On Cultural Confidence

My father-in-law is from a region of Greece that felt the after-effects of Ottoman rule long after the Greek Revolution of 1821 and the end of World War I, where the Ottoman Empire finally fell and Greece and Turkey engaged in a massive population exchange (not to mention a war that Greece lost, with bloody atrocities on both sides). He grew up speaking Turkish as his first language (he still speaks some), remembers a bit, and in his lifetime there were old-timers whose grandparents actually lived under Ottoman occupation. Therefore, he has somewhat of an interest in Turkish culture, and has found a Turkish historical drama called Resurrection: Ertuğrul, which is about the 11th century Turkish Bey Ertuğrul, the father of Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire. There has since been a new series all about Osman.

Ertuğrul, it could be said, is the grandfather of the Ottoman Empire,  Turkish national hero, and for a people with such a long history, that’s saying something that he’s still remembered with such reverence nearly 1,000 years later. 

The show is well-acted, the costumes and settings are fantastic, and it’s very dramatic. Like, every single scene is fraught with tension and really intense music. There are fights, though none too bloody despite the show being nicknamed “The Turkish Game of Thrones.” There is also no sex or nudity, perhaps owing to Turkey’s strong Islamic identity which is still a huge influence despite generations of Kemalist attempts to secularize Turkey. There are also some storytelling differences between it and a Westen made show. For example, much of Resurrection features people standing around talking, interspersed with action scenes. However, there are some episodes where the same characters are in the same setting talking for the entire episode. There is also a lot of people getting ambushed in the wilderness. 

Anyway, a little research into the show taught me that it was incredibly popular in Turkey and most of the Muslim world, though not necessarily in the Arab world, where it was banned outright in some countries for seeming to promote the redrudescence of the Ottoman Empire. 

I don’t watch it regularly, just here and there when my father-in-law has it on. But one thing that strikes me about this show, and I contrast with Western entertainment, is how much it reveres its title character, his faith, and what it stands for. 

In Resurrection, Ertuğrul is portrayed in only a noble light. His tribe guards a trade route and bazaar or something, and he treats everyone–including the hated Christians–with respect. The Muslim faith is taken seriously by all and is never mocked or its adherents belittled. Even Ertuğrul’s fellow Turkish rivals, some of whom are his brothers, are not caricatures or hypocrites. And Christians, whether they be Venetians, Templars, or traders, are mean, nasty, vicious, bloodthirsty, and bigoted. 

And while I find myself rooting for the Templars whenever they appear, even though I know they’ll all die–seriously, in one episode something like 15 Templars waylaid five or six Turks, and not a single Turk died–I understand this. Because the Turkish makers of this show have a strong confidence in the goodness and rightness of their culture and their religion.

Imagine a Western-made show about, say, the Reconquista. There’d be a gay priest or three, or at least some sort of gay subplot (and the gay priest would be the only good priest); the church hierarchy would be venal, corrupt, and hypocritical; the fervent Chrisitans would all be easily duped and bigoted rubes; the only good priest or Christians would be the ones who don’t really believe in all of the religious stuff anyway; the Moors would be viewed as sympathetic; Christian characters would openly express admiration for Islam, and wish that Christians could be more like Muslims; some bad-ass female would be the real hero, winning sword-fight after sword-fight against evil Spaniards; a Spanish woman would have a steamy love affair with a Moor, and the Reconquista would happen despite our hero’s best efforts. Ultimately, the message would be that Europe is worse off for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella having reclaimed their land, there’d be lots of foreshadowing about how this would lead to entirely justified Muslim violence against Christians in the future, and that the Reconquista was, ultimatley, a horrible atrocity.

You know I’m right. These are 21st-century American pop culture trusisms

Or to think of another potential western-made historical drama, how about one chronicling the Siege of Vienna of 1683? You know John Sobieski would either be gay or a bad guy (never both); the Ottomans would be sympathetic heroes only looking for a better life; the Hapsburgs would be the real badguys, along with the Catholic church; there’d be a strong, bad-ass female Winged Hussar who manages to convince the Ottomans to retreat (becuase no way the Europeans would actually beat them, ha ha); and there’d be some relativistic “We’re just two sides of the same coin (but Christendom is really worse) moral equivalence nonsense or other as the denoumant, followed by myriad Golden Globes.

Our entertainment is so boring, predictable, and harmful because our storytellers are people who hate us and our history, culture, and faith. The most frustrating thing about this is that they got into these positions of power in the first place because we were all blinded by both our decency, our upbringing in a high-trust culture, and the fact that for a long time economic conditions were so good we were willing to accept anything as long as we had shiny new toys.

The biggest problem with the Western world is Westerners. We have lost our cultural confidence, the faith that made us great and allowed us to build this civilization in the first place, and the ability to recognize objective truth, speak it and point it out, and live according to it. Whether this started in the stories we tell and it trickled into our philosophies, or it started with the philosophers and trickled into our stories, I don’t care. All I know is that my hat is off to Turkey for maintaining true to its history and culture and not force-feeding its people horrible degenerate slop designed to make them feel horrible about themselves and who they are. 

This is why I’m convinced there will still be a Turkey 1,000 years from now, but I’m not sure there’ll be a United States.


If you want stuff that doesn’t hate you, your culture, your history, and your faith, you need to look at independant art. I’m doing my part. Check out my sci-fi novels here

10 comments

  1. “You know John Sobieski would either be gay or a bad guy (never both); the Ottomans would be sympathetic heroes only looking for a better life…”

    Because as we all know, Refugees are always victims. And good and decent.

    I just watched the AMC TV series ‘Turn: Washington’s Spies’. It lasted 4 seasons and was cancelled in 2018. It was pretty good, all things considered in this modern day, but even there, it was evident; they took pains to make a number of the British characters sympathetic and depict the Colonials as morally ambiguous at times. To say nothing of the now ubiquitous woke boxes checked by rote.

    This crap is hard to escape from (I took the DVDs out at the library) if we aren’t taking Brian Neimeier’s advice seriously and not giving money to people who hate us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s very hard to escape from. Even good shows have to throw a bone to woke sensibilities, mainly because the creators know they’re not out to entertain, but to change minds.

      Getting back to this Turkish show: it’s made by Muslim Turks for Muslim Turks. Their culture is unified. Ours is as fractured as a culture can get, and our entertainment is made by people who do not share the religion or culture of a majority of Americans. No wonder it’s so weird.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Alexander

    Agreed. It’s no longer infuriating but a major annoyance. So my philosophy is to ignore pup culture history since it’s to demoralize us.
    No thanks. Our history is super cool and for all the flaws and faults is worth preserving and transmitting.

    I’m now doing my part. I’m teaching an enriched English class at a school. They’ll read a Princess of Mars, review it and then once I’ve corrected it and satisfied, they’ll publish them at Amazon.

    xavier

    Liked by 1 person

      • Alexander,

        Thanks. My school is a private all girls’. So it’s more about introducing unexpected books.

        My colleague was super enthusiastic when I proposed the idea to her (but she’s not familiar with it as this is a Francophone school so understandable). Since this is a class where I can customize it, I didn’t hesitate.

        I’ve been wanting to do this for some time and now that the opportunity’s come up I’m taking it with no compunction.

        Terms 3 & 4 the teacher who I’m replacing for the year wants the students to read The secret life of bees and the perks of being a wallflower

        I’m sorta perusing the second novel….. And I just don’t get it. I really don’t. I see no conflict and to be honest I don’t care about the protagonist. I really don’t.

        As for the first novel SIGH it’s a boomer bildungsroman. Set in 1964 in the deep south during the civil right movement Story about a girl who’s taken in by 3 eccentric beekeeping sisters and learns all about life and stuff.

        Even the blurb triggered my O LORD WHY WHY WHY! (divine female power.) But wait there’s more!
        The novel makes such a big deal about a copy of the icon of our Lady of Częstochowa because she’s ‘black’

        Lord, upper class American Protestant women authours are just such ignoramuses. As if discovering a dark skinned image of our Lady was shocking or surprising or a world shaking revelation because it was their first time evah of coming across it.

        Or worse the authour is trying to shoehorn that image into some anti racism trope.

        I so loath the Protestant reformation for upending Christendom and its art among other things.

        xavier

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m glad you are able to get some different books in there. The rest of the curriculum sound like typical nonsense.

        I get where you’re coming from with the American, and American-style Christian, fetishization of race. Write about black people and the civil rights era all you want, but be warned many are sick of this.

        We get it. Whites were bad. Look at what the bad white people did to these saintly African-Americans. Don’t you feel sorry? Good thing we (the author and people who like the books) are good whites and not had whites. Now punish those bad whites. Punch a Nazi. Etc., etc. It’s tiring.

        I have a sneaking suspicion (NB: It’s not really a suspicion because many black people have told me this) that black Americans are pretty sick of the condescending patronization.

        (I know some cave-brain is going to come here now and be all “LOL triggered! It only bothers you because you’re a Nazi!” And then we can all point and laugh at them).

        Like

  3. I rewatched “Captain America: The Winter Solider” a few weeks ago and realized that a confident culture would not tolerate the never-ending bathos, e.g., Falcon undercutting Cap’s Big Speech with, “Did you write that down first, or was it off the top of your head?”

    For all the complaints about Gimli as comic relief in the LOTR movies, he never once undercut a rousing speech by Theoden or Aragorn. On the contrary, he was always the guy most pumped up for the fight.

    Liked by 2 people

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