What can hatred be washed off with?

News About Turkey - NAT
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We all hate something and we all are somehow hated. Well, is it possible for the hated not to hate? This was the first question that came to my mind when I was asked to write an article about hatred. Who is capable of not hating that other who despises, humiliates, tortures, maybe even wants to eliminate them? How forgiving, affectionate, merciful can your feelings for the one whose rage you are suffering be when you are the target of hatred and under attack? Can you listen to Jesus and turn your other cheek if you know that you will be slapped again?

Can we harness for the good the hatred that we feel for something or someone, in spite of all kinds of negative emotions spanning a wide array from mild to strong, especially in this state of the world, when the human-made destructiveness might have already destroyed the nature irreversibly, and when our worries about the future corner us in different ways?

Hatred is necessary in some sense

I will not ask you to get rid of all the negative emotions and thoughts, to leave them behind all in one breath. Hatred and any emotion to which we attribute a negative value are natural, real, present, and even necessary in some sense. Just like the other emotions, they arise and come from within involuntarily, we cannot control them that easily unless we are a saint, they will always be with us even though their fire sometimes cools down and sometimes flares up, and we usually cannot know what to do with these burning emotions that we will experience through them.

Experience of hatred

We often come across the old- or new-school words of wisdom preaching that we must get rid of hatred, rage, grudge, and replace them with love and understanding. We try to kick those negative emotions out of our system by considering each as an accident, a mistake, even as a disease symptom, defects that should not exist, we try to ignore them. Consequently, we fail to recognize them and hence ourselves and of course those surrounding us, the one standing opposite us, we miss the chance to learn something from whatever experiences since we are scared of those emotions, since we almost hate them. Moreover, this deprivation of experience makes us more defenseless, more vulnerable against hatred, rage, grudge, all those awful emotions that we feel and that are felt for us.

Accepting hatred

Running away from all these emotions, being ashamed of them, hating the hatred, raging at the rage, grudging the grudge do not help us solve our problems. We are not always capable of tolerating the one who hurts us, forgiving our ill-wisher, putting up with the one who cannot bear our existence, additionally facing the violent emotions that we feel for ourselves and even for our beloved ones, because it is not easy. Can we say that all those who are fooled, deceived, disappointed, hurt, not respected, cannot get what they deserve, wish to be, but are not accepted as they are, that is you, me, us, all of us, should eliminate grudge, rage, anger from their vocabulary? Each of us considers themself free from hatred. Because we want to believe so, what we are advised from the past until today is all in this direction too, but freedom from hatred requires accepting it first. Our starting point to really talk about the problem must be here, namely ourselves.

What are we doing with hatred?

I needed this long prologue in order to be able to say that we should fear not the emotions, but what we do with them. We are all furious at something, but as William Saroyan says in Cowards are Courageous, we do not all start shooting people from a tower. Only some of us despise others overtly, very few of us stab their enemy in the street, again rarely one among us directs a gun to another, and very few of us attempt to throw someone down somewhere when they cannot see straight. In other words, the presence of all these unwanted emotions does not urge us to do the worst in any case. Certain mechanisms that psychology, sociology, and all those -logies are trying to explain step in and allow us to live together this way or that way, luckily.

Hatred of the state

We observe that whatever happens in their individual inner world, socially, most people behave in a reasonable manner even in the most tense environments, act sanely, not with the motive to scratch the other’s eyes out. On the other hand, systems, politics usually try to control the emotions like fear, rage, hatred, and to direct these towards the goals they find useful. We can think of the state, the crystallized form of hegemony, as a hatred mechanism per se. A gigantic hatred apparatus that creates hatred and manipulates where it should be directed. There is no doubt that the supreme goals preached by the state are not for the common good of the society, but are about lasting forever of its power and ruling ideas, of the self-fulfilling values that are not to be questioned, of the power relations hidden behind some curtains. Hatred in this sense turns into a constitutive means that creates “us”, allows us to stand together against the other. To this end, societies are assured to hate the others that they do not know, they do not recognize, the persons and the groups about whom they think only what they are permitted to think. Because knowing, recognizing leads to developing empathy in most cases and this makes hating impossible.

Thereby, for instance, it becomes easier to understand the refugees who we once thought not to have the right to come to our country and believed to disturb our societal order, when we know more about what they go through, why they had to immigrate, their living conditions here, their daily worries, their relationships with their children, their families, their neighbors, and it becomes impossible to hate them. This process works by silencing and keeping out of sight all the signs pertaining to the fact that the other, just like us, is flesh and blood, and has the same rights as us.

Can negative emotions lead to good?

Emotions like hatred which we think of as negative have at least as much place in our lives as the positive ones. They determine what we do and do not, what we like and do not like, how we act in which situation. They determine to whom we will stand close and from whom we will distance ourselves. Then, we can say that those negative emotions shape us at least as much as the positive ones. Furthermore, ironically, while the emotions that we deem good sometimes lead to disastrous outcomes (The proverb The way to hell is paved with good intentions is not said for nothing), we see that negative emotions push us towards solutions that lead to good and beautiful in several instances. Let’s mark this so as not to forget.

Facing ourselves, settling and change

And let’s not forget, our repertory contains our struggles against the states and the situations that we hate, and the efforts we spend to get rid of the reason why what we hate arises, as well as our destructiveness originating from hatred, our ignorance of hatred, our acting as if we did not already have hatred at all. For these, we must be prepared to face ourselves before anything else, to settle, and to change. In this path, we will need honesty, modesty, and courage. Also humanism that prioritizes believing in humans, innovativeness that believes in change, and a pinch of naivety and hope would not be bad at all. These are the consequences of the social and ideological struggles of the history of humanity over thousands of years, these are our common heritage. These are our values that distinguish between the good and the evil, that serve as bearing about whether to serve the good or to work for the evil, that are tried, sometimes defeated, always reviewed, tried again, defeated again, that are and will be changed and transformed over and over again.

Being an Armenian from Turkey

Whether I want it or not, being an Armenian from Turkey has an important place in various shells and layers of my identity, my personality. Even if I wish to forget about being Armenian, somewhere some people do whatever they can in order not to let me forget this part of my identity. It is not easy to try to live a peaceful and secure life to which every human is entitled, as an Other, a potential traitor, a leftover from sword, second-class citizen, and an unreliable element. Particularly when as an actual victim, avoiding to take refuge in the comfort of victimhood, denying the ease of being the victim, almost a professional victim forever, and hence being always right, avoiding to make victimhood a constitutive part of my personality, and not forgetting that I can be cruel sometimes while being a victim in some senses form an ethical inner guide for me.

Throughout history, Armenians developed various ways to get rid of these burdens. Some kept silent, some obeyed, some held a gun, some immigrated, and some tried to tell their community that this was not the way, with faith in the possibility of change, spent effort to seek a ground for dialogue, to form a language that we can talk together, as much as they could. I am one of those who took this latter way.

Role of “acceptable other”

I did not do this because I am big-hearted, I am not even sure and assertive about doing this with an entirely voluntary decision. Because in my childhood, being an Armenian from Turkey meant being forbidden to have some emotions, the situation is not that different today. Because rage, grudge, hatred are very dangerous emotions if you are only a handful and trained with violence, if you are left weak by being turned into a subject of hatred and pushed almost outside of humanity. These can only harm you. In this case, you suppress these emotions, try to eliminate them, cast yourself in the role of a gloomy sad acceptable other. You never ever violate the boundaries set for you, you do not even dream of it. Some are not entitled to have all those negative emotions and they are generally from the lowest layer of the society, the most despised, the most excluded parts of it. Hence, I opted for a way that relies on talking, dialogue, mutual understanding, perhaps because there is no other solution or I could not find one, and there is nothing to brag, to be proud about this.

Founders of Aras and Agos

I guess I was lucky because as a young man looking for his place and direction on earth, my path crossed with the people who founded Aras Publishing and Agos to talk with non-Armenians in order to enable talking about the traumas experienced by Armenians from Turkey and the injustice they were subjected to, for these to be recognized and reconstituted. Mıgırdiç Margosyan, Yetvart and Payline Tomasyan, Ardaşes Margosyan, Hrant Dink, Sarkis Seropyan, and their friends, who believed in telling their wishes through literature and books, by writing and drawing, in making contact with those who maybe hated them until today, and in the power of this contact to transform, did not settle by hating, keeping gulping, but volunteered to produce a culture, to say something to eliminate the hatred against them, the hatred that they hated.

Organizations working for social peace

Of course they were not the only ones. There are many people and organizations that sweat over the issues separating people apart from each other in Turkey, that are the reason why we cannot make both ends meet as a society. Can one forget the deeds of Anadolu Kültür which aims to contribute to social peace through art, all around Turkey, founded by Osman Kavala who got a shameful sentence in the name of justice, about which he rightly said “they would hang me if they had the rope,” after being kept in prison with hatred and stubbornness for years?

Organizations like Kardeş Türküler, Açık Radyo, Kalan Müzik, which were formed in the same years as Aras and Agos, in the depressed milieu of the 1990s tried and are still trying to bring together different voices against monism. Hafıza Merkezi which was “founded with the aims to contribute to exposing the truth about past violations of rights, to strengthening social memory, and for those affected by these violations to access justice” pursues a struggle to remember and remind against our collective amnesia. KAMER, Rosa Kadın Derneği, Kadın Cinayetlerini Durduracağız Platformu and many feminist structures are fighting against injustice against women. Organizations like Diyarbakır Hafızası, Diyarbakır Siyasal ve Sosyal Araştırmalar Enstitüsü (DİSA), Diyarbakır Tanıtma Kültür ve Yardımlaşma Vakfı (DİTAV) produce solutions for peacefully resolving the Kurdish problem. Associations like Kaos GL, Pembe Hayat defend the rights of LGBTI+ individuals to exist and to live equally. Organizations like Tarlabaşı Toplum Merkezi, which is wanted to be closed down nowadays, assure the children that live in hardship to hold on to life by supporting them. Yaşlı Hakları Derneği defends the rights of the elderly, who are subject to discrimination that most of us fail to notice. An uncountable number of organizations like Yurttaşlık Derneği work hard for the refugees and the asylum seekers, who are subjected to hatred everyday, to be at ease a little. And in many other organizations, many people sweat for defending your rights, ours, the neighbors’, the other’s, the rights of those that the hither hates, does not want to be neighbors with, considers as a problem for the society, namely the rights of you, me, the other, the hither, all of us.

Coming together for downgrading hatred

In conclusion, the fight against hatred is an important part of life, perhaps the meaning of life, especially for those who are familiar with its destructive nature. Those who wish to change the world by fighting for this end, are always in a hard, wearisome struggle; that’s why, it is vital to form organizations, structures, and ensure their continuity. Because to err is human, one gets extremely tired walking in minefields, sometimes they are exhausted, and people are mortal, hatred on the other hand goes beyond human life. Coming side by side, working hard together, acting with solidarity, organizing, developing a culture of struggle, on the other hand, are indispensable for downgrading hatred and eliminating its raison d’être. In Turkish, we have a saying that translates to “Blood cannot be washed off by blood,” similarly hatred cannot be washed off with more hatred or by ignoring it, staring at the sky and whistling, but it can be washed off by coming together and doing something about it.

In Good Times and Bad: Living Together Article Series

1- Family: In good times and bad…

2- Is it possible to live together in the presence of impunity?

3- Politics of horror and the cinema

About the project

The podcast and article series “In Good Times and Bad: Living Together” are prepared as part of a project run by the Hafıza Merkezi Berlin (HMB) and IPS Communication Foundation / bianet. The coordinators of the project are Özlem Kaya from the HMB and Öznur Subaşı from the IPS Communication Foundation. The project advisor is Özgür Sevgi Göral and the project editor is Müge Karahan.

With a focus on “living together”, the series will address the themes of family, punishment, fear, hate, creativity, racism, memory, lie, anthropocene and friendship. The episodes will be published every 15 days on Tuesday.


By: Roner Koptaş


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