As is the way with the media, having gone bonkers about the various demonstrations and rallies in Turkey, now they’ve moved on to another cause du jour, namely, events in Egypt. Poor old Syria’s disappeared from view as well, because there’s a new event in the Arab world to wring hands over, commentate about and pronounce on in minute detail. Until the next cause celebre, of course, when the Egyptian people will be swept under the carpet as the mass media swarm on to the next exciting sound bite.
So I’d like to keep popping in some comments about Turkey which have gone under the radar of the popular press because it’s about people getting together to keep organising, in an innovative manner, not involving conflict, divisions or whatever, but serious, focused action.
You may have read that the courts in Turkey have ruled against the proposed development in Istanbul’s Gezi Park, one of the few remaining green spots in the city. It was a victory for those who’d taken action to protect Gezi Park. That action also extended into nation-wide rallies and demonstrations against the increasingly authoritarian regime of Prime Minister Erdogan as well as the push to Islamise Turkish society and move it from the secular state it has been since the founding of Turkey in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
The following information came from the local newspaper in North Cyprus, Cyprus Today, and details how people have begun to get together to organise innovatively for the continuing development of Turkey towards a modern, secular state where all people are recognised and respected. Turkey’s parks have become forums where thousands of people get together, usually in the evenings, to listen to each other, brainstorm and try to work out ways to get politically organised around basic principles like democracy, equality and human rights, before local elections in nine months.
The forums are an exercise in grass-roots democracy in response to the heavy-handed police response to earlier protests. This response has united protestors who are putting aside political, sectarian, ethnic and social differences to walk and stand together for a different, democratic society. People wave hands to applaud if they agree with what a person is saying, cross their hands across their chest if they don’t agree, or wave their hands in circles to indicate a person has spoken for too long. The idea of the hand movements is to keep noise to a minimum in order not to disturb people late at night who live close to the parks where the forums take place.
Prime Minister Erdogan and his supporters have labelled protestors terrorists or internally driven conspirators which is a complete over-reaction and basically pretty stupid and pig-headed. The reality is that people appreciate the development of Turkey under Erdogan but many are becoming increasingly alienated by his authoritarian actions, refusal to listen to alternative viewpoints, and moves to sideline the traditional separation of state and religion.
What I find fascinating is that Turkey isn’t a one off. Wherever you look around the world, the old ways of doing business and governance are breaking down. Corruption is being exposed at a rate of knots. There is far less tolerance of governmental shenanigans. The banks are on the nose and facing pressure to reform and rein in their obscene greed. There is action to support people in developing nations who are being ruthlessly exploited by mega-corporations to provide cheap goods for Western nations and maximum profits for big business.
People are inventing so many wonderful, creative new ways to organise, get together and communicate which leave traditional, authoritarian governments – including Western democracies – wondering what hit them. Because the old ways of doing business – leaving things to leaders, following blindly, accepting the status quo however corrupt it was – are breaking down. People want more and are organising for more. The future is exciting, bright and really opening up to truly democratic forms of society with the people really in charge of their own destiny!