On the taste of freedom or the disappointment of one’s own culture
I look around myself, breathe the air which surrounds me, and gives me life, and taste it; on the tip of my tongue, there is no taste of freedom.
You might ask, what is the taste of freedom, and how do you know it anyway? Before explaining, or trying to explain to you the taste of it; I must explain how I know there is one? Well, if you’re a European, born and raised, you would probably never have noticed its taste, for we do not recognize the things which were with us all along.
Yevgeny Zamyatin, in his book “We”, tells us a story about a little, self-conscious square. If we were to ask it to describe itself, he says, the last thing it would tell us would be the fact that it has four edges. And, my claim is that Europeans wouldn’t be able to know the taste of freedom, since they have never omitted it from their life. A person who had always been eating salty foods in her/his whole life cannot know the taste of salt, nor can notice it. In order for her/him to notice the taste of it, s/he needs to be fed with foods that are not containing salt.
Now, I think I’ve made my point clear about how a European wouldn’t be able to know what is the taste of freedom, I can claim that a person who had born and lived his whole life in Middle east, and then went to Europe for a short time, would notice something very different than his/her usual perception of the world; a notion which we call freedom.
I am not going to dare to try to explain what is freedom, for it will certainly exceed my intellectual background; I will try to give simple examples. Examples like, when you’re walking on the street of a European city, or when you’re in school with your friends, and with strangers too, if you are born and raised in some country like mine, Turkey, you would definitely sense something different in people’s behavior. And that would be the fact that, none of these people would ever give a damn about what you’re doing, unless you’re trying to disturb them physically, or something like that. Or, they will not judge you, nor threaten you with their gaze. Which is the usual case in my country.
Of course, I talk on only and only my own behalf, and I should tell you that I’m a pretty “standard” guy in our terms of normalization. I’m a heterosexual male, never had a police record, and I keep my mouth shut most of the time. And I’m not talking about something that you can see directly, please, try to understand my position, that I am trying to talk about something very, very inside, within our society that no one would ever be able to realize- unless they have left the country at some point in their life. It’s not like they beat us every day, or restrain our actions (Well, actually they do that too, but that’s not the main object of this article). Being not-free is so inside in our society, we are so used to live with that fact, we do not even raise our voices to dismantle the social, or cultural relations which cause it.
In my country, someone simply might not like you; and might find the solution of that problem by fighting with you. It’s normal, and a very common phenomenon in here.
And that is the reason I pay for my wing-tjun classes.
Or, you cannot possibly kiss your beloved one on the street, but if you’re a male, you can beat your girlfriend, your wife, your fiancee, your sister, or any random woman. This is perfectly normal. You won’t even get a charge because of this act. Maybe someone will report you to the police, and they miiiiiight arrest you for a couple of hours, for interrogation, and then, they’ll let you go.
So yeah, actually, as a guy, I should feel privileged in here, for I can do whatever I want and would probably get away with it. Yet, there is one tiny, little problem; which is that I do not want to be privileged, I do not want to fight, I do not want to act like a lawless cowboy in some kind of old western movie. I want to feel safe while walking on the street, kiss the girl I am with, or the guy (of course in here, if you are a guy, and try to kiss another guy -who happens to be your significant other- on the street, you might even get killed), or, I don’t know, talk to people without thinking about if I make them feel threatened or not, or I just want to see happy faces around me.
That was another thing I’ve noticed. In Europe, people are smiling most of the time. In here, everybody’s sulking, every single freaking time.
Now, at this point, I feel obligated to tell you that, I do know that there are problems, (many, actually) in Europe. I know that Europeans had had times when they were oppressed, felt captive, and so forth. Yet, in our times, there is a big difference between Middle East and Europe. And I keep asking myself the very same question, over and over again: What is the reason which causes us to create a social prison around us, and what is the very reason, or way how Europeans broke (or never had it like us) that chains?
How in a European country, and I can confidently talk about Brussels, where I worked as a journalist (intern, actually), people from different backgrounds, who came from different cultures, speak different languages, can get along so easily, so friendly, so human like? And why this is not the case in where I am forced to live?
I miss the taste of freedom, the notion which I want to drink it like an animal who had been kept in a cage for a long time, ran away, got captured again and now longs for it with its all being.