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Radikal, Turkey

Not Being Able to
Be a New Yorker

By Gündüz Vassaf

Translated By Dayla Rogers

4 November 2012

Edited by Lau­rence Bouvard

Turkey - Radikal - Original Article (Turkish)

Everyone was shocked and left with something to say after the Twin Towers came down on Sept. 11. It's as fresh in our children's minds as it was yesterday. We are interested and stimulated by political events, yet we are as unaware as peacocks of how our world works.

It hasn't even been a week since the hurricane struck New York. The events transpiring there drew little interest from us.

Before the hurricane hit I had a phone conversation with a friend in London:

“Americans have never had it rough. It's a puny storm. They're exaggerating the danger as usual,” he said. His tone of voice conveyed the carelessness of a Renaissance man—enlightened but arrogant—who doesn't see that natural disaster constantly hangs over our civilization. The event is normalized with the words we bring together to describe it. The images try and fail to frighten us—like a third-rate Hollywood flick.

The waters rose five meters. Streets in the world's capital were flooded. The stock exchange was closed in the heart of capitalism. Schools, apartment buildings and hospitals were emptied. Forty five people died. Millions were left without electricity. Water flooded into tunnels used by cars and subways alike. Bridges were rendered unusable...

And why?

The corporate media has been afraid to name the sleeping giant that, in the past few years, has been awakening in the form of natural disasters.

Experts say that a hurricane in the U.S. in this season is like snow in Saudi Arabia. They point out that regions expecting snow last March experienced summery weather and that the waters of several rivers combined to make a massive flood in states like Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri. They see Hurricane Sandy as another link in a chain of events caused by global warming. Neither of the U.S. presidential candidates had the courage to mention global warming in their campaigns or in the presidential debates. In the wake of Fukushima, they have failed to say that we are on the brink of new disasters, with the proximity of the Three Mile Island reactors and Indian Point nuclear power plants.

They don't say it because without the support of the energy lobby, you can forget about being president—you won't even be a candidate.

They don't talk about global warming because they ignore the fact that it is a human rights issue on a global scale. People, forced to leave their native islands in the Indian Ocean where they have dwelt for centuries, have risked life and limb to be taken to the insanely consumerist countries that are responsible for causing global warming. There, they can work on the streets as modern-day slaves. Those who are in the most danger from rising sea levels include incredibly poor nations such as Bangladesh.

Back in the U.S., while those in flood-risk areas were evacuated under government supervision from their homes, 12,000 prisoners on Rikers Island were locked in their cells.

Like many countries, Turkey's horizons are limited by national political problems: The yes-men on a hunger strike meant to signal a socio-political upheaval, the single-party hegemony of the prime minister, polarizing class conflict, the ever-strengthening capital and influence of the Gülen movement, the collapse of our shoddy education system, the transformation of Istanbul's historic and natural fabric into that of any third-world city, the Kurdish problem...

At the heart of all these issues is a fundamental problem with our democracy.

However, if we discount what happened in New York, refusing to even mention the term “global warming”, much less take measures to prevent it, like money and power hungry politicians...après-moi le deluge!*

Following the hurricane, the clothing retailer American Apparel announced a 20 percent “Sandy Sale” for regions affected by the storm.

*Editor’s Note: French phrase which literally translates as, “after me, the flood” meaning “after this, there is much worse to come.”



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