Come slowly, slowly, the ground is wet

I'm not sure if many of you have been following or even care about the unrest taking place in Turkey, particularly Istanbul, the last few weeks.

It basically started when the democratically-elected conservative government, run since 2002 by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, announced it was going to redevelop Istanbul's version of Central Park into a massive new shopping centre and mosque.

Erdoğan wants to rebuild an old Ottoman military barracks on Gezi Park and the adjoining Taksim Square and throw in a Turkish version of Westfield.

In a city of 14 million people, with few remaining green spaces left, the lack of consultation on the project didn't go down too well. More secular Turks, who were already a bit suss of Erdoğan's increasingly authoritarian, conservative agenda, started to arc up.

As The Guardian's Elif Shafak wrote last week: "Recent policies, such as the restriction of alcohol sales and an announcement on the subway in Ankara warning passengers against kissing in public, have triggered fears that the government is interfering in its citizens' lifestyles and trying to shape society top-down."

So a group of students staged a sit in at Taksim Square and it was swiftly and violently broken up by police. Tents were burned. Heads busted. Tear gas and water cannons deployed.

Protests about the police reaction then spread to more than 70 Turkish cities. Since then three people have died, 5,000 injured and 900 have been arrested.

I've got a bit of thing for Turkey and have been planning a trip there for a while so I can visit what is probably the most exciting archaeological site of the last 20 years, Göbekli Tepe.


I also follow a few Turkish tweeters, one of whom sent out this rather special little video last week. It had about 40,000 views then and is now over 1.35 million; it's struck a chord.

However, every time I watch it I can't help wondering what it would take to arouse this kind of passion in residents of an Australian city.

According to my Turkish friends, the subtitle translations of the video don't do the lyrics justice but there's a few obscure references I think I've worked out.

One is "I don't feel like crossing this bridge" which I'm assuming is a reference to the name of a third, new bridge to be built across the famed Bosphorus.

Erdoğan has announced it'll be named after the Ottoman sultan, Yavuz Sultan Selim, aka Selim the Grim, who did a fabulous job of massacring the Turkish Alevi minority in the early 16th century. The Alevi minority, who are still around - don't like this.

Another line in the song, perhaps the most chilling of all, is "come slowly, slowly, the ground is wet" which I'm taking a guess is not referring to rain or water.

At the moment, in Sydney, we have the massive Barangaroo project being pushed through the intestines of parliament like it's a rocking chair for James Packer's retirement, with many critics describing as "appalling" the way the public had been locked out of the approval process.

If you listen to the opponents of Erdoğan, what's happening with Taksim Square is very similar to what's happening at Barangaroo.

In both cases we have governments that confuse an electoral mandate for a blank cheque to shape a city or country in any way it chooses, without consultation with the other 49 per cent of people who did not vote for them.

The former NSW Labor Government was far worse in this department than the current Liberal regime, so I'm guessing we've been tranquilised for so long, we've now forgotten how to wake the head of the snake that is public discourse.

I guarantee no-one's writing protest songs about Barangaroo.

You can follow Sam on Twitter here. His email address is here.

Please don't take it personally if I do not reply to your email as they come in thick and fast depending on the topic. Please know, I appreciate you taking the time to write and comment and would offer mummy hugs to all.