How did disaster capitalism and the catastrophe trade turn Turkey into a funeral home?
With the earthquake disaster that struck Turkey in the 100th year of its founding, the country is being tried by an enormous pain. It did not have to be this way; believe me, it truly did not have to be this way.
It is impossible to stand the negligence, incompetence, fatalism, and partisanship being pushed in our faces with the first responders, search and rescue teams, and basic urgent needs that could not be speedily delivered to the earthquake region.
In such times, I am of the mind that everyone must do what they are best at. If you know how to make bread, you make bread; if you are a doctor, you heal the wounded; if you are a good organizer, you coordinate aid and its distribution; if you are a journalist, you deliver the objective truth with honesty.
This country is an earthquake-prone country. We have lived through catastrophic earthquakes in the past. These days, we are in the midst of the tragic atmosphere of one of the most devastating earthquakes in history.
It did not have to be this way, but unfortunately, it is.
But how did we get here?
How do governments and the capitalist circle turn such events to their own advantage? How do they make opportunities out of crises? How do they turn them into an avenue for profiteering?
Through disaster capitalism…
We can also call them merchants of catastrophes.
Disaster capitalism not only sees catastrophes as a new avenue for profit and takes advantage of them, but also manufactures disasters itself and constructs its existence and power on the economic value of the destabilizing event.
The dictionary definition of disaster capitalism is, “the practice by a government or regime of taking advantage of a major disaster to adopt liberal economic policies that the population would be less likely to accept under normal circumstances.”
In Naomi Klein’s book, “The Shock Doctrine,” she defines disaster capitalism as a government or regime exploiting the chaos created by disasters to adopt unpopular social and economic policies during or after major destabilizing events.
Let me offer a few examples from recent history.
Sabotaging preventive healthcare policies and enabling drug and vaccine exploitation, when someone is making huge gains from common diseases like cancer and covid.
Another example is viewing the destructive aftermath of forest fires as timber and turning them into exportable and marketable products instead of investing in firefighting equipment.
Causing neighborhood gentrification through fostering neighborhood demolitions and displacing people ostensibly for urban transformation due to the earthquake risk.
When looked at it in the context of capital accumulation and property relations, the most striking example in the triangle of power, capital, and citizen is construction amnesties.
To the continuous construction amnesties, add the soaring property values, the rentier transformation, the lack of regulation, the give and take of government tenders, and the plunder of cheap property.
Disaster capitalism is the neoliberal approach that always seeks a solution according to the logic of the market; its results are unfortunately everything that we experience today.
All of these should be inspected by taking into account other factors such as lack of merit, lack of qualifications, greed, selfishness, disrepute, and the liquidation of institutions in the system.
Although it is not possible to explain through a single concept, there are also examples of this concept related to ecological problems, the climate crisis, and the refugee crisis.
Many critical issues that should be under the responsibility of the public are turned into a potential for thievery.
When we look back at the past 20 years, the AKP emerges as a disaster capitalism combined with political Islam and aggressive nationalism in the triangle of destiny-martyr-people, in which everything related to the public order is centralized and monopolized, everything is subject to exploitation within the collective public system, and every area can be turned into a monetary advantage.
WE WILL BUILD A NEW WORLD THROUGH SOLIDARITY
An opportunity that they can put into practice is imagined in the minds of those who represent, and then disaster capitalism kicks in and the system begins to work.
Disasters turn into exciting market opportunities.
Disaster capitalism is the expansion path of capital by profiting directly from large-scale crises in various industries.
There is no mercy in disaster capitalism, one man’s pain is another man’s joy.
In the upcoming days, residential areas damaged by the earthquake, cracked roads, airports with collapsed runways, destroyed hospitals, and public buildings may turn into an appetizing "earthquake bounty" for Kolin, Cengiz, Kalyon, Limak, Makyol and their derivatives.
It is not enough to arrest the contractors of the collapsed buildings, we are in a crime scene that implicates everyone from the property owners to the contractors, from the construction regulation companies to local administrations, and then to the central administration.
Accounting for them one by one should be the top priority from here on out.
It is hard not to be devastated when you see people wailing as they ask, "where is the state" from their position in front of the earthquake debris — but this is the state, unfortunately this is it...
After a while, we are likely to encounter a state-capital power that will not offer or be willing to give any reprieve to earthquake survivors beyond saying "We can give you a house with suitable loans" to the earthquake victims.”
We cannot bow to this order in the future. With the February 6 earthquakes, Turkey has turned into a massive funeral home. If we submit to this order any longer, it means we are consenting to our own graves today...
We cannot accept this, we must defend our rights, and what belongs to us.
Disaster capitalism will either enslave and destroy us all in this land, or we will defeat it, become stronger, and build a new world through solidarity.
* Pelin Cengiz: She has held various positions as a reporter, editor, economy manager, and writer in different newspapers. She worked mainly in the fields of macro economy, development and business in the field of economic journalism. In addition to her economic journalism, she has been writing articles regarding the climate crisis, ecology, energy, financing of energy, agriculture, and environmental struggles for more than 12 years. She is a writer for Arti Gercek, and a producer for the programs Ecological Focus and Arti Ekonomi on Arti TV. Cengiz is a graduate of Marmara University Faculty of Communication.