by the way, am I the only one in the world that calls it a taxicab?
Anyways, my taxicab driver's name was Mohammed.
he started asking me about my life, what I study, etc. and so i naturally inquired about his life as well. He told me he was from Pakistan, and i immediately began to tell him about my research on the Middle East, and my imminent trip to Turkey.
I think that really sparked his interest, so I told him about my near obsession with the country, specifically regarding nationalism and the ways secularism and other harsh implementations of western ideology has affected "Turkishness", or Turkish nationalism.
In his attempt to discover if i was an imperialistic "American", he cautiously asked me what I thought about "this secularism".
(disclaimer: i made sure he knew that i'm Canadian)
my brutal honesty pleased him and he opened up completely, he started telling me about his experiences in Pakistan and his distaste for secularism in general, with comments about America and its contradictory policies on religion and its intersection with politics.
sidenote: Mohammed has a master's degree, nothing infuriates me more. I experienced this alot while working at the International Rescue Committee during the summer of '09. I would meet men who were doctors, businessmen, and lawyers back in their home countries, yet were struggling to find a minimum wage job in America (something needs to change here).
From there we talked freely about Merve Kavakçı, a previously elected-MP of Istanbul for the pro-Islamist Virtue Party. Kavakçı's devotion to veiling complicated her win--because veiling policy is a highly contested issue in Turkey. Kavakçı was prevented from taking her oath at the National Assembly solely based on her refusal to remove her veil for the ceremony. Following this, her Turkish citizenship was revoked (she was also an American citizen, which was a justification for the actions taken).
This disgusted Mohammed as much as it bothers me. Although, his take was much more emotional. He did not speak with anger about the Turkish government or even secularism itself, he spoke about the loss of identity and the importance of nationalism.
See, much like me Mohammed believes that culture and nationalism are so deeply ingrained within us that they ultimately come to define us.
basically, our cultures are inescapable. (arguable structuralist argument)
After more discussion on the absolute horror of someone being stripped of their nationality, culture, and identity he began to talk about himself once again, telling me about his love and forever devotion to Pakistan, I will never forget what he said:
"i'm Pakistani, and i will always be Pakistani, I was born Pakistani and I will die Pakistani, i could live for 500 years in America, and still be Pakistani, my home is Pakistan, my culture is Pakistan, and my soul is Pakistan, and if I said otherwise I could not be trusted"
All the theories that are pushed into my brain, all the examples of nationhood, cultural heritage and pride repeatedly enforced in every part of the world i study, was brought to life. The tone of Mohammed's voice alone affirmed the words of Renan, Gellner, Foucault, Williams, and Anderson (to name a few favorites).
and I can't imagine anything more inspiring than that!
for once this is not an exaggeration.
it was probably one of the most beautiful experiences i have ever had.
So thanks Mohammed, for re-affirming my nerdy love of everything culture.