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Tuesday, August 06, 2013

A Comment on Respect

Desk

This is the blog's 2,300th post.

My own musings and poetry make up well over 70% of the original content at Tarkan Deluxe. It might be difficult to believe (unless you're a regular Tarkan fan who comes to my blog), but it would take you more than a day or two to get through the total amount of creative works catalogued here, including the information archived on Tarkan and Turkish culture. It is not an idle boast. It is an exhausting reality. Even I, as its exasperated founder, have to use its search function, or go through the archives, and it can be time-consuming when I want to find some obscure point or post.

With nearly ten years of online activity under its belt, Tarkan Deluxe at Blogger has become an extensive resource for many things. It has been used as a primary source in university theses (on Sufism*), and academic papers (on website design*). It has even helped create some urban legends* (you can contact this horror writer and ask her about it yourself). I can even count BBC journalists as amongst my readers, coming into contact with the respected corporation giant's second-in-command to put forward my concerns over its impartiality.

I had no idea how far its reach would extend at its height when I began my little blog in 2004. I don't like the idea of focusing on site traffic, and so have never placed a hits counter on my site. All the site analysis results that appear about my site are false, because I don't belong to Alexa, nor will I allow my site to become commercial, or an official affiliation with any single entity. I have placed a hits counter for a short duration in response to the request of a friend, but I have to say I feel uncomfortable about it, and will be happier when I remove it.

It's not modesty. It feels gimmicky; I feel it takes away from the "one-to-one" ambience of the blog, and I have never been interested about traffic. At one point we were garnering monthly non-referral hits of up to 70,000, but as my blog goes further back than the Google Stats option now provided at Blogger, I don't have a complete tally to share of visitors who have found their way to us in a decade or so of activity.

Ten years doesn't sound a lot in real time, but in the virtual world it feels like a century of change. Today Tarkan fans are sharing pictures of their pop idol on their social accounts, while we were sharing a "pick of the day" before there was ever Instagram. Facebook was only two months old when I opened my blog. One of my correspondents was pushing years ago for the iconic Turkish star to get on to social networking, and it is fantastic how all that has now come to pass. How times have changed in such a short space of breathing.

When you are the first at something, and you stand the test of time, that brings authenticity. Newjacks to my blog - or even to Tarkan - will not know that what is being done now, has been done before. We were sharing Tarkan videos under a fair use policy, before YouTube was even a screen glimmer in its founders' eye. That video sharing site would open a year later with a "Me at the Zoo" video - at Tarkan Deluxe we were arguing for intellectual copyright and against piracy, and for correct accreditation, as well as refusing from the outset to make any money off Tarkan's name, at a time when video-sharing sites were still in their formative years.

Based on my manifesto of fair-blogging I devised in 2005, this blog has never hosted paid-for links, or adverts of any kind, and although we have had many offers for paid content and the like, I have turned all offers down - and I continue to do so. I believed in free ethical sharing, and I still do. I have not made one single cent or penny from blogging - ever. This blog at its heart will always be a personal blog. It is not an official site or source, nor has it ever proclaimed to be, nor will it ever be. It will remain true to its roots. It will be the blog that never grows up.

Blogger and blogging were only five years old when Tarkan Deluxe began, which was only a year after Google had purchased it from Pyra Labs. Back then, as now, the only standard I set for myself, and subsequent guest writers, was for content with a conscience, a quality of argument based on information as accurate as possible, to be as impartial and unbiased as best as we could with our factual posts. Creative works of fiction aside, I wanted the blog to be honest. I wanted it to be truth-telling territory. If readers wanted spin, they could listen to a Tarkan dance track and do a jig.

Although like everyone else, we have had our detractors. This journey has been far from perfect, but it is the way of the world, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Every difficulty is a marker to wisdom. A line I do draw, however, is based on my philosophy of peace versus violence - namely what is more important than people "loving" or "hating" Tarkan Deluxe, is the issue of respect.

This goes for the wider world, too. For instance, I rarely read comments, when I get the chance on a Sunday to visit YouTube, because sadly so many people seem to lack respect for each other over their communications. I am always open to criticism. No one is above criticism, but no one is below respect, either. When we cross that line of respect, we become "violent" in our comments and attitude. Our behaviour and responses become over-exaggerated. It far exceeds the level required of civilised contact. It is a video site for goodness sake, if you don't like what you see, why even bother to comment in the first place? Just don't watch, or move on - but if you do feel like you have something constructive to contribute, do it by showing respect to others in your comments.

It is plain common sense, but the mind literally boggles at the lack of respect we have for each other. Those that show none do so because really they think they deserve no better. Worse still when we look elsewhere, amidst the rising teenage suicides over cyberbullying, are the worrying developments over Twitter trolls that seem to think women are an easy target on social networks to send them threatening messages. I couldn't believe when I read in a BBC news report that the classicist and TV presenter Mary Beard had been sent a bomb threat on Twitter - just hours after the UK boss of the social networking site apologised to women who have experienced abuse.

I love Mary Beard! Her BBC documentaries on Rome and antiquity are amongst some of my favourites; she is a delightful, passionate academician, an absolute darling. Who on this great, green Earth would want to send such an amazingly genteel woman a death threat? You want to grab at excuses, and believe that it must be someone who cannot possibly be in their right frame of mind, but such incidents have increased so much that Twitter will have to start policing its site, whereas before it was happy to just let individual users take their complaints to the police.

Arguments of censorship and free speech aside, these sort of options are only temporary, they cannot deal with what needs to tackled. For the long-term, we need to start seeing respect as the bottom line that defines our times: I must respect you, you must respect me. When we talk about respect being earned, this concerns the level of respect, but we must all have an initial mutual respect for each other. If we wait for the other person to earn our respect, or if we somehow think that we deserve more respect than anyone else merely because of gender, race, or creed, then what we want isn't respect - it is servitude.

This is not about getting everyone to agree with you, or liking you. It is about respecting a person enough (simply because they are a living being like you) to frame comments in a respectful way. I believe we should be free to say absolutely whatever we want, it is the style that matters. Free speech is not (or should not be) a passport to hurt others. Say what you will; but use a manner unto others, as you would have used unto you (to totally distort a Biblical phrase).

We are so lucky today in all the ways we can communicate. Human beings are, at their heart and soul, social creatures of communication, and we have been provided with an amazing array of ways to do that thanks to new technologies. Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter are just three of the many ways we can connect with each other. Nevertheless, with the recent developments over how people are unable to treat each other with respect on these social networks, I feel I made the right decision from the get-go to actively stay away from such channels.

I have no affiliation with any single community, or group. I belong to no online social network or activity. I follow none. I email when the need arises, and my only online activity outside of my professional life is my blog - which I only returned to in June because of the Gezi Park protests.

One of the main reasons, I have for not being a part of the internet's second genesis, is that I am very busy. Boring, I know, but it's true. I literally live in my office, and because my work involves helping people, I am first and foremost committed to them. Moreover, I just don't have the time to socialise in the real-time world as well as the virtual one. I prefer to spend what free time I have socialising outside, not online.

There are personal reasons, too. As the emerging presence of an online identity became a reality, I quickly realised how privacy and security issues would become serious problems facing us in the future. It is for this reason that, from the start, I have limited personal details about me, and been selective over publication of my images. If there are any images of me not directly connected with the blog out there, then they are without my express permission or knowledge.

I have great respect and admiration for the way Tarkan puts himself under the scrutiny of the public eye, but simply because I blog about a pop star, this does not mean I want to be one, or that I live the life of one. I am not selling myself; I am not a celebrity, therefore I don't need to brand myself, or tweet myself, or post photographs of myself in my daily life to followers in the hope they like, or retweet what I have to share. I have a great deal of respect for people who choose to live their lives in this way, because I couldn't do it.

My blog is not to here to help me look for a relationship, either, so there is no need for people to know what I look like, apart from the common courtesy of wanting to place a face behind the name - and one picture is enough for that. But what I do share as far as my limited talents allow, in the form of my poetical works and other writings, I do so as openly as I can on my blog. But I am not beholden to anyone to share any of my posts. They are absolutely free to do so if the fancy takes them, as is anyone who disagrees with my opinion free to email me. I listen to every opinion respectfully aired, and I promise the same amount of respect in return.

In respect of my readership, as I constantly emphasise, I have been very lucky. Tarkan fans are the best in the world. It is not surprising that such a peaceful, family-orientated, nature-loving gentleman and musician like Tarkan is going to mainly attract a hard core of like-minded people. They can get passionate and defensive over their star, and such sensitivities are to be expected, even if I don't share them. But I will always say it: one of the reasons blogging has given me great joy is because they are so full of light.

Still, my impression of Tarkan fans are from my sole contact with them through email. I have no idea - and don't wish to know - what they say or comment about me or Tarkan Deluxe between themselves in their networks. That privacy, as their opinion of me, is their absolute right to be enjoyed; for me to even think of wanting to find out would be like eavesdropping on a private conversation, and I have been brought up to be better than that.

Besides being creepy, isn't that too controlling? In my opinion a blog post should be like a pebble thrown into the lake, the ripples will go where they will. That's the beauty of it. A pebble violently cast will just sink, but a stone elegantly thrown can skim and surf and cause ripples of immense symmetry and asymmetry.

If any proof were needed, just look at the ripples Tarkan's talent causes. Likewise, as my experience of Tarkan fans are based on the emails I receive, the ripples of news updates about the artist that reach me are usually from dedicated fans, too - unless I happen to come across news articles that are not part of the general celebrity fare of entertainment sites.

I mention this just in case fans have noticed a slip in quality in regard to the Tarkan news updates (as I'm sure they have). In regards to the information sent to me via email, I research their veracity as best as my time allows. As I never access celebrity sites, and I rarely watch TV apart from the news and documentaries, I am not an expert on such subjects. Boring again, I know, but I can't watch or read about things that I feel won't fill me with anything of real benefit, because happenstance I might catch some information on Tarkan.

Therefore, as the sole content generator of my blog once again as when I first began, I am afraid I can't promise the Tarkan news info will be to the high standard (or volume) of previous collaborators - who are chomping at the bit to resume their place at the blog. However, I can't allow that level of responsibility again, because I can't promise how long this return will last. But while it does, I promise I will try my best for you. My one proviso is that I enjoy it. Once it stops being fun, I will stop, and I know Tarkan fans will respect that.

Similarly, as they know I can't promise there will be a 2,301th post, I also hope they know that if there is, I can promise it will be with the same measure of respect I have shown on all my posts for nearly ten years.

None of us deserve any less, even those that act as though they do.

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