Recently a profound social movement erupted in Istanbul. It quickly spread to a nation-wide protest. Some say it may rejuvenate the spirit of the Arab Spring, as Egyptians and Brazilians now fill the streets in their turn. With this heady world event unfolding, we in the Poorly Kept Secret Society cannot help but contemplate the Penguins.
The government decided that the public square in Istanbul’s Gezi Park, Taksim Square, could be privately developed. Turn it into a shopping mall! Make some cash! Who needs a public square, anyway, when one can have a cheap venti double-shot latte with extra foam! A venti double-shot latte with extra foam stands in for the public commons, right? A full on social and political revolt resulted. Feet in the streets. Protests in Istanbul spread throughout the country. And, the grievances spread as well: a general uneasiness about creeping fundamentalism (according to Western media sources…). These developments have been the source of much discussion amongst Agents of the Poorly Kept Secret Society. The fact that a public space could be so vital, so consequential to the people of Turkey is heartening.
Nothing new, of course. We all remember the outcry over the crass closing and demolition of the South Central Farm in Los Angeles. What? You don’t remember? Look: http://www.thegardenmovie.com/.
What do we learn about the built environment by examining those times in our past when we have taken to the streets, or taken to arms, over the Commons? How does it relate to our Rights? And, does this lead us to the Right to the City movement? Some Agents in the Poorly Kept Secret Society think that is extreme. Others think that might be inevitable. Of course, some of our Agents also think that the third season of Downton Abby is a fine way to spend two solid days. (And, for such actions they will be censured.)
The social and political movement in Turkey is all the more remarkable, and ironically charming, in just how it has developed a cultural language. As the protestors of Turkey were attacked by security forces, CNN Turk saw it fit to forgo the live footage of peaceful protestors being attacked, and instead chose to run a delightful documentary about penguins. Those cute little tuxedo-ed fowl stood in for the uprising. This abhorrent editorial gaff was quickly embraced by the leaders of the protest. What better symbol for both the degenerate acquiescence of the world media and metaphor for the elite’s desires for our society: stand in line; act and look the same; be as we tell you to be; identify as identical so that we may profit from the industry of culture.
The Penguin began to appear in graffiti, on t-shirts, everywhere. (This little diddy from The Guardian spells it out okay: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/09/turkey-mainstream-media-penguins-protests.) We, the agents of the Poorly Kept Secret Society, think it should be a world-wide meme. Embrace the Penguin as a symbol for the new Horizontalismo! Encourage the peaceful reinvigorated world-wide call for Democracy! Raise the flipper instead of the fist!