Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Psychonaut theorists (1874-83)

1. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk


Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938)

Ottoman soldier and statesman. The first national leader to check by force of arms the apparently irresistible expansion of the Great Powers in to the Middle East. Founded upon the ruins of the Ottoman Empire a new nation state, the republic of Turkey. Transformed Anatolian Turkish society from its fundamentally religious frame into an essentially secular structure.

* Reconstructed the state as a republic for which he aimed to create, especially through education, an appropriate citizenry. (Without first changing the individual, true development of society is impossible.) He introduced no wholly novel ideas; his originality lay rather in the reinterpretation of familiar concepts. He sought to establish an inherently capitalist nation based upon the principle of popular sovereignty, whose moral substance would be a conscious synthesis of native and universal elements.

* He was determined to cultivate the principle of rational enquiry as the ultimate arbiter in society. His view of the intellectual history of Islam — over the centuries Muslims' gradual retreat from rationalism to blind acquiescence in theology had rendered them defenceless and submissive — strengthened his conviction that the weight of rigid orthodoxy must be lifted from Turkish society. Not merely for the sake of the people but for that of Islam itself, which he felt needed cleansing of its irrational and inflexible accretions. He envisaged a secular society where the existence of Islam would be dependent upon the voluntary adherence of the individual Muslim.

* Central to his concept of "contemporaneity" (the rationalist essence of civilization — contemporary civilization being equivalent but not identical to civilization in Western Europe) was the recognition of the multiplicity of its origins. Contemporaneity, fostering the integrative tendency of contemporary world civilization, involves a break with the past; nationalism, with its self-assertive tendency, serves as a counterbalance, providing a continuity with the past beneath even the most drastic social reforms. Note, though, that his conception of nationhood is one founded upon the prerequisites of common polity, vocabulary, territory, ancestry, history, morality — no matter where they might actually live at the moment.


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