Here’s What The Philippines Can Learn From Atatürk

The following is an open letter to fellow Filipinos from CoRRECT Movement co-founder Orion Perez D.

Dear fellow Filipinos:

Shifting an entire society that used to read and write using the Perso-Arabic script to write in Ottoman Turkish and then suddenly adopt a modified Latin alphabet with appropriate diacritics to help create an extremely easy-to-learn means of reading and writing modern Turkish is actually way way way way way way way more difficult than shifting from the Unitary-Presidential to the Federal-Parliamentary System.

But Atatürk did it anyway…

Shifting from an old Ottoman system of weights and measurements and going Metric the same year as the shift from the Perso-Arabic to the Latin alphabet was done is also way harder than shifting from Unitary-Presidential to the Federal-Parliamentary System.

But Atatürk did it anyway…

To shift away from an old system with a traditional hierarchy with special titles like Pasha and Bey and move towards Republican egalitarianism where such titles ceased to exist is harder than many of the reforms we are pushing for…

But Atatürk did it anyway…

To give women the vote in a society that had traditionally preferred women to stay in the home and grant such right ahead of many other Western countries was difficult to do…

But Atatürk did it anyway…

There’s no reason why we Filipinos can’t shift from the current dysfunctional Unitary-Presidential System towards the superior and much more appropriate Federal-Parliamentary System. We just really should want to improve the country and stop thinking about why such a shift might not work.

A lot of intense research has already been done on these reforms for more than 20 years — I personally have done a lot of research on this topic since I was in high school, and hands down, it’s a freakin’ NO BRAINER: We need the new system in place.

But until today, I still notice a lot of naysayers and weak-minded fools whining and making all sorts of excuses on why we can’t make this shift or do that shift…

Well, just remember that Atatürk was able to make so many changes in Turkey when shifting from the remains of the old Ottoman Empire to the new Republic of Turkey.

And at that time, information was not as easy to come by. Examples of such shifts were scarce… He was essentially a pioneer, doing something like those reforms he did for the first time in many countries’ histories (the only other countries to have done what he did were Russia under Peter the Great and Japan under the Meiji Restoration —- but neither of them had to do something as drastic as forcing the entire society to shift from the more complex “consonant-only” Perso-Arabic script to the more Turkish-friendly modified Latin alphabet they now use… )

It was a major sacrifice. And Atatürk himself PERSONALLY taught others how to use the new alphabet. (He had been given a Western-oriented education during his many years at Military schools, and had learned to use the Latin alphabet because French was one of the key official languages used by the Ottoman Empire for administration and diplomatic purposes) He sometimes went classroom to classroom to teach both kids and teachers on this new alphabet and he showed all of them just how easy it was to use this system.

(Another great reformer who is similar in this regard was the Great King Sejong of Korea, who is credited with introducing the Hangul phonetic script due to his complaints about the difficulty of using the Chinese script for the Korean language)

After the shift, the functional literacy of the majority of the people went down to zero… But they had to learn a new but easier alphabet… And it turned out to be a good gamble: in no time, the literacy rate boomed to greatly surpass the literacy rate they used to have under the older script.

We don’t need to do anything like that.

Shifting from Unitary to Federal and Presidential to Parliamentary is nothing but a simple “org-restructuring” that is akin to something that many companies do whenever they go through mergers, acquisitions, or other strategic re-orgs. It’s nothing compared to the earth-shattering changes that Atatürk brought about to Turkey during his time.

We Filipinos have the benefit of hindsight and the ability to look at the examples that numerous other countries have tried. We’re not reinventing the wheel.

Information is abundant. We have the internet. We have lots of books on the subject… There are so many countries we can ask help from and get some guidance on how to get these reforms done in the most efficient way.

Atatürk was able to get his reforms done in such a short amount of time… Why can’t we?

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