Wednesday, January 07, 2004
I got hit with a wave of viruses and worms these past few weeks through ADSL channels(along with the rest of the country--a minister even mentioned it in a press conference), and being that our ISP security is, well, underdeveloped, the people that man the controls at my end decided to ban my computer's physical address without letting me know. And blogging outside my home involuntarily is annoying, hence the hiatus (the problem still remains).
December 17: Riot On An Empty Street
What was amusing about this whole thing was that European expectations remained rather constant throughout, all the way from the beginning of the year; and if not the beginning, then at least since May. I would think the agreement that emerged from the meta-negotiations were rather anticlimactic from their standpoint. Turkish expectations—months, weeks, or days aside—oscillated absurdly in the span of a few hours (I think it was between 13:30 and 15:30). It went back and forth from “We’re completely screwed” to the theme music from Shaft (Or Cemil). This is what caused the stocks to jump, even though they had factored in the positive results, when it finally settled on the latter. The sad thing was that this was not the media’s or the public’s reaction, it was the reaction first and foremost of the delegation that was there in Brussels. At one point they gave a press release saying they felt completely shattered. The question became: were they actually this retarded or did they think they were being smart? After all, the parliamentary report was released days before. That was reported as a victory in the Turkish press despite Eurlings publicly mentioning a few alarm bell issues, such as the Armenian genocide. You'd think at least Cyprus would leak into the next few days. Common sense would dictate that if you’re not going to recognize Cyprus then you should have said in May (when the South was admitted) that you were going to put EU membership on ice until there is a solution on the island, thus being the first to admit it would be silly to join a group without recognizing all members. But of course that would have rocked the market that has been pumping the EU drug through its veins for a while now. On top of that, no date would be given and no pressure to solve Cyprus would exist. Instead of that do this: play dumb and be absolutely shocked when they insist on Cyprus recognition. Will they be shocked by your shock? If not, you’re a complete failure. If so, you’re a hero. I don't think the initial shock of the delegation was a calculated lie; they probably could not fathom the other side would cross a red line in front of the cameras.
Our press, on the other hand, fed on Erdogan's supposed machismo for the next few days ("Get the plane ready,"-- Erdogan, when no agreement was reached. "What the fuck?"--EU) This reminds me of a recent piece by Henry Blodget ("Born Suckers") where he talks about the habits of the majority of people who own stocks. A few of those habits are pertinent here (and are related to each other):
Self-attribution Bias: We attribute our successes to ourselves, and we blame our losses on others or bad luck. This hobbles us in two ways. First, we don't learn from our mistakes because we don't see them as mistakes. Second, we assume we are skilled or smart when we're just lucky.
Conservatism Bias and Confirmatory Bias: Once we form opinions, we tend to overvalue information that reinforces them and undervalue information that undermines them (conservatism bias). We even tend to seek out supporting information (confirmatory bias). Thus, we irrationally cling to incorrect conclusions, and, to paraphrase Simon and Garfunkel, hear what we want to hear and disregard the rest.
Outcome Bias: We tend to evaluate decisions based on outcomes instead of probabilities. Thus, we congratulate ourselves for stupid choices that happen to turn out well and vow to never again make smart choices that happen to turn out badly. Our errors get reinforced, and our wise decisions rejected.
Hindsight Bias: When we reflect on the past, we imagine that we knew what was going to happen when we didn't. As James Montier puts it, "You didn't know it all along, you just think you did." This allows us to imagine, for example, that we knew that the tech boom of the late '90s was a bubble and that everyone who suggested otherwise was an idiot or crook. It also makes us overconfident about our ability to predict what will happen next.
After the agreement, what happened? Our government bends over backwards in insisting to the public and the opposition that what they agreed to does not amount to recognizing Cyprus ("The translation you got is wrong" --Erdogan to opposition CHP during parliament session--It seems we're still churning out shitty translations at the government level) . Whereas Europe tells its people that although they will be asking for more, what Turkey agreed to pretty much kind of amounts to recognition. In fact, this whole thing is just one big postponement with every sensitive issue guaranteed to come up in the future.
After the report one columnist wrote, “We did it despite Pamuk,” and continued by saying that Pamuk’s books were popular abroad because he spent his time trashing the country. That’s slightly below the waist (it’s reminiscent of the cheery headlines Czech newspapers used to have when something bad happened to Milan Kundera), especially since Pamuk is not in the habit of writing contemporary political novels. Apparently, some reader sent the columnist a letter saying that she went to one of Orhan Pamuk’s talks in a university in the States and he kept on mentioning the bad. When she asked if he didn’t have anything good to say, he replied: “I’m sorry, I’m not a tourism minister.” That was a pretty good response. A few days after the column was printed, he appeared on CNN Turk, and although he did note that the episode occurred in 1994 and that things were worse then, he didn’t really back down. At one point he said, “It's good to be squeezed by the EU, we need it.”
Which brings up an interesting point. The general consensus is that the pro-EU people are the optimists, whereas the indifferent or anti-EU people are pessimist realists. But there are gaping exceptions. For example, there are many who believe that we don't need the EU to implement the reforms, and believe that getting in the EU won't solve the problem at its roots. Although they are pessimistic about the EU, they are optimistic in a greater sense--about the will and progressive nature of Turkish people, who they believe can push with reforms on their own. People like Pamuk are the pessimists or realists ones in this sense, who believe that left to our own devices, we will sit on our ass and coast on neutral. The latter camp has been winning the argument of late. Nuray Mert has a tongue-in-cheek article (In Turkish) to that effect.
Meanwhile, Turkish Daily News has been bought by Dogan media giants. I hadn't checked out their website in a while, but they now seem to have shamlessly ripped off CNN .
And Can Dundar tries to take on Enver Pasha and the events that led to the deportation of Armenians (In Turkish, notice the self-consciously defensive flag waving picture), his conclusion:
"Had Enver Pasha had listened to his mentor, Turkey's history could have been radically different. He didn't. And the Sarikamis disaster became a turning point...And now it can once again become a turning point by allowing us to calmly and clearly analyze the chain of mistakes that originated from that defeat."
Sights and Songs
I attended a screening of Kiarostami's Through the Olive Trees in 2002 where Susan Sontag was the guest speaker. She treaded on her often repeated thoughts on how, in certain instances, creative minds grow sharper under severe limitations, as with Kiarostami and Iranian censorship, and about the revelations she would gain by watching films over and over again--all the while taking care in being very casual and unacademic. She looked rather vibrant, more than half a decade younger than she actually was...