During World War II, when technology was limited, the people of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) lived entirely isolated lives. Countless books were banned, the press was heavily censored and reports from overseas came from a single source. A world war was raging, but the Soviet people were never fully aware of its scope.
Soviet troops invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968 and there was resistance, but the Soviet people were shown a Czechoslovakia that welcomed their troops with flowers. Nobody had any other option but
A professor who visited the West after those years said, “We thought we were happy in a sealed box.” He then added, “We must not be allowed out or woken from our sleep, otherwise we would be very unhappy.” (Zekeriya Sertel, 1993).
He said that because he made a comparison. He saw a free life very different to his own on the outside. For the first time he felt the harsh impact of the deprivation of the right to freedom. The comparison changed his whole worldview.
In those days some things could be regarded as nonexistent through prohibitions but we are now in a global world and popular demands can no longer be so easily disregarded. People know what freedoms are, and enjoy them all. Telling them to “relinquish this freedom” leads to the same depression and sadness that the Soviet professor experienced. That is why in the 21st Century, the unhappiest societies are those in which freedoms are restricted. Rebellions and uprisings always stem from freedoms being denied. Was not the Arab Spring the awakening of people who realized that?
Freedoms always bring people together. It is easy to talk, compromise, speak one’s mind and distinguish right from wrong in a free climate. The idea that free climates lead to degeneration and moral collapse is false: On the contrary, those climates turn into ones where people feel a greater need for moral values, and in which moral values survive in a more powerful form, by the people’s own desire.
Free climates are an important condition for civilization, respecting ideas and for people to be able to make contact and develop love and affection among one another.
Prohibitions do the exact opposite. People in restrictive societies grow up inward-looking, angry and intolerant; they cannot bear listening to differing ideas and they are deeply repressive. They may from time to time react against moral values because of their anger at prohibitions. Anger, rage and concealed immorality are therefore always stronger in restrictive societies.
The prohibitions, great or small, experimented within democratic societies today also have similar effects. Every new restriction on freedoms in societies accustomed to thinking, speaking and expressing their ideas freely may create a significant backlash. Whether or not people are affected by prohibitions in their daily lives, the very word “banned” troubles them because they know what liberty means. A barrier before them always causes unease and tension.
Turkey is a country with a 90-year-history of libertarian and democratic ups and downs. Its democracy predates that of many European countries. The way that Turkey has enjoyed greater freedoms and democracy in all capacities since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is to be appreciated; however, this also increases popular sensitivity to prohibitions. That is why the Twitter ban attracted such criticism from both inside and outside the country. Nobody expected such a ban in a Turkey moving toward a strong and bright future with democratization packages.
Looking at government statements, it was of course an offense for Twitter’s policies regarding Turkey to differ from those in other countries. It is also thought-provoking how Twitter refused to abide by various court rulings regarding individual accounts that adjudicated in Turkey and, most importantly, persisted in refusing to open an office in Turkey.
Twitter, with no office in the country but many users and a large market segment, was thus seem
to be enjoying unlawful earnings from Turkey’s national revenue without paying taxes to the Turkish government.
The fact that Turkey has the largest number of Twitter users in Europe also obliged the Turkish government to bring in various measures because of the factors in question.
Although the Twitter ban was imposed for legitimate reasons and Twitter officials immediately came to Turkey and began implementing the demands, the Turkish public were nonetheless made uneasy by a restriction on “free speech and expression of ideas”, regardless of the justification.
Turkish people had no difficulty in accessing Twitter during the ban, but the idea of a country full of restrictions still represents the underlying foundation of many tensions in Turkey.
Let us not forget that freedoms are always unifying, whereas bans are divisive and end in anger and unhappiness; a temporary restriction may be imposed in order to deal with some problem, but the damage caused by the ban is always greater. It is education that will bring about the security that some expect from prohibitions.
A generation that learns it can grow stronger with love and solidarity, by supporting one another instead of through conflict, will naturally grow up as a generation of love. A generation that learns that supporting the truth, not power, is a virtue will always be just and rational. The time has come for the whole world to look to education as a solution to all issues.
The writer has authored in many languages on political, faith-related and scientific topics.