Turkey’s Camel Culture

I’m reprinting this article from Hürriyet Daily News:

Camel culture to live on in book

Camels have been of critical importance in Turkey in centuries past, but the animals are now largely consigned to use in wrestling competitions or touristic purposes. Now, however, the Antalya Provincial Culture and Tourism Directorate has initiated work about camel culture and the camel business in preparation for the publishing of a book. 

1014145570413“Camels came with Turks from Central Asia. They were used for military and trade purposes as well as for their meat and milk,” said Mahmut Davulcu, a folk culture researcher from the directorate.

Camels are believed to have been domesticated in the 3000s BCE but have only been in Anatolia since the 300s BCE, Davulcu said. Camels were used for transport in Anatolia until the 20th century.

Central Asian camels have two humps while Arabic camels have one, Davulcu said. While camels were already in Anatolia, more came with the Turks when they appeared in the area in the 11th century CE, he said.

Paintings+21“They were used in many fields. People benefited even from their urine. But their most important function was military and in transportation. These functions continued until the 20th century. Later as technology developed and new technological tools appeared, they lost their use. According to the Turkish Statistical Institute [TÜIK], there are some 1,500 camels in Anatolia. Their number in Antalya is 169. Among them 146 are adults and 23 are young camels,” Davulcu said. Camels continue to be bred for only two reasons, camel wrestling and touristic tours.

“Wrestling camels can be found more in Antalya’s western districts Demre and Kumluca. The ones used for touristic purposes are in the central and eastern parts of the city,” he said. 

Researcher Mustafa Tokat, who is conducting work with Davulcu, said camel culture died out in Turkey due to high costs.

“Both the ministry and Antalya region do not want this tradition to die out. Starting in January 2016, we have followed the Kumluca and Demre camel wrestling competitions and documented them. The work should be finished in December this year. We think the book will be ready in 2018,” Tokat said.

There’s more to Turkey than camels and beaches

This article appeared in our English language daily, Hürriyet Daily News the other day:

Turkish cuisine seeks place at the table

In a bid to banish stereotypes of late-night greasy fast food, Turkish chefs are trying to burnish their image by showcasing the culinary riches the country has to offer. A new breed of cooks has shaken up the Istanbul food scene with an innovative approach to Turkish cooking, while others are on a mission to show there is more to the nation’s cuisine than the perhaps notorious döner kebab.

maxresdefault-5For many outside the country, Turkish food brings to mind images of pitta bread stuffed with shavings of meat roasted on a vertical spit, usually consumed after a heavy night of drinking.  The döner was brought to Western Europe by the Turkish diaspora, especially those in Germany where additions like salad and mayonnaise have made it a heavier meal than in Turkey. But did you ever try karnıyarık, a dish of split aubergines with a meat filling, or çılbır, poached eggs in garlic yoghurt? Ever heard of tulum, a traditional cheese ripened in a goat’s skin, or a dessert called cezerye, caramelised carrot with coconut?

“Turkish cuisine is largely known abroad through döner and kebab,” said Defne Ertan Tüysüzoğlu, Turkey director of Le Cordon Bleu, an international culinary academy, which started in Paris and now has campuses all over the world.

“Turkish cuisine is not well known,” agreed Aylin Yazıcıoğlu, executive chef at Istanbul’s Nicole Restaurant. “The food that comes to mind when people talk about Turkey is, unfortunately, all bad examples. We see this changing slowly. We’ll do our best to change it.  At Nicole, diners are offered a multicourse tasting menu of local products aimed at showing off the best that Turkish cuisine has to offer.

“I believe that in a world geared toward the ‘local,’ we’ve started to understand the value of our cuisine. We’ve started to realize the value of our products,” said Yazıcoğlu. “In our country, everything is available throughout the four seasons,” she added.

Turkish food, she said, has much to offer and needs to promote its greatest assets, such as olive oil. But to truly change perceptions, more work is required. “I can say there’s been a movement but it would be very strong to talk about a revolution. The conditions are not yet ripe for a revolution,” she said.

Close to traditional French cuisine 

Arnaud De Clercq, who has taught at the Istanbul branch of Le Cordon Bleu for the past two years and has worked in Michelin star restaurants in France, described Turkish cuisine as “very rustic” with its focus on sauces, ragouts and stews. “It is close to the traditional French cuisine: beef bourguignon, veal blanquette, lamb navarin – all this you can find here, but a bit different,” he said.  He singled out Turkish meze, the selection of small dishes served as an appetizer at the start of a meal.


n_113991_1“When the Ottoman Empire expanded, it also spread its cuisine,” he said. “You can find Turkish meze in all regions, in all countries and each country adapted it to its own taste, like in Lebanon, in Syria or in Jordan.”

Turkish chef Serkan Bozkurt from the Chef’s Table Culinary Academy, an Istanbul-based cooking school, said perceptions about Turkish cuisine were changing. Today, he said, Turkish restaurants and cafes were blossoming in Europe, with chains like the bakery Simit Sarayı and the Kahve Dünyası coffee shop opening up in London and other places.

The somewhat limited perception of Turkish food overseas, the cuisine has a wide variety of regional differences, with specialties from the western Aegean differing sharply from those in the eastern Black Sea region. Antakya in the southeast has a rich culinary heritage inspired by Aleppo in Syria, while specialties on the Black Sea include dishes such as muhlama, an unusual fondue made with corn flour, butter and cheese.

In a huge country, which spans 784,000 square kilometres, an area bigger than Germany, Poland and Austria together, the cooking styles are very varied, from the herbs and vegetables used in the Aegean, to the meat-dominated specialties of the east, Bozkurt said. Its cheeses alone are likely to impress; Turkey has dozens of varieties, which differ sharply from region to region, he said.

“I always say if a week-long cheese tour was organized in Turkey with trips to its seven regions, people would get dizzy! Turkish cuisine is not confined to meat and kebab,” he said.

Turkey Terror!

I just HAD to pass on this item from my beloved New Zealand Herald. You can maybe see why mega-rich Americans and Chinese are buying bolt-holes there. The biggest danger is probably dying of boredom ;-))

Dunedin* seaside suburb terrorised by turkey on rampage

TURKEY_masterA “monster” turkey is roaming the streets of St Clair and chasing people at a popular Dunedin walking spot. St Clair resident Martin Montgomery said he first encountered the turkey when he was running up Jacobs Ladder about a month ago.

“He jumped out at me and chased me in the dark. I didn’t know what it was. It was huge, though, so I initially thought it was a dog.”

Two weeks later the bird was in his driveway.

“I just pulled up in my car and when I got out I dropped everything and ran because he was going to go at me.”

He has named the bird Elliott because “he looks like an Elliott”. On social media some people have named it Tom Turkey.

The bird has been spotted in Aberdeen Rd, Earls Rd, Lock St, Jacobs Ladder, Valpy St and Norfolk St in St Clair, as well as in neighbouring St Kilda. Dunedin city councillor Conrad Stedman said he was also chased by the turkey on Jacobs Ladder.

“I had to duck [sic!] out of the way. It was trying to take me out. It’s a monster of a bird.”

A St Clair resident said he noticed the turkey a month ago. The “really big bird” would not fit in his oven, so the resident had made attempts on social media to find someone willing to give it a home.

City council environmental health and animal services manager Ros MacGill said the bird did not come under council control because no reports of disruption or nuisance had been received.

___________________________________________________________

* Dunedin is the second-largest city in New Zealand’s South Island

PS – Maybe that anonymous St Clair resident should have euthanased the bird and plucked it before trying to put it in his oven!

 

Thieves Falling Out? What’s going on with Qatar?

media liesWhy do I follow the mainstream news media? It’s simple. I know they are trying to con me. I know they are telling half-truths, and hiding important information from me. Reading between the lines, however, gives me important clues as to what questions I should be asking to find the answers I really need to know.

So . . . This week I learn that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are cutting ties with oil rich neighbour and former friend Qatar over “alleged support for terrorism”. Well, good for them, you might think. Great to see high profile Muslim countries taking initiative to stamp out this curse currently plaguing the world.

But wait up. Who exactly are the “terrorists” those dastardly Qataris are “allegedly” supporting? The terrible Taliban? ISIS/Daesh? Al Qaeda? Boko Haram? Apparently not. In fact it’s far more likely those groups are funded by Saudis. The object of Qatari affections seems to be the Muslim Brotherhood. Well, ok. They’re just as bad, aren’t they? With a name like that, they’d have to be terrorists. Certainly movers and shakers in the USA and Israel think so: the Clarion Project, the Gatestone Institute, and Israeli Stand With Us express strong opinions on the subject. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates summed up their case with a simple, if inelegant sound byte: “It seems to me, by and large, if it looks like a duck and it walks like a duck, maybe it’s a duck.”

no-ducks-sign

. . . or Muslims!

On the other hand, the people at Brookings say no, and there seems to be debate on the matter within Trump’s administration. Back in March, the Big DT was on the verge of issuing an executive order adding the Brotherhood to Washington’s official list of terrorist organisations – but decided to postpone the decision. Apparently cooler heads in his team were arguing that affixing the “terrorist” label would unnecessarily upset some of America’s allies in the region. Clearly, however, other “allies” are strongly in favour, especially the Saud family, the UAE (Dubai etc) and Egypt. So who’s right?

According to a BBC backgrounder, the movement (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun in Arabic) was founded in 1928, and “initially aimed simply to spread Islamic morals and good works, but soon became involved in politics, particularly the fight to rid Egypt of British colonial control and cleanse it of all Western influence.” It’s founder, Hassan al-Banna, did create “a paramilitary wing, the Special Apparatus, whose operatives joined the fight against British rule and engaged in a campaign of bombings and assassinations.” Sounds nasty, but you have to remember that, in those days, Britain was fighting a losing global war to hold on to its rapidly shrinking empire. Their plan to wipe Turkey of the map had been foiled by Kemal Atatürk; and MK Ghandi led India and Pakistan to independence in 1947. In 1956, after President Abdul Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal, the Brits, French and Israelis actually invaded Egypt – but were ordered out by US President Eisenhower.

1956-mirror-news-usa-front-page-reporting-israel-invades-egypt-during-E5GNF9

That was in 1956

You might think the Muslim Brothers had some cause for indulging in a little active resistance. Not everyone is as patient and peaceful as Mahatma Ghandi. When Hosni Mubarak stood down as President of Egypt in 2011 as a result of “Arab Spring” protests and the (probably reluctant) urging of US President Obama, he had held the position for 29 years, winning “elections” where 70-80% of his citizens didn’t bother to cast a vote. The Muslim Brotherhood had been banned from putting up candidates, but in the first genuinely democratic election in June 2012 they won a comfortable majority. Mohammed Morsi became Egypt’s first democratically elected (and non-military) president. He lasted just over a year. In July 2013 he was ousted by Egypt’s armed forces and his place taken by military commander-in-chief, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Subsequently, the United States and its Western allies have been twisting their tongues into breathtaking contortions to avoid calling the military coup a military coup.

Did the US government’s henchmen have a hand in Morsi’s ousting? Of course they cover their tracks, but we do know that the US had supported Mubarak’s dictatorship, despite his abysmal human rights record. US funding made Egypt’s military the world’s 10th largest, and Egypt reversed its earlier implacable hostility to Israel. It was unlikely that Morsi would have been quite so accommodating to US Middle East policy. US aid was cut off but resumed as soon as Egypt returned to military dictatorship. Go figure, as my North American friends are fond of saying.

Obamas Arab mates

Barack Obama with his Arab mates

Well, Qatar’s tiny population (2.2 million) has the world’s highest per capita GDP, its capital, Doha, is the location for TV broadcaster Al-Jazeera, and the country was selected by FIFA to host the 2022 football World Cup tournament. It’s not exactly a paragon of democratic freedom, but that doesn’t seem to be a major stumbling block to finding favour with US administrations. It does seem that their crime, in the eyes of their neighbours, is lending support to those Muslim Brothers.

Now don’t you think it’s interesting that just after President Donald Trump returns home from a successful visit to his country’s friends in the Middle East, a gang of those friends suddenly decide to pick on a neighbour that has been causing difficulties for the Trump administration? DT wants to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation but some of his advisors are blocking him. Is it possible he suggested to King Salman and the rest of his Arab buddies that now might be a good time to put the screws on Qatar to fall into line?

Whatever the failings of their foreign and domestic programmes, putting the screws on other sovereign states to fall into line is something United States governments are especially good at. We’ve seen what happened in Egypt. We are witnessing (again) what happens to South American nations (Brazil, Venezuela) that think serving their own people takes priority over the interests of US corporations. For all the talk about bringing American-style democracy to the world, we have seen that US administrations are far more comfortable dealing with military dictators than with elected leaders who may have to listen to what their own people are saying.

bombing-yemen

Enlisting recruits for Al Qaeda in Yemen

And whatever may have been said in private, President Trump was only too happy to trumpet his success in clinching a deal to sell $110 billion worth of military hardware to the Saudi rulers. In case you were wondering what the Saudis are doing with all those tanks, artillery and helicopter gunships, Time Magazine tells us that it is mostly being used to slaughter people in neighbouring Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries, currently racked by poverty, starvation and a cholera epidemic. As if the Saudis can’t do enough damage by themselves, the US military has been making its own contribution to peace in the Middle East with commando raids and drone strikes. Tell, me please, who are those poor Yemenis threatening?

Meanwhile Turkey is struggling to persuade its own so-called Western allies to support its struggle against terrorism. Military personnel known to have been involved in the unsuccessful July 15 military coup attempt have taken refuge in EU countries, notably Greece and Germany – and those NATO friends are refusing to hand them over. Fethullah Gülen, believed by Turkey’s government to have been a key figure in efforts to overthrow them, is safely ensconced in his Pennsylvania retreat, while the US government spurns all requests to extradite him. The Pentagon, in open defiance of Ankara’s wishes, is unabashedly supplying military hardware to Kurdish separatist groups in Syria closely allied with the internationally recognised terrorist PKK.

us-iran

Supporting autocrats in the Middle East

I read an interesting book review the other day. ‘Sectarianization: Mapping the New Politics of the Middle East’ is a collection of academic articles apparently arguing against Barack Obama’s simplistic assessment of Middle East strife that it is “rooted in conflicts that date back millennia”. So far, so good. The Ottoman dynasty ruled a multicultural, polyglot empire embracing Muslims, Jews and mutually antagonistic Christian sects for six centuries without major sectarian conflict.

Unfortunately, it seems the writers have lurched from one flawed interpretation to another. The reviewer summarises the book’s theme thus: “Behind the current turmoil lies a toxic brew of authoritarianism, kleptocracy, developmental stagnation, state repression, geopolitical rivalry and class dynamics. . . Many of the contributors,” we are told, “make the key point that lethal sectarianism and politicized identities are often manipulated by authoritarian regimes in pursuit of political gain.”

Well, it is undoubtedly true that Hosni Mubarak, for example, made good use of his 29 years as dictator of Egypt to enrich himself and his family. The academics in “Secularization” might have noted, however, that courts in Switzerland and the United States have resisted all attempts by Egyptian authorities to repatriate the tens of millions of dollars stashed by Mubarak in their banks.

The articles seem to attribute the rise of the phenomenon purely and simply to power-hungry “autocrats” in the region stoking internecine hatred for their own purposes. One writer even blames the current lawless chaos in Iraq on neighbours Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, who allegedly sabotaged Washington’s genuine attempts to create “a stable and democratic Iraq”.

static.politico.com

The Big DT with his Israeli mates

Well, I guess we saw in Afghanistan just how genuine was the American desire to bring stability and democracy. After using the Taliban to evict the Russian military from Afghanistan, the United States walked away and left the locals to sort out the mess by themselves – and we’ve seen the result of that. When it suited the White House, they supported Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran. Iran itself had experienced its Islamic revolution as a result of 27 years of US-supported dictatorship by the puppet Shah, installed after a CIA-sponsored coup in 1952. The Saudi royal family gained and retain their power by working with, first the British, and subsequently the United States. Much of the current conflict in the Middle East stems from the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948 by the United Nations aka the United States, which has subsequently supported that government’s expansionist aggression against all objections by the international community.

Is this current business with Qatar just another example of local thieves falling out? I don’t think so.

Happy News – The cherry season is here!

Don’t we need some happy news from time to time? I’m passing this on from Hurriyet Daily News, with acknowledgments and thanks to Aylin Öney Tan:

Who does not like cherries? Luscious and lush, the cherry is undoubtedly the most attractive of all the fruits. Everywhere in the world, cherry-picking time is a joy, a true manifestation of summer. Cherries belong to June and its appearance is always an early celebration of a bountiful summer. 

arome-cerise-noire-pa-black-cherry-flavorThe cherry is native to Anatolia and has many secrets attached to it. The rumor is that the Roman King Lucullus is responsible for diffusing the cherry to the world. When he set foot on the north Anatolian town of Giresun on the Black Sea coast, he was soon to discover his favorite fruit. When one views old engravings of the city, one clearly sees that the hills backing the settlement resemble a pair of horns. When one looks down towards the sea from the same hills, the city crawls into the sea like an arching horn. Ancient Romans must have seen this and accordingly named the city Kerasus, after the Latin word “Kerason” or horn. So when Lucullus tasted the cherry, he probably did not hesitate a moment to name it after the town he encountered it for the first time. The Cerasus or Kerasus became the root word for the cherry, (English: cherry; French: cerise; Italian: Ciliegia; German: Kirsch; Hungarian: cseresznye; Greek: kerasia; Assyrian: karasya; Arabic: kerez, and last but not least the Turkish kiraz). 

Of course, this is a nice story, one of the culinary myths we like to believe in. But though considered native to Anatolia, long before Lucullus the cherry tree had already made its way in Europe. Prehistoric lake sites in Switzerland reveal cherry pits, and there are several Roman period cherries recorded before Lucullus’ time. While the history of the cherry remains an unsolved mystery, it also has a wild secret. One wild or ancestral variety of the cherry tree, known as St. Lucie (astonishingly similar to Lucullus’ name) is mostly praised not for its fruit, but for its tiny almond-like kernels inside the fruit’s pit. That bitter almond tasting kernel makes an ideal spice, much loved in Turkey, the Balkans, and the Middle East. 

The spice is called mahlep in Turkish, the Latin name of the tree being, Prunus mahaleb, coming from both Arabic and Hebrew mahaleb. The root of the word probably comes from the Semitic root h.l.b meaning milk, one wonders whether it has a linkage with another city known for its formidable cherries, Aleppo. The relation of Aleppo with the root halab, or milk is attributed to the milky white stone the city was built from. Aleppo has wonderful cherry-based kebabs and dishes; one small town close to Aleppo has cherry as its symbol. When I used to visit Syria in the good old days I always searched to find a tea I liked very much, which had nothing to do with cherries but was branded with a cherry logo. It was actually a tea from Sri Lanka, but the cheerful cherry trademark was attractive and the Cherry Brand tea had a really good taste. I don’t know if it was true, but somebody told me that the owner of the brand was from that cherry-town near Aleppo. I’d really like to find more out the Aleppo-Mahaleb link and see if it has the potential to create a new culinary myth that relates the cherry to a city. 

Actually, there is one secret to a cherry that everyone knows: Bursting with life, cherry is the most cheerful of all fruits!

The Mind of a Terrorist – Not that complicated really

First I want to talk about tourism. I’m not a big fan. I did feel sorry for Turkey last year when the Russian government got the pip and told their citizens to stay on local icy beaches for the summer. I know hotels have been closing because governments in Europe (and New Zealand) have been scaring their people off visiting Turkey. Falling visitor numbers impacts on the local economy, and innocent people find themselves out of work.

NZ walks

Getting away from it all in NZ

On the other hand, everything has a price – and floods of tourists undoubtedly have a negative effect on natural beauties and historical wonders. The ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey’s Aegean region suffers from the trampling feet of millions of visitors. New Zealand’s main attraction for tourists is its clean, green, unspoiled nature. Tourist numbers, however, are multiplying spectacularly, and now it seems, forest trails a tramper might once have trekked in peaceful solitude must now be shared with thousands of others.

So I have mixed feelings on the subject. It does, however, annoy me when I receive yet another email from our Foreign Affairs people at the embassy in Ankara warning me of the terrorism danger in Turkey, and advising me to avoid unnecessary visits to the capital or Istanbul (where I happen to live). I would be interested to know what proportion of visitors to Turkey have been killed or injured in recent years, and to compare it with similar figures for New Zealand.

yavuz-sultan-selim-koprusu-nde-ilk-olumlu-kaza

Truck driver killed taking selfie on bridge

I read an article recently citing statistics showing that more people died in the last year while taking a “selfie” than were killed by sharks. Just last year two old friends from New Zealand visited us and spent three weeks in the country. In the morning of 28 June we picked up a hire car from Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport – where that afternoon forty people died in a bomb attack. They flew out of the country on 14 July – the day before military officers staged an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow by force the elected government.

What am I trying to say here? There are many ways to die, and most of them are less spectacular than a terrorist bombing. And whether it’s your day to go depends a lot on whether you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. A young woman from Turkey died in New Zealand’s Christchurch earthquake in 2010 – one of 185 people from twenty countries who were certainly in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nevertheless, tourists are flooding to New Zealand, and I never heard that Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was advising citizens to avoid my country. I have read several articles warning about the dangers of taking selfies – but people carry on regardless.

So I guess life will go on in Paris, Manchester and London. Locals will go to work and school, and tourists will still flock to the Louvre, Westminster Abbey and Etihad Stadium (home of Manchester City Football Club). The big problems, in my opinion, are the chattering news media, and governments playing political games.

Ariana grande

Sorry, Mr Harkin – It’s not about her

After the Manchester nightclub attack, my hometown daily, The New Zealand Herald, published an opinion piece by one James Harkin, said to be director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism and a reporter on Syria and the rise of Islamic State. Well, the article was originally printed in the UK’s Daily Mail, so that possibly leaves room for doubt about his actual commitment to “investigative journalism”. After serious investigation, Mr Harkin apparently arrived at the insightful conclusion that the bombers were targeting Ariana Grande’s “revealing stage outfits, her stockings, pink bunny ears and unabashed sexual confidence”. From his work in Syria and his studies of the Koran, Harkin has decided that Islamic extremists have no problem with western governments – their target is “Godless Western decadence” and “the values we all live by.” Do they include pink bunny ears, I wonder?

Drone strikes

Creating terrorists

Well, I’m sorry, Mr Harkin, but you’re wrong. If you haven’t learned the term Asymmetric warfare it’s time you did. It is defined as “war between belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly, or whose strategy or tactics differ significantly. This is typically a war between a standing, professional army and an insurgency or resistance movement.” In other words, George W Bush (and Margaret Thatcher before him) conclusively proved to all the world that confronting the military might of a technologically advanced Western power could only ever have one result. The Boers in South Africa, the Irish republicans, and a hundred other aggrieved, embattled but fiercely determined minority groups have shown that, in their desperation, they can inflict terrible damage. I don’t believe those Manchester bombers really wanted to “slaughter innocent little girls clutching pink balloons on a night out with their mothers at a pop concert”. They would prefer to hit the true war criminals who are hiding safely behind impenetrable layers of security. Unable to get at the political leaders, they commit random acts of terror with the aim of persuading ordinary citizens to pressure their own governments to stop the state terror they are inflicting on innocent people in faraway lands.

Which brings me to the question of cowardice. Another article in my beloved NZ Herald rightly took issue with British politicians calling the Manchester attack an act of cowardice. No one who condones the murdering of innocent civilians in distant countries using unmanned drones or mother-f**king MOABs can claim the moral high ground and call anyone else a coward. Where I part company with the writer is when she says, I don’t believe that’s an act of cowardice. It’s an utterly terrifying and fearless act of self-destruction fuelled by a desire to kill as many as possible, and all in the name of spreading this warped, brutal and extremist ideology.”

Pai marire

Taking on the British Empire, 1865 – What odds would you give?

Rachel the journalist just doesn’t get it. These people are not out to spread an ideology, though they must surely be fearless and desirous of killing as many as possible. They are fearless because they have lost hope. In the 1860s in New Zealand, a kind of religion emerged among Maori people on the East Coast. Known as Pai Marire, or sometimes Hauhauism, it was a mixture of Christian and traditional spiritual beliefs. Atrocities were certainly committed against white settlers by its adherents. When they ran into hopeless battle against government forces, warriors chanted a kind of prayer, Hapa, hapa, paimarire hau, which they believed gave them immunity from bullets.

Did they really believe that? Were they really fearless? Did they really want to eat the eyeballs of their victims, as some reportedly did? I suspect not. They had lost their land; they were losing their culture, their language and their pride. In their own minds, what was there to live for? But they were angry too, and wanted to vent that anger. So they would take as many others with them as possible when they journeyed to the next world.

Maori novelist Witi Ihımaera, in a short story exploring the issue of Maori pride and sense of loss, ended with the words “No wai te he?” “Who is to blame?” The old man in the story didn’t know the answer – but we, if we are honest, certainly do. More MOABs and drone strikes in the Middle East won’t end the terror.

Birth Rate Falling in Turkey

I recall a few years back Turkey’s Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan getting a lot of stick in certain circles for exhorting families to have three children. At the time, I felt the criticism was a little unfair. Families in poorer regions of the country have traditionally had numerous offspring – and three would be a very moderate number for some. A student once told me she was the seventh child in her family. Her name was “Yeter” – Turkish for “That’s enough”.

megan-long

And they’re easier to get rid of when you’re tired of them

On the other hand, more affluent couples, especially in larger cities in the west of the country, are emulating their peers in “civilised” post-modern societies and choosing to limit themselves to one child, or maybe to have none at all.

Fair enough, of course. Far be it from me to interfere with a woman’s right to choose. Nevertheless, it’s common knowledge that that those wealthy post-modern societies in the West have difficult times ahead. Their age/sex pyramids are becoming top-heavy as the baby-boomer demographic moves into the high-maintenance social welfare bracket, collecting old age pensions and demanding more of health services. Younger generations are faced with the prospect of heavier taxation at the same time as burgeoning property prices make it increasingly difficult to put a secure roof over their own heads.

These headlines appeared recently in UK news media:

How Europe is slowly dying despite an increasing world population (Telegraph)

Europe needs many more babies to avert a population disaster (Guardian)

PercentElderly2050

Looking a few years ahead . . .

The Telegraph reported that “Italy is dying and newborns are not replacing those who die, according to the country’s health minister”; and other European countries face a similar situation. Germany’s population is expected to plunge from 81 million to 67 million by 2060, and an increasing proportion of those will be “grey” voters, turning the country into a “gerontocratic” society – one governed by the old.

The Guardian warned “Europe desperately needs more young people to run its health services, populate its rural areas and look after its elderly because, increasingly, its societies are no longer self-sustaining.”

In 1970, Italy’s predominantly Catholic population was joyously reproducing at a rate of 2.37 babies per woman, comfortably above the number required to maintain a steady population. In 2013 the rate had fallen to 1.39, approaching the figure demographers refer to as “lowest-low fertility”.

cb060505j_lr

Many a true word spoken in jest

Average fertility rate over the entire European Union is 1.58. Ironically, even this low figure is largely attributable to the tendency of poorer migrants to have larger families. Europe’s determination to shut its doors to migrants and refugees may prove to be costly or even fatal in the long-term.

Well, Turkey is not yet in quite such dire straits, but an article in our English language daily the other day reported:

Turkey’s fertility rate falls to critical level of 2.1 for first time since WWI.

2.1 is generally accepted as the minimum number of live births per woman necessary to maintain a stable population. The figure has been declining steadily in recent years. In 1998 it was 2.8. In fact, forecasts for 2016 had suggested the rate would drop to 1.85 – but apparently the influx of refugees from war-torn Syria, currently producing 70,000 new babies each year, is boosting the national average.

Well, every cloud has a silver lining.