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Volume 1, No 3, Summer 1991 [back]

Progress

Soner Yamen

In 1872, Nam§k Kemal wrote in an article entitled "Progress,"*

"... If a man will but stroll about London with an attentive eye, he will be bewildered by the wonders that he sees. If London be called the model of the world, it would be no exaggeration!." He goes on to speak in rapturous terms of the schools and colleges, libraries, theatres, hospitals, and factories of the English capital, above all of its parliament, "the cradle of most of the political principles that we see in the world ... and the embodiment in stone of the indomitable power of public opinion against authority." This was the form of government, these resources and methods, that were needed to save the Ottoman Empire from destruction. Could they be won? Nam§k Kemal answers: "It took Europe two centuries to reach this condition, and while they were the inventors in the paths of progress, we find all the means ready to hand ... can there be any doubt that we too, even if it takes us two centuries, can reach a stage when we would be counted as one of the most civilized countries?"

So, even with the optimism of Nam§k Kemal, we have to wait till 2072 to reach the condition of Europe in 1872!..

How about the following? In 1838, Sultan Mahmut remarked in an address to the students of the medical school at the inauguration of the new building: "You will study scientific medicine in French. ... My purpose in having you taught French is not to educate you in the French language; it is to teach you scientific medicine and little by little to take it into our language. ... Work to acquire a knowledge of medicine from your teachers, and strive gradually to take it into Turkish and give it currency in our language. ..."

Do you think Sultan has reached his aim?

* Bernard Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, London: Oxford University Press, 1969.


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