By Ersu Ablak
I would like to call out to all the authorities and members of parliament who support the current government: Violence and non-transparency will not get you far. It can only bring all of us down into an abyss of intolerance and ignorance. Please stop, think, and benchmark.
Benchmarking is a very common practice among private companies. It peaked around fifteen years ago but it still works. I would like to suggest the same to our cabinet and parliamentarians. It is vital to choose who to benchmark if you want success and improvement.
Looking from outside, Turkey is somewhere between Saudi Arabia and the United States in many indexes. The quality of education, the status of women, the employment diversity, innovation, the power of competition and many other indexes shows us that we sit somewhere between, but closer to Saudi Arabia. So Turkey can go either way. Are we happy with where we are? If not, should we benchmark Saudi Arabia or the U.S.?
The discussions at the parliamentary level about the new homeland security legislation tell me that the government has decided to go for Saudi Arabia.
First of all, parliament had a closed session in which members of the government attacked members of the opposition - men and women alike. They hospitalized members of parliament. I cannot think of a bigger threat to homeland security than attacking a deputy in parliament with a hammer. But this actually happened.
I believe that government members still don’t know about the power of transparency and social media. I truly believe that they think they are still living in the Ottoman era and it is still a crime to think against the will of the emperor. Last night, the emperor wanted the new security legislation to be passed and anyone who thought otherwise were enemies to be eliminated. It reminds you of Saudi Arabia more than the U.S., doesn’t it?
In the meantime, let’s look at what Obama is doing to push through his own security legislation.
According to the website Quartz, last Friday, President Barack Obama went to the heart of Silicon Valley to a cyber-security summit organized by the White House to warn tech leaders that they should share more information with the government in order to thwart attacks like the recent hack against Sony.
If that was unprecedented - the president reduced to traveling across the country to ask the tech elite for help - a speech that preceded it also showed the gulf between Washington and Palo Alto. Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, who came out as gay last year, was speaking much more personally on the very real power of all these little bits of data:
We still live in a world where all people are not treated equally. Too many people do not feel free to practice their religion, or express their opinion, or love who they choose. It is a world in which that can make a difference between life and death. If those of us in positions of responsibility fail to do everything in our power to protect the right to privacy, we risk something far more valuable than money. We risk our way of life.
The process of this discussion and the answer that Tim Cook gave is unfortunately unimaginable in Turkey. It can only happen in a country where even the most powerful people have accepted that transparency and open discussions are the way to build a society for a better future - a future where technology is used to disseminate knowledge and create innovation. A future where people can speak their minds knowing that they will still be alive and that their companies won’t be attacked by IRS officers the first thing the next morning.
On the same day as Tim Cook was making his remarks, a cleric in Saudi Arabia told the world in an international conference that the world doesn’t actually spin, but is still. He suggested that if the world was actually turning, then all we had to do to go to a different country would be to hop on a plane and wait for the world to turn until we reached the country. He was very serious.
Naturally, social media had a field day with him. Because that’s what social media does. Social media keeps ignorance, fraud and crimes against humanity in check with the speed and ease with which the information can travel. It gave power to the people who were powerless against big corporations and governments. The U.S. has adapted to this phenomenon. It is time for us to also adapt to the social media age, or risk being told by a Turkish cleric that the earth is actually flat. That’s why I am against the new homeland security legislation. I am afraid that in its current form, the government will be able to use it to imprison anyone who has ever shared a negative comment on social media about it. This should not be allowed.