One thing I particularly enjoyed about living in Turkey was that it seemed a lot easier to understand things. It was as if I was able to see patterns and effects that had been partially hidden from my view throughout my life in the USA.
Here is one of my favorite examples. I can’t recall the details but I believe the events occurred on a trip to Marmaris in the southwest coast of Turkey. We had booked a day cruise along with about 25 other tourists; as it turned out, our fellow passengers were mainly one very extended British family. They were loud and made references that they assumed we would somehow understand. I could not make out exactly who was who in this crowd. Whose children are they? Is that the father or the uncle or.. maybe the grandfather? Are those two husband and wife or brother and sister? Blessedly after a few beers, none of it really interested me any longer. Then, they became largely an annoyance and wearisome drone and cackle in my background.
Before lunch, we anchored in one of those crystal clear azure coves and all of us went for a swim. One young woman began making a big drama about not being able to dive off the back of the ship. She wasn’t afraid of the water, she made it known, it was the diving part. So there she stood at the edge, making sure that everyone’s eyes were fixed on her, lingering and preparing and hesitating and moaning. The whole nine-yards, as they say.
At that moment, one of the crew, Mehmet, a short wiry fellow, decided it would be quite amusing to help things along a bit. I watched him as he moved up behind her, smiling at me in a slow-motion memory. With one mighty heave-ho, he pushed her off into the water. Only he didn’t. The woman managed to cling with superhuman strength by her toes to the edge. She was, as you would be, not amused and turned on the surprised Mehmet with a blaze of fury. She slapped his weak smile off his brown little face, though not very hard.
He turned and stomped off, in abject humiliation while she moaned and squeezed every drop of emotion from the event. The rest of the day was spent drearily telling and re-telling the event, from various perspectives. It was like a child playing with a video camera, backwards and forwards in at differing speeds.
A half hour later, while wandering around the ship, I met up with exiled Mehmet, peeling potatoes with bitter slashes of the knife. He whispered how rude the foreigners were, especially the woman who had slapped him. I nearly felt sorry for him but then I stopped myself. The sympathetic smile dissolved.
As if a light had burst through the clouds. How many times had I seen this pattern of events? A person makes an error in judgment, some kind of miscalculation of the possible results, and calamity ensues. And somehow, the person at fault has recovered his balance, re-written the event and found incredibly to be the victim. It is as if people have lost the profound concept of shame.. and without a sense of shame, remorse and reflection are impossible. Instead of stopping for a moment and considering how our actions might have led us to this point, we now automatically seem to go into a kind of "defense mode”, perfectly willing to recast the circumstances to match the self-deception we chose to play.
Someone might do all kinds of ill-mannered things to you and if you dare to stop them, they find a way to re-adjust the event to become a victim of your insensitivity and your heartlessness. For example, you are waiting in line for a bus, the bus comes and a man darts past you. You say, “Hold on there, mister.” And the man turns back at you with a astonished and furious glare. Immediately he begins a blustering, blistering tirade about your rudeness. It can be extremely effective in silencing criticism and confusing any critics.
Too bad I wasn't brought up that way because people seem to get away with a lot with this tactic.