The “Us generation” in the streets. Why now?
Ahu ÖZYURTThe protests of #direngezipark have woken us all up to a new reality of political and economical actors. TIME Magazine calls them the “Me Generation” I would love to call them the “Us Generation.” For them, as Don Tapscott rightly put it in the TED Global Conference last year in Edinburgh, technology is like air. It is always there. They live and breathe in it.
What is different this time is for these young teenagers and college kids, going to “Resistance” is almost as good as going to Reina for clubbing. They are singing, dancing, there is fresh air, always good people and some flirting, free food, free politics, free books and music. And if need be, a good fight. What more do you need when you are 16 or 20?
Perhaps the biggest change in the behavior of this generation is that they understand the DNA of this Republic much better than their ancestors or even elder brothers and sisters. They do not want to be cashiers after struggling to go to university for 10 years. They do not want their exam results to be stolen. They do not want to be kicked around and harassed by the government. And they do not care about the ballot box even one bit. But they do care about the Founding Fathers.
Politics do not excite them. Action does. Speeches do not energize them. Tweets and pictures do.
These will be the first time voters of the municipal elections next year. In Istanbul alone they should be around 2 million. So whoever wins their hearts and minds will change the landscape. Because they refuse to be locked in party lines. They cross the lines as easy as they change their cell phone profile pictures. And if you want to win them over, you better learn not to make mistakes or at least admit it with a joke here and there.
The “Us Generation,” as I would like to call them, is a savvy consumer, a thrifty shopper and a brutal political consultant. They knock your brand if you do not help them in times of trouble. They want to be convinced that you are not hiding anything from them. “If you are making money on my back,” they say, “Better be honest and fair with me.”
And in politics they want to see and know that you won’t get into the power game and forget them. They question the sincerity of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) Member of Parliament from Istanbul Sirri Süreyya Önder, the first political figure to be involved in the protests, as much as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s brutal style. They do not play politics as the old guns of the 1970s or 90s play. That is why everyone of that generation is questioning “who are these kids?” Well they are your future Presidents, CEOs, Ministers, union leaders, teachers, doctors etc. So adults, I suggest you behave.
If any good can come out of this, and it will, it is the fact that the people’s will from both sides of the political spectrum can be now reflected by drafting a new social mandate. At the end of the day, if Kurds and Kemalists can dance together, they can do more than that.
As the ruling Justice and Democracy Party’s (AKP) chief legal brain, and former rapporteur of the Constitutional Court Osman Can said recently on the news channel CNN Turk, the Gezi protests could actually be an opportunity for a new human and social contract, a renewed mandate of democracy, a reformatted state-citizen relationship.
So it is up to Prime Minister Erdoğan to take this opportunity, rise up to the challenge and raise the bar once more for Turkey. A clean slate for a brand new Constitution may be just the beginning.