Opinion

Ece Temelkuran: My own great expectation for the German election

The German language enjoys an enviable richness and depth, writes Ece Temelkuran. The Turkish author hopes it will not succumb to primeval political discourse during the election.

Ece Temelkuran quote

It is not easy to fall in love with the sound of German language. For foreigners it is not the most welcoming language with its myriad of "artikels" [noun markers - Ed] creating a seemingly impenetrable fortress.

However, when you contemplate just how many legendary political and literary personalities have emerged from the German-language sphere to shape the modern world, you are inclined to deduce that there must be a particular aspect of this language that enables the intellect to mold the human condition.

It is as if the building block-like mathematics of the language creates an infinite scope for semantics and with it, an endless space in the human brain. This may explain why, contrary to recent elections in the West and in Turkey, words and ideas still matter in German elections – a sweet and distant memory which we in Turkey long for.

A few weeks ago when the Social Democrat (SPD) challenger Martin Schulz and Christian Democrat (CDU) Chancellor Angela Merkel held their TV election debate, educated Turks took to Twitter – sadly the only political and social Agora in the Turkish language – to reminisce the good old days of Turkish politics when such debates were a staple on TV channels, the fair fight of words and clash of political perspectives.

Watch video 01:47

Highlights from Merkel/Schulz TV debate

Since we are living in a world where the strongest nation is run by a man whose vocabulary is limited to 70 something words, I guess Turkey is not the only country that looks up to Germany and the manner in which German elections are conducted.

Global politics today is contaminated by a schizophrenic political discourse of which Turkey has a decade's worth of experience. Political language is degraded to the vocabulary of organized and mobilized masses, which leaves less and less space for basic rationale.

More importantly the intellectuals of the world, thanks to the social media and the Zeitgeist, are gradually finding themselves as gladiators in the same arena with the wordless crowd.

Ece Temelkuran

Ece Temelkuran

They are not "cool” thinkers and speakers of our world any more, but fighters who are equated with less educated individuals and therefore obliged to answer the wrong questions coming from masses. 140 characters are their arrows and their ideas and facts are desperately trying to attract attention in a social sphere where everybody is looking at themselves through their selfies.

In a world where even the intellectuals are degrading themselves to a semantic street fight, the masses are subjected to a certain type of political thinking I see no harm labeling infantile. This seems fair when millions voted to make "America great again" and "Britain great again" and leaders can mesmerize the masses simply with the word great.

German politics in particularly finds itself under such infantilizing pressure thanks to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his relentless attempts to influence the elections. He called on his supporters not to vote for "enemies of Turkey." This is a blatant call to support the AD-D, the party of Turks supporting Erdogan.

Leaving aside the barefaced-cheek of a president daring to become a political actor in another country's elections, this attempt infuses a certain kind of mental status in German politics.

Germany more than any country knows best from history how such dichotomies as "the enemy" and "the loyal" damage the basic human rationale and how such primitive thinking shrinks the political sphere.

As we witnessed during French and Dutch elections, engaging Erdogan in a fight in their domestic political context won points for Western leaders. Emmanuel Macron and Mark Rutte prevailed in their elections partly because they made Erdogan one of the leading topics in their election periods. However, these victories came at a price.

Unfortunately once such primitive political discourse is welcomed, it is not easy to exclude its further inclusion in the political debate and it is almost impossible to quarantine it in social life. This is why the most important and difficult job for whomever wins the election, be it Merkel or Schulz, will be to protect the German language and politics from this infantile trend.

And this job will take more than pretending not to be afraid of Putin's dog or making a bewildered face in Erdogan's lavish palace as Merkel did.

More importantly, knowing that German language gave birth to some giants of human thinking, I have the right to assume that the leader of the German people can do better than making arms deals with Turkey while criticizing human rights violations in the country.

Watch video 00:55

Turkey slams restriction of German arms sales

I am always amazed during the many readings of my novels how the German audience keeps still and listens carefully for 30 long minutes. Among all the countries in which my books are published, Germany is where I deeply feel that my each and every word is listened to and heard.

I never presumed that it was my amazing talent that created the beautiful silence, but rather the unique ability of German readers to appreciate the words.

While the world and its politics are becoming more and more "wordless" and when the global political noise is withering with fewer and fewer ideas, Germany is one of the last fortresses where one can depend on words and thus the human capacity to think.

I therefore expect German political leaders to become Ralphs of our global island of "Lord of Flies" to beat the Jacks of our times. 

Ece Temelkuran is an award-winning Turkish journalist and author. She was fired from her job as a TV presenter in 2011 for criticizing the Turkish government over the Uludere massacre. She has published 12 books, which have been translated into a range of languages.

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