Turkey and Our Compassion Deficit Syndrome

In the Koran, the apocalypse comes with a terrifying earthquake that brings to light — and to final judgment — all the sins and virtues of humankind. Looking for omens, people throughout history have interpreted devastating temblors as portents of cosmic justice. Turkey has just emerged from one of these bouts of magical thinking — one that, unfortunately, may have real-life consequences.

Perhaps 60,000 people perished in southern Turkey and northern Syria after the double seismic catastrophes of Feb. 6, 2023, more than 50,000 on the Turkish side alone. Even as victims were being rescued, pundits made analogies to a previous disaster, one that struck further north in the country on Aug. 17, 1999, taking the lives of about 18,000 people. The inept response of the government at that time gave impetus to the rise of a new political force, the Justice and Development party (AKP), which triumphed in the 2002 general elections. It has ruled the country since then. Its leader: Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country’s current president.

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