Wednesday, October 02, 2013
The June 2013 public uprisings starting in Gezi Park Istanbul and spreading to other cities in Turkey were unforeseeable. Why? Because social explosions, big social uprisings, and revolutions are exceptional events in a nation’s history and thus cannot be predicted.
Sociological studies cannot foresee that in case of such-and-such event we can expect such an outcome. Social events cannot be observed rationally in the form of hard sciences. Social explosions are special events. It is not possible to predict them in advance.
The dynamics of social explosions are such that the participants themselves cannot even predict what will happen next. In December of 2012 the economy seemed strong, domestic politics solid. Economic indicators were good, the domestic market was happy; everything was fine. The same, however, cannot be said of now.
At the time, the prevailing political power was saying, “the separation of powers is preventing us from taking care of business”. It is not fair for a political party in power for more than 10 years to still play on a victimization discourse and then start to implement similar repressive public policies against the opposition.
Hunger strikes took place in the autumn of 2012 and in January of 2013, and they are described as in the "peace" or "solution" to the process of negotiations. Earlier the ruling political power was addressed to the ultra-nationalist votes, and then turned to Turkish Southeast votes to get any answer back.
Compared to the old, rotten inactive opposition parties, the new Kurdish Party, with a male and female co-chair in practice for each party post, is a very good, effective example of new democratic practices. Under the repression of 1980s, a local feminist movement flourished in this country. Repression creates opportunities for new, alternative movements. The Gezi Park uprising was created by young people born after the 1980s. They participated in a large-scale sociological movement, probably for the first time in their lives. Most of them were students. They were apolitical and in closed and indifferent communities until the Gezi movement.
The movement has nothing to do with the classical left/right conception of politics. We don’t feel that there will be any new political party as a consequence of these activities. The young people who were participating in the Gezi movement have attitudes different from all past conceptions. There is equality between men and women. There is high degree of environmental awareness. There is solidarity, created by a high degree of fast social media use via email, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. They have a sense of individual freedom.
Some of the female participants had headscarves but the issue was not an important for them. They were not interested in what you wear; you could dress as you wish.
No longer is there a separation of powers in this land. However, separation of powers is deemed fundamentally necessary for real Western democracy. All power is at the mercy of the ruling party. Perhaps this is good, perhaps not. Before, executive power was under the control of the judiciary and sometimes, undemocratically, soldiers. During the reconciliation process for accession to the European Union all these independent bureaucratic audit mechanisms were abolished, modified or brought under the strict rule of executive power.
There is an inevitable struggle within the ruling party over the distribution of wealth, which, with time, has apparently led to fissures. The opposition will certainly interfere and maximize its gains from that dissension. The governing power is vulnerable to all these developments and should consider restructuring over time.
The new opposition was first initiated by locals facing the risk of losing their farmlands and water resources in rural regions. Villagers started campaigning against hydroelectric dam construction, locals at touristic seaside areas protested against new, imported coal-firing thermal power plant construction.
The increasing number of shopping malls has also engendered reactions. Similarly, loose, rubber-stamp EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) approvals for energy investment programs, followed by expropriations of farmland, touristic seaside resorts, the environmentally-not-so-friendly Channel Istanbul, the third Istanbul Bosporus bridge, and the third Istanbul Airport investments have elicited local reactions. Women’s rights, the anti-abortion law, and prohibitions on liquor with religious motifs on top of more interventions into private life have created explosions.
The traditional “peace at home, peace in the world” foreign policy replaced with neo-Ottoman expectations, the unnecessary interventions into the internal conflicts of foreign neighbors, the unnecessary tensions with neighboring countries, all of it came to a head with the construction plans for the “shopping mall” with old “artillery barracks” in Gezi park in Istanbul.
We don’t feel that this incident will create a new political entity but it will surely contribute to parliamentary politics. The political consequences have already affected markets.
Despite the Central Bank’s repeated interventions into the money markets by selling hard currencies in order to keep the local money stable, apparently there is a continuous exit of foreign investors from our stock market. Financial credibility is not stable enough to cover expensive new investment projects – to the point where most of them may stay idle in future. A long-term stability of the local markets is sourced with a new political structure. “President’s regime” is questioned under the influence of these new social developments. Such social uprising is too costly for the new changes in the long term, and they are totally unsuitable for markets and investment financing.
Nowadays, a lot of social media networks are working under their own regulating and monitoring mechanisms. The disproportionate use of brute force is still present, much like oriental, repressive regimes. TV channels and the written press are kept under pressure; journalists are in prison in disproportionate numbers.
“Disproportionate intelligence” or “humor, in short” has emerged as the largest opposition. Humor is kept under pressure with disproportionate lawsuits in courts, in forms unseen in Western democracies.
However, the banners during and after college graduation ceremonies infused the events with colorfulness and humorous language. They were very effective.
We do not need to look elsewhere to evaluate the events in our backyard. The Gezi Park uprising was a singularly unique creation; it is a new social movement. Global capitalism is now being questioned here. This social inquiry is pioneer in our history, replacing the old democratic habits, to create new better applications and implementations in future.
It’s not right to abandon the traditionally peaceful relations with the neighboring countries and get involved in the internal conflicts and civil war south of the border. This is not a part of our traditional foreign policy. Interference into the civil wars of foreign nations is not in our interest. Neo-Ottoman policies are not correct. We cannot “grab a slice of the cake” or “get our share in looting” during clashes. There is no such thing. We all lose in war; there is surely no winner.
A neo-Ottoman foreign policy may be costly for us in the end. Displeased allies may respond with increased fuel prices in tough winter conditions, we may even face gas flow interruptions. The economic well being of our nation can only be secured through peace and good relations with neighboring counties.
There is no way to defeat a public uprising by using overwhelming force like an oriental, absolutist regime. Embracing Western-type democratic rule is always the best way to win over every segment of society. In democracies, political power naturally renews itself by restructuring and creating alternatives within itself in accordance with the expectations of market forces. Long-term restructuring seems like the inevitable way to go.
In democratic systems, it is important to have “freedom of speech”, “independent courts”, a “free press”, “separated powers”, and “pluralistic constitutions to protect minorities”.
More moderate, more harmonious, more caring governance will surely appear soon through better communication with young people in the country. The new governance will be in line with the power centers of the European Community and the United States. It will exist in accordance with policies on democracy and freedom of expression in the press. It will be tolerant toward and similarly unharmed by critics and humor, and hence it will support freedom of expression and respect for the rights of people.
We are very sure that a new political structure will inevitably be created in the near future. This is a “self-fulfilling prophecy” or “rational expectations” -- or the “rational choice” of local markets for the well-being of all in a Western-type democracy.
Wikipedia: A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior.
Haluk Direskeneli, is a graduate of METU Mechanical Engineering department (1973). He worked in public, private enterprises, USA Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP), in fabrication, basic and detail design, marketing, sales and project management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as freelance consultant/ energy analyst with thermal power plants basic/ detail design software expertise for private engineering companies, investors, universities and research institutions. He is a member of ODTÜ Alumni and Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.