15 Ocak 2009 Perşembe


Many times that I have stood in front of a toy seller’s shop, had this small boy in me wished to transcend the glass shield and reach out to one of the toys on the display. Although light can pass through the glass we can not. This feeling that you feel against the seperating property of a shield of glass, the feeling of powerlessness because of the inability to reach something you yearn for hurts me deeply. On the other hand, “one should not reach out to the things he is not able to catch” says our parents.

As the years pass by, notices one that our lives are divided with glass shields, a compartment next to another… Sometimes there exists nothing, not even a glass shield between. Somebody new born to this system of life does not notice these ‘glass’ compartments in the beginning, only till he tries to reach something he does not deserve…

To speak is a privelege of this type. When you look around everybody talks. It’s just as simple as happening by itself without any effort… But, when it is up to you to speak to a foreigner, to a teacher, to a supervisor or to one of your students or a farmer, just try and see what happens… One notices that it is not as simple as it looks to speak to others, just like does a small kid who tries to reach something higher than his own height…

Imagine a child aged around two years old! He can understand what’s going on around him. He keeps track of every close thing . He is even aware that he is a seperate being which owns its own life. But he cannot speak… An unseen shield of glass stops his voice to be heard when tries to speak… He is aware that he has a voice. He does not know what he cannot do. He tries to reach out to and touch things that only his words could touch. He fails. He does not succeed because there is an unseen transparent thing between. Indeed he tries to find what that is. At the end, he does find it. A few words come out of his mouth. Something like “mom, dad”… The foundations of the structure which have been laid underneath will help him stand up for the rest of his life. This is the name of the thing that stands between him and others: SELF.

Each person who succeeds to speak lives similar difficulties a couple of more times in their life. The most striking example of these situations is learning the first foreign language. Specially if one goes to a country of which language he does not know well and learns it slowly day by day like a small kid, this situation becomes quiet similar to the process in his very childhood. Psychological problems that may appear in people living abroad may have substantial relation with this phenomenon. If scrutinized, schizophrenia and other similar problems have some roots in this difficult period of life around 2 years old.

Many have English as a second language in Turkey. Unfortunately, as one of my visiting European colleagues has mentioned ‘Everybody speaks Turkish in Turkey, but all does so badly.’ Hence we are a society who can speak the second language not so good. OK, what happens if one tries to learn the 3rd and even 4th languages as many do in Europe? Unfortunately, the number of people who knows this, who has tried and succeeded are very few in Turkey compared to key European countries. When pushed to learn the 3rd language your second language begins to waver, you begin to forget some words etc… When pushing the 4th language the grammar difficulties in every language including your mother tongue may appear… You forget words, or mix languages using French words in English etc. Even worse is,you think you are speaking your native tongue when speaking an other language, your students although benefiting from this, politely make fun of it. The worst, because of not knowing which language to listen while passing people are speaking on the street you may think some Germans are speaking quiet good Turkish. The rest of your life, you hear French, German, English words in the noise that you hear…

Foreign language education is a strategically important subject in our country. Around our country lies Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian and other ex-Yuogoslavian, Romenic, Hungarian, Russian, Ukranian, Moldovian, Checnic, and other ex-Russian, Armenian, Persian, Arabic speaking countries. From the European perspective we have to count English, French, German, Italian and Spanish to name a few… Turkey can succeed against this great challenge by only good organization, planning and specialization, not by acts of good luck.

The complexity of the Turkish geography surrounded with oceans has created the obligation of a closed culture in a single umbrella language and culture. The physical largeness and the neessity to keep everything in order has caused the development of practices that may not be in parallel with Europe for many centuries…

Turkey tries to improve her relations with the European Union primarily for economical obligations. But similar to the child learning to speak for the first time Turkey has communication difficulties with Europe. The struggle to express her own concerns and convince her counterparts to give her deserved rights, is driving Turkey to redefine and find herself anew in the 21st century world. When mixed with the effort to reown her own culture coming from the past, the effort to transcend the invisible glass between Europe and Turkey, pushes the Turkish society to the limits of her cultural and sipiritual strengths. An adventure initiated by economical obligations is having much wider and unforeseen effects on our society driving her to the limits of healthy development.

3 Ocak 2009 Cumartesi


Fighting Techniques II

To the memory of our father Hasan SARAL.

“the chemist Kekule came upon one of the most important discoveries of organic chemistry, the structure of the benzene ring, in a dream. Having pondered the problem for some time, he turned his chair to the fire and fell asleep:’Again the atoms were gamboling before my eyes…. My mental eye…could now distinguish larger structures…all twining and twisting in snkae-like motion. But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes. As if by a flash of lightning I awoke.” The spontaneous inner image of the snake biting its own tail suggested to Kekule that organic compounds, such as benzene, are not open structures but closed rings[1].”

Everyday, we fight with many difficulties of many kinds. Some of these are as simple and short as loosening of the shoelaces. Some of them are as difficult and long as making an invention and some of them as abrupt and serious as a traffic accident… If you have a look at the many problems that we fight with you will notice that we can categorize them and their solutions in different groups. Although these groups may carry similarities in their quantity, quality and content attributes, their use by individual persons and the importance assigned to them may differ. Also, even though the problems and their solutions may be similar the personalities of the individuals that they interact may cause them to appear different.

Studying the nature of problems makes it possible for us to solve similar problems easily and also understand ourselves better We can categorize problems in various ways. For example, problems that repeat endlessly are called chronic in medicine. I am afraid, some of our political problems may be called the same. On the other hand some problems are seasonal. For example, opening the streets to transportation by cleaning the snow. These problems repeat with more or less a certain period. Acute problems happen suddenly and are serious to handle. For example, a sewage pipe gets broken in your house… Some problems are ubiqutious. You meet them in many areas of life. Some are wide spread with in a limited area. Your computer program does not work. When nothing works at all you have made a main mistake with wide results. Focused problems affect a certain functionality and the system recovers as soon as you fix it. Like a tooth ache…

Some problems are light but persist for a long duration. In fact, we can group the problems by their durations that they sustain, short – long etc. or according to their largeness. The way the problems happen may be classified also. Few or many in quantity. Fighting with more than one problem at the same time increases the total difficulty. The way we categorize problems is not constant. It changes according to the subject of the problem and the context it happens. To put a tiny piece of thread through a sewing needle may be percieved as difficult while a much more concentration demanding computer programming task may be percieved easier, just like a technical problem may be percieved much more difficult after midnight than at noon.

The fact that our perception of the problems is variable makes our categorization of the problems more difficult and hence reduces the benefit that arises from the categorization. If you are throwing anything you get hold of to your target in a chaos that you can not apprehend you have come to that point where you have to take a deep breath and try to categorize the problems correctly. If you can categorize the problems as convenieint as possible to reach the target your chance of hitting your target via a similar solution. Solving problems is basically a problem of classification.

I had mentioned the chronic problems in the beginning. The word ‘chronic’ means ‘: marked by long duration or frequent recurrence’ by Merriam-Webster. The most apparent characteristic of a chronic problem
is repetition or continuity. Reduction of the repetition intervals indicates that the problem gets severe or light. For example, a severe crisis give way to the lighter ones but more frequent or irregular problem periods, or the increase in the severity of problems and the increase of the frequency may indicate a worsening.

The repetition of the problem in chronic problems may happen in various ways:

1-The problem arises in a flow of random events. The crux of the issue here is; the events other than the chronic problem are random and carry no relation with the problem.

2- The chronic problem happens after a chain of happening events. After each occurence things repeat the same iteration of events. In this case, repeating event is not only the chronic problem but the events that prepare it.
The events’ iteration does not have to be constant array of events. The presence of some events may be obligatory, but two seperate iterations may be composed of completely different events. But most of the events that form the iteration belong to the set of events that form the reasons of chronic problem.

If we look at a chronic problem from a closer point of view, we may observe that a single crisis begins at a moment in time, continues and finishes, or the problem has begun at a moment and continues for a long duration without any interruption. Aset of the general conditions that prepare the outbreak of the crisis, a set of the causes that push the events to happen and a set of the triggers which may come just before the crisis may be observed. In the case of the repeating crisis, there is a set of conditions that prepare, a set of causes that make it happen and a set of triggers that initiate the end of the crisis.

One component of the equation that gives rise to the chronic event is a function which may change by time but may also be accepted as constant for relatively short periods of time. This function may be related to the events in the past or to the material dependent on the nature of the interacting elements/participants of the problem.

When studided closely, the reasons, the causes and the triggers that lead to the outbreak of the crisis may be related to their own previous values and also may be related to the previous crises values. For example, the seriousness of a previous crisis, its duration, its attack/sustain/release durations. Sometimes the slowness of the evolution of the problem, namely slowness in its attack period, mathematically its 1st and 2nd derivatives being small, or precautions that balance and slow sudden changes may stop the forming of crisis episodes. The dependence of the reasons that form the chronic crisis to the characteristics of previous crises and to its own evolution leads to the unmanageable repetition of a chronic problem.

Above, I had mentioned a chronic problem that occurs among unrelated random events. There may be such problems that may be dependent on only themselves and their own past iterations. These self triggering chronic problems are recursive[3] in nature. In fact they may be evaluated as a special case of functions mentioned in the 2. item.

If I may return back to the beginning of this article, if we have a closer look at the story of the chemist who found the benzene ring, we may now come to appreciate the value of the symbol ‘the snake which bites its own tail’. The metaphor of ‘the snake which bites its own tail’ or ‘the scorpion biting itself’ is a method utilized in solving problems that are very difficult. The problem is so difficult that it can not be solved or cured by external effects such as, force, medicine etc. It becomes inevitable that the energy at the source of the problem may be used to kill itself. This kind of solutions may not be present or evident. I believe, chronic problems have the ability to be solved by using the metaphor of ‘the snake which bites its own tail’ on the premises of their own definition.


Note: My simple article ‘A Mathematical Model of Chronic Problems’ is available at my blog
http://tekne-techne.blogspot.com in Turkish.

[1] Rober H. McKim, Experiences in Visual Thinking , Brooks/Cole Pub. Co. Monterey, California, s. 11.
[2] Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Main Entry: chronic
Etymology: French chronique, from Greek chronikos of time, from chronos
Date: 1601
1 a: marked by long duration or frequent recurrence : not acute b: suffering from a chronic disease the 2 a: always present or encountered ; especially : constantly vexing, weakening, or troubling
Medical Merriam-Webster:.
1 a : marked by long duration, by frequent recurrence over a long time, and often by slowly progressing seriousness : not acute Chronic her b : suffering from a disease or ailment of long duration or frequent recurrence chronic
2 a : having a slow progressive course of indefinite duration -- used especially of degenerative invasive diseases, some infections, psychoses, and inflammations chronic-- comparre ACUTE 2b(1) b : infected with a disease-causing agent (as a virus) and remaining infectious over a long period of time but not necessarily expressing symptoms
[3] Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Main Entry: re•cur•sion
Pronunciation: \ri-ˈkər-zhən\
Function: noun
Etymology: Late Latin recursion-, recursio, from recurrere
Date: 1616
1: RETURN 2 : the determination of a succession of elements (as numbers or functions) by operation on one or more preceding elements according to a rule or formula involving a finite number of steps 3 : a computer programming technique involving the use of a procedure, subroutine, function, or algorithm that calls itself one or more times until a specified condition is met at which time the rest of each repetition is processed from the last one called to the first — compare ITERATION

Main Entry: it•er•a•tion
Pronunciation: \ˌi-tə-ˈrā-shən\
Function: noun
Date: 15th century
1: the action or a process of iterating or repeating: as a: a procedure in which repetition of a sequence of operations yields results successively closer to a desired result b: the repetition of a sequence of computer instructions a specified number of times or until a condition is met —compare RECURSION 2: one execution of a sequence of operations or instructions in an iteration