One of my favorite blogs on Istanbul's Stranger was entitled, "The Sad Man." Part of the reason is that you see so many of these guys the blog talks about in Istanbul. They're not limited by class or status, because Istanbullians seem to know that misery and hardship is around the corner.
Part of the reason has to be Istanbul's--and Turkey's--pretty remarkable history. We Westerners are pretty ignorant of history outside our own, but the Ottoman Empire loomed huge on the world stage. With the Sad Men, you kind of see it all through a different lens: If Turkey, and being Turkish, is so great, then why is Turkey not quite in the first tier of nations, and why am I where I am? It's because we're doomed by chance. Inshallah.
Of course, the usual suspects are at play: Displacement because of migration from rural to urban; individual education not keeping up; established power structures and interest groups maintaining their hold; and so on, or, to quote Sherif Ali in "Lawrence of Arabia, "Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera," which includes everything in the world to make someone sad.
But these kinds of macro powers dislocate us all, to a degree, so the question is, why is the Sad Man sad? Sadly, Istanbul's Stranger doesn't opine.
Does he look at himself and wonder why he does not have the memories so many others seem to share? Is he sad because the life promise kept is so different than the life promise made?
The Sad Man was a groundskeeper, but he could just as well have been a banker or a lawyer or a small business owner when he realized that where he is now is as good as it's going to get, and it's absolutely not the storyline he signed onto. Which, really, was okay, because that's how it all works, his friends affirm and he says he agrees with, an inner voice whispering something to the contrary notwithstanding.
He thinks about these things in isolation, unto himself. He doesn't want to appear weak by complaining aloud, often telling himself he is stronger for enduring. After all, when there are no more surprises, all that's left are new ways to endure. And the surprises, the infinite options he had once imagined, just seemed to evaporate one day and were gone, vanished, like.
If he were alone in a crowd of like-minded folk, no one, whether through ignorance or denial, would ratify him nor anyone else with an empathetic acknowledgement of something better that might have been. Nor would he have ratified one of them, because doing so would shine a spotlight on one's own failures.
Anyway, I've been thinking a lot about the Sad Man lately. "“We are all so afraid, we are all so alone, we all so need from the outside the assurance of our own worthiness to exist,” Ford Madox Ford wrote in The Good Soldier. I think about that a lot.
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