Friday, July 12, 2013

"Damn Soem Things!"

Damn Soem Things!
This particular work of graffiti became quite famous during and after the Gezi protests. Many people talked about it. I remember rapidly clicking through a top-20 Gezi slogans collection, and I think this one was #1. But I still want to write a couple of paragraphs about why I think "Damn Soem Things!" summarizes the Gezi spirit very well.

It is funny. Facing all that tear gas, water cannons, and police batons, the protesters managed to make fun of the situation all through the protests. They managed to keep spirits high. I also mentioned on an earlier post, how humor became a very effective way in which protesters re-appropriated tools in the state's arsenal. This is just another perfect example of "disproportionate intelligence".

But it is funny in a particular way. It manages to make fun of slogan-making itself. I have always believed that being able to make fun of yourself is an excellent quality. It is just fun for the sake of it. But if nothing else, it can also work as a check on inflated egos. The Gezi movement was self-critical since the very beginning. Perfect examples of their self-critical nature would be how they tried to fight against politically incorrect language by self-monitoring and how they tried to enforce the peaceful nature of the protests by warning and weeding out violent protesters. Damn Soem Things! perfectly represent that spirit by making fun of slogan-making itself.

It also reflects the non-partisan nature of the protests. Damn Soem Things! can be read as a mockery of a particular type of slogan-making. Damn Fascism! or Damn Imperialism! were quite common slogans in Turkey since the 1970s, used primarily by revolutionary leftist movements. Damn Soem Things! is not necessarily a flat out rejection of the revolutionary left, but it demonstrates a clear effort in distancing itself from such movements and their language.

And finally, with the risk of reading too much into it, Damn Soem Things! is an honest representation of the individual's bewilderment against all the forces pressing upon him/her. The officially sanctioned industrial construction behemoth encroaches the last breathing spaces of the city; the individual is increasingly reduced to a customer whose desires are professionally manufactured through corporate owned media; and the individual's political activism is reduced to voting amongst five candidates every four years. Well, damn soem things! But then, Damn Soem Things! at Gezi, with all its humor, is a recognition of that condition - and, ultimately, enlightening and empowering.

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