Ece Temelkuran: Well, hel­lo there. This is my first time in Republica, and I think it’s the coolest fes­ti­val in Europe about dig­i­tal media, dig­i­tal life, and polit­i­cal issues. It’s very rare that these two things come togeth­er, so I think it’s real­ly cool. 

Throughout two days I guess, peo­ple here on this stage and on oth­er stages will be talk­ing about the future. And the future is the cool thing. And prob­a­bly every­body will be talk­ing about how the future has nev­er been so close to present time as it is today. Whereas I’m going to be the killjoy and I’m going to talk about the past. I’m going to talk about remem­ber­ing, and the abra­cadabra of memory. 

I do think that remem­ber­ing is a form of for­get­ting. What we remem­ber is not the total sum of past events but actu­al­ly the pow­er­ful of the present time deter­mine what we remem­ber of the past. The sto­ry of the pow­er­ful makes us selec­tive­ly for­get, or selec­tive­ly remem­ber, what has hap­pened in the past. Therefore one of the biggest tragedies of human­i­ty or the human mind is to remem­ber alone. 

Remembering is an act that requires at least two peo­ple. You need two peo­ple not to go crazy when you’re remem­ber­ing alone. I’m sure you remem­ber when you say some­thing like, Remember that sum­mer hol­i­day,” to your father or to your moth­er, and he or she goes, No, such a thing did­n’t hap­pen.” Or when you talk about an abuse that has hap­pened to you, and the rest of the peo­ple say, No, that did­n’t hap­pen to you.” Remembering alone can dri­ve you insane. That’s why remem­ber­ing is an act that requires at least two people. 

You need me, (yeah), and I need you, to remem­ber how we end­ed up in this shit. In this world where Trump is lead­ing the biggest nation in the uni­verse. Where Great Britain all of a sud­den decid­ed that it’s not great enough. Or, in Germany all of a sud­den abor­tion became an issue. Of all coun­tries, in Germany. We have to remem­ber how we end­ed up in this world where a third world war was about to hap­pen a few weeks ago and nobody gave a damn about it. 

So, actu­al­ly we were right to feel com­fort­ably numb. You know, they did­n’t even ask about our deci­sion when they decid­ed to bomb Syria a few weeks ago. Germany, France, and the United States all of a sud­den, dur­ing an Easter hol­i­day, decid­ed to bomb Syria. And we were all watch­ing. So I want to remem­ber how we became so help­less, how we became so pas­sive an audi­ence, and how it became so…you know… The fab­ric of human­i­ty has changed so much, so dramatically—when did that hap­pen, really? 

I’m sure you know this. There are some times when they’re report­ing from Yemen, or Iraq, or you know, Myanmar…the pre­sen­ter always says some­thing. She or he warns us. He says, The fol­low­ing footage may con­tain dis­turb­ing images.” You remem­ber the dead Syrian kid who washed ashore on the [?] coast a few years back. When they were report­ing about that kid, they all warned us the fol­low­ing footage may con­tain dis­turb­ing images.” 

And I was think­ing, did they do the same warn­ing in 1972 when this naked Vietnamese girl was run­ning away from a napalm attack? The entire press com­mu­ni­ty, press that the pub­lished that image, believ­ing that when peo­ple know the truth they would be dis­turbed so much that they would want to change that truth. They would want to change that real­i­ty. So they nev­er hes­i­tat­ed pub­lish­ing that image. They nev­er told us, Look away. You’ll be dis­turbed if you watch this.” And why watch it any­way? Why both­er? You’re going to go to your work in the morn­ing. Nothing will change. So why, you know…why get your­self in this depres­sive mood? 

So, when did these things change? When did we decide that we no longer need to watch news? We no longer have to watch these dis­turb­ing images? That’s why I’m writ­ing a book. I’m think­ing about these issues. And the book is called How to Lose a Country: The New Ice Age of Politics. And here I am, I’m talk­ing about the new ice age of politics. 

And I try to remem­ber. And I need you to remem­ber with me. I need to remem­ber that British woman with big hair, high-pitched voice, and an Asprey bag. Do you remem­ber the woman? Margaret Thatcher. You can­not be that young. Do you remem­ber what she said? The most famous quote from her. She said, There is no alter­na­tive.” TINA; there’s an abbre­vi­a­tion for it, even: TINA. There is no alter­na­tive. Which meant at the time this is the best we can do.” You don’t have to try to build a bet­ter world. You don’t have to think about those things. You don’t have to think about pol­i­tics, we can do it for you. It’s all about num­bers, it’s bor­ing, mmm. It’s too much antag­o­nism, da da da da da. So she said there is no alter­na­tive. And she hand­bagged a nation, an entire oppo­si­tion in Britain, to put those words into circulation. 

And on the oth­er side of the Atlantic, there was anoth­er man called Ronald Reagan. And he came out with this slo­gan, I love that slo­gan, Let’s make America great again.” So it was­n’t actu­al­ly Trump who came up with the idea of mak­ing America great again, it was actu­al­ly Ronald Reagan. 

So, it was then actu­al­ly human­i­ty split into two: win­ners and losers. While it was hap­pen­ing, also real­i­ty was split into two. There was the win­ners’ real­i­ty, and there was the losers’ reality. 

I’m sure there are peo­ple who are old enough to remem­ber the Gulf War. Do you remem­ber that we were so mes­mer­ized by the fact that for the first time in human his­to­ry we were watch­ing a war twenty-four hours a day? We were doing our things, com­ing back, the war was still on. We were eat­ing our din­ner watch­ing the war. And these bion­ic flies were going fly­ing above Christiane Amanpour’s head, and they were killing peo­ple. And we were so, you know…paralyzed by the fact that we were watch­ing this. And we start­ed think­ing that this is nor­mal, being mes­mer­ized when peo­ple are dying. 

And then this split the real­i­ty into two. All of a sud­den, a tragedy of a nation became the fire­works, enter­tain­ment, for the rest of the world. And then a few years passed. A guy called Colin Powell showed up in the UN, the United Nations, with a tube filled with col­ored flu­id. And he said, Since this flu­id is pur­ple, let’s bomb Iraq.” And peo­ple want­ed to believe this. And they screwed a nation. 

Ironically it was the around the same year, this warn­ing came into being. The fol­low­ing footage may con­tain dis­turb­ing images.” So you don’t have to look any­more; it’s anoth­er real­i­ty. It’s not your real­i­ty anyway. 

Something more impor­tant hap­pened the same year, while the Iraqi inva­sion was hap­pen­ing. Paris Hilton became very famous, along­side Nicole Richie. They were in this real­i­ty show called Real Life. [The Simple Life] These filthy rich girls were vis­it­ing the oth­er unfor­tu­nate real­i­ties, and they were clas­si­fy­ing the real­i­ty as say­ing it’s hot or it’s not hot. So actu­al­ly, their dis­gust of the unfor­tu­nate real­i­ty became a com­mod­i­ty in the enter­tain­ment world. 

And around a few years after that, Afghanistan start­ed hap­pen­ing. It was only two months after Afghanistan was first bom­bard­ed, CNN International was report­ing from Afghanistan, and the reporter was say­ing Afghanistan is a great touris­tic des­ti­na­tion now. And you know what’s going on in Afghanistan since then. So, the idea of oth­er peo­ple’s real­i­ties becom­ing touris­tic des­ti­na­tions was already there. 

So, do you know what Boris Johnson the min­is­ter of for­eign affairs of Britain told to the Libyan peo­ple? He said Sirte (the Libyan city) can actu­al­ly become the new Dubai. It’s just you have to push all these dead bod­ies away. But when he said that, it was­n’t an orig­i­nal idea. The orginal idea was actu­al­ly in Afghanistan when the CNN reporter told us that Afghanistan is a great touris­tic des­ti­na­tion if you can live with the dead bodies. 

When real­i­ty was split­ting, the facts also became nego­tiable. I don’t know if you remem­ber this, and I want to remind you if you don’t. We learned how to start a sen­tence with I believe…” I feel…” From where I stand…” According to my…” you know, blah blah, in the 1990s. There was no such thing before the 1990s. There was no I believe, my belief, I choose to believe, blah blah, you know, that kind of of run­ning away from antag­o­nism, evad­ing the con­fronta­tion sen­tences. Starting a sen­tence with I feel” was invent­ed through­out the 1990s. 

Okay. I’m going to tell you a stu­pid sto­ry about me. It’s real­ly stu­pid. Last year I was in New York join­ing a wom­en’s sum­mit. I was in the open­ing pan­el with Masha Gessen, a New York-based famous Russian jour­nal­ist who wrote a biog­ra­phy Putin. And with David Remnick, The New Yorker edi­tor in chief. We were the open­ing pan­el, we talked about sev­er­al things like free­dom of expres­sion, all the oth­er sexy things like jour­nal­ism, da da da. And then you know, the pan­el was over. We went to the open­ing cer­e­mo­ny din­ner. Everybody who is some­body in New York is there, and we were set at a table with Masha. 

And this guy came up to me and he said, [adopts a heavy Slavic accent] You were fan­tas­tic in the speech. Where do you live now?” 

And I thought he was some­one from the Turkish gov­ern­ment try­ing to, you know, pin me down. So I said, Somewhere in Europe. What is it to you?” And then I turned to Masha and said, Who is this guy? He’s ask­ing me where I live.”

And she said, Don’t you know the biggest chess play­er in the world?” For all of the peo­ple, I found Garry Kasparov to put down. Yeah. 

And then I did­n’t stop there, of course. I’m great at net­work­ing. The guy sit­ting across me stood up, he was so polite, he com­pli­ment­ed my speech. And I said, Yeah yeah yeah, bon appétit.” He was edi­tor in chief of The New York Times.

But I did­n’t stop there. This beau­ti­ful woman came up to me, and she was telling me how inter­est­ing the pan­el was… And I went, Where do I know you from?” 

And she said, Well from movies, probably.” 

And I said this woman is real­ly famous, and I don’t rec­og­nize her, so it’s bet­ter I go to my room and sleep. Because prob­a­bly I’m in a posi­tion where I should be real­ly real­ly embarrassed. 

So any­way, I went to my room, and then I went back to Zagreb, and I start­ed writ­ing the book How to Lose a Country: The New Ice Age of Politics. When I’m writ­ing a book I obses­sive­ly watch Netflix TV shows. And when you run out of the new ones, you go to the old ones. So I’m watch­ing this Netflix show, and then I see this woman. It’s the same woman. It’s the lead­ing actress of The Good Wife. And I’m like all ahh, I’m crunch­ing with embar­rass­ment. Like oh god, how did I do that and so on. And then I keep on lis­ten­ing. And she plays this very intel­li­gent lawyer. She’s super real­is­tic, you know, cut-edge and so on. And she has a daugh­ter, and her daugh­ter asks her, Mom, do you believe in cli­mate change?” 

And I think okay, the woman will say some­thing like, What do you mean do you believe in cli­mate change?’ It’s a sci­en­tif­ic fact, it’s not a mat­ter of belief.” But she does­n’t. She says in the TV show, I don’t know if I believe in cli­mate change or not.” And they go on speak­ing about this. It was interesting. 

So, do you know that now, sci­en­tif­ic facts are equal to beliefs? And it’s not only the doing of polit­i­cal pow­er but also it’s in our dai­ly lives. So, what I tried to explain to you today is one of the things, that post-truth is not a new inven­tion. It’s not an inven­tion of the Oxford Dictionary. We have been liv­ing in the world of post-truth. 

And it’s not because the Internet is huge. It’s not because of Facebook. It’s because the neolib­er­al sys­tem asked us to live accord­ing to its ethics and for­get the fact that we share the same real­i­ty, to for­get the fact that truth is a sin­gle thing, and it want­ed us to for­get that we share the same real­i­ty in this world. And stand­ing togeth­er has a joy. Sharing the same real­i­ty, even if that real­i­ty is trag­ic, has a joy in it. 

What you have been told about the 1970s, do you remem­ber? Whenever there’s a doc­u­men­tary about the 1970s you see this naked woman danc­ing like crazy, she’s high! They nev­er tell you Black Panther peo­ple were actu­al­ly serv­ing free break­fast to poor kids. They nev­er tell you that they actu­al­ly formed sol­i­dar­i­ty net­works through the 1970s. And even though they make us for­get these things, peo­ple want to remem­ber. They have an urge to remem­ber. I know this because I was in Tahrir. I know this because I was in Tunisia in el Kasbah when our upris­ing was hap­pen­ing. I know this because I was in Gezi. 

And social media was full of joy then. But after these riots, riots of ethics let’s say, were sup­pressed, social media turned out to be like a cas­tle under siege. There was an intel­lec­tu­al famine, as it were, in social media. It became giant dome for blame games, shit­storms, social media harass­ment. And we start­ed talk­ing about these things. And the reign of trolls began. When peo­ple felt defeat­ed, they retreat­ed, and they start­ed to blame each oth­er on social media. And then all of a sud­den trolls and all that evil became so visible. 

You fol­lowed Mark Zuckerberg. Whenever I see him, with his t‑shirt and jeans, I always remem­ber Umberto Eco’s famous quote. Umberto Eco once said fas­cism does not only show up in uni­forms. I remem­ber that it can some­times show up in t‑shirts.

The rea­son I tell this, once Hannah Arendt (This is one of the best peo­ple that this coun­try raised.) talked about the banal­i­ty of evil. I think we are fac­ing a new say­ing. It’s called the evil of banal­i­ty. We now know that fas­cism can also come from the banal medioc­ra­cy, with their lim­it­ed per­spec­tive of the world, where they like things or unlike things. The evil can also come from them. The evil can come from infan­tilized mass­es. And by infan­tilized mass­es I mean peo­ple who feel help­less, who fear pol­i­tics, who fear each other. 

What’s the answer, because I think I’m also already over time. What’s the answer? Whenever there’s this answer part, the solu­tion part, I feel like I’m going to say like Leonard Cohen, the mean­ing of life is shalala. 

The answer is going to come from col­lec­tive think­ing. The answer will come from the streets. This is the end of polit­i­cal gurus. There won’t be a book which will tell us what to do and how to do it. We are going to find it togeth­er, and we are going to find it on the streets. And social media, with­out a moral com­pass, with­out a polit­i­cal com­pass, with­out the actions on the street, is just a cas­tle under siege. And it’s a poi­so­nous one. 

I want to remind you that you are capa­ble peo­ple. I want to remind you that you are polit­i­cal peo­ple. And I more impor­tant­ly and most impor­tant­ly, maybe, remind you that I hate pol­i­tics” is the most polit­i­cal state­ment you can give, and it’s the most hor­ri­ble state­ment you can give. We like pol­i­tics. We like being pol­i­tics. Politics is sexy. And, it has been a fash­ion late­ly to quote Game of Thrones by say­ing win­ter is com­ing. But actu­al­ly I want to quote my quote, which is, spring is com­ing, unless you want to remain uncom­fort­ably numb. Thank you very much for listening.

Further Reference

How To Lose A Country The New Political Ice Age ses­sion page