December 28, 2012
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This whole facebook, or indeed any other equivalent social networks, integrity debate, I was sitting here thinking about that just now as I was spreading some more political propaganda through my news feed. And I know all about the problems with having your mother or your boss seeing the same things your friends see about you, we all do, so let’s try turning it around a bit, just for the sake of examination. Let’s look at it from a different angle. Let’s forget about the whole “stalking your current or former partners” parts, and look at the more subversive aspects of it and how it could potentially change the whole social game as we know it. Yeah, I said the whole though process got kicked into motion by posting political propaganda, didn’t I?
I’m a very private person. I don’t really like people to know all that much about what I do or where I am and hence I rarely give away information on that on facebook or in real life for that matter. Some people like to inform everyone about where they are, what they are doing and what they had for breakfast, I’m not one of those people. But thanks to facebook I now have a very clear visibility on who of my friends actually do belong to that group of people. Is this a good or a bad thing? I’m not sure. But if a friend of mine posts a blatantly sexist status update it is indeed a good thing because then I can delete that person from my friends list. The same way people can do the exact same thing to me if they are offended by my political propaganda. For instance when I post things from this very blog.
Yes, we do get to know a lot more about our friends these days. And as uncomfortable as that sometimes makes me, I don’t necessarily think it’s bad thing. Because sure, we have to exercise a little bit of censorship, or rather judgement, when we post things, but I don’t actually think it’s uncomfortable or bad if people know my political views, after all they are my views and I should consequently stand behind them, we all should. We should stand behind who we are. Even to our boss or indeed our mothers. I think it’s time to stop the whole acting and trying to fit in to the norm thing, because if we could finally deal with the reality of the fact that we as humans are pretty multifaceted, this world would be so much better and life would be so much more interesting. You can actually be a hugely successful business person and still go to techno clubs on the weekend, and you can actually be on a roll in academia and still live the full gay lifestyle with clubbing and the works and you can be a great parent without having a so-called “organized life” with a 9 to five job. Theoretically you can even be pro the Occupy Wall Street movement and still work in a bank. Because we are in fact a pretty diverse species, and we are capable of having more than one side to our personality. In fact we do. All of us. And I’m not so sure it’s really doing us that much good to keep them as separate as we do. The question is if that isn’t just providing a great growing ground for prejudice. Because if you are a successful business person and your boss can’t see that your partying on the weekend isn’t affecting your work performance and should therefore be of no concern to him, he probably shouldn’t be in that job. The worst thing that could happen is that he has to question his own prejudices if he knows about your extracurricular activities. And if you’re scared you might lose your job because of your political opinion, well then maybe you should ask yourself whether you actually even want to keep that job. And yes, we all need food on the table, but we also need a spine. And if more of us put more focus on maintaining our status as vertebrae this world would probably be a lot nicer to live in. Read more of this post
March 2, 2011
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A while ago someone asked me why I write. I have been asked that question many times. The simple answer is because I have to. If I don’t write I go insane. And as melodramatic as that sounds, it’s never the less true. I write to sort out my own head, to organize my thoughts. And that applies to anything I write, regardless of whether it’s fact or fiction. I do it to sort out my own head, to understand. This time that answer wasn’t really appropriate though, the situation called for a bit more discretion than saying it was for mental health reasons. So I had to loop it in my head one more time and when I did the other side of it became clear. I write because I believe that story telling can change the world. And that statement actually applies to the mental health aspect too. I want to understand and that’s why I write, that how my brain works. But the products of my efforts, the texts, those are just as much about getting other people to understand. By sharing what I think I hope to get other people to embrace the same thoughts, to see the same patterns. Because I really do want to change the world.
We live in an age and a culture where this ambition is somewhat frowned upon. It’s not really the hip thing to do. It’s too pretentious, too serious, not cynical enough. And at a first glance it may also seem to lack that essential element of immediate satisfaction that we seem to crave more than anything. But I don’t really have a choice. I have to keep on trying. And there is massive satisfaction in doing so. Immediate and long-term. Because it’s all about passion, about actually caring so much that you just can’t help yourself. Of course I write because I love it, I love words and I love stories, I always have. That’s one side of it. The other is the hope of actually making a difference. And I think that’s the two elements of passion: love and actually giving a shit. That’s why you do it, what ever it is you do. Read more of this post
February 24, 2011
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berlin street art - ALIAS (and if you know who the other artist is, let me know!)
I’m standing at the outskirts of the crowd, partly out of care and partly out of cowardice. I’ve never liked crowds, and if the crowd is a demonstration surrounded by police in full riot gear, I like it even less. For some reason we’ve come to a stop and none of the people around me seem to know why. Everyone’s going ‘what the fuck’s up?’, but there’s no announcement, no information. We stand around for quite some time before we can hear something being said over a megaphone, but exactly what is impossible to hear. The conclusion everyone draws is that it’s over now, that the police has stopped the demonstration from going any further. We’re on a long stretch of street without side streets and it’s very crowded. People start moving a bit, but there’s really nowhere to go. And then, pretty much out of the blue as far as most of us are concerned, the police line advances and in the middle of the crowd people start screaming. I’m right at the edge, so the police are pretty much trying to push me back in to the crowd. Luckily, and most likely because of the aforementioned cowardice, I immediately notice what’s happening and manage to sneak through a gap before they close the line completely. Behind me I hear two girls begging to be let through, panic in their voices. As I push my way through the crowd of people now desperately trying to get away from the erupting turmoil, I see several people holding their faces in extreme agony. People are screaming for water. And at first it’s like my brain doesn’t really want to process the information, it’s just too bizarre somehow, but then I realize it’s tear gas. They have fired fucking tear gas straight into the crowd. That’s when I also realize I have to get out of there. Fast. And I’m very lucky, not only do I get out, but I also manage to find a spot where I can still see some part of what’s going on. And I see people trying to get out anywhere they can, some try climbing over a 4m wall in a courtyard hoping to find a way out in the adjacent one. Out in the street people are running and the police keep pushing the crowd together and backwards even though there’s not really anywhere for them to go. More tear gas, more screams. I don’t know how long it lasts, but it doesn’t take the police that long to clear the street from most of the people. But the sirens keep going all night. Read more of this post
February 2, 2011
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Today a squat is being cleared in my neighborhood, Liebigstrasse 14. It’s a house project that’s existed for 20 years and were the occupants, through negotiations with the Berlin senate, got legal tenancy agreements in the early 90s. But then, in the late 90s, big money came in and wanted to buy the house from the WBF (Wohnungsbaugenossenschaft Friedrichshain ≈ Friedrichshain Housing Association), who was the current owner. And as we all know, money talks and the house was sold. The only problem was that the people who were actually living there wasn’t he target group the new owner was looking for. He was looking to make a profit, and with his current tenants that was not very likely to happen. So their leases were cancelled. They however, had no intention of moving anywhere. As far as they were concerned it was still their house. A house they had lived in for 20 years and renovated themselves. After going through the usual rounds in the legal system the eviction was confirmed and the current tenants where to be kicked out. By force if necessary. And of course force was necessary. Read more of this post
November 17, 2010
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For the past two weeks I have been participating, involuntarily, in a course about how to apply for jobs. I already know how to apply for a job, so that part of the course is a complete waste of time, but I am getting loads of insights to the wonder that is the human psyche. Just now I had following conversation down in the lobby by the elevators:
“Hi I’m the janitor. Where are you going?”
“To the 4th floor.”
“Are you a participant in the course?”
“Then you have to take the stairs.”
“Because that’s the way it is. It’s the rule. Says so on the sign there.”
I looked at him in disbelief and then I looked at the completely deserted lobby. There was really no one else around. The course is taking place in a high-rise building with a multitude of activities happening on the various floors. Office space, a kindergarten, various school type activities etc, so there are times when the elevators are very busy. At those times it does of course make sense to have a rule that says that the people higher up in the building, or the parents with their kids, have right of way to the elevator. But at this particular time the lobby was deserted. No one in sight. But the janitor was still sticking to his point – I should take the stairs. He even went as far as to say that he wanted to see me do that. I contemplated telling him that wouldn’t really be possible since he was actually standing in the elevator as we were having this conversation and the stairs are located in a separate entrance, but then I decided against it seeing as the likelihood of it being a very fruitful discussion was virtually zero. I waited him out and then took the elevator. Read more of this post
October 4, 2010
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“Riot – worthwhile work for everyone.” I have a t-shirt that says that. I bought it because I thought the message made sense. It was back in 2001, just after the riots at the EU summit in the Swedish city Gothenburg had happened, and I was appalled by the reactions from the general public. First there were lots of very violent demonstrations and clashes between the protesters and the police, and then a guy was shot by the police, in Sweden that’s not something that happens every day. In fact, it was pretty much unheard of. But the strange thing was that it was the protests themselves that were questioned, not what the police did. Suddenly the “fight for your right” credo seemed to belong more to the police than to the people. I thought that was scary. And i think that’s why I bought that t-shirt. To make some sort of statement about the right to protest.
So does it help? To protest and challenge the establishment? Is there a point? Yes, I hope so. I hope it helps to raise your voice when you think something is wrong. After all, that is one of the fundamental rights in a democracy, to speak your mind. As citizens we do have a right to protest. And that right should be exercised. Thankfully most of the political establishment realizes and recognizes this. But what strikes me is how few conclusions are drawn from this realization. Read more of this post