June 8, 2011
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a window to the outside world
For me life online started when I was at university. I studied for six years, and when I started, registering for an exam meant going to campus and signing your name on a physical list. When I concluded my studies the exam registration was happening online only. Over the course of those six years the world had changed, or at least the part of the world where I was living.
I fully realize I sound like a grandmother now, but when I grew up you had to make your way to the library or at least go pick up a physical encyclopedia to find information. We didn’t have an encyclopedia in my house, so hence I spent a lot of time at the library. I also dragged quite an impressive amount of books back and forth on a very regular basis, and we’re talking piles at a time here. These days you can just go to wikipedia. I love libraries and I still like spending time there, but I also really like wikipedia. And I truly love the internet.
Obviously the abundance of information that’s right at your finger tips is enough to make me purr with delight, but the other fantastic thing is the quantum leap in communication the internet has brought with it. People aren’t plants and therefore we move around. The internet has provided us with completely new ways to stay in touch over vast geographical distances. Before the internet living in different countries put serious obstacles in the way of having a close and frequent contact. Of course you could stay in touch, but it took time and/or was expensive. Today you can talk to anyone at any time for free.
The interesting thing is also that the person to person communication has been one of the main focuses of development. Finding ways to interact, that seems to be a really big deal in the online version of reality. And probably quite logically so. We’re social animals, we like to have a tribe, belong to a group, be part of a social context, and the internet has opened up several new ways for us to engage in this behavior. We can email, skype, chat, tweet, blog, etc, etc, etc. What ever takes your fancy.
And our fancy it has definitely taken. Read more of this post
March 28, 2011
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same person, different shoes.
I just did something very horrible to myself. I exposed myself to the world of fashion blogs. I shouldn’t have done that. I’m nauseous now. I actually don’t have anything against fashion per se, there’s a part of me that enjoys it immensely. I like the aesthetic aspect, the sheer visual appeal, but above all I think fashion has tremendous subversive potential. Unfortunately this potential is very rarely used. And that was why the excursion I just did was so revolting. It could be so awesome, so earth shatteringly radical, but it’s not. It’s the exact opposite. It’s bland repetition of the same old formulas over and over again. Consumerism, name dropping, brand enslavement, plastic and the same pacifying ideals over and over again in an endless loop that never fucking stops! All this time, all this energy, that’s wasted on something that’s so stupid it’s even painful to watch. It could be so good but it’s just mind-numbingly boring. An army of clones that look like bland copies of each other. Add to the mix some shallow exhibitionism and you have the world of fashion blogs. At least the majority of them. I’m sure there are other things out there. Or rather, I really, really hope there is. For the sake of our species I hope there are at least some people in this scene that actually have some sort of reflection type behavior happening. I feel I should be honest and say that my investigation wasn’t that thorough, nausea came in the way. But this way I can at least cling to that last shred of hope. Because what I did find was so depressing it made me want to cry. Read more of this post
March 11, 2011
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On more occasions than one I have said that I would be a very happy hermit, and sometimes I actually think that’s true. I like solitude. I need solitude. I’m not one of those people who need, or even like, to always be surrounded by people. I crave my alone time. Writing obviously has a lot to do with that. But if I am to be perfectly honest, I don’t actually think I would be a good hermit. Or at least not a happy one. For the very simple reason that If I never saw other people I would miss out on all those life changing encounters. Those interactions that so fundamentally change who you are forever. And those have everything to do with a real face to face encounter. As much as I love books and ideas, and as much as those have also changed me, there is just something about the real world interaction, encounters in the flesh, that I actually wouldn’t want to live without. Moments of transformation.
I have had a few of those in my life by now. People I’ve met that changed my life forever, who lead me on to new paths and showed me new horizons, new ways to relate to the world. People without whom I wouldn’t be who I am today. And I am not talking about lovers or friends, I am talking about people who just made a brief visit in my world, people who I didn’t necessarily have a close relationship with, but who through that moment when our paths crossed, made such an impact that I walked away from that meeting a different person. Read more of this post
March 8, 2011
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Today is the International Women’s Day. In a lot of countries this day has lost its political meaning and has become a bizarre mixture of valentine’s day and mother’s day where men are supposed to give women gifts. Nothing wrong with gifts, but I think finally awarding women basic human rights would be a better bargain. And equal representation. I.e. real gender equality. As in 50/50. In all areas all the time everywhere. But unfortunately that’s not even nearly the case. Far from it. And there’s so much statistics to back this up that there’s absolutely no room, none, zero, for doubt – Our world has a serious issue with gender equality. As in there is none to be found. Anywhere. Not even is our so-called “civilized western world”. We suck at it too. Massively.
One of the things that’s constantly being debated in our part of the world is the lack of female representation in parliament as well as in the corporate world. And a lot of possible solutions on how to attack this tremendous eye-sore of an issue have been discussed. Some pledge for a sort of self-regulation approach. As if it was somehow a pure knowledge issue. That people just need to be informed that hey, women aren’t retarded, and then everything will be ok. Eventually. Well, seems like we’ve been trying that for quite a while now and not a whole lot has happened so far. And in light of that very blatant fact, voices are being raised for affirmative action. 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
February 1, 2011
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There’s about 8 of us. A motley crew of unemployed academics shuffled together in a room to participate in a course on how to successfully apply for jobs. We are here to find the way out of unemployment and get our lives back on track as it were. Today we will be taught how to get through the job interview.
“So why did you study philosophy?” she asks me.
“Because I thought it was interesting.” Not the most elaborate answer, I know, but it’s the short version of the truth.
She smiles a condoning smile: “Yes, that’s the way it is when you’re young and don’t know about the labour market.”
And for a second I feel stupid. Clueless. Because in a way this career consultant woman is right, studying philosophy is not a very smart career move. But then logic and reason return and I realize that what she just said is actually a perfect testimony to everything that’s wrong with our famous western civilization. It’s all about making yourself attractive on the job market. To get ahead of the competition. Adapt to what the almighty Market wants. The greed game. Consumerism. All bottled up in that one remark. Studying philosophy, yes the follies of youth… Read more of this post
January 28, 2011
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I don’t like prejudices. I know have plenty of my own, but I do my best to challenge them. And I am not saying that just because it’s the politically correct thing to say, I actually mean it. Because I really hate prejudices. And the reason is very simple: plenty have been expressed about me. Based on my gender, nationality, hair color, breast size, tattoos, piercings, opinions, lifestyle choices etc, etc ad infinitum. And I hate it. And don’t care that much what people think about me, but never the less I would very much like it if their opinions were based on me and not the things they associate with certain attributes I have. Because that limits my possibilities. Or rather, I don’t get the possibilities I would get if the things people thought about me were actually a true reflection of my person. Essentially it’s all about accuracy. That’s the problem with prejudices, they are seriously lacking in accuracy. And that annoys the hell out of me.
Most people would probably agree, I hope, that prejudices are a bad thing and that you should strive to challenge them. Like I said it’s the politically correct thing to do, but there seems to be an exception from this idea when it comes to the Romani. When it comes to this group of people it all of a sudden seems ok to state complete an utter bullshit that’s based on nothing but ignorant, racist, prejudice. I may be wrong, but I don’t really recall that type of opinions being aired quite that openly just 15 years ago. Sure racism aired it’s ugly face from time to time, but I don’t really recall it being that frequent. Or was I just too blind to notice? I’m really not sure. But I have been discussing this so many times in the past few months that I feel a serious need to put it all into writing. That way I can just refer people to here when the topic comes up again. Yeah, maybe I am lazy, but I am just so sick of having the same conversation over and over again. Sure I will still say “yes, I think you are a fucking racist for thinking that all Romani are thieves”, but at least I can spare myself the remaining hours of trying to explain why I say that. But I will still say “you’re a fucking racist”. Naturally I’m really sick of having to say that all the time too, but at least it’s short and efficient. Read more of this post
January 24, 2011
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I was talking to my dad yesterday and somehow we landed in the topic of things that are wrong with this world. We often do that. This particular time we were dwelling on the topic of equality. He was going on about all the things that were wrong in the world, about gender inequality and how that was still such a major issue globally, and he ended with saying that he was not convinced that it was even possible to reach a state of total equality. I was listening to his rant, feeling a certain sense of pride because my father hasn’t always had these views, ten or so years ago he would never have talked about this, let alone in the kind of fairly nuanced way he was doing now, but that finishing statement made me think. Is it possible to reach a state of total equality?
Equality is of course a term that needs some definition, as is the case with most concepts that are used in a political context. A dictionary will tell you that equality means “the state or quality of being equal”. But in a political context there’s a bit more attached to it than that. Different aspects of equality if you will. The most common being gender, race and social. Essentially it has to do with perspective, what you see as the bigger issue. But does that really make sense? Can you really grade it like that? I am fully aware that this has been discussed at length on various arenas and that there have been countless texts written on the topic, but if equality really means the state or quality of being equal there are a few things we must assume regardless of what perspective we choose. Read more of this post