My dear child, the state is not your father
GÖKÇE AYTULU“Point taken.” This is the general interpretation of the Gezi Park resistance of our politicians including the president. (Of course I leave the prime minister out.)
But I have doubts. I don’t think either the government or the opposition can understand fully what is going on in the streets. It does not mean the issue is understood by saying, “This is not a tree issue.”
Intervention in lifestyle is no doubt one of the most important motivations that made people take to the streets. Well, what about “the rebellion of those people whose life domain has been touched”? Is that enough to explain the Gezi resistance? I don’t think so.
This is a phenomenon that can rock the roots of settled politics in Turkey with the profile of participants, the language used and the style of activism.
Is it Tahrir or Wall Street?
Some compared the incidents in Taksim to Tahrir. I don’t think this was a correct comparison. On the government front though, (must be stemming from overconfidence due to their economic success) they started asking, “Why don’t you compare it to Occupy Wall Street?”
It could be said that this movement, which could be regarded as a first in Turkey, has a texture similar to those especially in France, Spain and Greece. The type of solidarity in Gezi Park points to this. However, this only is not enough to explain what has been experienced.
What I have seen is that a major portion of the people taking to the streets is apolitical and they have been pulled to the political arena thanks to the skill of the police. This carries the matter to a spot where daily politics will not be able to solve it immediately.
Those who are fighting against the police’s meaningless violence, gas and batons are at the forefront. It is the easiest to look at the clashes and label them as marginal and extreme, whereas, there are young and old women who stage a “Pilates action” in the mornings and the sharp humor that asks “Do you want three children like us?” This is what will push politics into a crisis.
I think the first result that will come out of this is that Turkey’s classic paternalism mentality has been shattered by this movement. What we roughly define as the “state as the father” mentality reflects the classic perception of always protecting the state against the individual.
As Ottoman heritage, the “state as the father” has the duty to protect the people and naturally will make the “best” decisions for them. As the state protects the citizen’s wellbeing, for the citizen, it is the continuation of the state that is essential.
Whereas those who have taken to the streets today wish to eliminate the office of “fatherhood.” They look like those who want to prove that they are individuals against their traditional fathers.
As individuals, they are interested in themselves, not the continuation of the state. Their largest common denominator is their differences stemming from the individualism of the age. This denominator is the one that gathers together the Islam anticapitalist and LGBT, the ultranationalist and socialist, the apolitical and fanatic.
Only one day ago the prime minister was explaining to the Reuters reporter what she needs to be doing “as a child of this land.” Yesterday, Interior Minister Muammer Güler was speaking about Gezi Park at Parliament on the marginality of those who were violent against the police, how he himself has served the state for years and how Turkey’s image has been hurt. Emine Ülker Tarhan from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), who took the floor to answer him, was being the opposition by saying “If you were the government in the 1930s, you would have made soap out of us.”
They are missing a very important aspect. This movement, which uses social media immensely, consists of a generation updated by Internet technology. In that aspect they are umbilically attached to the global world. That is their only identity that surpasses their individualism. It is impossible for them to explain themselves with the concepts of classical state and politics.
Many of them are those kids whose fathers have warned them about spending long hours at the computer, being told, “What are you doing here for hours, go out a little.” Well, here, these kids are now on the street. Well, what will their “fathers” do now?
Gökçe Aytulu is a columnist for daily Radikal. This article appeared on June 5 on the paper’s website.
GÖKÇE AYTULU - email@example.com