some remarks

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Ankara, Turkey
I'm just a sociologist astonished by the marvelous sense of humor of the universe! So, why not be a bad hat?

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Turkish brother would like to hug you!

After having lived in Berlin for a year, now I understand better how the prejudices works in people's life. And I always thought that it was only the country where I come from which would be the worst case on this issue. Here some people - whether Germans, or German-Turks, or people from Turkey, or anyone who has no idea whatsoever about Turkey - make me confused about my so called 'national' and/or 'cultural' identity that I am not so much familiar with either. The process is like this: I meet people at shops, university or clubs, and of course, due to my broken German, the second question is where I am from. The reaction is usually something between disappointment and surprise accompanied by an overdone mimics to express this reaction (wide open eyes and mouth, the head smoothly fallen back, and eyebrows raised as much as they can). It is “disappointing”, as I understand, because some expect me to be from Spain or Latin America, from somewhere really exotic, so one can gain an experience of exotica via me. I really don't know what the picture of these 'exotic' countries in their minds exactly looks like, but I always imagine their imagination like that they think of these people as dancing with exotic fruit baskets on their heads. And when they learn that I'm from Turkey, this imaginary fruit basket is fallen over my head. It is also “surprising” for them as I don't fit in their imagination of "Turkish" woman, which I couldn't understand for a really long time. Some told me, "das kann ich aber nicht glauben, du hast helle Haut", or "du trinkst aber Alkohol!?", or "how could your family let you go out in the middle of the night?"... One of my favorites is what the salesman in Wasted German Youths shop told me: "what kind of a mixture are you?! you can't be just a Turk!!" - “vanilla-bourbon-chocolate cream. Yersen!”. He had a point indeed. I am not just a Turk, and I've never identified myself with my nationality. I'm a woman, I'm a sociologist, and I'm an individual before everything you attribute me. Nobody tells me "what kind of a mixture are you? you can't just be a woman!". I mean, if I seem to you as a “normal” woman, why not be a “normal” human? Should I be a 'mixture' of an “abnormal” and a “normal” in order to be seen to you so “normal” with an “abnormal” 'national' background. For f...'s sake man, take a minute and think before speaking!
After one year, I am at such a point that I'm afraid of having to have the same boring and insulting conversation over and over again if I meet a new person and of being put in that position where I should prove myself as an individual not as a sample of an imaginary "culture" about which people know too much but I don't. I think I'm tired of having such conversations where people start their sentences with phrases like "according to your/our/ Turkish/German culture...", “şimdi, bunlarda/bizde bi adet var...”, or "aber normalerweise die Türken/in der Türkei/ die Deutschen....", and of the questions about how, what, if Turks do. Seriously?! I mean I don't know what Turks do in general but I do something in some ways that are totally individual. I mean, I don't have the statistics about how and what 'Turks' do. Moreover, is that really so that you think there could be a common pattern of behaving and acting agreed on and followed by a whole population in a country? I admire, however, this creative imagination where one can think of 80 million people composed of diverse ethnic, cultural, religious, political, economic, sexual, and most importantly individual orientations come together, I don’t know maybe once a year, and agreeing on a general tendency; like “from now on, we will beat up the boyfriends of our daughters! Yes, this is an integral part of being a Turk now! Hadi dağılın!”.
It's a t-shirt project of mine. Isn't he adorable in his DESTROYER t-shirt?
It's really funny that I even have to first convince a guy that my father or my brother would not beat him up so I can date him. I mean it's funnier if you knew both of them :o). Why would my brother - who is the cutest person in this world for me - do such a thing in any way? This question was actually asked by a German guy in our third date for real. And that was also the hesitation of two mores whose friends warned them to be careful with me because they saw a huge possibility that my family is a potential monster attacking people all of a sudden. Manyak mıyız neyiz?!
How difficult could it be to see that there is no such representative cultures as we imagine? I really find it hilarious now if people try to give me a lesson about a culture that they assume and believe I belong to. And each time, I try to explain that just like any other country in this world, the country I come from is not somewhere homogeneous. But the worst thing is that in those moments I find myself advocating that I don't belong to that culture they mentioned as if it’s a culture worse than any other. I mean, who the hell are we to tell people that the life they sustain is just wrong, worse than our lives or even the worst? I think this is the legitimate question that should be asked in the very first place! What's the very worst is that if they are convinced enough that I don't have anything to do with that “evil” culture, they call me an 'exception'. That means, according to their imaginary statistics, I am just a standard “deviation”. Another priceless question I heard for a couple of times after some announced me as ‘exception’ is that if I, ‘as a Turkish woman coming from Turkey', am 'integrated so well, why can't the other Turks living in Germany?'. (ayşec. would rather describe this question as “neresinden tutsan elinde kalıyor”). There are three assumptions hidden in this question:
  1. I have – somehow and at some point – bothered myself and got integrated(??). I mean, the questions of integration to what, to where and why, unfortunately melted into thin air, and they are out of question indeed!
  2. If I can do that as a Turkish woman, so can anybody. You know, I must be so voiceless and subordinated creature... if I can, so can anybody! Just like Rocky said “...if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!” (Rocky IV, 1985 – the victory speech of Rocky at the end). Maybe I should better shout that out from the stairs of Reichstag! :o)
  3. I know the answer and the solution but I'm so bloody-minded that I insist on keeping both to myself :o). Çatlayın!
That's my story about the prejudices I’ve faced in Berlin. There are more like this experienced by “us”. And by “us” I mean those who are nowadays called “white Turks”*, the children of the “elites”, or of “laic petit-bourgeois” of Turkey; those who are raised just like the “Western” children by the “Western” ideals that are also too ideal even for the “West”; and those who, as the generation after 1980s, are more or less “Americanized” and “Europeanized” by not being aware of that fact. I don't know, maybe we are the standard “deviation”, both for the Europe and the country I come from. But please, let's put aside “our” “deviated” personality, and talk about something else. I am not here as a cultural or national represent. Discussing, analyzing, and reading about these issues are already my job, and will be so for a long time. I really don't wanna waste my leisure time only by discussing why I'm not a “non-deviated Turkish woman”. I mean, suck it, and let's talk about music, movies, world politics (but without making me the centre of the issue), shopping, even about football (thanks to WM, I learned enough to talk about it)... I mean, chill out ulan :O) Huh? Whadda ya say? Who's hungary?**

* Please "don't call me white!" (NOFX)
**That's from a song I like, named The Salmon Dance – The Chemical Brothers. It starts to play in my head whenever I find myself in the middle of such silly conversations. Sometimes, I want to say “hey, hold on” and sing this song and also do the dance with my imaginary friends FatLip and Sammy the Salmon.