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Essential public spaces create “a democratic moment”

In the public space of Istanbul’s Taksim Square, “strangers have discovered one another, their common concerns and collective voice,” says Michael Kimmelman. “We have found ourselves,” says one Gezi Park participant. They found the opportunity there to work out the character of their shared concerns. [Kimmelman’s video report and article]

But for the prime minister, Kimmelman says, “the goal is a scripted public realm.” And not just at Taksim: “Yet another of his projects envisions a hygienic parade ground on the southern outskirts of the city, designed for mass gatherings as if to quarantine protests.” In both cases nothing is meant to be worked out.

Note: Pushing public meetings and protests to the edge of town would recreate a failed government strategy during the early days of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia.

But the poets got here first. See W. H. Auden’s razor blade of a poem, six lines in all, called “Epitaph on a Tyrant,” which begins, “Perfection, of a kind, is what he was after…”

(“In Istanbul’s Heart, a Leader’s Obsession, Perhaps an Achilles’ Heel,” NY Times, 6/8/13, and video)

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