Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Friday, August 31, 2007

First impressions of D.C.

OK, I'm settled in now sort of. I just began interning at Human Events magazine and just took a double decker bus tour of D.C.

So what's the first thing I noticed?

The prices.

So what's the second?

Some years back a friend of mine who's Irish and an architect, told me about his trip to the capitol. He said you cannot see it without thinking, "This is the capitol of a mighty empire."


At the time I said, "That hurts. It was supposed to be the capitol of a great republic."

Now I'm wondering if any nation that becomes this big and wealthy has to become something like an empire - or hegemon (which I prefer) just by the logic of the situation.

Yes I know, the US spends more on its military than the rest of the world combined. So, if you're the richest guy in town you'd better have the most insurance and the best security.

These days when I hear Americans ask "Why do they hate us, is it something we've done?" I have to ask in return, "So when have the rich and powerful ever been liked?"

Now I have a really incongruous question to ask, and it's not a rhetorical one, it's about something I noticed my first day here when I saw fire engines racing through the center of town.

Why does this capitol of a mighty empire not have strobe detectors on the traffic lights?

My town of 100,000 (including the transient college population) in Oklahoma does.

If you don't know, a strobe detector is a device on the traffic light array that detects the flashing lights of emergency vehicles, and changes the lights to allow them to pass through intersections unimpeded.

Just wondering is all.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Future posts and plans

Hi everybody.

I'm off for Washington, D.C. where we Okies ship the front ends of horses for final assembly. What I'll be doing there is a journalism internship for a few months, and I don't know how much time I'll have for blogging.

This is important for my career, and I'm very grateful that this foundation has accepted a very non-traditional student in a mid-life career change. (That's mid-life if you accept that there are 112-year-old people.)

Furthermore, there are non-disclosure agreements and I have to find out more about what is permissible to write about. However, I've got plenty of themes on my mind to develop and look forward to writing them up and seeing what feedback I get.

This is going to be hard on my family, but my wife is behind me 100%. I could do nothing without her help and support.

Wish me luck.

If certain exes should care to, I have to say, "Thanks. I never could have done it with you."

The courage of your friends gives you strength.
Arab proverb

Monday, August 20, 2007

Victor Davis Hanson, historian of war

CORRECTION: The quotes below are from The Peace Racket by Bruce Bawer http://www.brucebawer.com/ I followed the link provided and assumed it was another article of Dr. Hanson's, in spite of the fact that Mr. Bawer's name was at the top. I apologize for my carelessness - and it's still a great article.

"Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it."

Georges Santayana

"It's not that history repeats itself, it that sometimes she screams "Won't you ever listen to what I'm trying to tell you?" - and lets fly with a club."

John W. Campbell

I hope by now that y'all have some trust in my recommendations of thinkers and writers worth listening to, because I have another one I consider very important.

Victor Davis Hanson is a military historian, and oddly enough a grape farmer in California. He publishes in a lot of places, but if you go to his personal website here http://www.victorhanson.com/ most of his stuff gets posted there eventually.

If you are a history buff, his books are both informative and readable. His latest is A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponesian War. I personally recommend Carnage and Culture to begin with.

If you go here http://www.city-journal.org/html/17_3_military_history.html you'll find his latest article Why Study War? a justification for military history studies, now almost vanished from American academics, to what may be our lasting regret in the future.

If you like it, you'll want to follow the link to The Peace Racket (by Bruce Bawer.)

Dr. Hanson is a supporter of the Iraq war and President Bush - and a registered Democrat. Now semi-retired from teaching, he's managing his family farm and writing.

Unlike many academics who consider unreadable prose a sign of sophistication, Hanson writes with directness and clarity.

"For the cold war’s real lesson is the same one that Sun Tzu and Vegetius taught: conflict happens; power matters. It’s better to be strong than to be weak; you’re safer if others know that you’re ready to stand up for yourself than if you’re proudly outspoken about your defenselessness or your unwillingness to fight. There’s nothing mysterious about this truth. Yet it’s denied not only by the (Oslo Nobel) Peace Center film but also by the fast-growing, troubling movement that the center symbolizes and promotes."
Bruce Bawer

To those of us who have worked with our hands running the gritty infrastructure of civilization*, this seems to be a self-evident truth of human nature. Yet we are daily confronted with the obvious fact that to many of the most affluent and well-educated members of our civilization it is not evident at all.

George Orwell would have understood the attraction of privileged young people to the Peace Racket. “Turn-the-other-cheek pacifism,” he observed in 1941, “only flourishes among the more prosperous classes, or among workers who have in some way escaped from their own class. The real working class . . . are never really pacifist, because their life teaches them something different. To abjure violence it is necessary to have no experience of it.”
Bruce Bawer http://www.brucebawer.com/

Like other philosophical farmers such as Hesiod or Robert Burns, his works may outlast his civilization. And if enough of our people read, discuss and debate what he has to say, we may get to keep our civilization a while longer.

* I spent a total of six years working as a garbageman, another half-dozen as a sewage treatment plant worker. I've also bucked hay in harvest season and worked in construction (semi-skilled jobs). And though it's a common stereotype it's a valid one, if you really want insights into people try being a bartender.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Boyhood dreams - how I ran away from home and joined the smugglers

Note: a shorter version of this article appeared a few years back in Liberty magazine.

Five and twenty ponies
Trotting through the dark-
Brandy for the Parson’
“Baccy for the Clerk.
Them that asks no questions isn’t told a lie-
Watch the wall, my darling, while the gentlemen go by!

A Smuggler’s Song
Rudyard Kipling

It occurs to me, that as I get older the most cherished dreams of my boyhood and early youth are becoming fulfilled. Much of this I will immodestly attribute to boldness and persistence.

It is very satisfying to see years of work bear fruit, especially when nobody else really believed in you, and you yourself were frequently racked by self-doubt and discouragement. I got my Master’s degree in Anthropology after going to grad school part-time for six years while working relief shift in the city sewage treatment plant.

I attained my boyhood dream of getting black belts in a few different well-respected arts from distinguished teachers.

I’ve been taken seriously as an academic in a few Eastern European universities and institutions – something that could never have happened at that point in my life in America. I’ve even achieved modest success as a writer.

I’ve participated in some small way in the rebuilding of society on the ruins of the Soviet Empire and have been welcomed as a comrade by heroes of the struggle against tyranny. I’ve had travel, adventure and the honorable chance for a good scrap from time to time.

These are the fruits of persistence and the willingness to move halfway around the world to seek my fortune.

Then there are the rewards deserved but un-hoped for, those you long for but have given up hope of ever achieving. For me it was meeting the woman who became my wife and the birth of our son, events which happened at precisely the time I had given up all hope that I would ever have a family of my own.

These are not the rewards of virtue but happen as a special grace. If they don’t happen for you, you must learn to be content with the rewards that living the virtuous life as best as you can bring.

But I must confess, the rewards of virtue pale when compared to the rewards that are undeserved, unworthy, accidental and un-hoped for.

Remember the time you nobly succeeded in giving up a desire for revenge after much inner struggle – and then got it anyway? Say, the time you ran into the girl that dumped you and the guy she dumped you for – and you had an even better looking girl on your arm? Remember the look on both their faces?

Did you ever get to do something that you really wanted to as a kid? I mean something that adults are supposed to have grown out of? If you’re a cowboy or a fireman, you know exactly what I mean.

Well, let me tell you how it happened for me, the dream I’d had since I was twelve years old and my favorite book was a story called Jim Davis by the poet John Masefield. It is a marvelous tale of a young boy in England during the time of the Napoleonic wars, who goes off with the smugglers and has all kinds of adventures.

Though I won’t say I’ve never taken anything illegal across an international border, I strongly advise you against doing so. (Though if you should choose to do so on trains, put it under the towel waste in the wastebasket of the toilet. Even customs agents find it distasteful to go through that stuff and if they do find it, it’s not in your possession.)

Nonetheless, the drug war made smuggling just too hard-core for my taste. With profits and penalties so high, the racket is now run by murderously ruthless thugs not at all like the jolly smugglers of tobacco and French wines and lace that once made England “a small body of land entirely surrounded by smugglers”. Good idea to grow out of that particular dream.

But it happened for me! I did it. I ran away from home and joined the smugglers.

Well, OK, I didn’t run away from home exactly, my wife let me go off for a few days to attend the 13th American Studies Conference in Minsk, Belarus. Prof. Ivan Burylka of the University of Grodno and I were to do a joint presentation on American vs. Belarusian humor and I was going to talk about American utopian communities of the 19th century. My wife would have liked to have come, but work and the baby limited travel those days. She’s an awful good sport about these things, particularly given the expense involved and the fact that it doesn’t pay a thing.

The journey to Belarus was uneventful and the conference was fun, even alone. I got to sound out the reaction towards America on the heels of Gulf War II. (Among most of the Balts and Belarusians, largely pro-American and pro-Bush. George dubbya evidently made a speech in Vilnius promising, “There will be no more Yaltas.” To say the least, it played well.)

I also had my ear bent by a crusty but charming lady professor from Lithuania about how could we Americans have let the lunatic Left dominate the humanities in American universities? And how it had made her sick when she was there.

"What is this gender nonsense? Tell me what gender is!"

I tried to tell her I was on her side but she just had to rant to somebody about how damn stupid we were to have let this happen.

I attended a concert of traditional folk music and saw the ballet Spartacus at a theater in Minsk, festooned with the hammer and sickle all over the walls. This contained the most unintentionally hilarious moment in high culture I've ever seen. Imagine if you will, several dozen pairs of ballet dancers acting out a mass rape, buttocks rising and falling in unison...

Later we went to an embassy party held for an American professor of literature from the Midwest on her first trip to Eastern Europe. (Though somebody had to gently tell her that rhapsodizing about Liberation Theology and the “bearded Christ-like figures” of Castro and Che doesn’t play at all well in Eastern Europe.)

But the real treat of my little holiday came on the trip back. I fortunately had a sleeping compartment all to myself. The conductor came by and asked me if I had any tobacco or alcohol.

“No.” I replied.

“Well then, may I put some in your compartment?” he asked. “It won’t cost you anything.”

Ah-ha. “OK, no problem.”

He brought a carton of Pall Malls and a bottle of Belarusian vodka and put them in the cabinet above the sink. So, the conductor is running a little business of his own across the border. Enterprising fellow, I thought.

Now usually the customs inspections at the borders are rather perfunctory affairs. I think I’ve been asked to open my baggage twice in over ten years – and when they see you aren’t nervous about doing so, they usually stop you before you’ve unloaded much. Generally they ask you to step outside the compartment while they look under the mattresses and that’s about it.

Well this time was different. After the hour and a half at the Belarusian side of the border to change the undercarriage of the cars (the territory of the old Soviet Union has a different track gauge) we were held for more than two hours on the Polish side while customs went through the train with a thoroughness I’d never seen before. They looked in everybody’s baggage, in the spaces above the ceiling, in the radiator covers and took screwdrivers to several panels. Afterwards I saw them walk off the train, one of them carrying a big sack full of cartons of cigarettes. I’d never seen that happen before. My wife said they must have had a tip off.

Fortunately my little stash was well within the duty-free limit and caused no comment, not even a request for an explanation. As we pulled out of the station I asked the conductor if he’d like his stuff back and he thanked me nicely.

So as I stood in the corridor, I saw one of my neighbors with a screwdriver, taking off a panel next to the car door. He removed the panel and took out several cartons of cigarettes.

“They didn’t find them!” I exclaimed.

“Yeah but they got the rest of my stuff” he shrugged philosophically.

Hey you win some you lose some. You meet a better class of people smuggling tobacco and alcohol, and the nice thing is that they don’t arrest you when they catch you, they just take your stuff or give you the option of paying the duty.

So that’s how I ran away from home, joined the smugglers and lived my boyhood dream. Now I think I’ll try and find a copy of Jim Davis to read again and give to my son when he’s twelve.

To be drowned or be shot
Is our natural lot,
Why should we moreover, be hanged in the end –
After all our great pains
For to dangle in chains
As though we were smugglers, not poor honest men?

Poor Honest Men
Rudyard Kipling

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Self-Defense, the ethics politics and practicalities. Part 1

In my last post I wrote about martial arts, and pointed out that self-defense is only one of the reasons for studying them.

But what about self-defense?

I mentioned in my post 'Virginia' http://rantsand.blogspot.com/2007/04/virginia.html that self-defense involves firstly, a comittment not to be a victim, and directed readers to Marc "Animal" MacYoung's site 'No nonsense self-defense' here: http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/

I repeat, it's worth your time to go over it.

In my post 'The Amish Tragedy' http://rantsand.blogspot.com/2006/10/amish-tragedy.html I talked about "soft targets". NNSD can help you evaluate if and what kind of target you might be.

You should at least be familiar with the sections of criminal psychology, the four motivations of violence, patterns of behavior that lead people into violent situations and what responses the law considered justified - versus what will get you sued or serious jail time, or both.

Nota bene: saying that people's own behavior leads them into violent situations is NOT the same as victim blaming!

That doctor in Connecticut who just lost everything he loves in life, wife and daughters, and now has nothing to live for but the execution of the men who took them from him, is not, repeat not, responsible for their actions. That does not change the fact that they entered through an unlocked basement door.

The McCann family (whose little girl went missing on a vacation in Portugal) without doubt did not realize that a resort area, while seeming like an oasis of tranquility, peace and pleasure, attracts predators like blood in the water attracts sharks.

There's no need to tell them that leaving small children alone in a hotel room is stupid, they're already torturing themselves with that knowlege. Now the least bad possibility is that their little girl was kidnapped by someone who wanted a beautiful child to raise as their own. The others are too horrible to contemplate - but I guarantee you as a parent that they are. Constantly.

Everyone with a working knowledge of self-defense (in the broadest sense of the term) experiences the same teeth-grinding frustration of observing the same patterns of behavior nearly every time a college girl goes missing. I could go into detail (see NNSD) but essentially it amounts to being unaware of the environment.

On an even deeper level, it's complete cluelessness about the fact that the world is a dangerous place. I believe that this is perhaps one of the most dangerous and most common illusions of our culture and effects everything from our personal safety to the safety of our nation.

In future posts, I'll be dealing with both.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

My martial arts study - Pekiti Tirsia Kali

In this age of mass-produced cheap firearms martial artists are often asked, “What good is that stuff? Why don’t you just get a gun?”

This is a fair question and deserves reasoned consideration. To begin with, it is often neither legal nor desirable to carry a gun. Handguns are a significant bother to carry and more and more public places require passing through a metal detector on entry.

And, if you go out for recreation where alcohol is served you are under legal and moral obligations not to carry. In the ordinary course of events a firearm will not be available most of the time, so one possible answer to this question is, “So where is your gun right now?”

Secondly, the use of firearms IS a martial art by definition and firearms training is a part of advanced training in any comprehensive modern art. So another answer to that question is, “So why do you think that because I study martial arts, I ignore firearms?”

And most importantly, self-defense is not the only or necessarily the most important reason for studying martial arts. Aside from self-defense people study martial arts for sport and recreation, health and exercise, the fellowship of like-minded comrades, for the cultural experience and for spiritual reasons; the development of character, self-confidence and self-knowledge.

So taking into account all of these motivations, I would like to explain why I study martial arts and why the Filipino art of Pekiti Tirsia Kali in particular.

When I was a teenager I studied Judo/Jujitsu and Karate, then virtually the only Asian martial arts available in the States. Since then I have studied various other Asian martial arts plus Western boxing and fencing. I am ranked in Wu Wei Gung Fu (a Wing Chun-derived style) and have intermediate to advanced level training in Thai boxing, Jujitsu, classical Wing Chun and various other martial arts including a few other Filipino styles. I don’t disparage any of them, but I now make the central focus of my training Pekiti Tirsia Kali for reasons I'll explain.

I first encountered Pekiti Tirsia when I was in university from a fellow graduate student who had had the opportunity to study with Grand Tuhon Leo Gaje in New York. After we went our separate ways I didn’t find the opportunity to train with PTK again until making contact with the European branch under Uli Weidel many years later. Nowadays I travel to Dallas on a regular basis to study with the art's senior American representative Tim Waid and try never to miss an opportunity to train with Grand Tuhon when he's in the area.

These days I study PTK because it fulfills my personal needs for a practical reality-based martial art and for reasons that go beyond that. My reasons include:

PTK is practical. Real fighting is about weapons, and the world is full of objects that are potential weapons: sticks, knives, bottles, rocks etc. Training solely for empty-hand fighting one-on-one is training to duel, not for self-preservation.

But empty hand fighting is an important part of training, because a weapon may break, be lost or an assault may come by ambush when there is no time to draw a weapon and response must be immediate.

The way one teacher explained it was, "Karate means "empty hand". We are not empty hand, it's just that whatever is in the hand is whatever's in it."

Ring sports such as the various kickboxing or grappling styles have good empty hand skills, but train on a smooth padded surface with good traction, a gym mat or boxing ring and don’t include weapon defense. PTK footwork is designed for surfaces that might be irregular, angled away from the horizontal or slick and training takes weapon involvement into account.

PTK is a comprehensive art. It includes the use of long and short, impact, edged and flexible weapons, firearms, and in the empty hand component, striking with all natural weapons, throwing, grappling, locking and breaking techniques.

PTK is both traditional and modern. PTK, like the traditional warrior arts of most ancient cultures, is not artificially divided into armed and unarmed arts, nor does it specialize in one branch of martial skills such as kickboxing, wrestling etc.

It is modern because it is adapted to modern conditions and modern weaponry. It is close to its origins as a combat art­ and was created by exponents who experienced real combat where failure meant death or crippling disability.

PTK is a versatile martial art because of its origins. The cultures of the Philippines were in contact with virtually all the cultures of Asia and much of Europe.

Martial arts influence each other either by fighting each other, whereby they learn to adapt to the technique and technology of the other arts, or by friendly contact whereby they exchange ideas, often first the one then the other.

Unlike Japan, which went through a long period of self-imposed isolation during which Japanese only fought other Japanese, the Philippines has been in constant contact and conflict with other cultures, both Eastern and Western, from prehistory to the present day.

It has a logical training progression; PTK gives the student something that is of practical use immediately. A few elementary stick techniques can be used effectively right away, but the art has depths that one can spend a lifetime exploring. The root motions taught at the beginning can be applied to a variety of different weapons or empty-hand applications. The art is holistic and principle-based rather than a collection of techniques.

This makes PTK ideal for police and military training. Empty-hand, impact and edged weapon training is important for police and military personnel, but training time is often limited by the demands of all the other skills that must be learned.

PTK is not sport but can be practiced sportively. I do not disparage combat sports and enjoy watching them, but my interest is in martial art. Making an art into a sport inevitably degrades combat effectiveness because the techniques used must be limited for safety reasons. When bouts are won on points, weapons are often modified in unrealistic ways (by making them lighter for example) to score points better. For reasons of fairness, participants often compete in weight and rank classes, which is utterly unrealistic for real combat. And when sport becomes professional or semi-professional with tangible rewards for competitors, very often sportsmanship and character development suffers. And a competitive attitude, which is healthy and normal for sport, fosters ego, and ego is death in real combat.

Nonetheless, students often want the chance to test their courage and skill in a controlled setting. For the development of martial skill and warrior spirit this is best done among friends in an atmosphere of fellowship. In contrast to sport, where a competitor will either defeat you or be defeated by you, a comrade in the art by giving you his best effort is helping you improve your skill. Regardless of who wins the bout, both are in a very real sense, winners. And who would not feel reassured by the possession of friends with formidable skills in these times?

PTK fosters health and fitness as well or better than other martial arts and can be practiced into advanced age. Use of the sticks is a resistance exercise that does not damage the joints and tendons when practiced correctly. It promotes flexibility, which is probably the most important factor in countering the effects of aging, improves and maintains coordination and muscular efficiency and takes the boredom out of regular exercise. Practiced solo it is ideal for meditation in motion, which is according to a Zen proverb, “a thousand time better than meditation in stillness”.

Like other martial arts, PTK has a spiritual dimension and fosters the development of character and self-knowledge. Man is an aggressive species, the descendant of animals that hunted in packs and fought for territory, dominance and access to resources. We carry that heritage in our nature, and the history of the 20th century has shown that attempts to change human nature only result in death and suffering on a gigantic scale.

But Man has an ethical and spiritual side that can confront his animal origins and discipline his nature to a higher purpose. We can tame the beast within only if we are not afraid to face him. The aggressive instinct that motivates theft, bullying and murder can also motivate the protection of the weak and helpless and the defense of family, nation and personal honor when disciplined and trained. Martial arts training in its highest form is all about this.

We live in an age in which paradoxically, weapons of unimaginable power have brought war and violence back to where we live. The danger of thermonuclear annihilation has lessened, but the danger of terrorism and warfare on the neighborhood level is increasing. The arts of personal combat are not obsolete, today they are more important than ever.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Your support for Dr. Atilla Yayla would be appreciated

As regular readers of my blog know, when I live abroad I hang out with dissidents and real freedom-fighters. (A fact which greatly contributes to my disgust with the posturing phonies one meets among self-styled "radicals" in the US.)

Most of my dissident friends are in Eastern Europe. However on a couple of occasions I've had the pleasure of meeting with Turkish Classical Liberals Dr. Atilla Yayla and his colleage Ms. Ozlem Caglar Yilmaz.

Turkey is an odd and interesting case. Once the powerful and feared enemy of the West, now a secular republic on the verge of joining the EU. Though Turkey has made great strides towards a Liberal order (in the classic sense, you know - the one you can be proud of), it has done so at the cost of tying their sense of national identity to a cult of personality centered on Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish state.

Dr. Yayla has had the courage to question this in public, and has gotten into trouble for it. Not disappeared/assasinated/ tortured trouble (at least not yet) but he could use some support.

This support wouldn't cost anybody anything, just an email would be good. And the payoff would be - you'd done something you could be proud of, and maybe make the acquaintance of some fine brave people.

Here are two articles about his situation:

Freedom of Expression in Turkey, Atilla Yayla, published in Herald Tribune http://www.liberal.org.tr/index.php?lang=en&message=article&art=546

An article by Mustafa Akyol at Turkish Daily News http://www.liberal.org.tr/index.php?lang=tr&message=article&art=558

And below is the story sent to me by Ms Yilmaz with contact data.



What Happened ?

Atilla Yayla, a professor of politics and political theory at Gazi University in Ankara, Turkey, gave a speech on 18th November 2006 in Izmir, Turkey. The speech was made in a panel on “EU -Turkish Relations and Their Impact on Turkish Society” which had been organized by the local branch of the governing Justice and Development Party. The title of Dr. Yayla’s speech was “EU, Civilization and Turkey”. In the spech he criticised Kemalism, the official ideology of Turkey which was created partly by M. Kemal Ataturk and mainly by some of his followers after his death. The next day the local daily Yeni Asir named Professor Yayla as a traitor who “heavily insulted Ataturk”. Some national dailies and television stations, who were apparently unhappy with Atilla Yayla’s liberal ideas, took this claim without an honest and balanced investigation as a fact and started a lynching campaign against Dr. Yayla. His university, influenced by and feared from the campaign, took also action against him. The university commenced two investigations about Dr. Yayla and dismissed him temporarily from his post at the university, took away his classes and reduced his salary by one third until the investigations were terminated. A public proscecutor in Izmir also started a criminal investigation.

The summary of Dr Yayla’s Speech

“Some authors think that there is more than one civilization. And they call these civilizations in different ways. Some make classifications, depending on ethnicity, like Turkish civilization and German civilization. Some others, depending on geography, say American civilization, Eurepean civilization. And some use names from time to time like Christian civilization and Islamic civilization by depending on religion. In my opinion there is only one civilization which we can call as common human civilization There is only one civilization because civilization is created by human beings in human societies. Whatever their religion, ethnicity etc. are, there are similarities more than differences among human beings. This is why we can talk about human kind, humanity.

By studying past and present societies and the history of civilization we can determine the basic foundatins of civilization. These are:

I- Private property (as de jure not de facto)
II- Division of labour and expertising in different fields.
III- Free exchange
IV- Freedom of contract and a culture together with moral and legal codes that facilitates the application of contracts.
V- Limited and rule based political governance
VI- Freedom of thought and expression
VII- Freedom of religion that includes also freedom of religious minorities and non-believers
VIII- Rule of law
IX- The absence of political crimes
X- Widespread horizontal, not vertical, human relations in society
XI- Rich social variety
XII- Variety in human needs and their constant and regular satisfaction

These are the basic foundatins of civilization. If this paradigm makes any sense and has any use every country can be evaluated from its perspective. For example, if we test Marxist system from this theory’s point of wiev, we see that it is uncivilizing, not civilizing. For Marxism is against private property, free exchange, and rule of law. It is a system that depends on brute force.

It is also possible to evaluate the Turkish Republic from the perspective of this paradigm. However, in doing this we must carefully escape from a mistake which is to evaluate the history of the Reublican era as a whole from 1923 to today. We have different periods in our history. The period from 1923 till 1925, the period between 1925-45, the period of 1945-46, the period between 1946-50 and lastly 1950 and afterwards. We should evaluate the history of the Turkish Republic at least in two main periods, the one between 1925-45 and the other one between 1950 and afterwards.

If we do so, it can be said that the first period is not as a big step-forward as the intensive official propaganda claims. It is even a step-backward in some respects. In the first era there were serious problems with respect to freedom of expression, legal and legitimate political opposition, limited and accountable government, and freeom of expression and association. After 1950 we transferred the country from a regime in which there was no freedom of expression to a regime in which there was more freedom of expression. We passed from single party system to multy party system, namely democracy. In the second era private property gained more legal recognition. And the same happened with respect to religious fredom.

EU is in a better position than Turkey in respect to basic foundations of common civilization. However, that does not mean that EU is identical with civilization or civilization has first been born with EU. Such claims are nonsense exagerations. Beside, EU has some serious problems. It has problems with respect to freedom of expression. It sometimes uses double-standarts. In Europe racism does exist.

We have to place EU’s demands from Turkey into two categories. In the first group there are those demands that are requirements of civilization. For example, EU asks Turkey to expand freedom of expression. I do not see the expansion of freedom of expression under the pressure of EU as a concession delivered to EU or as a dishonourable behaviour. Because, Turkey and Turkish citizens, not EU and citizens of member countries, will benefit from such an expansion. But EU has also political demands from Turkey. These are not related to the basics of civilization but rather they are political and diplomatic issues and require diplomatic and political bargaining. For example, the issue of Cyprus is a political and diplomatic problem that can, and should, be resolved through negotiation and bargaining”.

The Most Controversial Part of the Speech

“Turkey should discuss these issues. Turkey has come to a position to discuss these matters. If EU accession process proceeds smoothly despite all problems in coming years we may have to discuss these issues . Even more will be brougt to the agenda. They would ask us “Why Ataturk’s statutes are everywhere?’. They would ask us ‘Why in every government office the same man’s photographs are?’ ‘Kemalism is Turkey’s problem and so on. Our friends will harshly react against this, but sooner or later you will have to discuss them. You can not cover, you have to discuss. Either you will be a member of this club (EU) and in the process what is happenning, for example, in Holland will also happen in Turkey. Or you will say ‘No, I am not a member of this club’. You will say ‘Our regime is like the one in Jordan and Syria’.

I would like to see these issues discussed in society but these discussions should not bring about a big fight. They should not create tension. Issues must be debated in a reasonable manner. The problems should be solved without harming or insulting anybody . I am a university lecturer, it is my duty to tackle with these issues. I have to talk to the people about these issues. I wish to see counter views. I hope counter views appear so that I change my ideas and say ‘Kemalism is not what I thougt it was’ “.

The Results

At the end of the two investigations Gazi University punished Dr. Yayla with two “denouncing”; the first was for leaving Ankara, where university is based, without official permission and the second for behaving, in out of official duty, in the way “to harm the sense of trust and respect”. He was reinstated after this decision of the university and started his classes again by the end of February 2007.

In the end of the criminal investigation the public prosecutor filed a lawsuit against Atilla Yayla on the claim that he breached the law 5816 that punishes “publicly insulting Ataturk’s moral legacy”. He asked Dr. Yayla to be imprisoned between one and three years and his dismission from public duties according to Turkish Penal Code Article 53. He opened the law suit without seeing the full text of Dr. Yayla’s speech, by depending only on Yeni Asir’s news and the testimony of its correspondent. The court is taking place in Izmir 8th Court of First Criminal Instance (8. Asliye Ceza Mahkemesi) and the first session was held on 30th April, 2007. The file number of the case is 2007/107. The second session was held on July 2nd. And the suit is postponed for another third trial to be held on 16th of October to hear some other wittnesses whether his speech contains insult or not.

Meanwhile the military tutelage over the Turkish political and legal system uncurtained itself through this event. The head of the Association of Retired Officers, retired general Rıza Kucukoglu, visited Gazi University Rector Kadri Yamac and, in his words, “encouareged him to permanently dismiss Professor Yayla from the university”. Five months after the speech, the Chief of Staff, general Yasar Buyukanıt, attacked Prıofessor Yayla in his press conference of 12 April 2007. He made some quatations from Dr Yayla’s speech and attempted to question his quality as a scientist. This is illegal in the country as there exists a law that prohibits making interptetations about legal cases taken up by courts on the ground that they may harm due process by influencing the judges. However, Turkey is a country where, in G. Orwell’s words, “some are more equal”, and the judiciary usually takes this sort of comments from the military like a command and acts accordingly.

Professor Yayla received threat letters and messages from some Kemalists. The attack on him violated not only his right to speak freely, but it has become a threat to his life. He was provided with a bodyguard by the government to be protected from possible attacks. The assault made his personel and professional life miserable.

You can reach to Dr Yayla to express your support and to ask how to help.

His email addresses are:

atillayayla at yahoo.com

yaylaatilla at gmail.com

His Office number: ++90.312.2308703; ++90.312.2316069
His fax number: ++90.312.2308003
His office address:Association for Liberal Thinking
GMK Bulvari, 108/17 Maltepe, Ankara 06570 Turkey

His cellular phone number : ++ 90.533.3845165.

His faculty’s mail address:
Faculty of Economics and Administrative Science, Gazi University,
Besevler, Ankara, Turkey


Ozlem Caglar Yilmaz
General Coordinator
Association for Liberal Thinking
GMK Bulvari No: 108 / 17
Maltepe, 06570
Ankara, Turkey
Phone: ++ 90 312 2316069
Fax: ++ 90 312 2308003