The introduction speech by Ahmet Say at the conference of the European Festivals Association. This year’s theme of the conference was “Festivals in the globalizing world”.
Antalya, 24-27 April 2008

   Dear guests and associates,

   It is a pleasure to meet you here in Antalya. As far as Turkish intellectuals are considered, festivals are not only a series of outstanding activities, but also exhibit the creation of diverse formations from the total of artists representing the power of art.

   Before continuing any further, I would like to explain a technical detail about the speech I am going to make. Despite my reluctance, I will have to read the text to maintain the synchronization of the simultaneous translation in four languages with the flow of my speech.

   Being a music historian, I was requested a few weeks ago by the general directorate of the State Opera and Balet, members of the organization commitee, to elaborate on an original aspect  of Anatolia. I was planning to indulge in the philosophical and artistic aspects that gave rise to the movement of humanistic culture in Anatolia in the 13th century. Any detail among the most exciting features of the “Anatolian Humanism”, which was highly advanced in terms of defending human values and which had already flourished 200 years before the advent of Renaissance in Europe, would certainly provide our European associates with unexpected clues on creativity, because today’s intellects knowing how to benefit from the traces of the once well-established cultures of history could easily transcend the slightest sparkle from earlier ages with a modern understanding.

   Dear associates, as EFA has brought the theme “the globalizing world” to the forefront of this conference,  the parallel I would try to draw between my initial preparation on “ 13th century Anatolian Humanism” and the issue to be discussed here would be rather obscure. So, now in this speech, I would like to briefly reflect the predisposition of Turkish intellects towards the concept of globalization.

   During your stay in Antalya, I assume you will be visiting many historical sites, which will enable you to see unbelievably impressive works from antique civilizations of Anatolia and of medieval times, the unique examples of cultural heritage of humanity. Other than amphitheatres, even a single piece of stone could sound from a few thousand years earlier as a reminiscent of the theatres, odeons once stood  on these lands, where with every step you will take you’ll notice that it is not only this very region, but the entire Anatolia that is no more different than  an open-air museum.

   On these lands lived Homer circa 8th century BC, a blind lyre player and the composer of immortal legends, the Iliad and Odyssey. Before him prevailed the earliest pioneers of philosophy namely Thales, Heracleitos and Democritos. Thales had already calculated that there would be an eclipse on 28th May in 585 BC. Heracleitos had said “universe is a duration in a continuous flow; you can not wash twice in a river as it runs and changes and likewise everything in universe is in an everlasting evolution”. According to Democritos, “being” was made up of smallest particles which he called “atom” in the sense that they “could not be divided”.

   Considering these examples, we would like to think of “globalization” as the total of multi-dimensional cultural aspects devised by man. We might not share similar viewpoints, but at least developing new controversial issues should be considered the gains of this conference. Democritos said “I would rather find a proof than be the Persian king”.

   We are familiar with the title, “festivals in a globalizing world”, because of its frequent use, but we think that they are mere words randomly put together without much forethought. We all know that the word “globalization” is an ambiguous, blurred concept that can be channelled in any desired direction.

   A European who can remain unconcerned within the pressures of daily routine might not need to ponder over such words. On the other hand, it is apparent that European culture, the leader of progressive ideas and systems in the name of humanity never gives way to what is ordinary or commonplace in thought and creativity. Thus, we think that such blurred words are incompatible with words like festival that convey a creative atmosphere in which distinguished artistic activities are performed.

   To some, “globalization” stands for the standardization of all values related to “man” and promoting this to the whole world will eventually end up with the ordinary values becoming widespread. To some others, “global” feature is a fact achieved by international participation like in “olympic games”. And to others, it is a slogan symbolising the big fish swallowing the small fish.

   We think such definitions are inappropriate:

   The idea of “imposing standardized human values to the whole world” can not be brought  to life. Such an attempt is just like forcing people to consume a certain type of canned food. As is widely known, every community, every nation and every ethnic group has, throughout history, produced, improved and passed on from one generation to the next their cultural values that determine their identities. Time is irreversible and it is impossible to go back and to guide the developments of the past.

   Competitions like olympic games, which require the participation of internationals on a large scale cannot be considered as “globalization”; there is differentiation, as each nation there competes to raise its own flag.

   “Globalization” cannot be considered as the slogan representing “the big fish swallowing  the small fish” either, since the fact that the haves devour the have-nots is an age-old issue; it has always been the fact throughout history. At this point, what matters for the “big” or the “small” is being able to say what a contemporary Turkish poet, Orhan Veli, once said “we are not fish!”

    It would be wise to remember what history has proved: The attemps of all master-of-war commanders planning to have sovereignty over the world have ended in frustration:

   Alexander the Great, who intended to capture the “already known world” of this time, fell ill and passed away at the age of 33 when he fell victim to desperation like his soldiers tired of lengthy states of war. Romans not only turned the Mediterranean into an imperial lake, but pushed their borders to include the entire Middle East and the majority of the European land as well; however, there came the time when they were totally swept away from history. Napoleon, who waged war against almost all countries in Europe, laid siege to Moscow, but his greed ended in complete failure and 110.000 French soldiers died.

   A striking example demonstrating the possible impact of globalization is undoubtfully the impressive scene in Charlie Chaplin’s movie, The Great Dictator: The dictator intends to play with the rather-big balloon, clearly representing the world with the distinct colours of the continents and oceans. He starts the game throwing the ball into the air. He heads it, hits it with the shoulder or with the arms and throws it up with his knee to keep it in the air. But, it all of a sudden bursts. He, then, lifts up the balloon which now has turned into a useless and torn piece of rubber and examines it in dismay. What starts as a comedy turns into an agony.

   Dear guests, as the intellects of this country, we can draw the bottom line for “globalization and festivals” as follows: If the European culture, dating back to antiquity and setting a good example for us in many aspects, refers to the concept of globalization in 21st century as the standardization of human values, it is hardly possible for the festivals originating from this concept to contribute to cultural creativity. Then, allow me to raise a question: Why are we discussing festivals?

   Thank you.

Ahmet Say
25 April 2008

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