Biased generalizations on Turks

Published 10.07.2018 01:47

Every election result tells us something about a country's sociological realities. Experts try to figure out why some segments of the population vote in a certain way, and they try to predict the country's evolution accordingly. These analyses don't give us every detail about the country's sociopolitical structure of course, as voters make their choices according to a great number of variables, which are not always easy to grasp.

Things are more complicated when we talk about a presidential election. First of all, there are few candidates, and the race is often between two or three leading figures. The voters don't always try to choose the ideal candidate, because it is often the case that there is none. There is only a short list and people try to pick the best one compared to other candidates. Sometimes one votes in favor of the candidate one supports wholeheartedly. Some other times, people vote for a candidate simply in the hope of blocking another candidate's election. That's why the election results are not always sufficient to understand what people think, how they live, how they perceive the world around them, and what really motivated them to vote for one candidate.

It is of course easy to jump to conclusions by looking at election results and pretending that you now know everything about a particular country. When a country elects a president some circles don't like, his voters are criticized severely, and even ostracized and insulted. Generalizations about these voters lead not to scientific, but rather to ideological analyses.

Last week I wrote about a prominent member of the Dutch government, a coalition partner who spoke about Turkey. It appears my take angered some, as I received many replies from the readers. A Dutch reader, for example, insisted that the politician in question was absolutely right, as according to him, Turkey is no longer a democracy. No one can deny that Turkey has a democratic deficit, but the reader didn't try to understand this problem from a socioeconomic or historical perspective. He rather concluded that as the majority of Turks vote for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, than they must either be idiots, ignorant, or both. I don't know if he suggests that uneducated or low IQ people that he designates should not enjoy the right to vote.Look at what is happening in the U.S. The world seems to be pulled into a commercial war, thanks to U.S. President Donald Trump's decisions. He also seems to like military methods when dealing with the world's problems. What to conclude, then? Millions of Americans who voted for him are just a bunch of ignorant, stupid people? What about the Russians? They vote constantly in favor of Vladimir Putin, who is not exactly a role model for democratic regimes. From this perspective, we can't, of course, measure the level of stupidity or ignorance of the Chinese, as they don't have elections. What about Azerbaijan, Colombia, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Brazil or Nigeria? It is easy to make assumptions about people, but is this how we will understand them?

Maybe our reader believes that smart and intellectual people are all gathered in Western Europe, after all. They must be smart and intellectual because they vote for the "right" people. It would be great if we could get a checklist to test which candidate is right or wrong.

One can always criticize a country's politicians, or political regime or governing style. It is erroneous, however, to look at the election results and make a judgment about a whole nation. Many Turks smoke, but not all of them; some Turks like to have a car, but many don't have one; many Turks like barbecuing, but not all of them.

If we have come to the point where we explain political behavior through deductions – such as the French love wine, so they vote for Emmanuel Macron, or Italians adore pasta, that's why they always end up with coalitions – maybe it is time to learn about the favorite dishes of the Dutch.

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