Monday, June 24, 2013

Adrift in bliss. ..

It's late...and I have Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy's soundtrack on while I wrap my niece's books. The mournful trumpet wails in the foreground while sinister violins accompany the plaintive, tinkling of the piano.

Somehow it reminds me of the time I walked on the cobblestone streets of Istanbul. l was my snugly clad in my new patchwork bather jacket, ignoring the pinch of the new leather boots that threatened to slip from under me on the slick pavement. The air was redolent with the scent of coal smoke, strangely fragrant, unlike the stinging haze currently blanketing my city & country. Winter lent a crispness to the air; cool & moist near the shores of Bosphorus while inland the air was colder & dry.

The streets of Istanbul were clean & confusing. Wide tarmac thoroughfares were few in the maze of Byzantine slick cobblestones. We saw no stray  animals save cats. Turkish cats were fat, with healthy fluffy fur coats. They were friendly animals, obliging of cuddles from strangers even without food incentives.

Today I read & watch more unrest in the beautiful city. Protests over the Taksim square have evolved into something bigger & uglier, fueled by resentment & anger. Ordinary citizens battle & batter the authorities daily, the pretty streets strewn with rubble & burnt rubbish as protestors lob Molotov cocktails hither & yonder.

Outsiders like me would think that the Turks should have no complains. As more EU economies rumble & crumble, Turkey has been enjoying unprecedented growth. No longer are they the Sick Man of Europe. The horrendous inflation that saw me pay 1.7 million Turkish Lira for a tiny handbag is a thing of the past.

However, the threat to destroy one of the last vestiges of greenery in a city that is calcifying in towering structures in the name of progress has gotten the citizens up in arms. Personally, I feel that another shopping mall is superfluous, what more an edifice paying tribute to a shameful mark in Turkish history (the Janissary barracks look-alike was in the architecture plan. The Janissary was an elite military corps that were populated by stolen Christian boys who were forced to convert to Islam & serve the Ottoman empire.).

Whatever the spark that ignited the rage fueling the protests, it is not the first time that Istanbul was rocked by civil unrest. It won't be the last. The city between two continents, watered by the Marmara & the Bosphorus, will continue to witness the drama of the Turkish people. Joy & sorrow, success & failure, elation & despair, the cycle plays on until the annihilation of mankind.

The conspiracy theorist in me suspects that there are unseen hands fanning the passion of the protestors, similar to that in my country. But like Turkey, the prosperity enjoyed in Malaysia breeds a different sense of discontent. When all of Maslow's pyramid of needs have been fulfilled, people begin to look for other aspirations to give structure & meaning to their life. Something loftier than the struggle for survival in the past. The siren call of civil liberties are only audible when one's no longer worrying about from where the next mouthful will be coming.

The cross dressing TV personality in Pakistan who was interviewed by Diego for the show, Don't Tell My Mom Where I Went (or something like that) was asked whether he is fighting for LGBT rights in his show. His candid reply was that Pakistan had bigger problems to solve such as violence & corruption. For two men or women to have the right to make love is not even on the table of the important things to be solved.

Although many people of Turkey decried their duly elected Prime Minister, I'll bet the people of Pakistan, Egypt, Algeria, Syria & many other countries ravaged by unrest, economic meltdown etc. would dearly love to have Reccip Tayyip Erdogan take a hand to manage their country. Someone who will suppress the infighting & foster prosperity will be a welcome change to the incompetent regime currently holding the reins as they head pell mell for hell...

Then again, you'll never miss the water till it's gone.

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