Friday, May 1, 2009

Disenfranchised People

The Turkish Government is so scared of the population showing their displeasure that they limit their ability to gather. Of course, if you are living in Turkey you don’t need to read a blog to know about that.

Democracy is an interesting thing. In order to have a truly functioning democracy you need the people to have their say and the majority gets their way. And Governments don't like it when after the population has their official say, at the polling station, they have more to say afterward by means of demonstration.

The Turkish Government in particular has a recent history of a thriving democracy, and a long history of tyrannical class rule. The problem is the current governmental style is much like the old class rule system hidden beneath the democratic government, and the people of Turkey feel it but are powerless to do anything about it because it is relatively intangible.

May Day, today, is a good example of that. May Day is the equivalent of Labor Day, and it is a national holiday. What normally happens is the Labor Unions try to march as a group peacefully to specific areas like Taksim Square in Istanbul where there is a monument to the Turkish Labor Force (the people). The problem is that group dynamics take over and the demonstration turns into a mob when the disenfranchised people suddenly feel powerful enough by the sheer weight of their numbers. Traditionally, the result has been a few people killed, a lot of people hurt, and an excessive amount of damage to public and private property. Government being what it is tries to limit this by limiting the numbers of marchers and by limiting the different, and usually opposing, groups destination.

Can you see where this WILL lead? The already disenfranchised become more disenfranchised. The people feel less powerful than before which leads them to vent the frustration in more places but smaller numbers. The feelings of powerlessness become anger and they turn to any means possible to vent it. People throw rocks and bricks at the Police, who have been assigned to control access to main artery streets.

What can be done? The government and the people both have a point. They are both wrong, and they are both right!

The government bribes the people to vote for them, either directly (purchasing votes and sponsoring families needs with coal and rice during the winter) or indirectly by starting grand infrastructure projects just before the elections take place. There was a really good example of political party buying votes this year when they spent millions of Liras delivering household appliances to all the people in villages in the east of Turkey. The political party in question showed how out of touch they were with the needs of the people with this bribe because none of these homes have running water or consistent electricity service and the appliances are still sitting in their packages on the front porch of these houses because they are useless to these people.

Then again the People voted for them because they have better roads or new natural gas service, or free coal, or free rice etc... The people missed their chance to have their say about the things that really matter like a government that will listen to them and their needs rather than maintaining the status quo. So the problem gets deeper in the psyche of the people and the government. The people get angrier, partially at themselves, and the government is more guarded about groups demonstrating.

What to do? Educate these poor people! The people who got refrigerators or washing machines need them, but not before they have schools for their children that provide reading, writing and arithmetic rather than religious schools that teach Arabic and the Koran. These people need consistent running water, and electric service. They need the tools to live before they can live more comfortably. EDUCATE them, EMPOWER them!

When you build a road, first FINISH the road, and don't dig sections up after a month to do something you should have done while the road was open in the first place. That means you need to educate yourself about what the needs of the people are, which leads me to my final point, and original one, enfranchise your people.

Enfranchised people are part of your team, you listen to them and they listen to you. TWO way communications is a wonderful thing. You both learn, you both have a say, you both feel comfortable with a compromise that may not meet everyone’s needs but do for most, and the other needs can be met through compromise in a different issue.

If the people felt empowered in their lives, they would not become the mob. you could allow the march to commemorate the success of the labor force, YOUR PEOPLE!

Peace to you