Reflections on militarism, human rights, and productivity in Turkey

Balancing the shadows of militarism with the promise of technological progress.

I want to remind the ardent supporters of militarism, especially the CHP, celebrating its centennial anniversary, and those who attack Sezgin Tanrikulu, who has spent his entire life defending human rights, of a news article dated August 28, 2020.

The Second Chamber of the Constitutional Court unanimously ruled that the villages of Kuskonar and Kocagili in Uludere, Sırnak, were bombed by military planes in 1994 and that the rights to life of the 38 people who lost their lives and the injured and their relatives were violated.

The Constitutional Court had also emphasized that due diligence had not been shown in the investigation and that the case had been closed with non-prosecution due to the statute of limitations without punishing those responsible.

It was thanks to Tahir Elci that the Kuskonar Village Massacre was uncovered. He had revealed the truth by asking civil aviation about the situation after the military authorities failed to provide accurate information.

I listened to the whole process of the case from him.


The political establishment, with its government and opposition, has rotted.

This week, we have seen the decaying structure falling apart piece by piece and a collective return to old reflexes.

While there was a race to praise the military, human rights were collectively forgotten.

It is as if we are back in the times of Kuskonar Village.

Sinking deeper and deeper into a swamp, Turkey cannot take a step forward, to the new, to the fresh... We are always listening to the same old tired rhetoric.


We continue to be in the thrall of governments that do not solve our fundamental problems... Politics has turned into all-out bravado.

However, Turkey has severe problems that need solutions... It is not possible to solve these problems with bravado.

I emphasized last week that Turkey's biggest problem is "productivity".


While we are still trying to do politics with the language of the last century, the world is discussing "efficiency in the information age".

But for another reason...

Although we are going through great technological innovation and progress, the productivity rate is falling.

Between 1974 and 2008, the productivity rate per worker in the UK increased by 2.3 percent per year. However, between 2008 and 2020, the productivity rate fell to 0.5 percent per year.

A similar picture is observed in other Western countries.

In the US, for example, while the productivity growth rate was 3.1 percent between 1995 and 2005, it fell to 1.4 percent between 2005 and 2019.

The world is researching "how this contradiction can be explained".


Productivity is a topic that economists and the public watch very closely.

The BBC recently published a study on how productivity has fallen while technological innovation has multiplied geometrically.

"It's a complex issue, but with the negative impact of the 2008 financial crisis and the current high inflation, there are two main explanations for why technology has not increased productivity.

The first is that we need to measure the impact of technology correctly.

The second is that economic revolutions usually have prolonged results.

Therefore, it is argued that technological changes are happening, but only decades later will the full benefits be seen."

For example, the first commercial railroad opened only 61 years after James Watt's first steam engine...

From 1879, when Gene Edison used the first light bulb, to the widespread use of electricity across countries and the replacement of steam power by electricity in production, 40 years have passed.

I'm curious if we are in such a position today.


Although different questions are being asked, the most logical answer to the global paradox of productivity comes from Cambridge University Professor Diane Coyle, one of the world's foremost experts on productivity:

"There is ample evidence of a growing gap between those who use technology well and those who don't, no matter what field a company operates in.

You can change your processes if you have talented people and a lot of data and know how to use complex software.

Then, people will use that information, and your company's productivity will skyrocket.

But some companies in the same sector of the economy can't do that."


Technology itself is not the problem... And in some ways, neither is technology the solution.

High productivity will only be the lot of those who know how to use the technology best... Those who don't will remain pedestrians.


When we say, "those who don't know will remain on foot," we must remember the picture in the university entrance exams.

In the university entrance exam, the average correct score of high school graduates in Turkey is 2.5 in 14 physics questions, 1.7 in 13 chemistry questions, and 2.0 in 13 biology questions.

Can generations who know how to use technology to increase high productivity emerge from this picture?

If not, what will be the future of this country?

Praising militarism does not answer this vital question.


In the decaying political establishment, the "productivity" in the field of hamlet with tomato paste has always been high, and it is the same today...

But the country's present and future are in shambles.

To paraphrase Daron Acemoglu:

"I think Turkey's biggest problem is not structural and short-term. Turkey's biggest problem is more medium-term productivity decline, underinvestment in technology, and underutilization of human resources. And when you add corruption and imbalanced resource distribution, productivity decreases significantly."


The available figures, our realities, and scientists like Acemoğlu are ringing alarm bells and warning everyone about Turkey's future.

Our politicians don't give a damn.

They are in a race to praise a militarist understanding that lies after bombing a village and killing people.

This race ends on a cliff.

No matter where the politicians who close their eyes to the truth and politics will go, the fact that the society that follows these politicians will fall into the same abyss makes people sad.

This country can create another future for itself... But for now, society does not even want to see this possibility.

What cursed spell has blinded us all at once?

* Mehmet Altan: His first pieces of writing were published when he was 15. He worked as editor-in-chief, writer, television programmer, and commentator for 20 years at Sabah (Morning) and six years at Star. He was a professor at Istanbul University for over 30 years. He has been a professor since 1993. Altan has authored over 40 books. He was arrested after July 15, Articles 19, 26, and 28 of the Constitution being disregarded. He was imprisoned for 21 months. The Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights determined that his rights had been violated. He has been a KHK victim since October 29, 2016.

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