Friday, October 11, 2013

Kemal Ataturk Is Alive and Well and Living In Madison, WI. By Peter Berger.

Kemal Ataturk Is Alive and Well and Living In Madison, WI. By Peter Berger. The American Interest, October 9, 2013.


Kemal Ataturk founded the Republic of Turkey as a militantly secular state. The Kemalist elite, while it could not (and, let us charitably assume, did not intend) to eradicate religion, it certainly made it clear that believers were second-class citizens. Their animosity was of course mainly directed against Islam. It did not succeed in making much headway against the majority population of Muslims, especially in the vast Anatolian hinterland. As Turkey became more democratic, these allegedly backward people voted—and not surprisingly they voted their “values”. The result has been the (thus far moderate) Islamist government.
The Kemalist policy toward religion has been a kind of disease control: Religion is basically a danger in a civilized society. It must be tightly controlled, contained within its tolerated spaces, kept out of the officially legitimated public sphere. In recent time Kemalism has not fared well in Turkey. It is unlikely to do better in the United States, the most religious country in the Western world, unless a currently assertive secularism achieves results in the federal courts which it could never achieve through the democratic process. The Freedom from Religion Foundation and, more importantly, the American Civil Liberties Union are spearhead organizations in the secularist campaign. This is not the place to speculate about the reasons for their recent activism. But I think it is useful to understand that their attitude toward public expressions of religious faith is essentially Kemalist.

Comment by Gary Novak:

Richard Rodriguez once gave a talk in which he described his visit to a Los Angeles high school where the lunch tables were voluntarily segregated by ethnicity. Even the Chicanos and Mexican-Americans sat at separate tables. Like Berger, Rodriguez thinks an important part of education is broadening one's comfort zone. So he described the situation as one in which the United States had been infected with the Canadian virus of multiculturalism.
I obtained a video of the talk and showed it to my introductory sociology class. One of my students went to the department head and complained that she was uncomfortable hearing multiculturalism criticized. It was too late for her to drop my class and take his, so he proposed that we accommodate her by having her attend his classes and take his tests, and he would tell me what grade to assign her at the end of the semester. I refused on the grounds that it might do her some good to hear multiculturalism criticized by a gay Hispanic. If I had wronged the student, I should go, not her. And, of course, if the situation were reversed and an ethnocentric student wanted out because talk of multiculturalism made him sick, the policy of accommodating the needs of all our student consumers would come to a screeching halt. “But that’s why you go to college—to learn you’re a racist!”
I suspect the department head felt quite virtuous for accommodating ME. “You see—even though you’re teaching the wrong stuff, my respect for academic freedom knows no limits. Your student clearly needs to be rescued, but I’ll take no action against you!” (The text I used—like all sociology texts—was, of course, making the case for multiculturalism.) Double standards and political correctness account for much of the increasing awareness that colleges today offer, as Berger puts it, “an increasingly costly and dubiously useful product.”