Monday, June 03, 2013 mighty forest.

And still it continues. I have watched on, somewhat amazed, by the wildfire of protest across the whole of Turkey. From Istanbul to Adana, from Izimir to Ankara, on it goes: thousand upon thousand on the streets, cheered on by the clatter and drum of tin pots, saucepans, kettles and anything that makes a clang from a million balconies. Galatasaryli and Besiktasli and Fenerbacheli, football fans normally at each others' throats, arm in arm, united in opposition to the police; housewives and grandmothers spitting curses at the baton-wielding thugs in uniforms, lawyers at the barricades, JCB drivers blocking roads to guard the protestors, doctors and nurses rushing to set up field hospitals; And everywhere, anyone who can has taken to social networking sites to witness and record what is happening, in marked contrast to a slumbering media. CNN Turk, purportedly a news channel, was showing a documentary about Dolphin Therapy at the height of the battle in Istanbul. Even the international media have been somewhat slow and circumspect in their reportage, although they are beginning to make up for it now.
And at the eye of the storm is Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister. At this time of crisis, you would expect him to be firmly at the helm, seeking to control and alleviate the situation.

He has decided to go on a four-day tour of some North African countries.

He has derided the protests, saying they are the work of 'extremists', 'marauders', 'terrorists', 'alcoholics'.

Where, oh where, did it all go so wrong for him?

Let's not forget that this is the man who was feted internationally for standing up to Israel over the Mavi Marmara episode in 2010. This is the man and government that has rounded on its neighbours when human rights abuses have happened there. This is the government that has started dialogue over the whole Kurdish issue, that has stabilised the whole economy and overseen almost unprecedented growth in the economy.

So why has it all gone wrong?

Simple, really. Erdogan thinks he can do no wrong. He's just a little too fond of moralistic finger-wagging, of seeing himself as a sultan dressed in a business suit, of being The Big Man. It is hubris, plain and simple, the same thing that eventually did for Margaret Thatcher here in the UK.

But it's also about all the acts of fear and deprivation that have been allowed to happen throughout Turkish society: The fear that your phone might be tapped or your tweet or Facebook entry scrutinised, that you are being spied on by the smiling neighbour across the road; It's the fear, for journalists, that one wrong word will see you imprisoned; It's the fear that if you don't dress the right way or say the right thing at the right time that you won't get the job you're after, and the apprehension that you won't get on in life because you don't belong to the right political party.

it's also the resentment -about alcohol prices being raised and raised and sales being restricted, ostensibly to stop public drunkenness (despite Turks having the lowest per capita alcohol consumption rates in Europe), about stopping people kissing in the street, while turning a blind eye to child marriages and honour killings, about the very visible few getting so much richer than the majority, while holding out a few crumbs to the socially disadvantaged.

And nowhere is this fear and resentment felt more than in the cities, where a young urban middle class is coming head to head with a gang of professional politicians who work with impunity, making decisions without consultation or advice, who blithely ignore the fact they are meant to be representatives, not of themselves, but of the people. To be fair, this is noting new: During my time in Turkey (during the 90s), it was clear that the majority of politicos were corrupt. what sticks in the craw with the AKP is that they dare to moralise and impose their own version of morality on the people, while all the time lining their own pockets.

This isn't, yet, a true nationwide revolt, despite appearances - for that to happen, you would need to hear the rustle and roar of the villages, coming forward to protest. Nor is it 'The Turkish Spring' - in fact, Turkey is a far more democratic country that Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria, nor are the protesters taking up arms. What it is, however, is bigger than any of the Occupy movements, more vital than anything that has happened in the streets and squares of Greece and Spain, and more inclusive than any, with every kind of person joined arm in arm against the sneering arrogance of The Sultan in Ankara, or whichever country he's jetted off to at the moment.

In short, it is democracy in action - demos + kratos, literally 'people rule'. democracy does not begin and end at the ballot box, it lives and breathes, moves, talks, protests, sings, laughs, cries, eats, sleeps, loves; and it should never, ever be allowed to die. It is a mighty forest, formed of every tree imaginable.

And it appears to my amazed and delighted eyes that one small tree in one small park in a great city, in my beloved Istanbul, in Constantinople, in Tsarigrad, in Byzantium, in the City of a thousand names, has given voice to the rushing roar of the forest in a fierce wind.

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