Post electoral sadness

April 1, 2014

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I was walking to Tarlabaşı when I saw this flag over the decrepit building… after last night’s election results it had an eerie reality…

10 PM. It felt like a slippy, slippery dream. I was watching the numbers scroll on the tV screen at Nizam. Yeah, I splurged and ordered meat pide… The AKP’s red stripe would strecht up and reveal numbers over 40%. There will be no winning for us today. Another election, another unreality I witness.

I say this because my last Canadian elections were like that, the numbers on the screen did not reflect the actual reality of the numbers in my close environment… Everyone I talked to being against who was now seemingly winning on screen…

I was here on the streets at Gezi, I saw it all. I saw and I heard the people of Turkey, or Istanbul at least, come together, band against too much abuse from a dictator like prime minister. I saw gratuitous and escalating police violence sanctioned by a megalomaniac prime sinister (not a typo) and in the media, local and international, I did not see the reflection of what was taking place on the streets.

Earlier today the mood at Chillout is hopeful. Mehmet Can is smiling, smelling, wanting victory. That gave me confidence, a hope, but as we watch the early results come in I feel uneasy again. Those numbers look like a bad omen to me. So I am swinging between hope and restlessness.

I went out to walk around, I can’t sit still. Today the air is different. I went down the hill to see Meron at Neverland. Of course we end up checking out the various news outlets to see how things are shaping up.

Suspicious power outages, 9 people dead, burnt ballots, people protecting the ballot boxes with their lives, attack with knives and metal sticks on a CHP group by an AKP group, later 4 of the vehicles used by the attackers are found parked clearly in front of the AKP headquarters building.

What is this mess? This is not democracy. This is a joke.

I’ve been here long enough that sometimes I can forget all about what I used to know about the different processes and activities of life and almost see normality in this madness. It almost makes sense. But when I step back a little and take a good stare, this is seriously wrong.

Midnight. Results are in. We lost, hard. I think about how perfectly this flawed system is put together and functioning. How efficiently it serves the powers in place. The Gezi park protests and all the subsequent manifestations, expressions of the Turkish people only served this government. It gave them exactly what they needed to secure for themselves a stronger position. It gave them something that looked worst than they did; hooligans throwing rocks and molotovs at the police… Graffiti, violence, every action taken by the resistance mirrored back to the public as a negative, destructive act against the good people of Turkey.

The media being muzzled, controlled, showed a skewed reality. What was really taking place was not seen at large. But mostly, what took place, was not seen or heard.

Someone explained to me that this government managed to appeal to the little scarved women, the beenie wearing traditional people of Turkey who used to be dismissed as backwards. It gave them legitimacy. It gave them a voice when in the past they would be disrespected as backwards by the authorities… This is most of Turkey, this is the bulk of the votes. This is where internet, Twitter, Youtube and server proxys and the far away protests in Beyoglu did not have any impact. This is where the people wanting change cannot reach. This is where only the manipulated media reaches out with any sort of impingement. This is a perfect plan.
As I sat there watching, I saw how perfect and formidable this is. On the screen is a map of the votes all over Turkey. The western and eastern edges of the map are colored in a couple of different parties colors, the bulk of the map is yellow; AKP… I compared it to the USA map, East and West coasts being blue, the bulk of the country red. The poorest areas being the most intensely religious and conservative

I thought about the impact of the the Twitter and Youtube bans… in the big city we’re quick to find a proxy and log on to those sites without a problem. But we’re a minority to know the ways of computers… I realized that for the rest of the population, this ban was yet another layer of blackness over the actuality, one more thick blanket to blacken a reality that is already hard to perceive correctly.

All of this in retrospect is chillingly efficient. Even the police brutality was to be turned into a proof of guilt on the part of the protesters. Everything mirrored backwards. So I sit here feeling absolutely powerless. The brilliance of the plan is astounding.

I was asking my friends if they thought there would be protests after this.
“No, it will be sharia, give it 2 or 3 years and Turkey will be a radical Muslim state” said a young Turkish guy. He is in his 20’s, he too, utterly powerless in the face of this.

I remember observing with puzzlement how my Turkish friends would accept events, fate with a sort of quick giving up of the fight that I thought premature, or with a kind of immense patience, a patience that can last generations, centuries…

“What do we have here?” the young man continued “Raki, good food, music… Everything else is about luck. Here if you fall you die…” He explained the process of getting accepted into art school. He said the aspiring students are lined up by a wall and are required to draw while the jury looks and decides who will make it. “what if your hand hurts that day? What if it’s a bad day? I have friends who have been trying for 10 years to get into that school… I went in but didn’t finish… I needed 2000 lira a month to survive ( a regular full time job pays around 200 lira a week) I had to quit.”

I could not avoid but to think of the immense chance I had being born in a place at a time where dreaming and going for one’s dream was possible. I have always had the option to pursue whatever I wanted. I didn’t have to fight for my basic rights, to be considered a full on human being because I was a woman. If I fell down there was help to be found. When I was broke, homeless or sick, there were resources for me to get back up and running again. I was able to ride horses, to start my own business, to travel anywhere I wanted because of my passport, to ride a motorcycle across a continent by myself without fear, I could have an opinion and say it out loud… those are all things we must fight to preserve. Never become so disengaged from our societies and political system as to lose our rights to be, to dream, to evolve.

So here I am, really upset with the results of this election. One Turk asked me:

“What does it matter to you?”

Yeah, I am this foreigner with the cool passport that can take me anywhere, with the social safety net… But It does matter to me because I love this place, its people… because I am a naïve North American who believes that everyone should be entitled to exist as they see fit, with their human rights, with a government that is there to serve its people instead of itself. That it breaks my heart to see the despair the people’s eyes. How much they wish to escape this increasing darkness. Who can blame them?

I don’t know what will take place here politically. In the midst of the release of a slew of incriminating tapes, videos and revelations of corruption of unimaginable proportion people still gave these thieves a vote of confidence. It is mind boggling the power of manipulation. What can I do? I am a foreigner with nothing more than a couple of instruments and the clothes on my back. I love this place, its people in a way that I could never have imagined. The way of life, the heart and soul of these people of the place. At the same time, there is a madness that is hard to accept, grasp, understand. Incredible brutality, incredible generosity… extremes. Love and hate. Patience and flaring tempers… Oh Turkey, I can only cross my fingers and love you as you are.

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