Violence never scares actually. Rather the opposite: It emboldens. It is something perplexing, sobering, carnal, and so objective. It is never shrouded in mystery. When it stares into you, it has reached its ultimate end, becoming identical with the means it has utilized—force. In a way, it has reached its finality and lies there, weakened and desolate. There are the obvious signs: The bruised limbs, the cries, the laughter, the sweat. The gift of this finality is to awaken the entire powers of life; to remember never to surrender. What holds little authority other than force can hardly be a vehicle of fear. It is so well known, an uncannily familiar other, something that grows out of powerlessness as the last resort; before jumping into the region of negation, absolute freedom, nothingness.
Force, it can be said, is the residue of the absence of persuasion. It knows itself to be an entirely defensive mechanism, without the power of argument and hence unable to set something in motion, to unleash a beginning, or to be creation story. Here there’s no common world, no concert to act, no paradox. The short life span of this chain reaction has been already consumed in the moment it’s been thrown into the world. I had forgotten the color of this fearless fright; the combination of animosity and paralysis, blended with humiliation. “You’re not an individual, you’re not an individual” cried the smoke from behind. The limbs were agitated, eyes tilted to and fro, the mouths dried up, but the cries of the smoke drown in affirmations.
You know what is happening to you. There’s no element of surprise. You’re not alone. I’m reminded here of Simone Weil’s thoughts: Pain is something objective only insofar as it transforms human beings from suffering subjects into objects of pain. Hence, pain must be resisted, endured, transformed into a root of knowledge. Art knows well about this process. Laughter is the clear voice, the clearance of death, screaming in the face of life, “Come and get me!” But the noise outside prevents the message from arriving. These are the basic moments of life; the inescapable transience puncturing the bones with the simplest morning breeze. Do you remember when it happened? The lust, the rage, the uncontrollable lust.
The details are less important, they’re controvertible and always falsifiable. But the intoxication remains. Such a brutal place, you would think. But you cling to it, battered as you might be, wounded, breathless, unable to move, numb from pain. The pain and the risk are not objective facts; they’re phenomena, possibilities, ambiguities. An obstruction in the biological cycle takes place; the human world it is called. And why would you want to live in such a world? Bequeath it to your children? I asked you. You may want to recall some memories buried elsewhere; the safety of possession brought by love, the beginning of the summer, a voyage out. You know well I never loved this country, I never loved anyone’s country; my needs were a lot more essential.
And yet something scared that day. It wasn’t the power of force though. We had seen it so many times before. Two countries and a half I lost that way, and put some of their ruins in a suitcase before I fled. The fire didn’t scare me, it never would. “What will be tomorrow?” I wanted to ask them. And I was fully aware that nobody knew. Not knowing the future is nothing short of a blessing, asserting in full power the thrill of living. A line from Mrs. Dalloway came to mind: “What a thrill, what a shock, to be alive on a morning in June, prosperous, scandalously privileged, with a simple errand to run.” But the thought continues: It’s not about the future disappearing, but its becoming fully conflated with the present. Undistinguishable from it, barely present, a shadowy world.
And that was the real fright. There was the American gallerist, who had told us before about liminal spaces. This city is not a crossroads but a liminal space, a boundary, something like an event horizon. Some of us went because we were hungry, or saturated from seeing, or simply unable to feel things and people around us you know. I wish I were painter, I could have then presented you the instant itself, the moment of the instant. In writing, everything is always late, and no longer necessary. A witness for a man that is mute; he is already dead. No one submitted. There was a library, made from asphalt bricks and panels, in the manner of some modern sculptures, then filled with books and covered from above with a shawl. What is this distant place? Where could these things happen?
Books have a natural tendency of living longer than people, hence in the desire of writing there’s always—for some of us at least—the desire to become books as well. Often surviving fire and water, drying out with moss under the debris of history and then re-surfacing somewhere, many kilometers away, owner-less. Our fate is a lot less graceful. Do you know what it takes to be an individual in this country? It’s a lot easier for books, censored and otherwise. Metaphors are a lot more capable than raw human existence with its constant demands for certainty. In metaphors everything can be transformed: knives, batons, clubs, they can all be transformed into illusions there. Our bodies unfortunately lack those capabilities. But there’s the gift of freedom.
Times like this often come coated in the only reason of politics to exist: To make men more free. But we often associate freedom and being free with places where we haven’t been or where we are not now, these places are always elsewhere, somewhat idealized, idealistic, ideas. Such places have never existed. If they truly were to exist, we would have never left them. At times we have mourned over things that were never such, over certainties that did not present themselves to us as fact, over times purer and better. Somehow we tend to find political consolation in a past that we know to have overcome and that faded without ruins. Perhaps because the present is always confusing, always strange. It touches us so close that we feel nothing; hence the past is always beautiful.
We no longer recognize some spaces as given to us; they’re not organic or hereditary. We want to claim them as our own, to awaken there those powers of life, to shape them, to give birth to them, to mark them. We have known the powerlessness of a half-death, because it is not even full-death. We have seen their eyes, petrified opal and jade, succumbing to the mandate of the smoke: “You’re not an individual, you’re not an individual.” Have you ever been in the open sea? The illusion of being far away while you really don’t know where you actually are, far or close, in a place or void, imagined or real, water or light, at the frontiers of knowing your true size. Did you ever want to become something else? That moment when breathing exhausts you, the skin feels on loan.
Every new day is the constant repetition of the same hours, foreign and disconcerting, that never lead to new and more invigorating hours, but rather to tired moments, connected to each other by a thread of other questions. It takes an effort to live unprotected. Did you ever laugh at your own death? You must have seen powerlessness in the face then. Who will remember you? Who will tell your story? Let go of everything, even these days, let go of everything, as if it never happened before. To whom did it belong after all? What if there was a last day? What would you want to have done? The anatomy of things will remain unchanged, we all know that, but here it’s all about the morphology of the very same things.
You have a name for this destination-less journey: Istanbul.
Follow Arie on Twitter @Dilmunite
Middle East, Turkey, Gezi Park, Violence, Istanbul