Sunny Hundal from The Independent claims that “Angela Merkel is now the leader of the free world, not Donald Trump.” Merkel has said that “necessary battle against terrorism” did not justify putting “groups of certain people under general suspicion”.
“The necessary and decisive battle against terrorism does not in any way justify putting groups of certain people under general suspicion, in this case people of Muslim belief or of a certain origin." Angela Merkel
Exactly! But why, why do we stop short of taking that step and saying “The necessary battle against terrorism does not in any way justify putting groups of certain people under general suspicion and requiring visas from them if they want to move around the world they were born on”? Why do the people who protest Trump's EO on immigration do not protest the injustice of visas too? Why is the status-quo line so impassable?
Let me rephrase Merkel:
“The necessary and decisive battle against terrorism does not in any way justify putting groups of certain people under general suspicion and requiring visas from people of certain origins when they want to move around the world they were born on.”
Basically, nothing, but NOTHING justifies #InjusticeAtBirth
I must have been dumbfounded. When my husband came home and told me about Trump's first mischief at the office, I really didn't get it. It just didn't register. “Imh...” I said. It was only after I read the news, I read the stories about the people stuck, detained at airports, families made to disembark from planes that they have boarded, only then, it registered with me.
I am so sorry previous POTUS. I'm sorry Obama.
When Obama talked about the boy, Alex, who offered a place in his family for a Syrian boy, I had claimed it was cheesy. Well, what Trump did is not even cheesy. This is a farce.
“It's a TV show,” said Carlo matter of factly. “We know it. We've had the same for years. Just like Berlusconi. They are showmen.”
Still... This was what I had meant when I called out Obama. He should have done what Trump did in reverse. Obama should have simply removed the need for visas and accepted everybody to the United States with an Executive Order. Well... Actually, I didn't know at the time that Obama could do such a thing. I had not meant he do that but he talk about doing that. The way Trump talks about building a wall, daring and bold, Obama should have talked about pulling down walls. He should have been more daring and bold. We need such a man on the political scene. Or a woman of course.
I understand there'll be consequences. I understand how risky it is for anyone's political career. Especially given the current atmosphere. But some leader, someone who has the guts, has to stand up and say this at the risk of burning himself or herself. Someone has to do it. Someone has to keep the balance.
So many people have taken to the streets and protested. People are now talking about 218 million people (the population of the seven countries in the ban by Trump's EO) being tarred with the same brush. Okay, goood. Now take one more step. Just start talking about the current visa regime doing exactly the same thing. The almost worldwide accepted -and unquestioned- visa regime is just what Trump has done, just at one lower level. The visa requirements tar people born within the same boundary with the same brush. Mind you, that boundary that has been drawn by either literally bloody war or by metaphorically bloody politics. Seriously... Take one more step and stand up against the absurdity of the current visa regime, the injustice at birth.
Take that step!
After a suicide-bombing that killed 150 people in Israel, the wedding planned for that night was still celebrated. A woman said to a perplexed westerner “We never let them win by cancelling our weddings.”
Well... For me, if I do not get a passport and stop travelling, that means the governments will win, as they would have stopped me from doing something I wanted. On the other hand, if I do get a passport and visas, they again win, since they will have made me obey their rules- which I do not agree with. If I somehow travel without documents, they still would be the ones to win as they would have made me go out of my own way, put me under stress of breaking the law and getting out of its claw.
So whatever the case, I have no chances of winning. Might might not make right, but it always makes them (the governments) the winners!
“Child Abuse: The proposal to have the victim of sexual abuse to be married to her rapist should be repealed- Sign the campaign,” said the message that beeped on my phone. It was from a group of Turkish mothers living in Italy. One of them explained: She had called the ministry in Ankara and had reached someone responsible. This person explained to her that the bill was for women who were married with the consent of their parents, had a child from the men they married, but who were now aggrieved because their husbands were in jail. That is, this was mainly a wish coming from the women themselves, that about 3000 such women had written to the president, the proposal had sprung up from those letters.
Still unconvinced, someone else from the group wrote “There has to be 300.000 signatures against the 300.”
She had left a zero out from the original number of 3000. It must be an expression of her subconscious to overpower and crush those she sees as others.
“Let there be 300,000 signatures of 'buttocks dry' women against 3000 suffering women!”
I said to myself. Sorry about the expression but that's how I feel describes the situation best. Women who are not involved personally and do not suffer the consequences of a specific law in their own lives talk on behalf of those living with the consequences. They want to dictate, have a say over the lives of others.
However, since I didn't know the details, I didn't say anything in the group. That didn't sound like neither child abuse nor legitimizing rape to me, but the wording is crucial in such matters. Thus, it's wise not to speak up before knowing the exact proposal in full.
Then I saw the proposal. Politik Baykus (Political Owl) tweeted:
“Nobody should be married to their rapist apart from the parliament members who have their signatures on this bill !”
The photo of the proposal with the signatures of the parliamentary members was attached to the tweet:
“On the crime of sexual assault committed without any force, threat, trickery or any other reason affecting free-will before 16/11/2016, in the case of the victim and the perpetrator/offender party getting married...” the proposed bill said and went on:
“without going into the related article in the Code of Penal/Criminal Procedure, the final verdict will be left open, and in case a verdict has been reached, its execution will be postponed. If the marriage ends due to the fault of the perpetrator, during the period of limitation, the decree will be issued or the penalty is carried out.”
Sorry but who is this Political Owl?
And why can't people use their brains a bit? God gave us a brain. What kind of a sick mind is it to interpret this proposal as being forced to marry one's rapist?
In the Guardian article “Fury at Turkish bill to clear men of child sex assault if they marry victims” it is questioned that a minor will be able to give consent.
Don't these people have any 14-15 year-olds around them? Or has it been so long that they have completely forgotten their teenage years? The 14-15 year-olds I know look and are completely capable of giving consent.
“Turkish women protest against a bill which would pardon some people imprisoned for statutory rape,” reads the caption under the photo in the article.
You know what “statutory rape” is? I didn't know it. So I looked it up. It says “(in some jurisdictions) sexual intercourse with a minor”
But what is a minor? How is it defined? A 17 year-old girl is a minor, thus a child in the eyes of the law. She turns 18, only then is she considered an adult. But seriously... Can anybody tell me why 18 is the magical number? Why not 15 or 16? 16 seems a perfectly reasonable age to be the age of consent to me. In fact, in my humble opinion, if an adulthood definition has to be made, that would be the onset of menstruation. It's at least a specific date defined by a specific event varying with the maturity of every individual.
“A bill in Turkey that would overturn men’s convictions for child sex assault if they married their victim has provoked fury, with critics accusing the government of encouraging rape of minors with the proposals.”
First of all... People who claim such a law would be encouraging imply that “now, if a man marries the minor he has had intercourse with, he will be pardoned.” (I'm deliberately not using the word rape here as rape and statutory rape are two completely separate things.) However, the bill has a date, it is not for the future, it only covers cases up to that date. So it cannot be said there is any encouragement whatsoever. Those who say it is encouraging are only irrational, non-thinking reactionaries. Those who react to whatever the current government does regardless of what it is that they propose to do.
The only problem here would be, of course, putting such a date would violate the equality principle of the constitution. What's the fault of others who get married after the said date? With this frame, the government could have simply issued a pardon to solve the existing problems. I have no idea why they chose to do it this way, if there is a legal logic behind it.
“But the government insisted the legislation was aimed at dealing with the widespread custom of child marriages and the criticism was a crude distortion of its aim.”
I'm sorry, I may not approve of many things the government does; but I totally agree this is a crude distortion of the bill's aim. It is a fact that “child” marriages happen. But who is a “child”? And again, why is a 17 year and 364 day old considered a child? The only answer is “Just because the law says so,” and my thinking mind cannot take that as an answer.
I understand, there has to be a date. If the age of consent was 15-16, the same would go. But at least that would be a more “logical” and “natural” age given the maturity of our bodies and sexual instincts. Or, as I said, put that as the onset of menstruation, no need for such a question “What's the difference the day before?” The answer would be simple: “The day before, the girl was a child, she couldn't have a child.”
Of course I know there can be arguments like “These girls are children themselves, and they have children.”
Then again... Y/Our concept of a girl being “a child” does not make them a child. If there is a discrepancy, our concepts should be adjusted to the way nature works, not vice versa. If we have a problem with that, the point would be to raise girls so that they would be mature enough in our social standards as well as nature's standards.
“If passed, the law would allow the release from prison of men guilty of assaulting a minor if the act was committed without “force, threat, or any other restriction on consent” and if the aggressor “marries the victim”.
See? That's the important part here. If the act was committed without “force, threat, or any other restriction on consent...”
In fact, the bill mentions trickery as well. So we are not talking about rape in the real sense of rape here: A forceful action against the will of the female. They're only talking about rape “defined by law.”
"The legal age of consent in Turkey is 18 but child marriage is widespread, especially in the southeast.
Dozens protested against the bill in central Istanbul, tearing up copies of the proposed legislation and brandishing slogans like “rape is a crime against humanity”.
Good that they protested! Tearing up copies of the proposed legislation. Sure... Rape is a crime against humanity. Like any other use of force against the will of any other human being...
“Until she is 18, a child remains a child, that is why this has to be condemned,” said protester Fadik Temizyurek.
Why are we faced with the stupid remark of this protester? She has no capability at logic. You cannot reach a conclusion when the first part of your reasoning is questionable. Adolescents are not children. Period! Why should a child remain a child until she is 18? Why? Just give me one good reason, a reason that does not refer to the law, thus does not refer to authority. You cannot. Nobody can. You may argue that one needs to go to school etc. But those are all your convictions. Why is it better for women to be a part of the cogwheel of capitalism than their being wives and mothers? Why?
I'm not saying there is anything wrong with higher educated and working women. But anyone saying “females under 18 are children and cannot get married” is enforcing their world view on others. This is being elitist. This is thinking you are superior to others and those “poor” and “backwards” people should adopt to your ways, they should take you as an example.
Make no mistake... I see myself smarter than most others. I believe people should do the things I think they should, behave the way I believe is right. The only difference is that I do not see myself in any position to impose those views. Whereas obviously some others do. They want to outnumber the women in the campaign with their signatures so that they can impose their rights and wrongs on others.
"The bill was brought to parliament by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)."
Ah, see? Now we are talking. This is the most important point. It's AKP who proposed the bill. We need to oppose whatever they say. They are the bad ones, they are the monsters.
This is not even about trying to stick to the status quo, this is about an irrational reaction to anything a certain party does. Unless we learn to differentiate between ideas and people, unless we learn to criticize ideas, not make ad-hominem attacks, we will never progress.
“The AKP is pushing through a text which pardons those who marry the child that they raped,” said an MP for the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Ozgur Ozel.
You know what is totally wrong with such a statement “those who marry the child that they raped”? It assumes that marriage is a one-person thing. It just overlooks the fact that the woman (or the girl) needs to accept and say “yes” to the marriage. I know, with such traditions and moral values, a girl (or a woman) does not have much choice but to get married. However, that is a completely different story, that is the main story that needs to be tackled, not this law! The social pressure and stigma around female sexual acts need to be brutally attacked. That should be the target of everybody's anger, not this proposal.
Prominent actor Nurgül Yeşilçay tweeted that “what we are talking about is not being a woman in this country, or being a man, but staying a human being”.
Aaah, ah... How horrifying! We cannot even stay a human being under such conditions! Drama queens. By the way, Nurgül Yeşilçay is an actress, not an actor.
And Tarkan, a famous Turkish singer with about 3 million followers on Twitter, wrote a post on how he is so upset. He states that to him it's clear that there cannot be sexual abuse without force, threat, or trickery. Thing is... The law doesn't think so! If two 17 year-olds in love engage in sexual intercourse, or if a 19 year-old boy has sex with his 17 year-old girlfriend, the government gets into their bedroom and declares the boy/man a “criminal”, or worse yet, a “to-be-imprisoned criminal”. Tarkan goes on to say this proposal is a nightmare he longs to wake up from but can't. The nightmare I long to wake up from but can't is the extent of government interference into personal lives.
"On Twitter, the hashtag TecavuzMesrulastirilamaz (Rape Cannot be Legitimised) became a top-trending topic as users took to social media to express their anger."
As if anybody is legitimizing rape! First, they have illegitimized sexual intercourse they did not see appropriate, that is fine. They even criminalized intercourse of those below 18, nothing wrong there. But they cannot go back on an unreasonable thing and legitimize a certain part under certain conditions, that's a crime. I'm sorry, how tiny brains do these people have?
Can “minors according to the law” have sexual intercourse? Sure they can. Is it natural for “minors according to the law”, that is under 18s to have sex? Sure it is natural. BUT... it is illegitimate! We, as a society have deemed it illegitimate and made it into the law. Now these people are trying to loosen up that illegitimacy, how dare!
If obviously nature gives 14 year olds a sexual drive and girls can in fact have children at that age, I say our current society, our school system and enforcements are crooked.
"A petition on change.org urging the authorities to block the legislation has received over 600,000 signatures."
Goood, goooood... Democracy is the tyranny of large numbers, right? Let's get large numbers. It's us against them. Right now they have the large numbers and the power, so we should get the upper hand and suppress them.
This is no way to live together. This is an imposition of one will over the other. And peace cannot be achieved when there is an imposition of someone else's will on another. Unfortunately, that seems the way the world works.
"The pro-government Women’s and Democracy Association (Kadem), whose deputy chairman is Erdoğan’s younger daughter Sümeyye Erdoğan Bayraktar, said one of the biggest problems of the bill would be proving what constituted force or consent.
“How can the ‘own will’ of such a young girl be identified?” it asked. “We would like to draw attention to issues that might arise in case of it coming into force.”
What constitutes force or consent is easy to specify. It's what the girl/woman in question defines. “The own will of such a young girl...” I don't think there is much difference when it comes to one's own will be it a young or an old girl. We are all affected to a certain extent by the society we live in, thus I'd say even many 50 year-olds have problems in distinguishing between their own will and the will and expectations of the people around them.
"The prime minister Binali Yıldırım said the measure would only be applied once on past convictions, applying to offences committed before 11 November, 2016.
“There are people who get married before reaching the legal age. They just don’t know the law,” he told reporters in Ankara, adding that the measure aims to “get rid of this injustice”.
He said claims that the law would de facto legalise rape were “completely false”, noting that the government had raised penalties for the crime, accusing the CHP of exploiting the issue for political gain.
The justice minister, Bekir Bozdağ, said marriages involving minors were “unfortunately a reality” in Turkey but the men involved “were not rapists or sexual aggressors”.
He said the measure would affect some 3,000 families."
What the prime minister Binali Yıldırım said is totally correct in light of the proposal. What the justice minister Bekir Bozdağ said is totally correct too. A 17 year-old girl can run away with the 21 year-old boy she loves. Have you never heard of such stories? How would this make the man a rapist or a sexual aggressor? Just because of the age of the girl??... I'm sorry, that doesn't make sense. It doesn't make any sense at all!
"The latest controversy comes after Turkey’s constitutional court in July annulled a criminal code provision punishing as “sexual abuse” all sexual acts involving children under the age of 15.
Defenders of that law argued it made a distinction between cases of sexual acts involving a young teenager as opposed to a much younger child."
Sorry but again... What's wrong or strange to make a distinction between sexual acts above 15 at which age all girls have reached puberty? This makes complete sense to me. If you are talking about a sexual act below 14-15, there is definitely and seriously something wrong. But above that age, you have to admit, a girl is definitely capable of giving consent.
"Campaigners accuse the government of not doing enough to stamp out the practice and of being more interested in pushing up the birth rate."
Sure, these accusations may be true. But this has nothing to do with the bill which is said to concern those that have married the boy they ran away with, had children together and the men are now facing jailtime, leaving the women alone.
After I wrote all these things, I realized a more important point when I was reading a true story and the girl got pregnant at 14. This was America. You know the US has a problem with teenage pregnancies. It is the same in Africa and Asia. Same with the UK. Why, why is there the same problem all around the world? Because it's so human.
I remember my feelings when I was an adolescent and I remember it so well how I was forced/coerced to suppress them. People have started considering the natural a bad thing. Society is so out of its mind now that the norm is for women to have a career, postpone childbirth until late 30s when they can have a secure place, freeze their eggs and then spend tens of thousands of dollars for an IVF treatment making tens of trips to doctors' offices and clinics. And this is okay, this is something we have no problem with. This, nobody campaigns against. In Turkey I mean.
If, as women, our choice is between getting married at adolescence and having a child or suppressing our sexuality at the moment it is at its top, suppressing our bodies' natural desires and then trying to beat nature by artificial methods, I'm sorry but my choice would be the former. I believe my choice is so because I lived the latter scenario and have come not to like it. I mean I didn't go for IVF, but I suppressed all my sexuality for fear of pregnancy, I had an abortion at 31 just because of the social stigma and it is not something I am proud of or happy about. But I accept that those were my conditions then and I did what I felt I should do.
Of course, there is a middle ground. One doesn't have to have a family at a young age or wait until 40. I have no complaints about being an aged mother. I am more mature and have done what I have wished to have done. However, I wasn't feeling or thinking this way when I had my first daughter, Lavinia. I know of many women who feel a grudge against their children, not that they do not love their children mind you, it's just that they feel the child has been an obstacle to their careers. I confess, I was feeling the same thing with Lavinia. I wanted to write this book about my second round-the-world tour and I wasn't going to be able to do that with her around now. It took me the death of my baby to realize that nothing can be more important than a small creature and all else can wait. (Perhaps that's why I'm in no rush to finish those books. All the skeleton is there. But I put them aside and am after another goal I have set for myself.)
This is a shame of our society, the blame falls on all of our shoulders: Making women like me feel bad about being mothers. Or putting such a pressure on us that a singer writes a song with lyrics “I make a child and I make a career too.” What for? Why do we have to be these super-creatures? Why cannot we be satisfied with what is in our natures?
Or more importantly, we of course have the right to be unsatisfied with anything related to our lives, but why can't we accept that there may be women who are content with being “only” wives and mothers?
Full and Informed Consent: A Big Expression in a Gray Area
"Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s deputy Europe director, said the parliament bill risks sending “the wrong message and could lead to further abuse”.
“It is impossible … to guarantee that there was in fact full and informed consent of the girl, not just of her family,” she said.
Risking sending the wrong message... Well... You may send wrong messages with any bill; people interpret things the way they wish, they twist your logic to suit their desires and opinions. That's the way it is with us humans.
As for the impossibility of guaranteeing that there was in fact full and informed consent of the girl, not just of her family... The same goes for a female who has reached the age of full legal responsibility. It's impossible to guarantee that there is in fact full and informed consent of a girl marrying in those parts of the country. Your conditions define your choices. If you really care about women, you should advocate the empowering of women, not treat them as inferior beings incapable of knowing their desires. Unfortunately, empowerment usually comes with economic means in our world. So those who claim to care about women's rights should campaign for UBI (Universal Basic Income). At least women should be given a UBI in every country. Let men tend for themselves.
By the way, don't for a moment think that this full and informed consent is limited to the eastern parts and/or to the uneducated women. I'm not sure I had in fact full and informed consent when I got married at 26. I wasn't forced into the marriage of course, but I was driven into it. I wanted to move out of the family house. When I announced this decision, my grandmother declared “You cannot move out of the house without getting married.” Could I still have done it? Sure, I could have. But moving out on my own, standing on my own feet with an assistant's salary was going to be hard enough, I didn't want to face the burden of conflict and heart-wrenching friction with the family on top of that. So what did I do? I went to my boyfriend at the time and said “Are we getting married? If not, I'm going to go get married to somebody else.” Sure, I know how stupid it sounds right now! But obviously at the time, that felt like the thing to do. And please don't for a moment think that other people make informed decisions all the time and there is no infantile behavior around! The important thing here is the question: Would my brother have got the same reaction from my grandmother if he wanted to move out? No. That's societal pressure. When I announced my father that I was getting married, what did he ask me? Did he ask me if I loved the guy, if I was sure that was what I wanted to do? No. “Are you pregnant?” That's what he asked me. I wasn't. But I could have been. I mean I couldn't have been technically. I was a virgin. But hypothetically and theoretically, I could have been. So what? That's societal pressure. Mind you, my family is a university educated family from İstanbul. If you care about women's rights and empowerment, advocate the removal of any societal pressure on women to get married. Remove the shame involved in getting pregnant out of wedlock.
Plus... Do you know how many women remain in marriages that they have drawn their consent from long ago? I do not know but I can guess: “A lot!” If you really truly care about women's rights and empowerment, advocate the removal of any stigma attached to being divorced. Advocate for UBI for women so that they can be independent of the men to leave them and be free to walk out of marriages they do not wish to be in.
If one truly cared about women and bettering their lives, I believe these would be the things they would be going after. Instead, we are stuck in the imposition of our values on others. We care about our ego being satisfied by having its say. It's having power over others.
I know I have digressed much from the topic. However, we are not talking about rape, the really criminal rape, but statutory rape; and that is a completely different thing, you cannot make arguments as if they are the same.
Rape is not a straight-forward topic. Rape is about force. But is it only physical force we care about? I'd say the main determining force regarding child marriages is not the physical force applied by men, but the constricting forces of one's means and the moral force of society.
I'm sure there are many married women out there who are being raped regularly. They didn't necessarily marry their rapists but rape has become a part of their story once they got married. But that is taken as a natural part of marriage life. And as long as the marriage is in line with society's norms and it stays within the four walls of a house, no problem.
Consent as well... It's not a straight-forward topic. Especially full and informed consent... How many of us really do know what we want? A sexual act involves so many factors. The desires, the expectations of three parties: the woman, the man, and the society. Then there is the possibility of pregnancy even if you take precaution, what comes afterwards... I remember... My body wanted to go ahead, then my mind stopped me. Okay but I am not alone in this. The man is a human being too. Sure, you may give consent to getting naked, you may consent to kissing and fondling, but that doesn't necessarily mean you give consent to penetration. But how is the man supposed to know this? Is he supposed to act like a machine and stop the moment you say stop? Because you may even consent to penetration and then change your mind.
Anything at that point and moment is human. On both sides...
I believe explicit consent in every aspect of our lives is a must. However, we live with unexplicit, assumed consent all the time. Even the ground for the foundation of our societies is based on an assumed consent called “social contract”. I have not given my consent to be ruled over and am not giving it. Yet, I am living with it. Anyway... Let me sum up:
Adolescents have their blood boiling. Their having sexual intercourse is just so natural and normal. I accept, there are serious consequences of teenage pregnancies and marriages. The answer is not in criminalizing sexual intercourse of teenagers, but in sexual education.
They say #RapeCannotBeLegitimized
I say #SexualIntercourseOfAdolescentsCannotBeIllegitimized #AdolescentsAreNotChildren
If all this uproar is about older men having intercourse with and marrying young girls, I say refer to the above highlighted suggestions. Yes, young girls being married to old men... That's what comes to everybody's mind, the reaction is to that. If so, I propose “Let there be a limitation to the age difference in marriage.” What would you say?
The first thing that came to my mind when I said this was: “But then models who are after the money of rich and old men cannot get married either.” What should the age difference limit be? There is such a thing for adoption. Does Trump and his wife make it?
I believe such a proposal for a limitation of the age difference would bring much uproar among the “modern” societies with a high-income level, as being too much of an intervention in private life. On the other hand, when it comes to the “poor” girls in the Southeast being married, it doesn't trigger an uproar but an applause. The elites would whole-heartedly support such a bill in the name of protecting “backwards” people.
If you really truly care about women's rights, advocate the removal of any societal pressure or stigma attached to a woman's sexual behavior or marital status, basically GET your judgements OUT OF WOMEN'S BEDS! Stop treating women as if they are inferior, give them the economic means with campaigning for UBI so that they can stand up on their own feet and are empowered.
PS: At the risk of being stoned, (luckily nobody reads my long posts ;)- I will state another controversial thought. Binali Yıldırım was saying “We say we solve problems, we don't leave them to our grandchildren to solve.” Such a nice discourse. He went on “We came up with a bill to solve the problem of child-marriages, and we encountered such an uproar.”
Seeing these, I really feel for the current government whose actions seem too harsh, despotic and against freedoms. I understand the frustration they must face.
What would you do if every time you wanted to do something well-meaning, in good-faith and good for your family/household and somebody in your apartment protested and made a scene, how would you deal with such a person? It is extremely tiring and time-consuming to try to persuade such people who do not listen to logic, who give emotional reactions. Carlo keeps defending/claiming you cannot do what AKP does in democracies, you need to listen to the minorities, to the other part of society who have different ideas than yours and find a way to satisfy them. I understand, I understand that very well. And I agree. That's what needs to be done. Theoretically! When it comes to practice, you would be just stuck where you are trying to get consensus, and you wouldn't be able to do anything but spend all your time and energies trying to get consensus. Believe me, I have tried. It doesn't work. On a personal level, I can break free from such acquaintances/relations in my life. If you are in politics, you either throw in the towel, which is what I personally would have done, I would have said “You take care of yourself” and walked out. I respect those that do not throw in the towel. Even though it might be the love of a seat, it doesn't matter. They symbolize something I cannot do and something I see as strength.
PPS: Similarly, there was another uproar last when Davutoğlu, a previous Prime Minister, said they'd be turning Sur, Diyarbakır into Toledo. My full comment is here. For those who are not interested, I'd like to repeat the last sentences here:
John Paul II has said “We should be talking about not what divides us, but what unites us.”
Unfortunately, that's very much missing in Turkey and all around the world.
And we should be looking for solutions to everybody's problems, not beating well-meaning initiatives.
“As you probably know, it's a private island owned by Royal Caribbean.”
I was so disappointed when I heard this announcement. Such a thing had never occurred to me. I mean we had been to Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas but it had said “private island” in parenthesis in the itinerary, so I had known that in advance. And we had been to Nassau as well, so I didn't mind being on a private island too. But Haiti was different. I didn't want to come to a private island in Haiti, I wanted to see the real place.
I mean I didn't expect to get to see much. I knew Haiti was one of the poorest and “worst” countries in the world, thus it certainly wasn't a typical cruise destination. I knew we would be kept away from the poverty and illness that the country suffered. However, I was thinking I could at least get a glimpse of it. With the private island thing, I lost all hope.
The Artisan Market
Getting off the ship, we started walking. There had to be a village somewhere as the brochure talked about historical points. However, it soon became apparent they were landmarks of where Columbus first landed sort of thing rather than monuments or buildings. It was all beaches.
At the end of the half a kilometer sandy road there was a small covered market. We were about to enter when men in orange and yellow jackets waiting a little bit outside approached us timidly.
“There are more shops up the road. If you want to have a look...”
“Okay, thank you,” we said. “We'll be looking around there too.”
After we went in and came out of the covered market, we started walking up the road. One local waved us to follow him saying “Let me show you my store.”
What else could we do, we followed him. It felt rude to reject. I wanted to stop to have a look at the other shops on the road too, but I'd be going back I said to myself. After looking at the man's shop, we thanked him and walked on.
Looking at the things in the shops along the way, a stone figurine caught my eye: A woman holding a basket over her head and a baby in one arm. I asked to see it, the man handed it to me.
“It's heavy,” I commented. But now, I had to ask the question: “How much is it?”
“25 Dollars,” said the man.
“Thank you,” I said returning the piece and turning around to walk away.
“20 Dollars,” he offered.
“I'll be coming back,” I said. I had liked it and was going to buy it. Just for the sake of leaving money in Haiti. Otherwise, I have given up buying souvenirs from any place. They only make clutter in the house. Plus, I cannot carry heavy stuff.
“10 Dollars,” said the man this time.
I had really meant it when I said I'd be going back. I had just wanted to have a look at all the shops before buying anything. I would have turned back and bought that piece at 20 Dollars. But now the man was offering it for 10. I felt obliged to buy it.
Respecting Your Job
At the end of the road was another beach. We decided to sit there instead of the place we came from. This place looked a bit more protected, cleaner and more importantly less crowded than the other side. Carlo went to ask if the sunbeds were for rent. “They're free,” he came back. “You just tip the guy for bringing it.”
“Okay,” I said as I thumped my bag on the sunbed that was right there. I handed the guy a dollar. When I got the bag back in my hand to take out the towel to lay down, the man grabbed the sunbed and went away. From afar, I saw the man removing and putting back a couple of sunbeds from a stack.
“What is he doing?” I asked Carlo.
“He is earning his money,” he replied.
The man came back with a newer and cleaner sunbed.
I said I lost all hope of seeing anything of Haiti; yet I'm an optimist on the road. I still thought I could see something. Even if just a glimpse... So after settling down at the beach, I left our daughter to my husband and set out to explore the surroundings.
I walked up to the main road and wanted to walk further to see where the road was leading.
O oh! There was a gate blocking the whole road. It was strange. A bright green 3-4 meter high gate on a dirt road looked so out of place. As I could not climb over it and figured it wouldn't be wise to try to sneak out the small bit of opening on the side, I turned back. I started looking for a trail to walk around somehow. I looked behind the toilets. There was a policeman sitting there. “Are you looking for something, may I help?” he asked.
“Just looking around, thank you,” I said and turned back once again.
Now need to look for another exit... A way out of this artificial and forced entertainment environment. In search of the tiniest bit of authenticity.
I decided to go back where the fork was. Going through the marketplace once again, the man I bought the figurine signaled to me. “Come come,” he said. I didn't understand what he wanted, but approached him to see what he was saying. He was holding yet another figurine, exactly the same type.
“Do you know how much it is?” he asked. “I'll give it to you for 10.”
“I already bought one,” I said walking away. I felt bad. It is bad. The way they look at you. You feel the urgency in their faces.
Wanting to have a look at the shops but wishing desperately to avoid lingering too much in any place so as not to feel the pressure.... Hovering between the desire to interact with the locals, to exchange smiles, and the need to walk looking straight ahead not to come in contact with them... I reached the fork. Going a bit further up the road, I saw that that end had a gate too. The other main road of the village led to the pier where we had come from, so that was a dead-end too.
Thus it was that I realized we were locked in!
Police and Security
Then came lunchtime.
Going to pick up food from the buffet, I saw a policeman. He looked so serious, and scary if I may say so. He was armed, seemed quite proficient and ready to take action. When I went back to the table, I said to Carlo:
“You know when I see a policeman around I feel unsafe. The presence of police says to me 'This place is not safe, so you need someone to look after you.' But I guess it has the opposite effect on most people. People feel secure when they see the police around.”
“This place is poor, you have everything, it's natural that they might want to come and snatch things from you. So you need the police,” Carlo replied.
Okay, I know that. I wasn't arguing against it, I was just making an observation.
Then Carlo went to get food.
“Did you see the US and Canadian police? They are out there with full gear!” he said as he sat down at the table.
“Ah!” I said, “I was talking about that.”
“Are they trying to protect their compatriots? The local police is one thing, this is strange.”
That's why I had made the first comment.
And that's what is so wrong with the world. The privileged who have quite a high-level of security and enjoy basic wealth and comfort of life demand even more security whereas those who have so little and could use more secure life prospects cannot get access to it.
At the beach, we had sat right in front of musicians. They were playing local music. I tried to encourage Lara to dance, but she did not. I left some money in the musicians' tip box. I wanted to buy a CD too. Not for the music, again just for the sake of helping out. I told Carlo. He approved. When does my sweet husband ever refuse to buy anything! So we were looking at the CD's. I turned the back side of one to see if it was clean.
“Is there music on this CD anyway?” I asked unwittingly. -There was no line, so it was either completely full, or empty.- The moment I said it, I realized I shouldn't have. It was a simple observation, no suspect was intended; but hearing my words, I realized it didn't sound right; but then again, it was too late.
“Of course,” the musician said. “I give you my name and address. You check. Otherwise, they wouldn't let me in here.”
“No, I believe you,” I said. It wasn't a matter of distrust, I'm sure all these people have to go through a very thorough background check in order to be accepted here.
The man asked for 20 Dollars for the CD. I had seen it was 15 at the central shop. When I told him so, “It is 15, but I have children at home too, just like you,” he said. “They expect me to bring something, they want presents.”
How can you say “No” to such a plea? Of course his children are children too. And like everywhere around the world, children have needs, and they like presents. Paying high above the price of something is in conflict with the general bargaining nature of commerce, but juxtaposition of the rich (or rather the ones with means) against the poor (or rather the ones in need) is an unusual circumstance which requires unusual deals.
A Chat with a Fortunate Local
There were a couple of stands with a Royal Caribbean file marked “Labadee Artisan Market Survey”. I decided to stop and have a look. Started reading...
“How would you rate the Market vendors' Friendliness?”
How do you rate such a thing? How do you tell anybody that they are unfriendly, even if “somewhat unfriendly”? What's more, this isn't about friendly, this is something totally different.
“How satisfied were you with the shopping experience today?”
“Did you feel safe at the Artisan Market?”
“If you answered no, please indicate the reason why.”
“How likely are you to shop in the Artisan Market on your next visit to Labadee?” with the answers being: Not at all likely, Somewhat unlikely, Somewhat likely, and Very likely.
“How likely are you to recommend the Artisan Market to friends and family?” with the answer being a mark from 1-10.
Oh! This survey was really difficult to answer. As I couldn't fill out the form so easily, I started chatting with the man there. He was in a Royal Caribbean uniform, so I asked if he was from Haiti or was working for RC.
“I am from Haiti, and I work for Royal Caribbean,” he said.
“Do you work on land or are you on the ship?”
“I'm on land now. We are 6 months on land, 6 months on the ship.”
“How long have the ships been coming here?”
“I'm 31. And they started coming... Oh let me see...” he said raising his head and thinking. “Since 1987.”
“Oh, that long?” I remarked and went on with my next question. “How far is it to the main island?”
“You are on the main island,” he answered.
“Ah,” I said. “I thought this was a private island.”
“Oh you are talking about the country,” he said. He got a pen and drew a map. “If this is Haiti, you are here. The closest village is 45 minutes from here. These people all come from there.”
So it wasn't actually an island but a peninsula we were on.
Then he marked other points. “This is Port-au-Prince (sort of central), this is Jacmel (in the south). And this is Cap-Haitien (in the north),” he said. “Jacmel and Cap-Haitien are the touristic places with nice photos to take, go out and have fun.”
I wasn't interested in tourism. I am interested in knowing about the situation in the country and understanding why it is so, what can be done etc.
“How bad is the situation in the country if I may ask?” I asked cautiously.
“Quite bad,” he answered.
I was glad he was honest and not trying to paint a nice picture for the tourists.
“We were exporting a lot of stuff. We had coffee, it's gone. We had banana, it's gone. We had cacao beans, it's gone. We had the best of everything. Now we have to import everything. We import rice, eggs...”
“What do you mean?” I asked bewildered. “You don't have chickens on the island?!”
“We have them but for example one has 15 chickens, they lay a hundred eggs, it only provides for the family and a couple of neighbors. We don't have more to sell on the market.”
“Oh, I understand,” I said nodding my head.
“Rice is so good here. I have travelled the world, so I have tried many rice. I wouldn't change my rice to anyone else's. And our rice is pure, what we are giving is health. The world needs to be cured. They are using chemicals everywhere.”
“True,” I said as I nodded again.
“If I could rule, I would dismiss the whole political system and start from scratch,” he went on. “But they wouldn't allow me.”
I smiled. As I entertain such thoughts as well and know as well that I do not stand a chance.
“So what would you do?” I asked.
“They would take me down before I made it there,” he explained.
“Yes I know that,” I said. “But what would you do? I would like to take down the whole system as well. I'm curious to hear your ideas.”
He talked about economy, not saving the day but making sure to have income for the future as well; investing in agriculture to provide for themselves and not need outside help; promoting tourism to bring in money... In short, the classic things.
“What about the foreigners coming to the island?” I asked.
“Ah they come, do something and make lots of photos. They say they have done this and that. But it doesn't serve anything. They don't ask us what we need. They bring clothing, but maybe we don't need clothing, we need food. It's only the charities that do good here. Like Caritas and Goodwill. They get their hands dirty, they do concrete things. I am a Christian. Not that my faith has to do with it, but they are the organizations that do something on the island.”
Even though I dislike exploiting other people's misfortune and poverty to religious ends, to impose your beliefs on others... -Would missionaries do all the good deeds had they not had the goal of converting people, that is the question. But that's a question I have no right to answer; it's each missionary's own business.- The good that they do cannot be denied. It's just that looking at the grand churches all around the Caribbean and the Amazon, you see that they have done a good job at promoting their religion too. But that's the way it is. It's the same with me and my daughter as well. We all want everybody to believe and act in accordance with the same ideas and world structure we believe in. No?
“How often do ships come here?”
“4-5 times a week.”
“Oh!” I said surprised. I had expected him to say “One or two.” 4-5 seemed a lot. I had not come across so many cruises with Haiti in their itinerary while searching. Then I asked “Do you think it's good, having the cruise ships here?”
“Sure,” he replied. “You are here and we are talking. It's good.”
I don't know if he was just repeating this line because he was working for and therefore representing RC. “How many people come and ask about Haiti here, how many people care about the situation and take the time to talk to a local about it? These people are after their pleasures. Even I wasn't going to do it. It felt out of place to be speaking about such serious matters in such a phoney environment.” These I thought to myself only, didn't tell him.
“If we miss a ship, 50-60 families will not know how they will feed,” he went on as if he read what was going on in my mind.
I nodded my head. I could imagine.
“Does it happen often? I mean do ships divert their course?”
“Yesterday Allure of the Seas couldn't come due to weather conditions.”
That was another unexpected answer for me. It had never occurred to me that there could be diversions in this season. So we could have not been able to come either. After all the arrangements I made. I felt lucky.
“You see those trees over there,” he said pointing to the swaying palm trees... “they were almost on the ground, what if something happened? You know liability issues...”
How can I not know? Americans! The world turns around liability for them.
“You married?” I asked jumping to the next topic.
He had one thick and two thin golden rings.
“Yes,” he replied. “I got married recently.”
“You have children?”
“No,” he said. “I do everything according to a plan. I say to my wife, here is my salary, what do you bring in, what can we afford? Then we do it.”
“How many brothers and sisters do you have?”
“Ah that!” he replied laughing shyly. “My father was a man with many women.”
“As all Haitian men I suppose!” I winked. Not that I had any knowledge. One just assumes such things on an island. He didn't contradict.
“He had four wives, we are eight in total. We are two from the same mother. Four of us emigrated to the US, two went to France.”
“How did they go there?”
“One's wife was American. The other went to France somehow and took the children,” he said. “I have no desire to go to America,” he went on. “I don't think it's a nice country.”
“I don't think so either,” I said. “You can go on.”
“I hope you are not American,” he said.
“I am not, don't worry.”
At that point, some local brought me a stool to sit. I thanked him, but his gesture reminded me I had to get going. I had told Carlo I was going to the toilet and it had been half an hour. “My husband will be worried about me,” I said. “I'll be coming back.”
I took the questionnaire to Carlo to fill in. He could do that; unlike me, he was good at rhetoric.
What To Do?
It was difficult even for Carlo to answer those questions. While he was working on it, I went for a swim. After being in the water for a while I saw Carlo handing over some money to one of the musicians. I wondered what he did. He wouldn't have bought anything else.
“Ah I gave 5 dollars to one of the guys,” he said when I came out, without me needing to ask. “He approached me and said he was in trouble,” Carlo went on. “He had to go back by taxi. He didn't have the money. He said he was 41. I asked if he had children. He said 'No, I can't have them.' I asked 'How is the work situation?' He said 'It's bad.'”
I guess it was obvious that we were inclined toward their situation. As we had bought the CD, given tips. We were a middle-age couple with a young child. Perfect target for ripping off.
One cannot help doubting if he was faking to extract money from us. I don't know... Would you ask money from someone? I guess you would if you were poor and you knew the other had more than enough. I mean what do you do? Seriously, what do you do when you don't have the opportunity for work, for making money, for living a decent life? What do you do?
I know it's no good to give hand outs to people. They say it undermines dignity, brings on begging, children prefer to hang around tourists instead of going to school, and men/women prefer that instead of working. But in Haiti, people do not have the opportunity to hang around tourists. These few are the “lucky” ones who can. And how much can they get by just selling trinkets? How can you deny another human being a little help when you have more than enough and they have so little, how?
I took the survey back. But my chat partner was on the phone and I didn't want to disturb him more. I had had in mind to ask about illnesses in the country. I skipped it.
Artisan Market Survey Answers
My answers to the survey would have been as follows:
“How satisfied were you with the shopping experience today?”
This question has a wrong assumption. Of course I understand, we are their customers and they are trying to satisfy us. However, they should be asking the locals how satisfied they were with the selling experience today. I highly doubt anyone cares to ask them anything about their needs and satisfactions. But perhaps they do, who knows. I should not be too cynical.
“Did you feel safe at the Artisan Market?”
Again, this is not about feeling safe. It's about feeling uncomfortable.
“If you answered no, please indicate the reason why.”
Because there are too many shops competing for the same thing: to get the money from the pocket of the tourists. Because even though these people are obviously not beggars in the general sense, walking through the market is like walking through a street lined with starving monks, each asking desperately for alms.
“How likely are you to shop in the Artisan Market on your next visit to Labadee?” with the answers being: Not at all likely, Somewhat likely, Somewhat likely, and Very likely.
Before that, they should have asked “How likely are you to visit Labadee again?” My answer to that question would be undoubtedly “Not at all likely.” However, I believe the cruise company assumes you'd be coming back to this counterfeit place that they have created especially for you. After all, you spend half a day at the beach, stuff yourself up with food and drinks, go on several adventure rides, you can buy souvenirs with Haiti written on them and get to say you've been to Haiti! That's the concept of fun and a good time for typical cruisers.
“How likely are you to recommend the Artisan Market to friends and family?” with the answer being a mark from 1-10.
I would recommend... I don't even know what I would recommend related to the Artisan Market. I would recommend people to find a way to help Haitians more efficiently. I would ask people of the world with means to find a way to remove this economic and existential rift, this chasm between the people of the Earth. This inequality is a gaping wound. This inequality is an obscenity. Not just for Haiti, all around the globe. And I don't for a moment wish to say we should all be equal, but everybody should at least be able to lead a decent, a human life. Be able to exist on this world without having the need to beg or swindle, or starve.
Feeding on Crumbles...
Even though I had realized it after my attempt to roam around, it took me a while to grasp what was going on and get the whole picture. Or rather for the stark reality to sink in. We were literally locked inside this coastal strip!
I kept thinking trying to make sense of this parody: So here we were, taken to Haiti, on a Club Med sort of resort where the cruise company was selling all kinds of drinks, all types of branded glass souvenirs and renting all types of snorkel, diving equipment, there were all sorts of entertainment and water sports: jet-skis, banana boat-rides, water-slides, water-trampolines, parasailing, a 3.000-foot (900 m) zipline, you name it. Each of them costing from 40 USD and up. Royal Caribbean was making loads of money. Then there were the locals, trying to sell trinkets to you for a couple of dollars.
Then of course there were the cruisers. Those whose money both parties were after. Those whose money had to be taken out from their pockets. I'm sure not everybody on the cruise was “rich”. But rich is a relative term. When I use it, I refer to “Western” standards. According to Haitians, we are all opulent tourists here on a cruise vacation. Most of the cruisers were here to enjoy a couple of carefree days on a cruise ship and in the Caribbean. We enjoyed ourselves too, not that we didn't. But we rather stayed back from all the activities and were there more like observers rather than a part of this pseudo-reality show.
These people were, like me, going to claim that they have been to Haiti without actually having seen anything of Haiti.
I have never been locked up in a small enclave in a country. Even in North Korea... They criticize North Korea, or let me say DPRK as they do not like the idea of North and South, for it emphasizes a divided nation and they feel they are one. Okay, you are taken around, you cannot go out on your own and cannot interact with the locals in the DPRK but at least it's open, there are no gates but people stopping you from walking out of your designated circle; at least you get to move around in a bus or a train, you see the Pyongyang, you see the country even if only outside of your window. I was horrified with Haiti.
Carlo was criticizing travelling with cruise ships and how fake it is. I agree of course. But I am glad we went to Haiti this way. Otherwise, how else were we going to see this striking contrast and the theater played in the name of decency, respect, manners?
You feel attacked walking through the marketplace there. There is no threat, no violence. There is just the urgency of money. You feel the poverty, you feel the need. And you know you cannot help them all. It should be our collective responsibility to eradicate this kind of poverty, this need. In Labadee, the needy is gathered in one place. And they are put in front of those who have the money.
They behave. They are taught to behave. Like dogs. Otherwise, no food for them at all. If they be the good dogs, they might have a chance at the bone from the meat the owner eats.
They say “No pushy”, “Come and have a look. Enjoy. No pressuring.” But that fact is in itself pushing and pressuring.
It's so understandable. I understand them so very well. That's why I feel so bad. What would you do if that was the only way you knew you'd be making some money and taking food to your family?
“Cruise industry is good for the locals. They are bringing money in.”
You say it's good. There is a grain of truth in that. On the other hand of the coin, there is a different picture: The cruise lines market these people's country, use it to their own ends, convert their land into a money-printing tourism “mass product”, reap the profits, the locals pay the price by selling their dignity.
You say it's still better than having nothing. I'm sorry, this is no consolation to me. The cruiselines are getting all the bulk of the benefits. You are basically saying that it's good that these people feed on the crumbles that fall from our mouths. This is unacceptable.
Those of us who have more than enough need to find a way to wipe such environments out of the face of the Earth. Commerce is fine, you say capitalism, fine to that too, but there should be a limit. I understand very well that the worth of the money in your pocket depends on the need of your neighbor. Russell explained it so well in The Veins of Wealth. However, let's not abuse the power of the money in our pockets and the lack thereof in other people's pockets. Let's not try to get as much to ourselves as possible, but let's bargain the other way around, to maximize the gain of the needy.
A friend had recently commented “Didn't the result of your travelling the world come out as 'forget about this ephemeral world and enjoy yourself'?”
I had said “The result came out that there are many things that need to change in this world. But more people need to see that that change is crucial. That change needs to happen. And it needs to happen soon.”
No, it's not my style to say “Ah what do I care about this world, I live my own merry life.” I cannot do that. I enjoy my life. I try to make the most of all the things I have been blessed with. But I feel obliged to find a way to make it possible for more people in this world to enjoy those blessings, the wealth of this Earth. As I said, I enjoy my blessings but I cannot enjoy them to the fullest, I have this uneasiness at the back of my mind all the time. Until everybody has at least a bit of a decent life, I can never sit at peace with myself. I cannot. And I wish nobody could either.
Tomorrow #Mission2EveryCountry heads for its 121st country: Haiti. The first of the hopefully 30 new countries this year.
Today this parrot took me under its wings, now I need someone who believes in my project and take me under his or her wing.
Going to 30 new countries this year? That's too ambitious a plan in my circumstances. I have a small child with whom I want to spend as much time as possible while I still can. Of course that's only one part. The question is: Why should I stress myself to go to 30 countries in 2017? For something which almost nobody cares about?
Whatever... I care about it. I'll see what I can do. If I can pull it through, it's fine. If I cannot? Well... It's still fine.