Life in Wartime

Turkey has given me a lot. My spouse would be enough; but life in Turkey offers various pleasures, and—for me at least—time to enjoy them. Hard work may be considered a virtue in the United States. Not so in Turkey. I am still driven to do things here, but perhaps only in the way that Thoreau was driven. He was driven to do what he wanted to do. One thing he wanted to do was write as follows.

I sometimes wonder that we can be so frivolous, I may almost say, as to attend to the gross but somewhat foreign form of servitude called Negro Slavery, there are so many keen and subtle masters that enslave both North and South. It is hard to have a Southern overseer; it is worse to have a Northern one; but worst of all when you are the slave-driver of yourself. Talk of a divinity in man! Look at the teamster on the highway, wending to market by day or night; does any divinity stir within him? His highest duty to fodder and water his horses!

For how many Americans is the highest duty to go to work to pay for the car that they drive to work?

We suffer in Turkey from the delusion that one head is better than two or more, at least when that one head belongs to the man who is driven to be president-for-life. We also suffer in Turkey from terror attacks, like the one last night at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport.

I did not know about last night’s attack when I went to sleep. I learned about it after the Ramadan drummer woke me up around two o’clock. I didn’t think I could sleep again, so I got up. An email alerted me to the news, and Twitter provided details. I also saw tweets to the effect that Twitter and Facebook were being blocked in Turkey, presumably because the government had banned dissemination of news about the events at the airport. To spread the news would be to spread the terror. Nonetheless, I was able to see tweets, presumably because I was using Opera Mini, which processed webpages through its own (unblocked) servers. Some other people in Turkey use a VPN.

Seeing that Facebook had activated a safety check for Istanbul, I marked myself as safe. At the time of writing, 22 of my Facebook friends in Istanbul are considered safe; the remaining 72 are of undetermined status. Some of these persons might sign in, if the Turkish state were not trying to prevent it. In any case, not having been at the airport last night does not mean that any of us are safe.

Ayşe and I are off tonight for the Nesin Mathematics Village in Şirince. We are taking an overnight bus to Selçuk, though we might have flown to İzmir instead. We expect other mathematicians to arrive at the Village from North America, Europe, and Israel. I imagine that most or all of them will fly to İzmir via Atatürk Airport. They might use Istanbul’s other airport, named for Atatürk’s daughter. In any case, I imagine that death of any of us by terrorism is as likely as I was likely to die from my recent hernia operation.

The biggest threat we face may be the climate catastrophe that few of us seem willing to face.

I am announcing this article on Facebook by means of my mobile. It is not convenient to write much on the mobile; so I would request that any comments be made on the present page (even though Turkey did once block all WordPress blogs because one of them caused offense to a Creationist). I have already said why I don’t like Facebook anyway.


  1. Tania Barnett
    Posted June 29, 2016 at 1:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

    David and Ayse, really pleased you are both okay! I also just read your account of the her ia op experience. You are very brave and stoical. Reading, reflecting and then writing/posting seem to have helped you during this time – great.
    We, Tom and I and many of our friends and colleagues are very downbeat about the Brexit decision and about our useless football (soccer) team – what a week.
    Dear friends, we have fond memories of our visit and stay with you
    Shalom-salaam, God Bless You, love from Tania

  2. Posted June 29, 2016 at 3:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

    David the equivalence you say exists between odds of you dying from your hernia operation, and dying from a terrorist attack in Turkey is not a reassuring equivalence. Just sayin’.

  3. Elizabeth Barnet
    Posted June 29, 2016 at 7:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks for writing, David.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By War Continues « Polytropy on July 16, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    […] « Life in Wartime […]

  2. By Şirince January 2018 « Polytropy on February 4, 2018 at 4:54 am

    […] the terror attack at Atatürk Airport on June 28. I wrote about this attack the next day in “Life in Wartime” on this blog. Then I headed off to Şirince to join a “research group.” My wife […]

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