21 Şubat Dünya Anadil Günü

Bugün, başlıktan da anlaşılacağı üzere, Dünya Anadil Günü. 1999 yılında UNESCO Genel Kurulu tarafından ilan edilen Dünya Anadil Günü, 2000 yılından bu yana her yıl dünyadaki kültür ve dil çeşitliliğini desteklemek amacıyla kutlanmakta.

Anadilin kültürel varoluş açısından önemi yadsınamaz. Anadillerin korunması sadece bu çeşitliliği korumak açısından değil, aynı zamanda insanlığın kültür mirasını sürdürebilmesi bakımından da kritik önem arzeder. Azınlıkların anadillerini özgürce kullanabilmeleri ve anadillerinde eğitim görebilmeleri, eğitimde yüksek kaliteyi sağlayacak unsurlardan biri olup sürdürülebilir kalkınma çerçevesinde özellikle dikkate alınması gereken bir olgudur. Azınlıkların anadillerini serbestçe kullanabilmeleri ve kendi dillerinde eğitim görebilmeleri, demokratik ve barışçıl bir dünyanın oluşturulmasında da rol oynayacak faktörlerden biridir. Eylül 2015’te Birleşmiş Milletlerin belirlediği ve kabul ettiği Sürdürülebilir Kalkınma için Global Hedefler’inin fakirliğe ve eşitsizliklere son vermek gibi hedeflerine varabilmek için benimsediği 17 hedeften bir kısmının doğrudan anadille ilişkisi açıktır. Diger bazı hedeflerde ise dolaylı bir öneme sahip olan anadil özgürlüğünün korunması için BM programına imza atmış olan ülkelerin bu konuda samimi davranmasını beklemek, dünyadaki herkesin en doğal hakkıdır. Barış, demokrasi ve özgürlük, kalkınma ve adalet gibi kavramları söylemlerinden eksik etmeyen yönetimlerin ve politikacıların samimiyeti, anadiller konusundaki tavırlarlarından rahatlıkla ölçülebilir.

Anadillerin yok olması sadece yerel kültürlerin yok olması demek değil, aynı zamanda insan olarak varoluşumuzun temellerinin yıkılması demektir; uygarlığın ilerleme potansiyelinin dumura uğramasıdır. Bugün dünyada mevcut olan ve ne yazık ki içinde bulunduğumuz 21. yüzyılda kaybolup gitmesi ihtimali yüksek olan 7000 dil, insanlığın önünde duran bir engel değil, kendisinden daha fazla kullanılmayı bekleyen bir hazinedir.

Dijital Çağın Gerektirdikleri

Kısa süre önce Millî Eğitim Bakanı Fikri Işık, ilkokul ve ortaokullarda kodlama dersleri konacağını açıklayınca bunun ne kadar gecikmiş fakat yerinde bir karar olduğunu düşündüm.

Son birkaç yıldır A.B.D. ve İngiltere’de de tartışılan bir konu olduğunu bildiğim için birkaç noktayı yazmakta fayda görüyorum.

Epey bir süredir üniversite hayatı içindeyim ve öğrencilere (gerek lisans ve gerekse lisansürtü düzeylerde) ödevler verdiğimde bazen en basit bazı ödevlerde dahi işin içinden çıkamadıklarını görüyorum. Örneğin bir tablolama programını bile kullanamadıklarına ya da bir güçlükle karşılaştıklarında neyi nasıl araştıracaklarını bilmediklerine, popüler bir ofis programından başka pek bir uygulama tanımadıklarına şahit oluyorum. Bilgisayarların ve otomasyon sistemlerinin hayatın her alanına nüfuz ettiği bir çağda, bilgisayar ve benzeri teknolojilerle iç içe büyüyen, elinden cep telefonunu düşürmeyen, hatta bilgisayar başında saatler geçiren bir neslin böyle bir acemilik içinde olması karşısında hayret etmemek mümkün değil.

Bu da gösteriyor ki, Türk eğitim sisteminde bu konu yeterince ve doğru bir biçimde ele alnmıyor. Gerek ABD’de ve gerekse İngiltere’de kabul edildiği üzere, 21. yüzyılda ülkelerin refahı bilişim ve teknolojiye dayalı becerilerin geliştirilmesiyle olacaktır. Bu nedenle de bilgisayar okuryazarlığından dijital okuryazarlığa geçmek, gerekli becerilerin kazanılması ve çağın gerektirdiği yaratıcılığın beslenmesi için acilen uygulamaya konması gereken bir konu olarak dikkati çekiyor. Yeni nesilleri söz konusu becerilerle yetiştiremeyen bir Türkiye’nin fazla yol alamayacağını kabul etmek gerekir. Dolayısıyla, Millî Eğitim Bakanlığının bu kararı hayata geçirilirse doğru bir adım atılmış olacaktır.

Crisis with Russia

The downing of a Russian fighter-bomber on Nov 24 along the Turkish-Syrian border is considered by many observers as an act of war. The Russian administration, claiming that their SU-24 never violated Turkish air space, called the incident “a stab in the back.” While the USA, France and NATO seem to back Turkish claims that Turkey has the right to defend its territorial rights, Russia has immediately proceeded to impose economic sanctions on Turkey, ranging from a ban on Turkish imports to visa restrictions.

Kremlin’s tough and unwavering stance will certainly have an impact on Turkish economy. For example, in 2014 the number of Russian tourists that came to Turkey reached 4.5 million. This amounts to almost 4 billion dollars in revenue, comprising a major portion of Turkey’s earnings from foreign visitors. Leaving aside Turkey’s dependence on Russia for its natural gas, another critical issue that needs to be resolved, its exports are likely to plummet if the Russians stick to their words. In 2013, Turkey’s exports to Russia were in excess of $7 billion, making it one of its major export partners.

en_visualize_explore_tree_map_hs92_export_tur_rus_show_2013
Turkey’s Exports to Russia (2013)

On the other hand, Turkey imports from Russia mostly petroleum products, raw aluminium, scrap metal, various chemicals and wheat. The value of total imports from Russia exceed $14 billion, more than 30% of which being refined petroleum.

en_visualize_explore_tree_map_hs92_import_tur_rus_show_2013
Turkey’s Imports from Russia (2013)

It is clear that in the short-term both Turkey and Russia are likely to lose from the current stand-off. It needs to be emphasized, however, the reckless foreign policy of Turkey does not serve Turkey’s long-term interests; neither does it serve peace in the region.

Data source: AJG Simoes, CA Hidalgo. The Economic Complexity Observatory: An Analytical Tool for Understanding the Dynamics of Economic Development. Workshops at the Twenty-Fifth AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence. (2011)

 

November 2015

This year in November the weather in Istanbul has been quite warm – unusually so. Whether it is due to the hotly debated climate change/global warming or it is simply because we are having a warmer November is beyond my pale. The political climate is certainly reaching the boiling point but that is not what I intend to show here, although I am very much tempted to do so. The United Nations Climate Change Conference started in  Paris, and some of the leaders have already made striking statements, indicating the imminence of taking serious measures such as the use of sustainable technology, energy efficiency and innovation. We will have to wait and see, however, if the participants can reach a binding and universal agreement on climate.

In a previous post, “Climatic Anomalies“, I had shown the increasing global temperatures. Given the anomalies that are reported and the Conference being held, I researched the average temperatures in Istanbul. According to the State Meteorological Office mean temperature in November between 1950 and 2014 was 7 degrees Celsius, mean maximum temperature 12.8 degrees and mean low 2.4 degrees Celsius.

Maximum, mean and minimum temperatures in Istanbul (November 2015)
Maximum, mean and minimum temperatures in Istanbul (November 2015)

This year, however, mean temperature has been 14.17 degrees Celsius, mean maximum temperature 17.13 and mean low temperature 11.27 degrees Celsius. The chart below shows the course of temperatures throughout the month of November.

Temperature fluctuations - November 2015
Temperature fluctuations – November 2015

Given that in many countries total carbon dioxide emissions and per capita emissions have increased in the last couple of decades, and in the face of empirical data, we seem to have good reasons to worry about global warming and its devastating consequences, as already stated by some of the conference participants.

 

What It Takes To Be an Outstanding Leader: Kemal Atatürk

Books on leadership abound in political science literature. However, I am not going to delve into those murky waters; instead, on this day of the 77th anniversary of his death, I will briefly explain, in appreciation for what he carved out of a devastated empire, why Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was a truly remarkable leader and a statesman that has been revered by many politicians and statesmen in the world.

First of all, Mustafa Kemal was not  simply a well-trained officer, a successful commander or a politician, he was truly a man of vision, a man who could not only dissect the problems of  his age as skillfully as a master surgeon, but could also see far beyond his times and pinpoint the kinds of social and political problems his country could possibly face under certain conditions. In his case this was not only a matter of having some inborn talent, but something he quite obviously nurtured over his tumultuous and short life. His interest in social, political and scientific realms had almost no limits, making him an avid reader who kept reading, taking notes and pondering about world politics, about the ills of the decaying Ottoman Empire, and about the possibilities that the future might have in store for the Turkish nation he was trying to forge. How can one have vision unless one’s powers of imagination are nurtured with intellectual pursuits?

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

Secondly, Mustafa Kemal was a man of calculation. He was no mere adventurer or fanatic that led his people to catastrophic ends. Unlike some others, he set realistic goals in his effort to serve his people, and thanks to his decisiveness and superior organizational skills, he succeeded in attaining them. This certainly requires rational thinking, a firm grasp of  world politics and also a solid understanding of history, all of which he did possess.

Last, but not least, he always knew at what point to stop. He knew what could be possible under the circumstances. He was not a daydreamer, a romantic adventurer or a utopian that acted on ill-considered ideas. Rational thought and calculation, in other words, science was his true guide as he came to express this to his nation in 1924.

Today many half-baked intellectuals look down upon Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, call him a benign dictator (inspired by their Anglo-American masters), and some even go as far as blatantly denigrating him, not realizing that had it not been for his anti-imperialist stance and politics bringing about the formation of a modern republic, they would have become mere colonial subjects within the imperial schemes of the age. However, this kind of attitude that feeds upon sheer ignorance only goes to indicate how great a mind he was that the nation he skillfully crafted under highly adverse conditions has had many achievements in 92 years.

In short, what needs to be done to indicate our gratitude for Atatürk’s heroic efforts for his land and people is to avoid cliches in commemorating him, and to emphasize his greatest professional, personality and moral characteristics without falling into banality.

Tough Road Ahead

Despite the increasing liberalization of its economy since the 1980s, presented as a reform by the ideologues of neoliberalism and by market fetishists alike, Turkish economy still suffers from serious structural problems, which continue to render the economy highly fragile.

As often stated, the manufacturing sector mostly produces commonplace (one might argue mediocre)  goods that have low value-added, not generating the wealth that would be expected in a thriving liberal economy. One of the problems that seems to continue over the last few decades is the stagnating level of value-added in the manufacturing sector in general. Another difficulty has been the low levels of savings that are well below the world average. Without adequate savings, economic growth will be difficult to achieve unless the gap is closed with foreign investment or borrowing. Interestingly, investment rates have also been lower than the world average, and the country has been unable to attract high levels of foreign investment (whether this is a good thing or not is beyond this purpose of this article) despite a lot of lip service.

A notable weakness in the economy is the fact that the exports have been dependent on the imports of capital and intermediary goods as well as raw materials.  In spite of a continual increase in exports and the emphasis placed by recent governments on bringing them to “record” levels, the manufacturing sector has not reached the technological efficiency or sophistication that would make the country more competitive.

Data: The World Bank
Data: The World Bank

The exports as a share of GDP were higher than the imports as a share of GDP only in 1988, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2002 in the 55-year period ranging from 1960 to 2014. In relation with this, the high level of current account deficit continues to be a problem, even though the official rhetoric tends to disregard it.

Clearly, without a structural transformation, the Turkish economy will gradually lose ground, and the country eventually end up in the lower middle income bracket. Unless critical sectors are specified and strategically supported through a mixture of incentives, Turkey cannot avoid becoming peripheralized. As history shows, an underdeveloped economy without direction based on planning and a necessary level of protectionism cannot generate development.

The governing Justice and Development Party that has been in power since 2002 emerged with a clear victory in the elections of November 1, 2015 and faces a real challenge to overcome in the economic sphere.

Türkçe’nin Kaydı Kuydu

Son birkaç yıldır çalıştığım üniversitede “kayıtlanmak” sözcüğü kullanılır hale geldi. Kulaklarımı fena halde tırmalayan bu kelimenin nereden çıktığını, kimin icadı olduğunu bilmiyorum. Böyle bir kelimenin uydurulmuş olması, üstelik de zaten bu anlamda bir kelime var ve kullanılmakta iken, bana Türkçe’nin gayet isabetli ve bazen taşı tam da gediğine oturtmaya yarayan atasözlerinden birini hatırlatıyor: Bir deli kuyuya taş atmış, kırk akıllı çıkaramamış. Gelin de çıkın işin içinden. Söz konusu kuyuya taş atan deli kimdir, bilemem ancak bu kelime öğrenciler arasında aldı yürüdü. Kayıtlanmak aşağı, kayıtlanmak yukarı..

Kaydolmaya ne oldu?

Her ne kadar son yıllarda kendisine güvenim sarsılmış ise de yaş tahtaya basmamak temkinliliği ile Türk Dil Kurumunun sözlüğüne sarıldım ve kayıtlanmak diye bir zırvalığın olmadığını görüp ziyadesiyle rahatladım.  Ne yazık ki, benim Türkçe bilgimin doğruluğunu teyid etmiş olmam fazla bir şey ifade etmiyor.

Diline zerre kadar saygısı olmayan necip Türk kavmi bildiğini okumaya devam ettiği ve yoluna bu şekilde devam ettiği takdirde günün birinde özünü kaybedip başka bir milletin sultası altına gireceğinden kimsenin şüphesi olmasın. Bir milleti millet yapan, dilinden başka ne olabilir ki? Üniversiteler dahi anadilin kullanılışına özen göstermezse, o ülkenin akıbeti hakkında olumlu düşünmek mümkün olabilir mi? Oraya buraya bayrak dikmekle ve binbir türlü milliyetçi hezeyana kapılmakla iş bitmiyor. Kendi dilini doğru dürüst kullanamayan bir millete yabancı dilde eğitim vermekle de bir yere varılamayacağı anlaşılıyor. Önemli olan, insanın asıl benliğine sahip çıkması ve onurunu bu şekilde korumasıdır. Bunun yolu da kendi diline sahip çıkmak ve onu geliştirmek için çalışmaktır.

Aylan Kurdi and Others

Mainstream media were quick to cash in on the dead body of a three-year-old Aylan that was found ashore a few days ago in Turkey’s posh resort town. Seeing the dead body of an innocent child lying on the beach touched many sore spots in the conscience of many well-meaning people while many others (read powers that be) wept crocodile tears. The hullabaloo that ensued in public is typical in liberal society where an open and lively debate about a problem or issue can take place usually without any restriction, but stripped of its real dynamics, especially if the issue lends itself to speculation. Thus, the “shocking, cruel reality of Europe’s refugee crisis”  ( http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/07/guardian-decision-to-publish-shocking-photos-of-aylan-kurdi) instigated an intense debate most of which revolved around whether or not the EU should accept refugees or how many such and such a country should allow in. Hardly anyone focused on the real issue that the so-called refugee crisis is the result of foreign intervention and covert operations to destabilize a country and change its régime, resulting in a barbarous civil war.

Nevertheless, the stark fact surrounding this case is that children are killed right and left, and actually, it is the “normal” state of affairs. Oftentimes we watch such news as alienated individuals, desensitized by the corporate media, and in a state of mind almost attuned to violence. A constant bombardment of the spectator by such news, many times embellished with tear-jerking images or sound bites, banalizes the savagery that is committed. There is, therefore, nothing new or unique about this last incidence, and it has been happening all over the world for many years (think about Afghanistan, Palestine or the Vietnam War period). The fact that the little boy’s family was seeking refuge in another country and that he became drowned in mare nostrum along the way does not make it qualitatively different from others. For instance, children are summarily executed by ISIS, some are victimized by political conflict (sometimes being a direct target and sometimes becoming “collateral damage”) of sorts in Burundi or elsewhere, such as in Iraq, Yemen or Turkey, or by the murderous state of Israel, and such events make the headlines only to be forgotten until another such heart-piercing incident occurs.

In a way, and with due respect to Aylan’s family, his death is an everyday occurrence with almost nothing distinctive about it. However, we have to remind ourselves that it is symptomatic of relentless and perilous power struggles on a global scale, an unbridled rivalry for access to resources, a grave and increasingly aggressive and violent effort at a spatio-temporal fix (à la Harvey) for the bottlenecks of world capitalism, and consequently, complicitous policy choices that surround and affect the lives of millions, usually by inflicting irreparable damage to their lives and property, while arms manufacturers and traders  or the CEOs of transnational corporations continue to pile up their dollars to be spent on multi-million dollar mansions or yachts or other wasteful items of consumption. Unless the root of the evil is directly brought to agenda, these deaths will never cease, there will not even be a possibility for it. The death of Aylan as we know it and the picture that documented it in the media simply symbolize a phenomenon at a particular conjuncture, nothing more or nothing less. We can rest assured that those that are eventually responsible for such tragedies can easily absolve their consciences of their guilt by expressing their “sincere condolences” or providing some kind of support to the bereaved, and continue their business as usual.

The Human Development Index (HDI)

The Index is generally viewed numerically, and countries are compared on the basis of their numeric distance from each other (UNDP Data ). While this is usually sufficient to get an idea about the differential levels of development, one might also be interested in a visual inspection of the data. Here’s a nifty study on the HDI of the United nations: Clusters in the Human Development Index

As I have indicated in a previous post, cluster analysis comes in handy in many situations where categorical differences are of interest.

On Women Again: Femicide in Latin America and Turkey

It’s been reported that Latin America has been shaken with the brutal murder of a 14-year-old girl who had become pregnant from her boyfriend. The outrage caused by increasing murder of women and the violence committed against them as such have sparked a new wave of protests against the prevalent culture of violence across a number of countries.
According to La Nacion, in 2008 in Argentina a woman was murdered every 40 hours, which increased to one woman per 30 hours by 2014. The media reported 1808 such murders for the said period, and these are certainly alarming figures
( http://www.lanacion.com.ar/1798662-en-defensa-de-la-mujer-un-clamor-recorrio-el-pais-niunamenos ).
Upon reading the gruesome news, I wanted to point out once again (you may want to check out my previous post on the issue) the conditions in Turkey, which is becoming more like Latin America in terms of violence against women. It seems to be the case on the basis of available figures, that between 2002-2009 femicide in Turkey increased by 1400 %. While only 66 women were murdered in 2002, during the first 10 months of 2011 this was up to 935 (see:  http://www2.tbmm.gov.tr/d24/7/7-3307s.pdf ).

It is clear that murdering of women many times results in family tragedies and increases in existing inequalities in social life.  Women’s role in social and economic development is now well-documented, and therefore, more serious policy re-orientation is needed in these countries in order to secure the lives of citizens, and more particularly of women.  Sadly, it looks like the legal measures taken against this problem are not effectively implemented in either Latin America or in Turkey. Paying lip service to women’s rights or gender equality does not give us too much mileage; it is time that governments took this more seriously and acted steadfastly.