The Children of Istanbul..the Forgotten and the Privileged
One thing you get used to is the wide variety of situations in Istanbul. It is the same in all cities, but diffeent in those in developing nations. Children are the hope of any nation. The unchanging motto of the United Negro College Fund is “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” When I see children at the corner in Istanbul selling tissue or other trinkets, picking up garbage or begging, I often think of this statement. Why are they not in school? Are they being forced to do this by their parents? This is not unusual for developing nations. You see this in Mexico or in Brazil where I was recently. It still does not excuse it. In Istanbul, the use of adults is worse. Some children, I have been told and it is a widely known phenomena or urban myth and undocumented, are brought from eastern Turkey, hooked on glue and then are forced to pick-pocket to keep their habit alive and also bring the money to thugs.
If there is any truth to this, it is deplorable. The deliberate exploitation of children and ignoring of their potential by any nation(The U.S. Is not doing such a good job either) is not only a terrible thing but a tragic and inexcusable thing.
“ One Week at War in Iraq and Afghanistan for $3.5 Billion.” stated William D. Hartung (http://bombs.wordpress.com/2008/03/05/cost-of-iraq-war/) Let figure this out...$3.5 Billion times 52 weeks equals 182.0 Billion. Just think what that infusion of this money would do for education in the U.S. A fraction of this money to developing countries for education would add more to the stability of the world than all the money we waste “defending democracy and the American way of life” by military action. Also, the best defense for the developed country is the developing and enhancement of their human capital.
I have often stated to my students in Turkey, “The man picking up garbage on the street, does not really want this for a career. He may be smarter than anyone in this classroom, including me. He has never been given the opportunity as you have for education. You have that opportunity. Not only that, but you have the obligation to speak out and defend those who can not speak for themselves.” They roll their eyes. Students are the same all over the world. I hope that some of them have understood me. Now, I know this is the concept of the noblesse oblige-the obligation of the rich to help the poor-and in some intellectual circles, it may seem dated and naïve. I still think it is a powerful metaphor. Many of my students are privileged. They are fortunate. In Turkish homes, the children of the middle class are pampered and spoiled—boys particularly. This also comes with a heavy dose of discipline. You rarely see children acting up in public or among their elders. This is not all together true, as the theory of permissive parenting is also 'creeping” into Turkish society as it has in the rest of the West. Children are generally are pampered by not only their parents and relatives, but the general population in Istanbul and throughout Turkey. You often see woman passenger in a bus willingly handing her child over to an amca or teze (uncle and aunt in Turkish, but means an older man or woman and is a sign of respect) if there is no where to sit. One particular note, it does not exactly sit well with me when some younger person calls me an amca, but I let it go because it not an insult for them or designating me as old, but as a sign of respect. However, for young people even if you are in your thirties, which I am not, you would be called an amca or a teze by those less senior than you..mainly by those younger. Hocam is another phrase meaning “a respected teacher” is also used by younger peope when they are speaking to an older persons. My students translate this into “teacher”. I have told them directly, in English and American universitis you say Professor____ or Dr. ______ , not teacher. Or sometimes, they refere to their teacher as ______ Bey or ___Bayan, mister or miss. It is always the first name that is used—for example Ibrahem Bey or Mr. Abraham or Ibrahem Hoca. I also say, don't call me Mr. McAdams, because this is for lecturers and not persons that have a Ph.D and teach at the university or college level. It was still somewhat lost on them because they were so inculcated by Turkish culture that they are unaware of the differences because they are saying one word in English and thinking it is equivalent in Turkish. Would this be considered 'code switching.'? This is a question for some of my linguist friends.