The Party is Over: Children, Clean up the House! Lessons from the Turkish #OccupyGezi

Yves here. This post swings for the fence, but still makes an important point about how the uprising in Turkey differs from Arab Spring and the Orange Revolution.

By Erinc Yeldan, Dean of the faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences and one of the executive directors of the International Development Economics Associates (IDEAs), New Delhi. Cross posted from Triple Crisis

They are referred to under different identifiers: generation-Y; millennium generation; globalization generation; Net-generation… roughly they are the cohort of post-1980 newborns, coming from distant geographies, different nations. Yet, they are claimed to share astonishingly common characteristics: narcissistic love of the self; the me, me, me approach to life; impatience; intolerance of all forms of hierarchy; a fetishistic loyalty to technology and brands; almost non-existing interest in social events; apolitical nihilism; non-reading, etc etc…

The peculiar characteristics of the post-1980 generation has been the subject matter of quite some research, but the subject gained popular interest recently through an editorial led by the popular Time Magazine, where most of the adjectives indicated above had been liberally adopted. The Time approach to the generation-Y consisted mostly of a superfluous description of the peculiarities of the young and the hot-blooded consumers. There was not much mention of the surrounding dictates of the neoliberal global assault on the young citizens, nor on the conditions of the political-economy embedded within today’s bubble capitalism.

Indeed, one can also have a close look at the life-styles of the Y-generation from entirely a different angle. They are about to step in to a fragmented, marginalized, and “flexibilized” labor market with, perhaps, the highest youth unemployment rates of human history, ranging from 19.1% in hegemonic centers such as USA and UK, to 40% in Spain, 66% in Greece. They are referred to as the “700 euro generation” in Greece; or the “1,000 euro generation” in Italy, with references to the minimal wage laws of the respective countries.

They have become the prime targets of a mega-design project on the part of media centers that try to cover up the true essence of the current collective imperialist assault of multinationals and international finance capital on indigenous peoples’ rights and bounties. They are the children of parents with almost zero percent saving rates and a frenzied appetite for consumption and debt. They have been brainwashed by the uncontested merits of the market-gods and the lure of the profit driven re-organization of their education and health systems, with, yet again, the un-debatable motto “There Is No Alternative”.

Time’s editorial had, no doubt, cause for rebuttals. Tom Hawkin wrote in Flavorwire, for instance, that “The millennials are the people who’ve inherited the hangover from the baby boomers’ party: a warming planet, a dysfunctional global financial system that rewards the rich and screws the poor, and a polarized political class”. Hawkins’ piece comes with a further bonus of a free link to the Time’s Quiz: How Millennial Are You? Ha ha ha…

This neoliberal assault had many facets. One important aspect was the massive re-design of the Middle East via the dictates of the petro dollars and the global military machine. It took many forms; but the main thread had continuously been the use of Islamism in bringing together the allies of the region against the enemies of the “West”.

All of this was orchestrated via the dictates of the neoliberal interventions to the economic sphere. The Turkish economy had been turned into a bastion of frenzied speculation where the International Finance Institutes (IFIs) and transnational companies had joined forces to liquidate the indigenous industrial structure of the Turkish economy with direct assaults comprising privatizations of strategic public assets, de-regulation of finance, fragmentation and informalization of the labor markets, and dismantling of the social state turning citizens into consumers, and the producers into rentier “players”.

But then, a sudden twist in the mega design had been witnessed. What was initiated as a humble sit-in protest against chopping of a few trees in a park by the Taksim Square in Istanbul for erecting a mega-mall, sparked a massive people’s rally led by the very young against the imperial design of mild Islamism for a new Enlarged Middle East region. The current Turkish government had a truly authoritarian stance and had initiated an unprecedented assault on basic civil liberties that had finally exhausted people’s patience. They erupted into the streets against police’s futile tear gas and plastic bullets. The “young” had raised their voice against the dictates of neoliberal/Islamic restructuring of the Turkish state with conditionalities such as the number of children a couple should have (minimum three!); the color of the lip stick of the Turkish Airlines hostesses; ethical bans on holding hands with your date in the metro stations; and more serious and wide ranging restructuring interventions such as redesigning of the elementary and middle school curriculum and strict regulations on the academics and litigation system of the country based on Islamic references. All opposition had been severely suppressed by way of fake legal charges, with the end result that Turkey has now more journalists and academics imprisoned than any country in Europe.

What is unique about the uprising is that, contrary to the so-called Orange Revolution and the Arab Spring, where the Western super-powers had an active role in directing the masses towards a neoliberal globalization-friendly-course, the Turkish revolt has a true indigenous character with a direct momentum of its own, simply asking for freedom and basic liberties.

For a brief assessment see, e.g. Sungur Savran’s “C’est Une Révolte, Pas (Encore) Une Revolution! (This is a Revolt, Not Yet a Revolution” in the Bullet. A select set of images of the uprising can also be found at

Clearly, the neoliberal party is over, it is now time to start cleaning the house.

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  1. LifelongLib

    A couple of FWIW observations:

    A Turkish acquaintance told me that when he was growing up, Islamism was virtually unknown, but now about 20% of the population follows conservative Islam. He said it’s being financed with money from Saudi Arabia.

    My brother has visited both Turkey and Egypt. His observation was that in Turkey everyone seemed busy, while in Egypt there were a lot of people just standing around. Not a lot to go on but it suggests that economic conditions in the two countries are quite different.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I think your friend may be confusing “not being aware of something” with not existing. Its common. Rural Turkey or Turkey outside of Kurdish areas, the coast, and Ankara was never high on the priorities of the Attaturk regime and the successor governments until the 90’s under pressure from the EU and proto-EU admission requirements.

      There is unintended consequence of modernization. What happened in isolated village isn’t hidden anymore, and the people who need to convert everything just have found like minded people and have access to more platforms now.

      The Rural Electrification Act preceded a rise in nuttery in this country, but was it that they didn’t exist or didn’t have access to the platforms which would be available in urban areas such as New York and Los Angeles?

      Turkey and even most “secular*” countries don’t have religious freedom of the kind Americans are accustomed to. Religious displays can be prohibited in real ways. When Erdogan first ran for the top spot, he had some points about loosening restrictions on religious displays and practices.

      *I use the term loosely because they have replaced religions with a state religion.

  2. Dan Kervick

    Although I have read several writers who have attempted to tie the Turkish protests to the global dissatisfaction with “neoliberalism”, it’s hard for me to see any real connection with that struggle. Instead, the driving impulse behind the protests seems to be an embrace of classic western-style liberalism. The issues, as the author notes, are things like: lipstick, hand-holding, anti-clericalism, press freedom. Nothing wrong with that. But it doesn’t have much to do with anti-neoliberalism. In fact, this just seems like a resurgence of the drive for cultural liberalism and craving for personal libertry and expression that gave us the neoliberal movement in the first place. Gen-Yers seem to me to be an awful lot like their parents.

    1. nobody

      It would seem to me that “[t]he desire to preserve common public spaces and to resist their appropriation by local/global capital” places the matter pretty directly on the faultline between neoliberalism and its discontents.

      Nor does there seem to be an empirical basis for classifying the movement as “an embrace of classic western-style liberalism.”

      “The protesters of #OccupyGezi are anything but a homogeneous group. It is comprised of millions of people from all over the country, young and old, leftists and nationalists, liberals and Kemalists, middle class and working class, believers and atheists, gays, lesbians, transsexuals and football fans, all united by one collective demand – the end of AKP authoritarianism.”

      The protesters also include Kurds and anti-capitalist Islamists.

      “We actually don’t separate ourselves from anyone who is here. Because for the first time I know … people from different backgrounds, from different religions, from different political views are gathered here… [W]e don’t separate ourselves here as them and us.”

    2. Any Email

      The key cause of the Turkish protests was the attempt by the government to build a shopping mall on top of a park. People protested this.

      If this isn’t an anti-corporatist message, I don’t know what is.

  3. psychohistorian

    I think aspects of Islam are being sold to the public like American exceptionalism and In Gawd We Trust are sold to the US public…..all about control of the “believers”.

    Propaganda is effective………up to a point.

    1. LifelongLib

      If you’re having problems the current system can’t handle, there are two standard responses:

      “We should change our system to deal with this”; or

      “This is happening because we haven’t lived up to our traditional values”

      Islamism and American Exceptionalism are both examples of the second type of response.

    2. Banger

      Up to a point–depending on how good it is and how sophisticated the propagandists. It works almost to perfection in the U.S. which has been dominated by propaganda since 1917. If you put enough resources into propaganda or advertising the results are usually good.

    3. Mansoor H. Khan

      As a practicing Muslim living in the U.S. since 1976 I have noticed that most westerners don’t understand one very basic aspect of Islam:

      Islam is very non-hierarchical way of thinking about the universe. Below is the hierarchical model of a believing muslim:

      Allah (God) —> Prophets —-> Me (the Muslim)

      — notice no Church or State in this mental model anywhere!!!

      It is often said that Islam does not separate church and state. It is more proper to think that Muslims don’t trust the church or the state much. There are plenty of mullah jokes in their everyday conversations with each other.

      So who do they trust? The Prophets and their advice.

      Islamic culture is a very verbal culture, very much aware of history, very aware of how the prophets lived, it is a argumentative culture and very belligerent and very non-conformist to any earthly institution. Muslims don’t accept authority easily and have a very hard time with hierarchical structures.

      All institutions are suspect as it is assumed that they will all eventually come under the influence of evil men. And will have to fought. Church or State. The job of a muslim is to struggle and fight and clean up badness around him.

      His retirement and fun is in heaven. This life is short and is a test. Quran teaches that a believer should rely on Allah and those close to Allah.

      More at:

      Mansoor H. Khan

      1. Frank_Goudreau

        And yet,Mansoor, almost all Muslim country are ruled by despotic regimes with, apparently, the support of the mosque crowd. If you are correct, (and I have my doubts),they may not like hierarchies but they sure as hell submit to them readily enough. Or is it that a mind conditioned by Islam is trained to submit – to anything or anyone with perceived authority. That is how it appears to me to be.

        1. Mansoor H. Khan

          Islam has no “official” institutions. There are no keepers of the truth. No “official” hierarchy and no pope like figure or official clergy no “ordination” process of any kind. There is no “official” church or Mosque – not even close.

          All institutions by the directive of Quran are subject to be disciplined by the sword including any clergy.

          1. Frank_Goudreau

            Yeah? So who gets to wield the sword? The guy in the palace or the lunatic down the street? Or whoever gets there first quoting a pertinent phrase from the koran?

      2. A Real Black Person

        If the Qur’an is interpreted by the majority of followers in the way you have described, it sounds like a religious book that promotes violence against non-believers.

  4. H. Alexander Ivey

    “…the cohorts of post 1980 born…Yet, they are claimed to share astonishingly common characteristics: narcissistic love of the self; the me, me, me approach to life; impatience; intolerance of all forms of hierarchy; a fetishistic loyalty to technology and brands; almost non-existing interest in social events; apolitical nihilism; non-reading, etc etc…”

    Whoa! Stop! Who do you think you are? Those words, especially the “me, me, me” apply to the American 60’s generation / baby boomers. Tell Time to get a life and steal from some other generation.

    The post 80s kids are self centered? What a joke. Who do you think ARE the current 1%, the current neoliberal econs? The baby boomers, you fool!

    Jez, got me so mad I’ll have to take a hit on my bong and chill out man. Dude, be cool!

    1. EenAnderGeluid

      Calm down, he is referring to these characteristics published by others, not embracing them himself.
      But he does point correctly to the effects of neoliberal brainwash on this generation (and their parents). I suppose the effects vary from conformity to rebellion – as in the sixties.
      Your observation on the 1% is true – in the sense that “the ideology of the ruling class” is (in normal times)the dominant ideology. In special times this dominancy can sometimes break down – it is a very complex and fragmented process also visible in and around this Taksim movement.

    2. Banger

      Narcissism did not originally define the baby-boom generation. Idealism, public service and caring for others were marked particularly in polls taken by high-school students over the decades–the boomers turn out to be far more caring than subsequent generations. Something big changed in the 70s for boomers and they changed–they bought houses and had children and realized they had to toe the line set by our corporate masters.

      I think the younger generations being more cynical and less easily fooled will profoundly change things since they have, as a whole, little future and not a hell of a lot to lose.

    3. jrs

      I don’t think intolerance of heirarchy is a bad thing. It’s certainly not an ideology that will prop up the 1% (they would be nothing without heirarchy).

      1. Gary

        The unofficial hierarchy is wealth and the power that brings, unmitigated by other social values and democratic interests, imo.

        I have seen the term “political economy” used derisively, as “ugh! political!”.

        Michael Hudson describes how the concepts in Classical Liberalism and Classical Political Economy embraced the ideals that the point and purpose of the economy is for the people and the nation and the world to thrive, to live, to enjoy. Then, how that was uprooted and replaced with the Marginalist Revolution, the pretend-term “neo-liberalism”, and modern “economics” based on abstract theories and complex formulas that either ignore empirical data or selectively use empirical measurements that have little relations to Human Life things.

        Hence, “efficiency” often involves debt-financied corporate raids that QUICKLY liquidate tangible physical capital assets that had been built up for years and decades and multiple generations of laborious effort and slow improvements.

        (Then the same people complain that “family values” like honesty and tradition are waning, for the sake of short-term convenience. Not that convenience and efficiency is de facto “bad”, per se.)

      2. Nathanael

        The absolute awfulness of the most of the hierachies which the current 18-29 year olds experienced growing up, is bound to create a hostility to hierarchy.

        They have never known a period when big business executives were not universally and constantly cheating everyone including their own upper-level subordinates, for example.

  5. Moneta

    At the end of the 90s, I attended a presentation about population demographics in emerging markets, Muslim countries in particular.

    The question we were left with was what happens when this mostly uneducated cohort reaches its 20s and has no goo job prospects?

    For me the answer was evident but everyone was too busy drinking the tech and real estate kool aid. Well that cohort is now in its 20s.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The other problem is what happens when the educated don’t have jobs or prospects which is a growing issue*. The social contract is being broken, and thats the kind of thing which really irritates people. No promise, no problem. Istanbul, Cairo, the U.S., Europe, and so forth are populated with people who have been fulfilling their end, and the neo-imperialists have failed them.

      When an Occupy like operation comes back, it won’t be kooky protestors because now both Democrats and Republicans have broken promises in a public way. There are no established adults with whom can be negotiated.

      *People with Master’s degrees and hideous debts, waiting tables might not be happy over the long haul, especially when the government is hiring high school drop outs to collect information on them or arresting them for pot while coke users steal on a grand scale.

      1. Moneta

        Last spring when the Quebec students were protesting and striking, the rest of Canada lookjed down on them and Quebeckers in general as spoiled little brats. If I tried to defend them, I would get blasted.

        Most Canadians do not see that the US model is quickly making ground here in Canada. Tuition costs in the rest of Canada are rising fast… for example, many doctors are getting into big debt to get a specialization at the same time government is capping the number of hours they can practice their specialization… most Canadians do not seem to graps what is coming our way…

        While Quebec students were protesting against that creep, the rest of Canada kept on coming back with the argument that they should shut up and be happy they have much lower tuition costs than in the rest of the country.

        It’s sad and frustrating to see how the general population has no clue.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Part of it is the homeowners don’t want to admit things are amiss because it brings uncertainty to the people who want to sell their $100k house for $500k or don’t want to admit they bought a $100k for $500k. The kids complaining more or less exposes the bubble they have built. If those kids were on track for jobs and eventually buying a starter home, they wouldn’t be out. They would be at a concert annoying people.

          I can’t remember the event, but I was at a party at my godfather’s house in 1999. Most of the guests were from where my dad and godfather worked (actuaries, attorneys, and salesmen oh my!), but I just remember people telling my dad he was crazy about his warning of the tech bubble bust approaching. He told them to get out, and they didn’t want to hear it. Don’t worry dad always rubbed salt in the wounds. These events were repeated with pretty much the same actors over the housing bubble except my dad is retired* and the people who didn’t listen are still working.

        2. PaulW

          Quite true Moneta. What struck me was one parallel to the G20 protests in Toronto. The reaction to broken windows was surreal. The media treated it like a human rights violation. The public consider it justification for massive police arrests and crackdowns against the peaceful protesters. Then I realized that in Canada a store window is considered to be more valuable then the health of a human being. Just pathetic.

        3. Nathanael

          Please clarify “the rest of Canada”. From what I can tell, Canada breaks into the following pieces, sociopolitically, in order of decreasing importance politically:

          (1) “Urban” Ontario
          (2) “Suburban” Ontario
          (3) French Quebec
          (4) English Quebec
          (5) BC
          (6) Praries
          (7) Maritimes
          (8) Unpopulated areas of no political importance

          With almost all the population being in Ontario and Quebec.

          If you are speaking of “Suburban” Ontario, I’m not surprised, though it sucks. If you are speaking of “Urban” Ontario, I’m disappointed. If you are speaking of the Maritimes, I’m not sure you can generalize from that. Hence my request for specificity.

      2. Nathanael

        “The social contract is being broken, and thats the kind of thing which really irritates people. No promise, no problem. Istanbul, Cairo, the U.S., Europe, and so forth are populated with people who have been fulfilling their end, and the neo-imperialists have failed them.

        When an Occupy like operation comes back, it won’t be kooky protestors because now both Democrats and Republicans have broken promises in a public way. There are no established adults with whom can be negotiated.”

        This is one of (several!) reasons I thin kwe are going into a revolutionary period. And I don’t like it one bit, but I don’t see an alternative. Our chances for alternatives have repeatedy been stifled.

        We’ll try, once again, to elect honest government which enforces the law equitably and tries to give people a decent chance. But our chances of success look less and less likely with every passing year. And if we fail, then sooner or later I think a critical majority of people will decide that the whole system is rotten and has to go. I do not look forward to it, it’ll be nasty.

  6. Michael M Thomas

    Let’s not overlook the single most influential aspect of the Y generation. They understand the technology that rules our lives. Most people over 40 don’t. As a result, “time in the outfit” stuff like experience, knowhow, wisdom, perspective have been effectively disenfranchised and displaced, at least ethically and philosophically. George Packer had a good take in his Silicon Valley piece in a recent New Yorker.

    1. ambrit

      Mr. Thomas;
      Being an over forty myself, I can accept your point up to a point. That singularity being that the march of technology has been going on for quite a while now. The tools are not the important thing, the uses those tools are put to is.
      As far as the narcissism meme goes; I once opined about the narcissistic qualities of the younger workers I was associating with to my therapist. (An acolyte of the Bowen Conventicle.) Her response was that there were going to be one H— of a lot of very unhappy adults in the upcoming generation. As an earlier comment remarked, the underemployed youth are now entering their twenties. It’s time for something to give.
      I am fearing that we are going to see first hand how the world would have ‘turned out’ had the West bungled the 1930s Great Depression.

      1. JEHR

        Yes, I think you have hit the nail on the head. There will be unforeseen consequences of bailing and not jailing.

        1. Gary

          Michael Hudson (continuing my previous post) has peered into the future and called this High-tech Neo-Feudalism as SERIOUSLY threatening a new Dark Ages for humanity. Who knows how that progresses.

  7. charles sereno

    Some of the real world events presently occurring should be studied by the better minds among us. For example, how effective have Occupy US, Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, etc, etc, been in achieving worthy goals? Civil happenings in Turkey and Iran (certainly a contrast) are presently taking place. Which will be more effective? Will Iran degenerate into a misguided Hopebama? or another Morsi? IMO, slim as it may be, I think there’s a better chance of progress there than in Turkey, which seems so politically similar to us.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      First, its important to remember an event such as the Egypt didn’t happen in a vacuum. They occurred after a spike in food prices, but here is the forgotten part of the story: There were widespread protests in 2008 in response to a food prices spike. Mubarak said reforms were on the way. When nothing happened, then people changed their tune and wouldn’t take a promise anymore. Even in the U.S., the worst set of laws established by the UK were almost back in 1768, but things came to a head when they tried the same stuff again in 1774. In 1774, there were way more 16/18 year old running around than in 1768. Half the population was likely under 18 in the 1776. Obama broke his promises in his first term. He broke Occupy with his coordinated campaign against it and the promise of a second term. If something happens it will be bizarre.

      In Turkey, this is just the first attempt; although Erdogan may not be able to make a promise if he broke a promise. As childish as it sounds, governing is dependent on trust. Breaking a promise is the worst things someone can do.

      Secondly, geography is important. The U.S. is huge which creates a problem. There isn’t a national square, not a real one. Protests like Egypt are tough. This means the peaceful protest which shuts down Country X can be solved by bringing in thugs from Time Zone Y to rough people from Time Zone Z because even thugs aren’t fond of beating up their neighbors. They will rough up strangers.

      1. charles sereno

        You bring up a few common sense, reality-based arguments. As far as a comparison of US/Turkey is concerned, Turkey has had secularists/generals with an outsize influence over the religious/traditionalists. (In Egypt, colonels/traditionalists, whether Nasser, Sadat, or Mubarak, were always in control.) In the US, on the other hand, secularists/progressives have never achieved any prominent position (unless one wants to call the pathetic Teddy R such a one). IMO, this has much to do with immigration (invasion, ie) and insularity.

        1. charles sereno

          FDR, of course, is as close as we got to a leader who effected significant, progressive social change. But he did so with an unstable, even discordant, coalition that had no hope of continuing with his passing.

          1. John Jones

            Not saying you are saying this but just to say my piece.

            I would not call the secularists/generals in Turkey
            progressives though.

            To me the secularists/generals or (Kemalists) and religious/traditionalists (Islamists) are still against true progressive liberal society just in different ways.

          2. Calgacus

            FDR, of course, is as close as we got to a leader who effected significant, progressive social change. But he did so with an unstable, even discordant, coalition that had no hope of continuing with his passing.

            Shortly before he died, he made plans to join with Wendell Willkie, who he was close to politically in spite of having run against him, to see if they could build a new party out of his liberal Dems and Willkie’s (& TR’s) progressive Republicans. But they both died before anything came of it. So he certainly was very aware of your concerns.

      2. Nathanael

        The discontent in the Soviet Bloc in 1993 led to the dissolution of the USSR. They tried to send tanks from Time Zone Y to suppress protestors in Time Zone X, but the soliders in Time Zone Y mutinied because *everyone* was sick of the government.

        Some have suggested that the US may see a similar trajectory.

  8. middle seaman

    The most charitable read of the post: it’s way premature and sloganeering. Imperialism, neoliberalism and me, me, me should be omitted. They mislead rather than help.

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