Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Trip To Taksim: Or, How I Knew AKP Would Win

Sometimes I take pictures of some cool thing I see, and then I think of some socially or politically relevant sentences to go along with them. And then I fail to get around to posting until it's no longer relevant but out of pure egoism I decide to post it anyway because I can't stand to let my great thoughts die with Zen-like serenity.

So this post is completely past-due.

A word on Taksim: I still get a little thrill in my belly every time I go there. I get butterflies before I even leave the house, and I feel a rube-like amazement every time I arrive. It's like I'm an Istanbul virgin all over again, breathless to pop my East-meets-West cherry. It doesn't bear repeating all the stuff about Taksim that's in every guidebook and blog post about Istanbul. The mishmash of languages and cultures and old and new and blah blah blah.

But whenever I go there, I have the sense that whatever the Grand Master Plan for the morass that is Turkey, for all its failures, is completely working in Taksim.

And that's okay. Quite.

Not my photo. Thanks, Internet!
The last time I was there was a couple of weeks before the elections. A few parties had their displays up around the old water thingie. My favorite part about the water thingie is that behind it is Futuristic Space Mosque 5000. I don't know why I've never taken a picture of it to snark about, because I'm pretty sure it's my favorite mosque in Istanbul. The crappy tin rocket ship minaret kills me every time.

Sorry, guy.
So, moving on to some pictures I actually took myself. First, a party that clearly didn't have a snowball's chance. Their roots and politics and potential voter-base aside, it's obvious from HAS party's campaign display in Taksim that they were never ever ever EVER going to win.

Despite getting a good spot in the shade, their display consisted of the bus, that little kiosk brochure thing, and an old guy standing near the bus smoking. He's probably the driver.

Super hip?
Next, there's the only viable opposition to AKP, which is CHP. Too little too late, they decided their best approach was to appeal to the kids with some blasted second-rate Turkish hip hop. CHP's entire stance seemed to be "Against Everything AKP Does." As we all know, it didn't work, though I quite enjoyed their anti-AKP censorship ad.

I also liked their slogan here (Türkiye rahat bir nefes olacak, meaning something like, "Turkey will breathe a sigh of relief"), which contains a reference to the word "nefes" (breath) having appeared on the list of forbidden words on the Internet. I'll skip over the obvious hypocrisy here, because of course there was never any censorship under CHP. The only reason they didn't censor the Internet is because there wasn't really much Internet around at that time, and hardly anyone in power knew how to work it.

Kicking back with AKP
Still, no one had anything close to AKP's extravaganza. They staked out the prime real estate under the flashy shiny amazing digital billboard, which I often worry might be making Futuristic Space Mosque 5000 feel inadequate. In addition to a massive bus the size of a fire truck that probably gets about 2 miles to the gallon (if it can be driven at all, on Istanbul streets), they had that giant sign promising an 80% decrease in the cost of all medicines. As if cheap sedation for all weren't enough, they also had comfy multi-colored chairs with little tables, umbrellas, and I'll bet there was some kid slinging free tea.

The elections were a foregone conclusion well before the parties started breaking out their big guns, but a small part of that conclusion must come from stuff like this, where people see displays like this and think it's obvious from the money being spent who will win, so why bother voting for anyone else?

Now, I'll leave you with this fellow, a water-seller near the spot where the Havaş buses go in and out. Notice how he took the time to beautify his little corner of the universe by planting a few basil plants around the tree. He watered them tenderly, and when the taxi drivers from the nearby cab stand came over wanting water for abdest, he instructed them as to which plants to perform it over.

Who did he vote for?

1 comment:

Nomad said...

Slightly OT, but one observation I made long ago when I first came to Turkey- back when there be dragons- was that Turks do not have that "rootin' for the underdog" mentality. They seem to prefer to be on the winning side, rather than the one that heroically fights to overcome the adversary. Of course, all generalizations fail at some point, but this seemed to be a major difference between the culture that I left to the culture I have adopted.
I just get the feeling that
David would have found precious little support in Turkey and I'd imagine there would be a lot of Goliath-team supports waving flags and honking their horns.
Perhaps this is why the flotilla controversy always seemed a bit of posturing.