Protests are occurring in [INSERT COUNTRY NAME].
Let’s talk about Turkey. Protests have turned violent, and have turned non-violent. Which is fair, reflective and fairly accurately of human emotions and the way humans deal with emotions. You either go from frustrated to violent because you feel a lack of self-control, because you feel restricted and thus the need to break out, or don’t know how else to express your emotions.
Enter: Nuanced Protest. It takes clear thinking and clear writing to have clear protest. Especially when the protests are attempting to encompass and critique the structure of society at large.
This is hard to even conceptualize, let alone hear someone do. That is, critiquing the structure of society is a path that is oft pursued as a career. Think Sartre. Not only is critiquing the structure of society difficult, but so is listening to a fluid mass of people inarticulately and uncollectively express their disgust-to-displeasure with the structure of society. (This was a large issue with Occupy in America.) The length of the threads of thought you have to connect and weave into a coherent understanding of the critiques is demanding of anyone.
And then you have the next moment in protest: finding actionable criticism with which to build a solution. And often that first attempt of solutions is faulty, and so you have to be willing to have more constructive criticism, rinse and repeat.
Education, therefore, is essential. George Orwell’s essay, “Politics and the English Language,” is a seminal text in this regard. Orwell, in many ways, was ahead of his time. And now, here he is again, in Turkey.
In this photo essay by George Henton he shoots profiles of protesters in Turkey whom are silently protesting, some are using the texts themselves as a vehicle of protest. The protest began after police forcibly removed non-violent protesters. Then began the Standing Man Protests, and now that has evolved into the “Taksim Square Book Club.”
When I finished the book “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury I had an epiphany of sorts: If the world “ended,” it is within libraries where we will find the collective knowledge of humanity such that we could rebuild the world through reading. We can rebuild the world through reading.
How? (Excuse my pedantry.) We can rebuild the world (without an apocalypse) through reading because good clear writing is indicative of good clear thinking, and what the world needs more than anything now are people who can 1. think clearly and 2. express criticism in clear writing.
And while these large, fluid protests are difficult to encapsulate in the way that protest movements in the past could be encapsulated by their leader, or their leading text, these mass protests are truly representative, and only in today’s world do we have the ability to analyze big data, and only today do we have the ability to connect the struggle of people in Turkey with people in Spain with people in Mexico with people in America with people in Egypt, etc. etc. It is only today where I can see pictures on my computer in Iowa City at Prairie Lights Cafe of a woman reading Albert Camus or George Orwell yesterday in Turkey in protest.
We have a responsibility in any relationship to represent ourselves and our needs in a way that is not strictly selfish, but is seeking to produce a context or structure which can adapt to not just my personal needs, but to the needs of the individual in general, in a positive, supportive way. This is only achieved when you know how to express your needs, and when you can recognize that others have needs as well.
I know of no better way to begin to learn to do this than to read good clear writing, whatever the language, topic, or genre; non-fiction and fiction both function in this role, as does poetry.
The pictures in the photo essay from Al Jazeera are a good place to start. Here is a list of the books pictured:
“The Myth of Sisyphus” – Albert Camus
“Leaf Storm” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
“Old Garden – Old Love” – Tezer Ozlu (Can’t find an English edition. Needs a translation?)
“When Nietzsche Wept” – Irvin David Yalom
“Resurrection Gallipoli 1915” – Turgut Ozakman (Can’t find an English edition.)
“1984” – George Orwell
“Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World” – Haruki Murakami
“The Speech” – Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
“Biography of Ataturk”
“The Metamorphosis” – Franz Kafka
“The Crisis of the Modern World” – Rene Guenon
“Three Days With My Mother” – Francois Weyergans
As a final note, good clear thinking and writing doesn’t just come in the form of a book or essay, and it isn’t just from people with contracts or book deals or from antiquity. It can come in the form of unsigned hip hop artists from LA. Shane Eli’s “When We Were Kings” is an example.