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So there we are, all of us, stuck between our four walls, sur­round­ed by this coro­n­avirus. Some take it in their stride and wait it out as best they can, aware of the fact oth­ers are grit­ting their teeth, and oth­ers yet, espe­cial­ly in coun­tries where peo­ple are con­demned to sur­viv­ing on a dai­ly basis, are forced to go out in order to earn their keep.

If you look on this land­scape dis­pas­sion­ate­ly, the minor­i­ty of those who in so-called nor­mal times rest com­fort­ably of the “exploitable” major­i­ty turned into ser­vice providers, sim­ply car­ry on with their lives. Among them, some pub­lish their “dai­ly con­fine­ment” jour­nal from the zone of com­fort they built on the pro­duc­tive major­i­ty’s sweat.

The nation­al appeal to dona­tions launched by Erdoğan the day before yes­ter­day, is noth­ing oth­er than the “char­i­ta­ble hand” extend­ed by this minor­i­ty to those who sweat and die. Char­i­ty is a pejo­ra­tive con­cept. Because it flows from the con­tempt of these few priv­i­leged ones for the major­i­ty on which they are accus­tomed to tread­ing, thanks to the sys­tem set up in such a way that it per­forms like a steam roller, suck­ing out liveli­hoods in a tan­gi­ble way.

Erdoğan, donat­ing as a “gift” 7 months of his salary to this “nation­al sol­i­dar­i­ty” cam­paign spec­i­fies that “the aim of this cam­paign is to pro­vide sup­ple­men­tary aid to our fel­low cit­i­zens with low rev­enues who are vic­tim­ized in this peri­od. We are expect­ing the great­est amount of aid from our busi­ness­men, our char­i­ta­ble peo­ple.” Such an oper­a­tion is, in itself the admis­sion of the fact the coun­try’s econ­o­my is not in the great­est of shape, and that the State’s cof­fers are emp­ty, despite the war­like bel­low­ings, claim­ing “the whole world envies Turkey”. More­over, this cam­paign has no oth­er objec­tive than char­i­ty to assuage the con­sciences of those who usu­al­ly do noth­ing but hoard. A kind of white bread hand­ed out to the work­ers by the “soci­ety ladies”.

It is no won­der then that this cam­paign announced as one of “sol­i­dar­i­ty” is greet­ed with a strong epi­der­mal reac­tion and is answered by respons­es grouped under the hash­tag #zırnıkyok, “zilch nada”.

From its onset it was per­ceived like a showy invi­ta­tion to a char­i­ty con­test. Oth­er politi­cians, nation­al­ists, lead­ers, may­ors and celebri­ties join the com­pe­ti­tion and exhib­it their benev­o­lence by stag­ing their own dona­tions. If, in response, thou­sands of peo­ple holler “zilch nada”, it isn’t because they don’t think we should help one anoth­er when faced by the coro­n­avirus. The reac­tion is per­fect­ly under­stand­able, see­ing the total lack of trust, and legit­i­mate­ly so, that has set in for years now toward a regime mired up to its neck in cor­rup­tion.

As an Eng­lish say­ing goes “Char­i­ty hides many sins.” The “zilch nada!” isn’t direct­ed to the class expe­ri­enc­ing dif­fi­cul­ties but to those who admin­is­ter the State. In the minds of many peo­ple, States, in prin­ci­ple, should be at the ser­vice of their pop­u­la­tions. But we all know that they only care about their own per­ma­nence and serve the minori­ties at the top of the social pyra­mids. The Nation-State is not a benev­o­lent and sol­i­dar­i­ty-mind­ed admin­is­tra­tion.

Should we real­ly be sur­prised by this pop­u­lar dis­gust at this appeal to the rich to deign pro­vide a bit of help to the poor? This repug­nant char­i­ty, is it not based on the prin­ci­ple of obtain­ing the obe­di­ence of the low­ly mass­es, of these hordes of human beings exploit­ed to the mar­row? There is talk of the most hum­ble who have lost even min­i­mal liv­ing con­di­tions, the most basic of con­di­tions. The gold­en minor­i­ty, par­tic­u­lar­ly the one that was born by enrich­ing itself thanks to Erdoğan’s cor­rupt politi­cies, this new caste of big­ot­ted upstarts, will “ren­der” then the min­i­mum to those set aside and open­ly despised. Jules Renard said “Char­i­ty is the hypocrisy which con­sists of giv­ing ten cents of atten­tion in order to receive twen­ty francs of grat­i­tude.“

Calls to “stay at home” under the slo­gan “there is a life in the home” large­ly cir­cu­lat­ed by “celebri­ties”, illus­trat­ed with pho­tos show­ing them with a book in their hand or prac­tic­ing some sport in their lux­u­ri­ous liv­ing rooms had already set off a strong move­ment of indig­na­tion. “Do you think we go out for the sheer fun of it? We risk our lives fac­ing the coro­n­avirus because we have to in order to go to work. How else can we feed our fam­i­lies?“

Of course, Erdoğan is not the only one, and nor is Turkey, but let’s con­tin­ue with his exam­ple… He has filled his own cof­fers to such an extent that even if he was to enter the show not with 7 salaries but with 77, those peo­ple in trou­ble could not come close to his gross­ly majes­tic stan­dard of liv­ing. No, by fill­ing the glass­es at the top, the cham­pagne does not fill the glass­es at the base of the pyra­mid… Social net­works then trot out First Lady Emine’s Her­mès hand­bag, or yet again the gold-cov­ered radi­a­tors of Min­is­ter and son-in-law Berat Albayrak, bought at prices high­er than years of salaries for those who sweat. Or yet again, the lux­u­ri­ous offi­cial vehi­cles, bought with peo­ple’s tax­es… The tax debts for­giv­en to destruc­tive and mafia-like firms. “Let them pay! Zilch nada!”

turquie turkey corruption

Yet, there were sol­i­dar­i­ty cam­paigns launched by some Turk­ish may­ors before Erdoğan’s appeal. Ankara is one of those large cities where Erdoğan’s AKP lost elec­tions twice since the elec­tions were annuled and repeat­ed. Yes­ter­day, the Pre­fec­ture blocked the bank accounts of their sol­i­dar­i­ty cam­paigns, con­sid­er­ing that “the State is the sole pow­er enti­tled to orga­nize dona­tion appeals.”

Despite all this, and par­al­lel to it, there are peo­ple orga­niz­ing humbly in the face of the coro­n­avirus. They pro­vide food to the most des­ti­tute around them, help the elder­ly who are con­fined under orders and under threat of fines. Asso­ci­a­tions are active. This hap­pens in a mod­est way at the local lev­el. In those instances, one can talk of sol­i­dar­i­ty and, you can even add the qual­i­fi­er “nation­al” if you like, for us, it is “human”.

Between the piti­ful and con­tempt-rid­den char­i­ty and sol­i­dar­i­ty there is a social divide dug by cap­i­tal­ism. Char­i­ty is the fruit of pride, it is noth­ing oth­er than a means to main­tain pover­ty, to deep­en it and make it per­ma­nent, so as to keep peo­ple with their head bare­ly above water.

There would cer­tain­ly be no need nor surges of sol­i­dar­i­ty and cer­tain­ly not of char­i­ty if “mutu­al­i­ty” exist­ed in soci­ety. Will the tri­al by coro­n­avirus help us become aware of this at long last?


Pho­to : Emre M. Istan­bul, Kalamış.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges |
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Naz Oke
REDACTION | Journaliste 
Chat de gout­tière sans fron­tières. Jour­nal­isme à l’U­ni­ver­sité de Mar­mara. Archi­tec­ture à l’U­ni­ver­sité de Mimar Sinan, Istanbul.