I am sharing this with the permission of the author, a colleague in and from Istanbul, who sent this to me this morning….
6 days ago, a few thousand people started a peaceful protest against an urban development project in Gezi Parki, Taksim, Istanbul. An illegal process to uproot 20-year old trees in the park gave rise to these people camping out in the park all night, reading books, singing together, and protesting the project, which proposed to build a new shopping mall/bazaar/pedestrian walkway, where there is currently a park. There were families and children, young and old people of various political ideologies camping out there. At 5am the next morning, the police attacked the tents with tear gas bombs and caused a fire there as the people were asleep. People put out the fire on their own, but refused to leave. Turkish media did not report on this, but social media helped with distributing the news; as a result, tens of thousands of people started marching to Taksim square in Istanbul in support of the protestors and to draw attention to police brutality. The next morning there were around fifty thousand people in the square, but this time police used hundreds of tear gas bombs (often fired directly at people and causing serious injuries), water cannons to knock people down, and plastic bullets. As the police continued to use excessive force, people from all around the country started marching to Taksim, if they could, or started demonstrations all over Istanbul and Turkey in their home towns. At one point, there were around two hundred thousand people in Taksim; right now, twenty thousand or so still remain. These demonstrations quickly became about protesting the police violence, and by extension, condemning those who ordered it, the government. It is correct to say that what is going on right now is no longer about the park, but it is a civil disobedience movement against the current authoritarian government, who is using chemical weapons against its own citizens who voice their dissent.
The prime minister of Turkey, Erdogan, said that this was a handful of marginals from the opposition party, being provoked by the enemies of Turkey within and without. In truth, there is no one party, organization, union, ideology behind these protests. Nationalists, secularists, leftists, rightists, soccer fan groups, LGBTQ groups, university students and faculty, old people, children, veterans, disabled people, … all participate in these. The prime minister is taunting the people, saying that he has 50% support and he has so far been keeping his voters on leash. He is acting as if he is only the prime minister of those who voted for him, and as if the people on the streets are doing something undemocratic by peacefully showing their concerns. One important fact to note is that people who did vote for him, often religious conservatives, are also on the streets protesting. One uniting slogan for the demonstrators has been a call to end police violence and a call to the prime minister to show responsibility. The response from the government has been increasing police violence and use of more tear gas grenades, plastic bullets, and arrests. The more the police is present and tries to supress the protests by force, the more the people react and take to the streets.
Let me repeat: the Turkish media has not reported on the events that have been going on for the past 6 days. At all. Not a single word. I personally witnessed the events in Taksim on Saturday, the police brutality, and none of the mainstream media sources reported on it. It is crazy-making. We had to livestream the protests from a Norwegian TV channel, but not a single story appeared in the Turkish news sources. It is clear that they are being censured. Two days ago as the police was withdrawing from the square, some news channels started reporting it, but they were spinning the story to support the discourse of the prime minister, and hiding its real reasons and real extent/seriousness. They are making it sound like it was about the park and it is now over. It is clear to those of us who have been paying attention is that it is no longer about the park but about opposing to the government and its dictatorial tendencies as well as condemning police brutality. The Turkish media is making it sound like it is smaller and less significant than it actually is, like the police was justified in using excessive force (by the way, they used incredible amounts of tear gas, plastic bullets, and there is talk of agent orange being in the mix. I don’t think it can be agent orange, but there are various kinds of red orange chemicals in the tear gas that has different effects on people.) For the past two days, it has been radio silence again on Turkish media (tv as well as newspapers, except for one low-budget cable channel, which was previously a shopping network). Facebook and Twitter have been the only outlets to get the word out to the foreign press and international institutions.
The protestors are asking the prime minister to do the following immediately: 1) Stop the police violence, everywhere in Turkey; 2) Start holding the police/the mayors/the governors accountable; 3) Stop taunting and provoking people by misinforming the public. The prime minister today went on a tour to Tunisia and Marrakech in the midst of the upheaval.
You can also help by calling attention to these events; at this point, the government will only respond to international pressure to stop the police brutality and it’s all the more important since the Turkish media is not at all reporting what is really happening. I am pasting some good sources below for your reference; it would be very helpful if you can also share them widely.
A brief collage video here:http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/06/01/a-stunning-90-second-video-of-turkeys-protests/
Proofs of police brutality (in Turkish): http://delilimvar.tumblr.com/
Besiktas (another important neighborhood in Istanbul) on the news http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-22749750
Livestream from the only cable channel in Turkey (in Turkish, but you can see, especially at night time, the police brutality with your own eyes :http://www.canlitvizletv.com/2013/01/halk-tv-canl-izle.html
On Twitter – #direngezi parki, #occupygezi
I can hardly believe the year that has just passed. At the beginning of it I would never have imagined that people would stop and praise me for my mastery of Robert’s Rules of Order or for my leadership on campus. A year ago today I’d never read RRO and I was still very much a newcomer to my campus. But then this past September the dean of Emory’s College of Arts and Sciences announced a roster of cuts to undergraduate and graduate programs and everything for me changed.
One of the programs he cut was one that my husband was teaching in as a senior lecturer, so that was an immediate incentive. I suppose I could have then gone to the dean and tried to strike a deal, but I didn’t. It seemed better to stand up on principle for everyone so affected, not just those with my particular circumstances. I got deeply involved because I’m a democrat all the way down, and the long-standing principles of faculty governance call for faculty control of the curricula. Emory’s administration just swatted that principle away as if it were a gnat. I find this abominable.
So I got deeply involved in the newly reconstituted Emory chapter of the American Association of University Professors. And I spoke up often during faculty meetings and occasionally on the college faculty listserv. And I posted a bit on this blog about what was going on.
Colleges and universities across the country and the world are under financial pressure. But the stupidest thing they can do is cut programs. This is the time to expand the crucial role of higher education not the time to shrink it. The leaders of my U are definitely leaning stupid. Buck up, guys. Get it together. Don’t succumb to the marketization of the university.
I’m hopeful that our new provost, a gal, Claire Sterk, can help Emory chart a better direction. And maybe the board of trustees will wake from their deep slumber and realize that they have some fiduciary responsibility to make sure that the bylaws of the university, which guarantee its nonprofit status and its accreditation with SACS, are actually being followed–but which are not.
And here’s link to Emory’s board of trustees.
My good friend, the composer Carman Moore, whom I talk with much too rarely, wrote me a little poem many years ago. I keep a copy of it handy wherever I’m writing, and it serves me well. So I offer it to all of you who happen across this blog. It’s sage advice. And note the composer’s riffs:
Be extreme, extremely you,
Follow the good line all the way.
Then maybe it bears repeating.
Then maybe it bears variation.
Then maybe it bears offspring.
When it’s over, you’re changed.
You can never go back to where you were.
After all these long years I notice something I hadn’t considered deeply enough before: by being extremely oneself one changes . We can never go back to who we were. So who is this “self” that one was being so ardent to? Maybe a daimon?
The Stony Brook philosopher and executive director of the International Association for Philosophy and Literature, Hugh Silverman, died last Wednesday after a battle with prostate cancer. I didn’t know him well, but every time I saw him there was a smile and a hug. A good soul and now with his passing a real loss to philosophy. Read this moving tribute from Peter Gratton.
Last September the deans of Emory University’s College of Arts and Sciences and Laney Graduate School announced a fait accompli – cuts to program and curricula in the arts and humanities, among others. This came as a complete surprise to the entire faculty, though a few members subsequently said they saw it coming. College and university bylaws stipulate that the faculty has primary responsibility for the curriculum, but the only faculty consultation was with a small committee sworn to secrecy that only reported to the dean of the college.
In a recent fiasco, Emory University President James Wagner held up the 3/5 compromise that rendered black Americans 3/5 of a person for the purpose of representation as a model of compromise. Mostly lost in the uproar that has ensued is what he was trying to do: make an analogy between the 3/5 compromise over representation of black people in 1787 and now what he sees as the need for compromise over the future of liberal arts at Emory University. In its own horrible way it was an apt analogy because in both cases those making the decisions never remotely considered consulting those affected. In 1787 it was elite white leaders deciding. And in the present at Emory, it is only the administration deciding.
“It’s based on an idea of democracy that we don’t really hold today. The way the 3/5 compromise got built was that a group of white men went into a building and decided what the rest of the nation would have to deal with in terms of the Constitution, not only for enslaved people but for women, for African Americans, for Native Americans who were still part of the U.S. at that point. That’s not really how we think about governance today or democracy.”
Nor is it how we should think about University governance today, but that seems to be exactly the way Wagner still thinks about it now. Even after all the apologies he’s made, he’s yet to acknowledge that there is anything wrong with the administration going into a building and fundamentally disenfranchising the faculty of the liberal arts, including, ironically, a disproportionate number of people of color.
Emory University President Jim Wagner’s recent piece in the Emory Magazine has created a huge stir because it invoked the 3/5 compromise (between the US North and South around slavery — leading slaves to be counted as 3/5 of a person) as a model of compromise during polarized political times, such as we have now. I won’t be surprised if this huge gaffe of Wagner’s — and his entire office — gets him fired. Better, he should just resign. But in the twitter firestorm that has ensued, little attention has been paid to the supposed polarization he was really pointing to: those who think the liberal arts are integral to human flourishing and those who don’t.
At Emory of late we have had many discussions about the ideal—and the reality—of the liberal arts within a research university. All of us who love Emory share a determination that the university will continue trailblazing the best way for research universities to contribute to human well-being and stewardship of the earth in the twenty-first century. This is a high and worthy aspiration. It is tempered by the hard reality that the resources to achieve this aspiration are not boundless; our university cannot do everything we might wish to do, or everything that other universities do. Different visions of what we should be doing inevitably will compete. But in the end, we must set our sights on that higher goal—the flourishing liberal arts research university in service to our twenty-first-century society.
As shocking as Wagner’s invocation of the 3/5 compromise to make a point is, let’s not lose sight of the point he was trying to make: that maybe the value of the liberal arts should be compromised. That is the issue he is addressing. But if there’s a debate on the value of the liberal arts, let’s have that debate. But rather than do so, the Emory University administration has been unilaterally deciding the outcome of this question. The vast majority of programs chosen for closure in the recent cuts at Emory have been in the arts and humanities. Rather than any open opportunity to come to a collective compromise, the process for the decisions (consulting a committee sworn to silence, which never kept minutes, and hugely underrepresented faculty in the humanities) compromised any chance that those targeted in the humanities could have their say.
So, in sum, Emory’s president uses an egregious example to make a case for compromise but is not in fact interested in real compromise at all.
Hey there friends, I’m organizing this conference and there’s still time to get on the program:
Advancing Publicly Engaged Philosophy, March 14-16, 2013, Emory University Conference Center, Atlanta, Georgia, Keynote Speaker: Elizabeth Minnich
Early Registration extended to February 8, 2013. Those who register early pay a lower fee and will be listed on the program as discussants for any workshop they get in. Workshops are filling up quickly. TO REGISTER GO HERE: http://publicphilosophynetwork.ning.com/page/public-phil-conference
The Public Philosophy Network (PPN) brings together theorists and practitioners engaged in public life. Rather than merely try to apply theoretical insights to practical problems, PPN seeks to create spaces for mutual reflections on the meanings of public problems and the practice of philosophy itself. PPN engages theorists and practitioners online and offline, online through its interactive web space http://publicphilosophynetwork.ning.com and offline through its national conferences that occur every 18 months.
A key feature of the conferences is the participatory workshops on a range of issues related to publicly engaged philosophy. Additionally there are plenaries, paper sessions, and organized sessions, though all aim to be participatory models of public engagement. Workshop topics for the upcoming conference are listed below; for full descriptions and the full conference program, go to: http://publicphilosophynetwork.ning.com/page/conf-program-draft
The 2013 conference is sponsored by Emory University and co-sponsored by the American Philosophical Association, George Mason University, Penn State University’s Rock Ethics Institute and Michigan State University.
After registering for the conference, you will be prompted to sign up for workshops, listed below.
FRIDAY MORNING WORKSHOPS
• Taking Philosophy into the Field of Science and Technology Policy: Toward a Paradigm for Publically Engaged Philosophy, facilitators: Adam Briggle, J. Britt Holbrook, Robert Frodeman, and Kelli Barr, U. North Texas.
• Philosophy Behind Prison Walls, Pedagogy, Praxis, and Infrastructure, facilitators: Brady Heiner, California State University, Fullerton; John D. Macready, University of Dallas; Marianne Patinelli-Dubay , SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
• Creating Public-Public Partnerships: Utilizing Universities for Participatory Budgeting, facilitators: Michael Menser and Kwabena Edusei, Brooklyn College
• Streets, Surfaces, and Sounds, facilitator: Gray Kochhar-Lindgren, Univeristy of Washington Bothell
• Race, the City, and the Challenge of Praxis, facilitators: Ron Sundstrom, University of San Francisco; Frank McMillan, Organizer, VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith CommunityEngagement)
• Performing Philosophy: Participatory Theater as a Means of Engaging Communities Philosophically, facilitators: Sharon M. Meagher and Hank Willenbrink, University of Scranton
• Using Non-Cooperative, Experiential Games to Teach Sustainability Ethics, facilitator: Jathan Sadowski, Arizona State University
• Scientific Advisory Committees, Controversial Issues and the Role of Philosophy, facilitators: Paul Thompson, Michigan State University; Bryan Norton, Georgia Tech University; Mr. Gene Gregory, former President and CEO of the United Egg Producers; Kyle Powys Whyte, Michigan State University
SATURDAY MORNING WORKSHOPS
• Philosophy of/as Interdisciplinarity Network (PIN) or Philosophy and Interdisciplinarity: Reflecting on and Crossing Boundaries, facilitators: Adam Briggle, J. Britt Holbrook, Robert Frodeman, University of North Texas; Jan Schmidt, Darmstadt University; Michael Hoffmann, Georgia Tech
• Challenging the Culture of Sexual Violence: Moral Literacy and Sexual Empowerment as Tools of Transformation, faciliators: Sarah Clark Miller and Cori Wong, Penn State University; Ann Cahill, Elon College.
• Engaged Philosophy and Just University-Community Partnerships, facilitators: Dr. Ericka Tucker, Cal Poly Pomona University and Emory University; Dr. Vialla Hartfield-Méndez and Letitia Campbell, Emory UniversitY; Hussien Mohamed, Director of Sagal Radio, OUCP.
• Hip-Hop as Public Philosophy, faciliatators: Roberto Domingo, Stony Brook University; Jo Dalton, French rap-producer, activist, and former gang leader ; Amer Ahmed, Chair of the National Hip-Hop Congress; Michael Benitez Jr., Director of Intercultural Engagement and Leadership, Grinnell College
• Sagacity and Commerce, facilitator: David E. McClean, Rutgers University, Molloy College
• Practical Epistemology and Sustainable Inquiry, facilitators: Karen Hanson and Naomi Scheman, University of Minnesota
• Public Philosophy Journal: Performing Philosophy as Publication, facilitators: Christopher Long and Mark Fisher, Penn State University.
• Equity and Climate Change: Opportunities for Research, Teaching, and Advocacy, faciliators: Andrew Light, George Mason University and Center for American Progress; and Paul Baer, Georgia Tech