Talking about the other sides of the issues before we speak our minds makes us look cute. Respecting the dead without a reason makes us look considerate. Mentioning something, some definitely important issue that might be remotely relevant makes us look consistent in our logic. Boom! We are now legitimate, objective and cute. Most importantly, we are people who can clearly see what other’s can’t even imagine. We are definitely cool to be approaching this particular issue in this particular way. Yet, everyone does so. Speaking the speakable has always been a dishonest trend that damages the fight for freedom of speech, and makes it harder for the rest of us who might want to be completely honest for once.
This resembles the communitarian approaches on human rights, where the rights of the individual are balanced against the rights of the community. This approach is the most popular one nowadays, but it doesn’t solve anything. It is problematic in most of its aspects, and it undermines the valuable approach that there can be an individual without a sense of or connection to a community. This is dangerous, and it has so far caused many civilisations to act on a sort of moral panic. The fact that we are thinking about “the community” this much, is the reason why individuals around the world can’t get their rights recognised properly. Even if we are talking about something deeply personal, like love, the morality police jumps on the issue to balance it with things like other people’s kids, the “public order”, and feelings of people who would have nothing to do with the primary issue. When we are talking about women’s rights to keep their last name after marriage in Turkey, someone comes up and talks about family values. When we are talking about abortion, or euthanasia, someone comes of with the notion of “being pro-life”, even if it doesn’t relate to the individual’s rights in a normative sense, because that person is a part of a community, and the community should protect the individual, “despite” the individual. Or, should it?
The topics I just brought up would seem to have nothing to do with King Abdullah’s death, but I will explain. Just like in human rights, there is an increasing trend of comparison and balancing in public speech. People just can’t keep themselves from talking about things like islamophobia or anti-Muslim discrimination, even if the primary issue to be discussed is terrorism when it comes to commenting about the Charlie Hebdo attack. People just can’t help but bring the issue of social injustice to the table when we need to focus on what physically, primarily kills people and what we can do about it as the first thing in the morning. Why? Because they are afraid. They feel or know that they will be judged. They will be seen as inconsiderate, shallow people who can’t look deeper into “general” issues. For years, this has been the reason why people shut up about things for which they can’t present a detailed history. This kept us from having meaningful debate, and hearing refined, honest opinions that might actually be useful in “solving” things. This is why Islam won’t be reformed any time soon. We are so drunk in our fake cuteness that we are just talking about things without making any sense, or solving anything.
King Abdullah, like many “kings”, was a monarch. He had about 30 wives. He was seen as a reformist, but he didn’t approach anything on “that list of reforms”. He made life hell for millions of people in his country. He didn’t respect freedoms, or history. He surrounded the Kaaba with skyscrapers, demolished 4/500-year-old Ottoman cloisters, and funded his luxurious life with anything he could find. During his reign, thousands of people were either killed, or tortured. But wait! He was a women’s rights advocate and a great reformer, because he “allowed” women to work as supermarket cashiers. I’m not saying this. This article is saying it. My first comment about this article on Twitter was this: “if we changed every single word in this article with the word ‘bullshit’, it would make more sense”.
In Saudi Arabia, where all women must have a “male guardian”, apparently, King Abdullah tried to bless women with his really considerate approach that ‘might have allowed’ women to drive again, but he was pressured into going back on his word. In Saudi Arabia, where women need to have permission of their male guardian in order to work, open a bank account, travel, get an education, or basically do “anything”, apparently, King Abdullah was considerate enough to promote women’s education and employment. In Saudi Arabia, where male guardians are responsible for “their” women, and they are expected to punish the women if they damage their reputation or “honour”, apparently, King Abdullah fought for gender equality, of course, while he was getting his daily massage in his palace or swallowing Viagra on one of his many planes. In Saudi Arabia, where many homes have separate entrances for women and men, the “rightful ruler” can be seen as a “relatively” reformist, equality-supporting fellow. That is, of course, if you are reading the news about Saudi politics with your pubic hair, not with your eyes.
Why the sudden praising? Why are we associating an evil dictator with good values that he actively undermined during his “rule” as a monarch? Because he is dead. Most people got over this “respect for the dead” approach after Hitler died, because he was too evil to find excuses for. There is a saying in Turkish that roughly translates to: “when the blind man dies, they say he had attractive eyes”. Just like people who started saying “no one deserves to die, but…” after the Charlie Hebdo attack, again, some people couldn’t wait any more to come up with excuses for the evil king. They just “had to” say “he was a monarch with no legitimate right to represent the people, but…” In this case, these people’s excuse was the rights of women in Saudi Arabia. Definitely the wrong choice in this matter.
The author of the article on the link above was apparently clever enough to add the “relative” to the title of the article in parentheses. Relative to what, exactly? If we go back in history far enough, we can find excuses for many things. A hundred years ago, women didn’t have the right to vote in many of today’s advanced democracies, or their predecessors. So, women deserving half of the inheritance under Sharia law today is an advancement? 60-70 years ago, the US still had problems with racial segregation. If we start putting “relative” in the titles of our articles in parentheses, we can even say today’s United States of America is relatively a better place for African-Americans, even though they are heavily represented in prison population, they are killed by cops almost every day and their murderers don’t even get charged, and they have a significantly lower level of income when compared to whites and other ethnicities.
So, it is meaningless to praise someone just because he is dead. It’s like starting listening to Michael Jackson songs for hours every single day after he died. No one liked him “that” much. The fact that he is now dead, added an extra meaning on the existence of his art. This meaning is a false addition. He was great, but, just, great. Death didn’t make him even greater. On Abdullah’s case, I can’t say the same things. It should be even harder to make him seem “good”, yet people are trying. I understand that it makes us seem inconsiderate to talk behind the dead’s back, but there is another saying in Turkish, that roughly translates to this: “in these lands, an ass is called an ass”. Talking about the problems of his existence doesn’t harm Abdullah. He has now gone underground, but we shouldn’t be hipsters about this. All his belongings, all his wealth, all his feelings are gone. He probably used to wipe his ass with $100 bills, but he is now under the same soil where they buried the poor, ordinary people he directly or indirectly caused the deaths of. His palaces, his planes don’t matter any more. He was not a saint. He was not a rights advocate. Remember this. Such people make life terrible, unbearable for millions of people around the world everyday. They don’t deserve our sympathy “for the sake of cuteness”. If they are alive, screw them. If they are dead, screw them and their graves.
It’s amazing how people manage to find cute reasons to praise or at least justify a terrible person just because he died. I’m not buying it. Freedoms and rights won’t come with this silly culture of respect. They will be realised through honesty.