Istanbul Is Not That Cool
From an October 24th article in the New York Times about some Turkish scholar who gives tours of Istanbul:
The journey begins in Europe (part of the city is in Europe and part in Asia), not far from Dolmabahce, an Ottoman palace built in the 19th century when the empire was already in deep decline. The balconies, Mr. Belge said, were brought to Turkey by European designers.
First of all, is the anecdotes included in the article are any indication, getting a tour of Istanbul from one of Turkey’s foremost historians is like taking a tour of Manhattan with Cindy Adams. ‘That’s the place where Ivana Trump first said “The Donald”.’ Pause for a photo-op. Move on to Justin Timberlake’s restaurant for a Big Apple Martini.
But actually the thing that awoke the sleeping giant of my ire tonight is the phrase “The journey begins in Europe (part of the city is in Europe and part in Asia)”. Now rest assured, I am very aware that part of Turkey rests in Europe and part of it lies in Asia. This may as well be the only thing I know about Turkey. I am also aware that half of Istanbul is technically in Europe and that the other half is located in Asia
What does that even mean? I mean, call me ignorant, but what in God’s name does it mean that half of Istanbul is located in Asia, or that part of Turkey is technically in Europe? Does that make any difference to anyone’s lives? Does it even matter to the Turkish people who live in the part of Turkey that’s in Europe? Do they think they’re better than the Turkish people who live in Asia? Do the European Turkish people find the Asian Turkish people exotic? Does that mean that Turkey, by virtue of the fact that it controls land which is located on a landmass known as Europe, is different from or has things in common with any other country? I’m asking because I am pretty sure that every single time the country has been brought up in my presence since my very early youth this fact has been pointed out to me, and yet no one has ever stated in any meaningful way why this piece of information bears repeating.
Panama, part of which is located in South America and part of which is located in Central America . . .
Egypt, part of which is located in Asia and part of which is located in Africa. . .
Ukraine, part of which is located in Europe and part of which is located in Asia . . .
Russia, part of which is located in Europe and part of which is located in Asia . . .
What I’m getting at, here, is that this little meme is classic non-information. it’s an intellectual attractive nuisance.