Candide excerpts are from the translation by Richard Aldington.
Voltaire's Candide is a darkly comic novel, a damning social commentary that cuts human foibles down with the sharp edged sword of wit and sarcasm.
Frontispiece to the original 1759 edition of Candide, which Voltaire published under a pseudonym. Interestingly, "Voltaire", he was already known by a nome-de-plume. He was born François-Marie Arouet!
Central to the plot is the contrast between the naively optimistic reasoning of the 18th century "enlightenment", as personified by the philosopher Pangloss, and the grim reality of human greed and pervesion ravaging a world that should have been a paradise. Pangloss's assertion that we are living in "the best of all possible worlds" is constantly tragically disproven, but he always manages to reason himself out of it- and his companions usually buy it, especially the childishly gullible Candide.
Two hundred and fifty eight years, several revolutions, continental conflicts and world wars onwards we humans, in our quest to create "the best of all possible worlds", conitnue to turn the existing one into a hell for ourselves, our fellow men, and all creation. With unfathomable presumtuousness not only do we seek to stretch out into the cosmos to spread our destructive labor, but we expect special favour in eternal paradises promised exclusively to one or other group by gods of our own making.
Then as now greed and the lust for power manipulate human hopes and fears, puff up pride and provoke anger to achieve aims of earthly wealth and total control.
For a while I lived a charmed existence, blocking out the surrounding conflicts and turning to my art. My ethics were (and are) the ethics of the Disney films- honesty, loyalty, kindness, love, friendship, fairness, and the triumph of good over evil. When I started working in animation, my job was to promote these values- my only concern being to do my job well. Unlike many friends, I stayed outside the turmoil of the 70's because I perceived it to be useless. I believed in the Turkish Republic and the principles on which it was founded, and could only hope that they would prevail. I welcomed the military intervention of 1980 as a necessary and justified step after the murderous chaos and confusion of the late 70's and, whatever its faults of policy afterwards, never questioned its legitimacy. (See: "1980 minus One", 1 Aralık-December 2012, and "Ramadan, August 30th, and Mr. Incredible", 17 Ağustos-August 2012.) I was at peace with the idea of staying away from politics.
|Erdoğan speech! (Image from the media.)|
Justice under the "moderately Islamic" AKP
as administered by Gülenist judges. Editorial cartoon by Nuri Kurtcebe, which appeared in Aydınlık during the "trials".
We witnessed the truth unravel bit by bit, discovering our allies and friends, chiefly the US, clearly behind our miseries. A grand scheme to bring order to the troubled Middle East, to transform it into the best of all possible Middle Easts, necessitated some meddling that involved a few tricks and some injustice, but the ends justified the means. A secular Turkey was no longer so desirable an ally on the post Cold War map, but a theocratic one that could be weaned out of concerns of national interests and lulled back into pious obedience in a neo-Ottoman stupor would surrender all. Burying the young Republic and resurrecting "the Sick Man of Europe" so to speak. What is more, such a Turkey could become a helpful shepherd to bring fellow Muslims in the Middle East in line- especially if the Ottoman institution of the Caliphate, abolished under Ataturk in 1924, could be revived. Globalist interests would thus have a free hand in Middle Eastern spoils, Israel would have its peace and security without having to negotiate anything, and the US would maintain a strong presence in the region to carry on its police work.
The AKP was the political instrument inside Turkey, the press was properly bought up, and from abroad the "moderate Islam" imam Fethullah Gülen in Pennsylvania used his army
|Gülen (Image from the media.)|
The plan for the best of all possible Middle Easts has misfired in every possible way, to the extent that even the Cold War has recommenced, thanks to the instability in Syria providing Russia a chance to move in in force. There is widespread and justified speculation that even ISIS (a.k.a. ISIL, or DAESH in Arabic) was created, or at least allowed to exist, by the US to provide the instability in Syria that would legitimize foreign intervention- and provoke universal indignation that would prod unwilling partners to act. The murderous acts attibuted to ISIS calls into question exactly how far ends can possibly justify means. There is speculation that Turkey also clandestinely provided ISIS with arms during Erdoğan's tenure as Prime Minister and allowed the recruitment of militants at points of concentration of the faithful- which have proliferated in Turkey under the "moderate Islam" policy! With all central authority gone, Syria has been sinking ever further into chaos and anarchy, with ISIS combatants conducting wild acts of atrocity before cameras- but not only them; there are clips that show US supported "moderate opposition" members not exactly acting like boy scouts. (I am growing to hate this word "moderate"!) How familiar this scene in Candide:
"...The prisoners, my companions, those who had captured them, the soldiers, sailors, blacks, browns, whites, mulattoes, and finally my captain are all killed and I remained expiring on a heap of corpses. As everyone knows, such scenes go on in an area of more than three hundred square leagues and yet no one fails to recite the five daily prayers ordered by Mahomet..."
The flood of unwanted refugees pouring into Europe and drowning in the cold seas show up the shallowness of European humanitarianism and Christian charity. After years of conflict, the US plan to oust Assad seems only to have bolstered his power.
|The Gezi days, June 2013! (Image from the media.)|
The new "nationalist" Erdoğan loosened his grip on the Armed Forces, lifting a moratorium on operations against PKK insurgents- the restrictions had been imposed during the US backed "peace process" that clearly aimed at the secession of the southeast of the country to be integrated into a new Kurdish state that would be patched together from the territories of four sovereign states- Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. The restriction of military operations, even in the aftermath of PKK attacks, had allowed a buildup in arms and ammunition so that by the time the military launched its operations on July 24th 2015 there was a firmly entrenched, well supplied paramilitary force in urban surroundings to contend with. On that day, Turkish jets hit a number of PKK targets in Iraq as well as some ISIS targets in Syria. In the
Turkey also considers The PYD and YPG in Syria as no more than the PKK under another name; the problem there was that the US sees them as allies. Turkey under the new "nationalist" Erdoğan was now challenging US interests.
On July 15th 2016 Turkey was rocked with an attempted military coup- at a time when the antagonism between the military and the President had all but disappeared and an air of truce and cooperation was prevailing. Erdoğan used the social media to call citizens to resist, and thousands heeded. Gone were the days of the Gezi riots, when such a coup might have succeeded; even the Armed Forces was not unified in the act. The commanders of the Forces and the Chief of Staff had all been kidnapped and held captive at the outset. Inside of 24 hours the country experienced a tragicomic civil war wherein the once anti-nationalist Erdoğan was defended by flag-waving throngs and some of his more democratically minded antimilitarist opponents were caught hoping the coup would succeed- these include some nations in the democratic west. Soldiers fired on civilians, civilians lynched soldiers, soldiers fought other soldiers, Turkish jets bombed the Turkish parliament, Turkish jets bombed airstrips to keep other Turkish jets from taking off. By the evening of the next day the unlikely, unpopular, ill-timed coup was over.
A parody of civil war by worthy descendants of Voltaire: Romans vs. Romans in North Africa, as seen by René Goscinny (script) and Albert Uderzo (illustrations),
from Asterix Legionnaire, Dargaud, 1967.
|Istanbul, July 17th, 2016.|
(Image from the media.)
What followed was a rash of roundups of sympathizers and suspected adherents of the Gülen cult. It has been claimed, with some justice, that Erdoğan profited from the occasion to hush all opposition. Certainly, most of the arrests involved small fries, and the prime suspects- members of the AKP,
|Top: Suspected Gülen cult members arrested in Kayseri, Oct. 25th 2016.|
Below: Group photo of AKP MP's with Gülen in happier days. According to the captions, only the owner of pro-Gülen Zaman newspaper was arrested.
(Images from the media.)
The widespread arrests of journalists horrified the West, which had not been nearly as sensitive during the Ergenekon and "Sledgehammer" roundups. I freely admit I am happy to see some journalists behind bars, so unethical and devious have been their approach to their profession.
The assaults on civilians as well as security forces inside Turkish cities had never let up with ISIS and the PKK alternately taking credit. Still smarting from the shame and losses of the coup attempt and subsequent purges, the
|US and YPG flags side by side at Tel Abiad facing the Turkish border, September 2016. (Image from the media.)|
Republic Day march in Pera, Istanbul, October 29th 2019, organized by the TGB.
Clip includes excerpts of a speech delivered by TGB chairman Çağdaş Cengiz, summarizing the situation so far.
(Images from my own camera.)
Patching up sour relations with the Kremlin, at a low since the downing of a Russian fighter jet overflying a corner of Hatay on November 24th 2015 and resentful of US policy, Turkey has been moving ever closer to Russia. On Decemer 19th, 2016, on the eve of a planned state-level visit to Russia, an assassin chanting Arabic slogans associating himself with Al-Nusra gunned down and killed Russian ambassador Andrei Karlov in Ankara. The killer, Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş, himself shot dead following his action, turned out tobe a Turkish policeman on leave, but still in active service, with an upbringing in a Gülen community school. Again, there was suspicion of a US connection, again the US denied it.
The assassin Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş in action. Investigations revealed Gülen-cult influences in his background.
(Image from the media.)
The diplomatic scandal did not prevent Turkish officials from flying to Russia for their meeting as planned.
Turkey is experiencing deep resentment towards its Western "friends" and "allies" at all levels of society today, and there is increasing sympathy towards Russia, to the point of throwing caution to the wind. Meanwhile bombs rip through crowded city centers and bullets fly into bodies with almost clocklike regularity.
|Turkey entering the new year Left: a double bomb attack outside the Vodafone Arena stadium, Beşiktaş, Istanbul, Dec. 10th, 2016. As many as 44 dead, about 70 wounded. Attributed to the PKK (Claimed by TAK, acting for the same cause, assumed to be the same group using different letters.)|
Right: Security camera image of assailant entering Reina nightclub, firing his automatic weapon, at Ortaköy, İstanbul, in the early hours of Jan. 1st 2017. 39 dead, about 70 wounded. Claimedd by ISIS (DAESH).
(Images from the media.)
Ottoman dynasty seem to be a kind of investment for the day the matter will become topical. (The US choice for the office would be Gülen!)
Gülen and Erdoğan: whoever comes out on top, it's a bad deal. (I found this image in the media- one of two images on the same idea- and already published it before. (See "April 23rd and the 'National Center", 2 Mayıs-May 2013.)
The military, traditionally the one reliable guardian against regime change, had only one shot at it's disposal to be used as a last resort and that was wasted with the failed coup of July 15th. The country enters the new year as a powder keg next to a bonfire.
Candide and his companions travel far and wide, moving from misfortune to misfortune, but do finally settle down and find a measure of peace. It was so amusing for me to see that the battered friends find this peace in Turkey, of all places. Then as now, Turkey is not an especially peaceful place:
"...the news went round that at Constantinople two viziers and the mufti had been strangled and several of their friends impaled. This catastrophe made a prodigious noise everywhere for several hours..."
The book's enduring lesson of wisdom comes from an unlikely source:
"...As Pangloss, Candide and Martin were returning to their little farm, they came upon an old man who was taking the air under a bower of orange trees at his door. Pangloss, who was as curious as he was argumentative, asked him what was the name of the mufti who had just been strangled. 'I do not know' replied the old man. 'I have never known the name of any mufti or any grand vizier. I am entirely ignorant of the occurence you mention; I presume that in general those who meddle in public affairs sometimes perish miserably and that they deserve it; but I never inquire what is going on in Constantinople; I content myself with sending there for sale the produce of the garden I cultivate.' Having spoken thus, he took the strangers into his house. His two daughters and his two sons presented them with several kinds of sherbet which they made themselves, caymac flavored with candied citron peel, oranges, lemons, limes, pineapples, dates, pistachios, and mocha coffee... After which this good Mussulman's daughters perfumed the beards of Candide, Pangloss, and Martin. 'You must have a vast and magnificent estate?' said Candide to the Turk. 'I only have twenty acres' replied the Turk. 'I cultivate them with my children; and work keeps at bay three great evils, boredom, vice and need..."
The meaning is not lost on Candide; when Pangloss starts philosophising again:
"...That's well said," replied Candide, "but we must cultivate our garden."
That's the last sentence of the book, the moral of the story, and a message to myself for the new year!
Our new year message for this year, on the Candide theme.