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Alienation Of A Nation Essay

1083 words - 4 pages

In a society enshrouded by a type of melancholy found only in Turkey, there is no feeling more pervasive than alienation. Like a low flying cloud, hüzun hangs over Turkey and fills even the brightest hopes of the Republic with a measure of gloom. Caused principally by a crisis of identity, alienation renders much of the population of Turkey detached from the political and social processes. Though Turkey was once a part of a great empire that spanned much of Europe and Asia, it is now a dwarf of its former self. It was once home to a great Islamic civilization whose culture flourished and spread to the ends of the earth, yet it is now an officially secular society devoid of religious inspiration. While these changes occurred many years ago, most Turks have not yet recovered. Just as the prisoner is separated from society, many modern Turks are separated from the very essence of historical and cultural Turkish identity.
As the voice of the people, art and literature can provide us with insight into the Turkish mind. They can help us understand the peculiarities of Turkishness and the effects of alienation on Turkish identity. According to Marxist philosopher Alan Wood, alienation “is to be forced to lead a life in which [one’s] nature has no opportunity to be fulfilled or actualized” (Wood 22). In his “Autobiography,” Turkish poet, Nazιm Hikmet laments upon lost opportunities in his life: “After the age of twenty-one I stopped going places most people go to: / Mosque, church, worship, synagogue, shrine” (Hikmet 325). Like many Turks of his era, Hikmet could not fully embrace his identity as a Turk. His own actions, from speaking out against injustice to inciting rebellion gave Turkish officials cause to imprison him a number of times throughout his life (Silay 623). While he may have flourished literarily while imprisoned, being in jail was a harrowing experience for him. By design, incarceration limits contact with the outside world and shuts citizens out of the political process. For a writer whose craft relies on Turkish voices to tell his story, this is a death sentence. His experience created within him a sense of detachment from Turkish society that is not uncommon in the rest of the country.
Despite his desire to speak for the Turkish people, Hikmet was unable to fulfill his dream because as a prisoner he was an outsider in his own land. He long tried to embrace Turkey and expressed grief that his beloved homeland “slips even further away / the closer one comes to it” (Kinzer 221). He was, in large part, alienated in his own land, for he was “separated from [his] own existence” (Wood 21). He was very proud of his Turkish identity and when it was severed from him, it was a deeply emotional event. Many Turks today are afflicted with the very same alien identity because they have seen their once great Ottoman culture die before their own eyes. At one time a flourishing civilization, Turkey is now a nation with no...

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