Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Sobriety check: Gezi Park

with 5 comments

The last few days’ demonstrations in Turkey can be likened to a heavy binge. Whatever brought everyone to the table in the first place is quickly, and readily, forgotten in the pleasant haze of mutual drunkenness. Like any binge, though, the catharsis only lasts until morning, or whenever the tap runs dry. It will be only thenwondering at their cuts and bruisesthat the participants will remember what drove them to drink in the first place.

Until then, the grandiose, incomprehensible mumblings and gestures of the participants can only be understood in terms of what they’ve had to drink, and how drunk they’ve become. Some are drunk on high ideals, some are drunk on power, and many are drunk on passionate indignation.

The one thing that draws everyone together, though, is that right now they’re all, quite literally, stumbling in the street.

But once the broken glass, blood, tears, and dried lemon wedges are swept up in the morning, someone will start asking the crucial question: Did we just have a bad week, or is this going to become a regular thing?

Certainly, Turkey had a bad week: Two instances of largely unwelcome government morality-policing were widely publicized and protested. First, a reprimand for kissing couples on the Ankara Metro, and second, the parliament’s approval of an anti-alcohol bill (shops, 10pm-6am). But public sentiment really united on two further incidents. First, the sit-in at Gezi Park, and second, the police’s disproportionate response to that sit-in.

With an opportunity for a good, justified binge, everyone came out: The communists are waving their flags. The alcoholics are throwing their empties. The anarchists are wearing their black, made-in-China tees. The football fans are organizing themselves by team affiliations. The journalists are setting their exposures and snapping pictures worth a thousand dishonest, one-sided words. And the police, whether concerned about their public image or simply their own safety, provoke the assembled with undercover officers and disperse the crowds with their only weaponstear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets, and batons.

But while protesters and news organizations peddle the big words that sellrevolution, unity, discontent, fascism, etc.we, the observers, need to try to maintain our own sobriety in the face of a national binge and the bartenders who profit. The “anarchist” youth who burned the truck in Kızılay, Ankara are certainly less suitable for parliament than “Tayyip.” And however similar the “righteous” opposition seems today, their unity is forged in one night of tears shed togethera relationship that dissipates as quickly as the clouds of OC gas that brought it on.

Whether Erdoğan and the AKP is still, in the eyes of the majority of Turks, fit to operate the country in their alleged power-drunken state will be seen in the next general election. Rest assured, though, that whatever the conclusion, the cuts and bruises from the last few days will not quickly be forgotten.

Written by M. James

June 2, 2013 at 5:46 pm

5 Responses

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  1. Very powerful writing style, enjoyed it. Here is one thing though, you could be a bit easy on the emphasis on alcohol and binge. Makes the whole story look like a crazy party rather than a crazy resistance.


    June 3, 2013 at 1:00 am

  2. Glad you got something out of it — not easy to put the situation in words.

    I have to stand by my binge analogy, though. This is — if anything — a sudden, destructive, reactionary sequence of events. If you were to ask the average protester what he’s there for, he would tell you he’s “resisting fascism” or something of the like. But if you asked him what “fascism” is, or what he plans on doing if he overthrows the government, he’d just accuse you of being “one of them.” For the majority of the people in those crowds, this is about adrenaline and the feeling of purpose — righteous indignation — that policemen in riot gear are so good at fostering.

    Even I wanted to throw a bottle at the reckless water cannon truck.

    It may not be a “party,” but it’s certainly not focused enough to be a “resistance,” either.

    M. James

    June 3, 2013 at 4:36 pm

  3. “The anarchists are wearing their black, made-in-China tees.”

    Please check your facts again. Anarchists or not, they wouldn’t be wearing made-in-Chine t-shirts simply because TR is still quite competitive with slave rate labor costs especially in textiles.

    I have no objection to the rest :)


    June 10, 2013 at 5:34 am

  4. Right you are. I’ll have to think of another way to make a jab at the “anarchists.”


    M. James

    June 10, 2013 at 2:18 pm

  5. How about highlighting the fact that they wear black t-shirts as uniforms..

    Surely, no true anarchist would want to join or form a platoon or brigade or any such structured organization.


    June 10, 2013 at 6:51 pm

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