A thought is running through my mind, I constantly think there is a book that I have to write. We know there is considerable literature on authoritarian regimes. There was a lot of discussion about how to develop an opposition movement in such regimes. Moreover, the number of studies on new types of despotism has increased rapidly in recent years. However, living in Turkey, in a country where a populist autocracy reigns but elections continue and some autonomous areas still exist, gives the impression that something has not yet been written.
We don’t live in a story of dissidents uniting together against authoritarian nonsense, struggling to survive, or putting themselves in danger to defend a moral ideal. It doesn’t have an unorthodox romance like Nazi or Stalin-era movies. Elections continue, parties continue to exist, there is still an oppositional media to some extent, and civil society can survive by benefiting from foreign funds. In other words, the opposition does not die under a populist authoritarian regime, despite all its rudeness, its incompetence, its violence which sometimes increases and sometimes decreases, its desperate efforts to make the public sphere more conservative, its kleptocratic character that always protects itself. The opposition adapts to the situation, creates its own dynamics, and the hope for change provides opposition groups to make political plans for the future, and some even link their personal careers to this change.
There is nothing wrong with people thinking about their own interests. Collaborations take place between self-interested actors and produce the most benefit. Competitive democracies and open societies do not shy away from such collaborations and benefits-oriented relationships. After all, the contract is clear and the purpose is straightforward. Since the motivation of the actors’ behavior is known, the consequences of their actions can also be predicted. However, there have been moral resistances in the history of civilization. Groups of people have taken certain actions simply because they believed in a moral standard independent of consequences. Reactions to violations of rights, collective anger that emerges when the sense of justice is shaken, or renunciation of self-interest out of ethical concerns have formed the norms of the civilized society we live in. There is nothing strange about this situation. People want to live a meaningful life, and a moral discipline can offer them that meaningful life.
However, in countries like Turkey, the concepts of utility and morality are mixed. The reason for this is that the difficulty of surviving as an opposition and the hope of coming to power at any time are very close to each other. Being a dissident is often seen as a result of a commitment to certain value systems. This type of dedication protects the country from falling into rigid authoritarianism, especially when the economy is doing well. It ensures polyphony and prevents the government from flying at society. So much so that opposition becomes a matter of character. This situation naturally leads to the definition of people who vote for and support the government as a self-interested herd. Political rivalry turns into a mythological story where morality and interest, good and evil, innocent and sinner clash. On the other hand, those who support the government do not accept to see themselves as a hedonist mass that has put aside all their values for the sake of their interests. It is very difficult to face this anyway, every person seeks a ground of legitimacy. At that point, either the concept of a big cause or the supreme interests of the nation, sensitive security needs come into play. The point is no longer to support a party, and a faithful profile emerges, who sacrificed himself for a more holy ideal and subordinates his support for the party. Thus, the rivalry becomes irreconcilable between two alternative moral understandings. Because if there are two competing moral interpretations, one will certainly accuse the other of immorality.
One of the biggest misconceptions is to think that society is divided between sections that adopt certain principles and are unwilling to compromise on them. Such passionate and radical segments are usually a small minority in societies. They write too much and talk too much. In fact, in countries like Turkey, they are the ones who determine the public debate and agenda in general. However, most societies are composed of people who think about their short-term interests and their immediate surroundings, seek immediate solutions to their daily life problems, do not have the time to take a holistic political stance and find it difficult. Therefore, political choices are dispersed between the winners and losers of the current power. The government’s public policy has winners and losers. Since what is understood from public policy in countries like ours is the arbitrary allocation of public resources in general, voting for politicians that are easily accessible can be perceived as a certain ideology and identity indicator. But this is an illusion.
Because of this illusion, many sociologists and political scientists have read the political faultline in the country, bypassing the concept of patronage, and argued that there are social poles composed of seriously believing and dedicated people. However, the issue is often; whether it is macro, that is, the resources that the government manages; whether it is micro, that is, local governments and any institution that has a hierarchy of power within itself; nothing more than being in the vicinity of power in some way. At this point, a sickening axis emerges outside the tension between morality and utility. This is an axis that hides behind morality to defend its own benefit, and when it sees its own benefit under threat, it declares its opponent an unbeliever.
It is time to talk about Daktilo1984. We started this intellectual movement in 2019 and wanted to contribute to the construction of Turkey’s destroyed public debate space. We thought that a democratic regime could not be built without a civilized society. We differentiated ourselves from the liberal societies before us and did not want to act like apostles of liberal values. We refused to see liberalism as a religion that needed to be converted. We aimed to enable intellectuals to speak without stigmatizing, caricaturing, lynching, or putting each other at risk, even if it is not liberal but comes from a different future of thought. We had to achieve this because the argument was not supposed to be seen as conspiracy theories of apparatchiks yelling at each other in the mainstream media. The debate itself and its progress with a certain dignity would bring us closer to liberalism. It would transform the freedom of thought and expression from being a value protected only against the state, into a social norm.
We failed to do so. In the past 3 years, approximately 600 intellectuals, academics, and activists have contributed to our typewriter. We have published over 1000 analyzes and interviews. We prepared research files and translated many articles into Turkish. Our YouTube and podcast channels have been going on for 2 years, and they reach a considerable audience, if not counting the popular channels of political science healers who see the big picture and have high theatrical skills. Despite all these efforts, the criticisms we faced did not come from people who read what we wrote and listened to what we talked about. Therefore, what was criticized was not what we wrote or talked about. In this process, we have become the tool of foreign powers, the traitors, the supreme intelligence who designed the politics, and many more. People hated us without reading and listening. They considered it a sacred duty to spread this hatred and saw us as responsible for whatever went wrong in their lives.
Many of these insults were morally based. The editorial policy of Daktilo, which examines political actors and phenomena, tries to understand them, and is based on rationality, was therefore judged from a moral point of view. Every policy we proposed to defeat a populist-authoritarian government, regardless of whether it was right or wrong, was quickly seen as steps taken by us to build a political career. Many people have a nightmare of seeing “Daktilocular” on the periphery of the power when the time comes. Even those who sought a place in the opposition and lost their control over it think that the seats they lost were filled by “Daktilocular”. This assumption leads them to the point that even if the governance changes, nothing will change. In other words, it is not enough to defeat the government, but the spirit of the new era must also satisfy them. Without this, every actor seems like a different color of AKP to them. This vision of them causes Daktilo, which focuses primarily on the defeat of the AKP, to be branded as a careerist.
All the moralists of the country unite against the Daktilo and begin to insult the concept of both interest and politics. Any wrong step of the opposition politicians is billed to the Daktilo, and since the failure of the opposition inside is an indication of their rightness, it turns into a desirable situation. For example, this is why the admiration for Erdogan’s overnight drop of the dollar quickly turned into the Daktilo lynching.
In fact, these people do not advocate morality. While they are only fighting the negative effects of a purpose crisis on their own psychology, they are fighting with an icon, the least dangerous and unhelpful icon they find. They continue with the consolation of the interaction they receive and the happiness of knowing that they are not alone. In addition, it is necessary to talk about people who have lost their consolation in the opposition, who have lost their sphere of influence, or who are trying to be effective in some way, that is, they are in micropower calculations. They, too, step on morality and call the Daktilo to account for every disappointment they have suffered.
We are astonished that most of the lynchings we are subjected to as we enter our fourth year come from people who define themselves as dissidents. I think it is the desire to make sense of this situation that prompted me to write the book I mentioned at the beginning. I do not know when my mind will be clear on this subject, but as Daktilo, we don’t have the luxury to whine, I know that. The only way to fight all this blasphemy is to be able to produce meaningful works and fill the space that Daktilo1984 aspires to. We should not get discouraged. The country is experiencing an economic crisis like no other, and next year we have a chance to put an end to this populist autocracy. We must work harder than ever, insistently remind ourselves of the absence of a corporate state against the arbitrary administration that sells its own actions as state sanity, get rid of the immature language of social media and create meaningful public debates, and oppose as much as possible the threats to individual freedoms. We think that an axis of opposition we will build on this line will attract the attention of people living in this country and offer a solution to the problems they face.