Humans of Turkey

Climate change and human rights are similar in one primary way: They are both global issues. Human rights advocacy and environmental policy can both be considered network goods as well, meaning an individual’s own acceptance and promotion of human rights or environmental change benefits the entire community. In Dr. Elizabeth Lindsey‘s TED Talk (see video above or click here), the explorer discussed her various journeys and the wisdoms that were imparted on to her throughout her life.

She said she had been encouraged to slow down — see time differently,  and to pick her career based on a less trodden path — one her heart and untamed soul yearned for. As an explorer she found herself constantly surrounded by new cultures and new people. Understanding different cultures can only be done by immersing oneself or at least exposing oneself entirely to their beliefs, but that understanding is necessary if there is to be a global unity. Turkey’s past has shown a struggle to accept and empathize with people of different beliefs, with a stubborn societal reliance on Islam and old traditions. This has affected their human rights. As described by the Human Rights Watch, the ruling party in Turkey, the AKP, has “demonstrated a growing intolerance of political opposition, public protest, and critical media.” While Turkey has risen extraordinarily in the past years in prosperity and global influence, the nation still ranks only 149 out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders 2015 Press Freedom Index. Well it is up 5 points from the previous year, Turkey still has a long way to go before the nation will considered a leader in human rights or environmental activism.

“There is only one reality in the world today. Look to the West, Juda!” This quote, taken from the 1959 film Ben Hur, was Farish Noor‘s first example when explaining the concept of eurocentrism. Eurocentrism stems out of the concept of ethnocentrism, which is the tendency of people to view the world from the perspective of their own cultures, beliefs and values. Eurocentrism, then, expresses the “emerging perception within the European culture, historical experiences of European identity as good and all other forms as less good or less advanced” (Noor 51). This establishes a hierarchy of cultures, a level of superiority of one over the other that is reminiscent of the age of empires. This is a system that is, frankly, unfair. Noor acknowledges this and also acknowledges the fear of the many (of “the rest”) in the face of this towering and powerful Western hegemony. He depicts the power struggle. “The world is deadlocked in a struggle for hegemony, with the powerful, more developed nations bent on imposing their cultural values, as well as political, economic, and military dominance on the weaker ones. On the other hand, the economically weaker developing countries cling defensively to their cultural and religious traditions in a last-ditch attempt to salvage some sense of cultural autonomy and control over their identity” (Noor 53). In an article posted days before Turkey’s election in 2011, Richard Falk criticized the American journal The Economist for advising Turks on how to vote. Falk believed this intrusion of Western journalists and Western ideas into Turkey’s politics was a gross attempt to further a Eurocentric socio-political system into the Middle East ,and it undermined the rise of Turkey. By this day in 2011, Turkey had already “emerged as ‘a success story’ in a global setting,” and, “in a world lacking effective and legitimate global leadership, it would be a mistake to overlook the enormous contributions made by Turkish diplomacy over the course of the prior decade” (Falk). This clash of cultures is what impedes the progress of the global rights effort. To surpass this, we must accept that we live in a multicultural world and work together as such. To this end, we need a certain level of authenticity, Noor says. We must “learn to see through the eyes of the other and to see what the main concerns are from the viewpoint” (Noor 54). This is very much an argument for empathy; so, can we be empathetic?

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