Jun 252013

The older man, tidily dressed in his best country clothes and farmer’s hat, walks across the Piazza del Duomo in the city centre. Stepping steadily along, he also appears to have no interest whatsoever in going into the Cathedral doors which are open behind him. Whatever his destination may be, with his shepherd’s walking stick he looks like he is more at home up on the high meadows well outside the city tending his flock.


He turns towards the camera, and stops for a moment to become the standing man. Whatever the real story… and for more see “Storio Permesse… Storio Proibito…” by Valerio Ugazio (written in 1998, it has only just appeared in translation into English: Semantic Polarities and Psychopathologies in the Family - follow the link to read the review in the Guardian last Saturday by Tim Park, and, yes I agree, I do so much prefer the Italian title).

Whatever the real story… and, not shaming or blaming, maybe simply boldly naming it can make a difference.


Does goodness exist, the standing man with his camera asks. Not in mute silence. Better to ask: Does boldness exist?

“The standing man” coincidentally also appears in Istanbul’s city centre at the Taksim Square last Monday in the early evening a week ago (June 17th). Instead of entering the park then filled with protesters, the man stops in front of the Ataturk Cultural Centre, takes off his backpack, puts his hands in his pockets and begins to stare up at this building opposite the park. After a time a few bystanders stop to ask him what he is doing, but he doesn’t reply. Later the police arrive, do a body search and also check his bag. They find nothing. Do you have a problem? they ask, but he still doesn’t answer. They leave him and he stays there the next eight hours. By the end about 300 people join him, and, all standing and staring up, word begins to spread on Twitter: duran adam.

As reported by Kaya Genç the standing man is reminiscent of Alan Badiou’s idea of the “event” as the fundamental component of politics. As for a literary parallels, Genç also suggests Herman Melville’s Bartleby the scrivener, the man who “would prefer not to”. You and I are reminded that we wrote about Bartleby & Co last September (for all the Wordstall feuilleton pieces, put Bartleby into a search here). 

What comes next? A week later and Istanbul’s Taksim Square has now been cleared of protesters, and some political opinion makers think the standing man is missing the point. Not mute silence, community organisations and forums for speaking out are required for a mass social movement to be more lasting than a transient day for the standing man on Twitter. But either way,  the real story is the man standing is shining his light out to show:

1. Either way it’s BIG BUSINESS
2. Rocketing PROFITS are part of “the racket”
3. The myth is: the more you pay, the better they care
4. It’s a weird, broken system that really isn’t working

The older man, tidily dressed in his best country clothes and farmer’s hat: so I’ve worked as a doctor in my time dressed in a clean white coat, and got to know the health system from the inside pretty well. Then I watched it being broken up, and left in 2008 because I wasn’t prepared to be broken up the same way, and end up becoming a weird croupier for the healthcare casino (the weasel phrase for primary care doctors was ‘health gatekeepers’!). Now I am on the outside same as you – and it is like the BIG EVENT of the standing man – we can tell what are the Real Stories of “men of our age”.

Let’s open up the conversation.