None of us could see this coming. It was something like the arrival of Godot. In 90 years since its foundation, the citizens of Turkish Republic never had such a widespread uprising before. Millions of peope took to the streets since Police violently attacked the peaceful protesters at Gezi Park on May 30, at the very center of Istanbul, an unfortunate and unjust act that triggered an unprecedented anger in people who were already annoyed by the statements of the Prime Minister Erdoğan covering all aspects of life, lecturing a conservative islamic life style. There had been big ralllies before. But none could compare this new phenomenon. Previous rallies were organized by trade unions, students, political parties with the participation of its members as people in the streets looked on rather indifferently. This time, parents joined the movement with their kids. What was the reason that mobilized these mostly middle class,  apolitical people in such large numbers? What was the unifiying force that brought all factions of society that were opposed to government policies? I could summarize the underlying cause as the attempt of the public realm to occupy the private realm. The nature of a political regime can be determined on the relationship between public and private realms. In democracies private realm has the priority. The pro-islamic government in Turkey, especially its prime minister, Tayyip Erdoğan, started to attack the private area as he unleahed his wishes for a conservative islamic mode of living for the people of Turkey. However, he forgot that more than 60% of the people voted against him during the last election. What started as a protest of a small scale against a government project to destroy the last patch of green at the center of the town became the first widespread protest of the government policies, especially the discourse of the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It was also the first movement of the peoples of Turkey covering all social classes. The movement is not organized by any political party. It caught fire spontaneously because people were fed up by the speeches of the Prime Minister preaching a conservative life style, which was viewed as the violation of the private realm. This reminded me of the research and sociology thesis I did for Bosphorus University back in 2010 titled :”Individualism and Democracy in Turkey” which tries to measure the level of individualism and its direct connection with the culture of democracy. The definition of individualism in modern democracy embodies pluralism, a precious element of contemporary democracy that ensures the protection of individual differences in ethnic, racial, sexual, political and religious sense.  The political, cultural and economic factors present in the country only partially define the way an individual interacts with the superstructure in a quest to pursue his/her own vision of life. It is mainly the way state organizes its ideology that makes the main impact. An imposing emphasis on nationalism, supremacy of the nation over individual, limitations on diversity of identities, monotype citizen model resulted in infertile environment for the development of the individual. British writer and thinker Bertrand Russell stressed the importance of having “non-conformist individuals” as avantgardes and pioneers of societies. In his BBC lectures titled “Authority and Individual” (1949), he teaches political leaders an important lesson[1]: A Community needs if it is to prosper, a certain number of individuals who do not      conform to the general type. Practically all progress, artistic, moral and intellectual has depended upon such individuals who have been a decisive factor in the transition from barbarism to civilization…We shall not create a good world by trying to make men tame and timid, but by encouraging them to be bold, adventurous and fearless except in inflicting injuries upon other fellowmen. In these words, Bertrand Russell summarizes the essence of how individualism leads the progress in societies and why it is important in the épanouissement (blossoming) of man. In the study conducted in 2010 with a sample group of 1000 people in urban areas of 11 cities around Turkey representing the whole population, the research showed 47,7% of the people interviewed displayed collectivist values as opposed to 53,3% of the people who showed individualistic values. This corresponds with the votes the pro-islamic governing party gained at the elections (49,8 % ) with 51,2 % on the opposition. It is strongly probable that it was these half of the population that reacted against the policies of the autocratic prime minister who also wanted to crackdown a peaceful environmental protest which was an expression of a will to participate in the decisions of how the public areas should be utilized. The anger has been brewing for some time because of limitations on alcohol use, banning of restaurant tables on the sidewalks, discourse against abortion, repeated advise for women to have at least 3 kids, demolition of a precious old cinema in Taksim area while spraying teargas on the protesters and many more interfering comments by the PM and other government members. The Gezi spirit is alive and the genie is out of the bottle. Things will never be the same in Turkey after brutal police intervention cost the lives of 6 people, namely Abdullah Cömert, Ethem Sarısülük, Mehmet Ayvalıtaş, Mustafa Sarı, İrfan Tuna and Ali İsmail Korkmaz. The spirit is reflected in the slogans on the city walls with a determination as well as humour. Here are some of the slogans and grafitti literature:


[1] Russell, Bertrand, Authority and the Individual, New York: Simon and Schuster, c1949.

govt.resign streets are ours polis run tayyip run taksim olayları did u run out of pepper light bulb exploed Erol-wrecked TV car Masked help police (on a police car) Free zone-make love

 

“It is the drunkards who saves the country”  (Alluding to Atatürk who is not beloved by the İslamists)
Do you have a strawberry flavoured one? (About the pepper gas)
I’ve been an atheist for 40 years, never seen a Godless like this one”  “Don’t be an ass listen to the people!”
“Love means getting organized”
“We own this city”
“Capital get out, streets belong to us”
“If you don’tr play, you can’t win!”
“A tree went down, a people awakened”
“It rains gas this summer!”
“Coward media!“
“Media for sale” (on an occupied and burnt TV transmitter vehicle)
“Too many police, too little justice”
Nitimur in vetitum [Nietzsche – “
“We resisted and aborted the dead citizen inside us“ Direndik. İçimizdeki ölü
“Neither fascism nor communism, long live erotism”
“Capitalism sells the trees when they can not sell their shadows” (Karl Marx)
“Revolution Party! Everyone is invited”  (with pilaf)
“Land if you can!” (near an H mark for police helicopters)
“Pepper spray makes your skin prettier” (near a cosmetic store)
“Where are you Saprtacus?”
“Buffer zone to make love”
“Tayyip winter is coming”
“Welcome to Fight Club Tayyip”
Tayyip Bieber (Biber means pepper in Turkish)
“Tayyip is my girl”
“Resiatance girls are all pretty”
“1984 is now”
“Let’s get chemical!”
“Why always me?”
“If you do not risk your life you can’t create a future”
George Orwell. Big Brother!
“Gas me baby one more time”

We proved ourselves we too like people of other countries could protest without state intimidation in an atmosphere of solidarity. The walls of fear came down and we are ever more hopeful for a true democracy for our people, for the next generation at least after spending our lives in a country with pseudo democracy. Let’s finish with another Gezi slogan:

“I resist, therefore I am!”