In the end, Turkey's alcohol restrictions are simply about Erdogan's personal biases. Defending the ban of campus sales at the Global Alcohol Policy Symposium
in April, he argued "of course [students] who imbibe alcohol will get intoxicated, pick up a knife and charge their friends; they'll forget all about their
computers and books." Given that he thinks the only thing standing between academic success and a stabbing spree is happy hour, Erdogan's surreal
perception of alcohol's capabilities would rival even the most devout Christians of the Temperance movement. Meanwhile, back in reality, alcohol is rarely
the culprit in the countless cases of violent bullying for not fasting during Ramadan or the groups
who chant Islamic slogans as they attack random people for
kissing in public
Just on Sunday, during a live interview with channel Haberturk, Erdogan fumbled a couple responses on alcohol -- first declaring anyone who ever drinks an
alcoholic, then suggesting those who enjoyed the occasional cocktail but voted for him didn't count. He would later try to save it by reiterating they were
not banning alcohol. To be fair, there seems to be no reason to do so: it's effectively a tax on a Western lifestyle -- the kind enjoyed by those least
likely to vote for the party in the first place -- and a useful source of revenue. Erdogan isn't against drinking as long as no one can see it; "if you are
going to drink, then drink your alcohol in your own house"
he told the nation last week
. Just as secularists once sought to sweep Turkey's religious element under the rug, it is now the AKP's turn to do the same.
Many of his opponents, including the Gezi park protesters, warn of the Islamization of Turkey. But as the party of those left behind by the 1923
revolution, it doesn't really need to socially engineer much. The party keeps winning elections in landslides, and its values are already shared by
the majority of Turks
. If he is trying to gain converts, he's already halfway there, as he so graciously pointed out earlier this week when he reminded the nation how he's
keeping his supporters from intervening against the Taksim protests on his behalf.
Back at the alcohol policy symposium in April, Erdogan had dismissed how the "top-down, domineering modernization mentality" of the government back in the
1920s "encouraged and incentivized alcohol consumption with a copycat mindset of modernity and civilization." But he of all people should know how such a
mindset doesn't work: "fortunately social values, the societal fabric, resisted the government's attempts to encourage alcohol, keeping it in check." It is
this patriarchal attempt to impose a lifestyle on those who disagree that is fuelling much of the Gezi protests.
And just as secularists weren't able to secularize all of the religious, it doesn't seem likely the religious can convert most of the secular-ish Turks ...
but it doesn't mean they can't be swept under the rug. The lesson to be learned from Erdogan's statements in April, and the nationwide protests still going
strong, is just how much resentment and antagonism can arise from having a lifestyle forced on people who don't want to play along. Marx once wrote that
history repeated itself "first as a tragedy, then as a farce." If Erdogan is able to point out the mistakes of 1923, he shouldn't be repeating them again
in 2013. Maybe in the 2100s, when the time for the next facelift rolls around, the country will have finally learned to coexist ... or at the very least
learned to be farcical about it.