Monday, 3 June 2013

Phase transition

I'm just back from a totally undemanding holiday in Turkey - mostly spent just kicking back with a cold beer, packing the Offspring off to kids' club and enjoying more warm sunshine in two weeks than the UK got in the whole of last year. A bit of pool and sea swimming, a stack of books and not following the news at all. We saw a few locals at the resort watching TV coverage of people waving things and shouting, but didn't realise that, away from the Turquoise Coast's tourist bubble, things were really kicking off.

My pile of paperbacks included China MiƩville's Perdido Street Station (which I started years ago, but abandoned due to some pressing interruption that I've long since forgotten). I rather liked these lines from a character in MiƩville's fantasy world of Bas-Lag:
'See, potential energy's all about placing something in a situation where it's teetering, where it's about to change its state. Just like when you put enough strain on a group of people, they'll suddenly explode. They'll go from grumpy and quiescent to violent and creative in one moment.'
Meanwhile, back in the real world:
 My friend, who was completely uninterested in politics until six days ago, had never been in conflict with the police before. Now, like hundreds of thousands of others in Turkey, she has become a warrior with goggles around her neck, an oxygen mask on her face and an anti-acid solution bottle in her hand. As we have all learned, this the essential kit to fight the effects of tear gas. As for TOMA, that is the vehicle-mounted water cannon. To paralyse it, you either have to put a wet towel in its exhaust pipe or burn something under its engine or you and a dozen others can push it over. This kind of battle-info is circulating all over Turkey at the moment. It is like a civil war between the police and the people. Yet nobody expected this when, six days ago, a group of protesters organised a sit-in at Istanbul's Gezi Park to protect trees that were to be cut down for the government's urban redevelopment project.
It's probably a bit more complicated than that (according to some sources, 'Erdogan remains really, really popular [with] at least with 50%+ of the population'), but it's refreshing to see people refusing to roll over in the face of arbitrary authority.

Back home, there's no sign of the grumpy and quiescent Brits getting violently creative* on Cameron's ass, despite the fact that his floundering administration can only dream of anything like a 50% approval rating and is having wet dreams about hosing down groups of uppity plebs with water cannon (never mind a puny TOMA that can apparently be defeated with a wet towel and a bit of attitude, any British protesters would find themselves on the wrong end of the fearsome Ziegler Wasserwerfer 9000 - with a name like that, you know the authorities mean business).

* as opposed to getting violently stupid.