An interesting point about the Turkish word “hoşgörü,” meaning tolerance, was brought to my attention by a friend when discussing how the concept of tolerance has changed since the ‘70s and ‘80s. I want to explore this briefly, but before doing so, I would first like to share my response to a comment from a Today’s Zaman reader.
In my piece, “Wealth and poverty: Conspicuous consumption lives side by side with poverty” (March 13, 2012), a Today’s Zaman reader called “Me” posted a short and concise comment with a few thought-provoking points. I agree with “Me” in that a person has the right to spend what he/she earns since he/she has worked hard for it. There is nothing wrong in celebrating your success and hard work. Also, there is truth in the saying, “You reap what you sow.” But sadly, not everybody has had the same opportunity to make a better life for themselves. In İstanbul, there is shocking contrast of living standards existing side by side. I am not convinced tolerance is the solution to living in harmony, particularly when individuals have not been provided opportunities to develop and train so they could obtain a better-paying job. The point of my article was to point out there are major lifestyle discrepancies here and to raise the point of whether or not everything is being done to address the causes of income inequality. You can go to the article to read the comment. Thanks to “Me” for sharing your thoughts.
From what I understand, the Turkish word hoşgörü means tolerance. Many English speakers would agree that the idea of the word, tolerance, has changed some over the years. Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, it implied an attempt to understand differences -- perhaps even a celebration of differences. Nowadays in the West, it more like putting up with something that is not good. In the past, acts of tolerance implied giving value to differences. When I hear the Turkish word for tolerance used, it comes across much nicer because it conveys the idea of seeing something as pleasant. Maybe you have noticed though in Turkish culture that the practice of tolerance is talked about a lot, but when it comes down to putting it into practice, Turks generally shy away from anything that is different. When there are differences, you can see fragmentation and polarization.
I’d encourage you today to take a minute and listen to this good quality video recorded from Top of the Pops 1982. In case you are not familiar with the tune “Ebony and Ivory,” it was a 1982 number-one single in the UK and US by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. It was released on March 29 of that year. The song is about differences and uses the ebony (black) and ivory (white) keys on a piano to address the issues of integration and racial harmony on a deeper level. The title was inspired by McCartney hearing Spike Milligan say, “Black notes, white notes, and you need to play the two to make harmony, folks!” In recent years, the song has had bad reviews and been described as being too sweet.
Listen to the song for yourself and decide: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKMv7dVwBhg
Note: Charlotte McPherson is the author of “Culture Smart: Turkey, 2005.” Please keep your questions and observations coming: I want to ensure this column is a help to you, Today’s Zaman’s readers. Email: email@example.com