In a talk at the American University of Beirut graduation, Noam Chomsky singled out protesters, including those in Taksim Square, as “at the forefront of a worldwide struggle to defend the global commons from the ravages of the wrecking ball of commercialization, environmental degradation and autocratic rule that is destroying Earth.” (Text of talk is here.)
The first part of Chomsky’s talk focused on the artificial political boundaries that define countries, most of them the result of military violence and coercion. “The legitimacy of borders – for that matter of states – is at best conditional and temporary,” he said. “Almost all borders have been imposed and maintained by violence, and are quite arbitrary….Surveying the terrible conflicts in the world, almost all are the residue of imperial crimes and the borders they drew in their own interests.” He proceeded to explore the meaning of this fact in the Middle East, where imperial powers have drawn so many of the national borders with little regard for the ethnic or ecological consequences.
Near the end of his talk, Chomsky pointed out how these powers are destroying the commons of the world:
“Who owns the global atmosphere that is being polluted by heat-trapping gasses that have now ‘passed a long-feared milestone….reaching a concentration not seen on earth for millions of years,’ with awesome potential consequences, so we learned a month ago? Or to adopt the phrase used by indigenous people throughout much of the world, who will defend the earth? Who will uphold the rights of nature? Who will adopt the role of stewards of the commons, our collective possession? That the earth now desperately needs defense from impending environmental catastrophe is surely obvious to any rational and literate person.
"The differential reactions to the crisis are a most remarkable feature of current history. In the forefront of the defense of nature are those called “primitive”: indigenous, tribal, First Nations in Canada, aboriginal in Australia, and in general the remnants who have survived the imperial onslaught. In the forefront of the assault on nature are those who call themselves the most advanced and civilized, the richest and most powerful nations.
"The struggle to defend the commons takes many forms. In microcosm, it is taking place right now in Taksim Square, where brave men and women are protecting the last remnants of the commons of Istanbul from the wrecking ball of commercialization and gentrification and autocratic rule that is destroying this ancient treasure. As the mainstream press has come to recognize, theirs is ‘the cry of those who want to have their voices heard, who want to have a say in how they are governed.’ The conflict over the remnants of the commons is ‘about control versus freedom….What’s at stake is more than a square. It’s the soul of a nation.”
"Given Turkey’s prominence, the outcome of the struggle is sure to have a large impact on others throughout the region. But even more than that: the defenders of Taksim Square today are at the forefront of a worldwide struggle to defend the global commons from the ravages of that same wrecking ball – a struggle in which we must all take part, with dedication and resolve, if there is any hope for decent human survival in a world that has no borders, and is our common possession, to defend or to destroy."