Galata Bridge in Istanbul at Sunset

The Galata Bridge leads across the Bosphorus straight to the Galata Tower.
No matter what time of day, the bridge always seems to be packed with fishermen.
Standing there, shoulder to shoulder, some of them in conversation, others silently contemplating the ripples of the world beneath them. Buckets of tackle are randomly scattered along the footpath, hooks and other fishing gear are sold along its entire length.

Despite the bustle and the heavy traffic, it feels very peaceful here.
Time seems to be suspended in between the rush of cars and lazy fishing lines glistening in the sun. Sea gulls haughtily surf the air, descending from their lofty heights, suddenly, to claim their share of the bountiful sea.

To be honest with you, I had very mixed feelings about coming to Istanbul.
I had always wanted to visit this city, where East and West meet – not end.
This place of transformation, this wonderful canvas of history, that has managed, most of the time, to be a bridgehead of culture.

And at the same time, I look at the political developments in Turkey with worry and concern. As much as one can from a distance without being a hypocrite, not knowing the day-to-day realities of Turkish citizens at all.
But from this distance, foggy and blurry as it is, I see a political populism that turns everybody with a different opinion, a different way of life, into an enemy of the state or, put more conveniently for the ruling class, into a terrorist – this popular term for lazy minds, this little helper in discrimination, not only in Turkey, but the world over.

From the moment I got onto the bus at the airport, I felt the famous Islamic hospitality.
A woman insisted, due to a minor technical issue, that she would pay for my ticket to the city – despite the waving cash in my hand.
Another time, I was searching through the indiscriminate coins in my wallet to pay a street vendor for a glass of juice. Again, a woman with a radiant, warm smile extended her hand with the necessary change and wouldn’t accept my, by then discovered, money. Shaking her head gently, lowering her eyes with humble magnanimity.

It is in these moments that I realise politics are too abstract to be representative of a country and its people. Too often, we make the mistake of assuming they are one and the same. And with this fatal error we wander through life, passing judgement on other cultures and societies, based on the behaviour of the loudest few.

Humble magnanimity is, unfortunately, not a trait much sought after in our political systems and societal structures. Mostly, it is considered a weakness – despite being amongst the most beautiful human expressions.
Until we can all lower our eyes gracefully, it will stay that way – with megaphones all around us.


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