Civilization will Dawn on us With the Well Mannered Workers! – Zafer Aydın

January 23, 2006

[One of the most reactionary boss’ associations in Turkey is MESS, the Employers Union of Metal Industrialists. This organization identifies itself as a “Union” of the bosses and publishes its vision as, “to proliferate and sustain the work harmony in the direction of common interests of our country, our members and our workers, to generate services based on security and dialog” on their web site. It has supported the fascist military coup of September 12, 1980 when all labor unions were closed, their assets confiscated, workers and unionists arrested, murdered, tortured and forced to exile.

Last new years, they handed out an etiquette book to the metalworkers to ‘civilize’ them while at the same time attacking every right and effort at union organization in any and all production plants.

This call for “good mannered” workers caused an uproar in the labor circles in Turkey. The following article by Zafer Aydın in the daily national paper Birgün is a well deserved criticism of these bosses association trying to ‘civilize’ the workforce. Translator’s note]

Congratulations! The Metalworkers entered the new year 2006 with the ‘guide’ they needed most in their lives! The Association of Metal Industrialists, the bosses of the metal sector, MESS, as a new year present, gave the workers a book by Ahmet Kardam and Ayşe Bilge Dicleli called, “No matter What, Know Your Manners, Live Pleasantly” that describes everyday etiquette. The book details how to mind your manners from daily life to work life to social relationships. This book is such a necessary, educational piece of work! Those workers reading and absorbing this book will live such an easy life! Those workers who have no idea on where to tuck the cloth napkin in a restaurant and suffer great stress trying to either put it up their necks or under the plate, or who can never arrange the plate, spoon, fork or knife on a table at a family gathering, or, at an official dinner, who have no clue of the sitting order, or who do not know how to flush after using the bathrooms will learn greatly and will be relieved from the stress.

When you look at it, the benefits of this book cannot be counted! Suppose you met a friend in a theater. You want to introduce your spouse to your friend, but you just cannot remember his name. What are you supposed to do? This book gives you the clues to get out of such bothersome situations. Once you memorize this book, you become immortal.

Once you open the book, you realize how many mistakes you keep on doing in everyday life. It is a wonder we all made it to this day with all these mistakes. OK… Most of us are clueless on the difference between important people and unimportant people. When we meet someone, we just extend our hand without even thinking about his social status or position and shake his hand. But this is very wrong. We are learning from the book that, “whoever is the important person; he must be the one extending his hand first.” This is to show “respect to that person” and “not to force him to shake hands at times when he does not wish to.” Lest we forget, we are reminded that those people in positions of management or the bosses are on top of the hierarchical structure. So we should not try shaking hands with managers and force them to shake our hands whenever we feel like it! Moreover, if in their modesty, they extend their hands and we show bad manners and not shake their hand this would be disrespectful, and even can cause us to lose our jobs. Due to religious concerns, a women worker is allowed not to shake the boss’s hand, but if the manager, that is, the important person, extends his hand and we do not shake it, we should start looking for another job. The workers could have deduced losing their jobs if they did not shake their bosses hand just by thinking, but still, it was so considerate of MESS, the metal industrialists’ association, to remind them.

Before reading the book, I, like many others, thought “the distance in human relationships” meant something abstract. However, I found out that there was a physical meaning to this and that if it is not necessary, we should never allow the social distance between us and an important person to be less than 120 cm’s. Just imagine how much bad manners we must have demonstrated in daily and work life by allowing less than 120 cm’s between the important people and us. I want to find a hole in the ground and hide when I think of all these mistakes I must have done. Just these two examples are enough to demonstrate the importance of this book. What if we never had this book? Who would have made all these suggestions to cleanse our lives from the embarrassing mistakes and allow us to live our lives according to the rules of everyday etiquette as civilized people? If it wasn’t for MESS who took the time and effort, who would have thought about the education of these ‘unable’ people who do not know how to brush their teeth, use toilet paper or paper napkin, or who do not know how to open up the drains while taking a shower.

Then I learnt from the book that it is only good manners to praise and acknowledge a fine job done. I would be caught dead not minding my manners, so, I must confess what a good job MESS has done with all my sincerity. This book is as effective as the recent campaigns of, “Keep Turkey clean and green” or, “Every cent you pay for taxes will come back to you as roads, water or electricity.” This will contribute tremendously to civilize the workers and obtain some self-respect. Nevertheless, there is always the threat of this important artwork to be cast aside and face the same future as other etiquette books published in the early years of the republic. You know, the workers do not read much, and learn a little! For this reason, I suggest to have parts of this book put on film and distributed to the workers in the form of a CD to eliminate being forgotten. However, it may seem paradoxical to expect the workers who ‘can not use bathrooms’ to use computers or CD’s, but be that as it may, it would still be good to take a shot at it.

After all this praise to the book, I hope pointing out a shortcoming would not be taken as too harsh. In the book, I could not find whether workers’ demand to unionize, raise wages or better working conditions, or to choose methods like strikes to realize these goals etc. is considered bad manners? I thought this was a shortcoming. If I am wrong, please forgive my bad manners and me.

Come to think of it, what MESS has done is rise up to a social responsibility rarely seen these days. It wasn’t long ago, when the bourgeoisie was the butt of jokes with their crass manners and drinking whisky while eating kebabs and saying, “Yeah, I am a redneck, but I have the money.” Just look at the transformation our bourgeoisie has gone through! It looks like the world traveled, educated and smart new generation bourgeoisie want to lessen the cultural distance between themselves and the workers. And they are making a sincere effort for the workers to become ‘civilized’ just as they themselves have!

Ah… but it is not hard to guess all those crass leftists who just can not understand the changes or the developments of the world, to not appreciate this important and sincere effort and even criticize it saying, “MESS is treating the workers like a creature unable to complete its evolution and as if it has just recently lost its tail.” Their templates, clichés, what they will say is all well known: Well, they will say MESS, that has turned workplaces into work camps or that have condemned workers to brutal capitalist work and living conditions, is insincere. Well, they will ask whether the only condition of civilization is good manners, or, whether firing workers without a valid cause or to show respect to the workers’ rights is compatible with civilization. Well, they will ask a series of simple
but meaningless questions trying to catch an opening such as, now that the workers have arranged the places where the plates and forks go on a table according to the chart, but how the hell will those plates be filled with food. But forget about them. If they had the minimal understanding, instead of screaming, “freedoms will come from the workers” on the streets, they would march shouting, “freedoms will come from workers with manners” and support this, “grand civilization project” of MESS. But, where do you find such reasonable, considerate, commonsensical leftists these days? Nevertheless, it is God’s blessing that we have those contemporary, civilized old leftists who have developed such self-respect to admit, “kissing the hand they can not bend” and say, “we couldn’t beat MESS, so let’s serve it.” With their help, the education and manners of the workers are improving and they are being saved from the monopoly of the crude leftists.

Zafer Aydın
January 21, 2006 Birgün

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