"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein
We have been witness to an amazing tsunami in Turkey over the last three weeks. Many things have been done, said, heard and felt. Most of us are deeply sad and many of us are confused. But we are all in a learning process and it's time to get ready to be witness to a great innovation after this chaos.
Yes, since 2001, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has significantly improved the economy; created jobs; developed health care; made many improvements to Turkey's infrastructure, such as building roads and bridges; and improved civil society by pushing the army out of politics. It also contributed significantly to Turkey's efforts to become a mature democracy and challenged the old power structures. Yet nowadays, the picture tells us that somehow Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and many others cannot read the results of the AK Party's own policies: Turkey is not the same as it was 10 years ago. It has changed. It's time to change our mindsets in order to see the picture clearly.
Lately, making a mistaken analysis, our prime minister compares himself to previous democratic Prime Ministers Turgut Özal and Adnan Menderes and he acts like a victim, as if the circumstances are the same.
Mr. Erdoğan is much luckier than Mr. Özal and Mr. Menderes and cannot be a victim because the democratic improvements were made by his own party and because of the broad support he has enjoyed.
Somehow, it seems that Erdoğan is convinced that all the people at the street protests against him are either being manipulated by the old forces he has been fighting for his whole political life, or they are provocateurs with the support of other countries. He totally ignores the fact that there are lots of people who truly and sincerely protest only Mr. Erdoğan's overbearing attitude with regard to their privacy and personal liberties. On Monday Today's Zaman published poll results indicating that 54.4 percent of Turks "thought the government was interfering in their lifestyle."
Mr. Erdoğan has to accept that if he cannot change his perception of reality, he will damage the democratic image of Turkey and its prestige in the international arena, which he has been trying to build up for the last decade -- if it hasn't already been damaged in the last three weeks. We don't need worn out conspiracy theories to read the situation or old-fashioned political vision to see what's going on. Instead, we have to count on a new generation and listen to them. Our youth wants more dialogue and freedom and less paternalism.
Unfortunately, the prime minister's tough and uncompromising attitude irritates people and generates anger in society. There are also some in the crowds who contribute to hatred and violence. Ironically, while Bulent Kenes, Today's Zaman's editor-in-chief was mobbed by AK Party supporters last week because Today's Zaman's published a poll that showed disapproval of the AK Party, a Zaman America correspondent was attacked at New York Gezi Park protests for being a representative of a "pious civil society Hizmet newspaper."
If we want to have a solid and mature democracy we have to be ready for it. We have to deserve it. Leaders and the society of the 21st century should be open-minded to discussing different ideas and respecting them even if they don't approve of them. Turkey is an important country in the international arena and shouldn't try to go back to its old identity. We have been there already and now it is a new day. In order to understand what's going on, we all need to get rid of the templates and clichés in our attitudes.
First Mr. Erdogan and than rest of us have to understand one simple fact that we cannot create peace by force we should achieve a solid understanding of each other to generate long lasting peace in every dimension in society.