hundred people were killed.
On the ninth of October, my European professor told me that there is nothing that I can pinpoint as Europe and non-Europe. There is, that is to say, nothing that one can address as the West and the East. Their histories were, so said she, too intimately intertwined that one would not be able to discern one or the other.
On the tenth of October, I was calling my family and friends if they were okay, if they were alive.
On the ninth of October, she asked me how I can fail to realize that this language of Europe and non-Europeans is reproducing the very problems that I want to solve.
On the tenth of October, the conclusion was rather different: at least 95 dead, 245 injured, with 48 of them in a serious condition. This was, in other words, my failure, for yet another European intellectual, right after this massacre, paternally preached us: “Do not attribute this massacre to anyone, do not use the word, Syrianization, Islam, Underdevelopment. Do not stigmatize anyone.” Why? Because such an illiterate stance would reproduce the problems.
I began as such in order to show you the two opposite sides of the “same reality.” I do not accuse anyone of anything. It is quite possible that in my professor’s exclusively Western European reality, which does not exist for her by the way, our histories are indeed so intertwined that she cannot discern any “Other”. As I do not have any access to her lived experiences, I do not know – but as I do believe her good-will, I also believe that in her reality there are no European and non-Europeans.
The life might indeed be so amorphous in her Western European reality that any content fleets the formal definition. What I realized during our discussion was this split in the way we see the reality before us. For in my side of the same reality, there are chopped heads, and dismembered body parts and weeping parents… In her hometown, it might be the case that the most violent event occurs when someone hits someone cycling. Hence, let me put it like this, she has the luxury to tell me that “there are no Europe and non-Europeans.”
Whenever I hear these words (“no East no West”), I immediately understand that the one who speaking is a Western academician, an intellectual who will never have to live in a non-Western world. Whenever I hear this discourse, I know that there is a strong Western mentality, a peculiar approach to thetheory that denies its axioms.
Whenever I hear this, I know that she or he belongs to a new type of bourgeoisie that the global order brought about. I know that although the East and the West do not exist, she or he would never ever like to spend the rest of her life, say, in Turkey.
Whenever I hear them repeating this discourse, I know that there is the ultimate confidence and ‘superiority’ of a western passport behind it, leaning on which they preach us, those damned of the earth: after all, it is “they” who have the power to decide that Europe and non-Europe do not exist!
On the ninth of October, she told me that Europe does not exist. Our histories are so intertwined. Yet forgive me but I cannot help but wonder, is it only a coincidence that in this über-twisting-together, it is always “us” who die? Is it, let me say, only a coincidence that while in her Western European country, which we ought to know by now that in reality we cannot pinpoint it, lovers can hold their hands, they can kiss whenever and wherever they want, in my own country even if you look at someone’s face on the street for more than fifteen seconds, you can get yourself easily killed.
But please forgive my feeble mind, I forgot again, our histories are woven into one and the other; what I just told you, I cannot address anything as such! How can I dare to stigmatize and generalize? Who is this man who would kill me because I looked at him? Am I dreaming? Am I wishing? I am sorry. It must be me, or more precisely people like me – those who are modernized and Europeanized in a country which incidentally does not lie in, let us admit that much, in geographical location called the Western Europe; it must be “us” who are the bad ones, maybe we deserved those blasts. Aren’t we those who areothering them. We are bad. How bad we are.
I feel that even in nonexistence, Europeans have an upper hand.
It seems that I must apologize to Europeans for I choose to be modernized in a country that is not European, on top of my other mistake that I used the nonexisting terms such as Europe and non-European.
I am sorry that in my, in “our” reality, we have blood, we have massacres, we have ceaselessly weeping mothers. I am extremely sorry Europeans (only in a geographical sense, of course) that we have indeed bad people in my country; or, more precisely, I am sorry that I represent them as bad people.
For you know the best who is good and who is bad. Please forgive my “illiberal” reality. I apologize that in this part of the world we have the facts of Syrianization and that of also underdevelopment. I indeed feel ashamed to use these terms.
Yes, I know, by using these terms, by stigmatizing “them”, I reproduce all of this. I ask for your forgiveness, for my nonexistence is not as great as yours. It must be my fault that the difference between ninth and tenth of October is so devastatingly big. I must be representing as such. Because you taught me that in fact there is no Europe and there is no non-Europe. Who killed all those people? I don’t know. Maybe they exploded themselves, can it not be?
Will this make this new peculiar type of multicultural bourgeoisie happy?
Let me conclude with a basic categorical imperative that I developed during my “global experiences”: do not preach on a culture/nation in which you are not ready to spend the rest of your life. That is, please do not come to us and paternally decide what exists and what does not, what we can say and what we cannot.
Be open to the possibility that your reality and mine might turn out to be fundamentally different. Be open to the possibility that the lessons that you derived from your own history cannot be applied directly to mine, because it might be the case that in this part of the world we are not merely repeating your past.
I completely understand, in your Western world, you can rightfully ignore all these definitions, I have nothing against Proust; on the contrary, I would love to have your intellectual luxury, your peculiar type of bourgeois privileges. But just open the TV, watch the news, and consider for a moment that, maybe my responsibility is different than yours.
Maybe things are working differently in this part of the world, for although our histories are so intertwined, in the end, it will be my friends, my family, “my” people whose body would be torn apart, not probably yours.
About the author
Firat M. Haciahmetoglu is a graduate philosophy student at KU Leuven in Belgium. He is currently working on the ontological possibilities of multiculturalism in Europe. He has also extensively written in Turkish.
This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.