Foucault’s Police

Last night, watching Gezi Park be “evacuated” by the Turkish police (Online, from the safety of my home) I finally began to physically comprehend Foucault’s ideas regarding examination and visibility. Today, reading the strong propaganda line that the prime minister is following regarding what is and isn’t legal, and what is and isn’t happening, I am beginning to understand more clearly the concept of the sovereign and homo sacer. Watching a counter-rally march down my street today and hearing my husband ask how anyone can still support the current Turkish government I am finally beginning to understand the gravity of the state and the stateless. It is as if last semester frothed up perfectly into this resistance, giving me almost too many platforms for understanding what is going on in Istanbul. At the same time I feel clueless, and all of my studying of the social sciences can not prepare me to fully comprehend the mess that is still happening.

Still happening. I know the world moves on, every morning, to the next ‘big’ thing, but for the people living here it is continuing, day after day.

Last night what was visible, from the few camera angles available, was a wall of completely anonymous police, covered in gas masks, dressed in black, saying absolutely nothing and imbued with the power of the ‘state.’ Against them was a large group of individuals, each dressed differently, each shouting their own individual opinions, each banding together with different groups, and each risking their individual lives. What was on display was the individual. What was hidden was the power of the state. Granted, each of those officers has an individual beneath those masks, and each of those individuals must make the choice to follow orders, but the very issuing of these orders takes away the risk and responsibility from the individual police. Notice that they have nothing to say- they are just doing their job. They retreat and buy a snack or a tea. They take off their masks, talk with people passing by, and then they show a bit of personality, but every action of brutality is sanctioned, asked for, by the government. You would think, then, that the government would be held responsible for the injuries on the streets, and the continuing of the riots. Granted, the government is harder to pin down than an individual, but still, there should be some level where accountability can be found. But, in the modern nation state that accountability can apparently be spread to the people. From what I understand is that about 50 percent of the vote went to AKP last election, and what Erdogan apparently thinks this means is that he can act in the interest of these 50% and call the rest of the people minority, marginal, riff raff. Basically the law he set was that all “good” citizens would evacuate the park and anyone who was left there could only be a terrorist or a member of a “marginal” organization that does not represent “Turkey.” Maybe the question should not be whether these groups and even individuals represent Turkey, but whether Turkey is representing them. From what I can understand, the later is not happening. The sovereign power just blatantly created a state of homo sacer (someone who is outside of protection, who can be killed without consequence or ritual).

Okay, killing might be a bit far. But people ARE being injured, and arrested, for expressing dissent.

Now, the question that my husband asked of how these people could walk proudly down the street today, carrying banners for the AKP, when this is obviously just going to make things worse, and no one is handling this situation well? The answer is obvious to me. If the sovereign has the power to declare a state of wild homo sacer, then the only ‘safe’ place to be is with him. If he is going to favor only the people who support him then they benefit by supporting him more, because they will ultimately get more at the cost of everyone else getting less. It isn’t honorable, but it is unfortunately how the modern state seems to work.

Tonight there is a thick cloud of smoke hovering over Taksim. Small skirmishes and the banging of pots and pans, what has become the symbol for this resistance. It is somehow heartwarming to see the continuance today after the brutality last night. It could have, honestly, began to end this weekend. But now, it has the potential to drag on for quite some time, and hopefully, not be forgotten. 

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