Remember, remember, the eighth of November- Oder: Der Tag an dem der Glaube an den Menschenverstand starb

A guest blog by Johanna Wehner

Ein friedlicher Morgen. Der Himmel ist blau, die Vögel zwitschern, die Blätter segeln freudig von den Bäumen auf den Boden. Alles ist so, wie es sein sollte. Wirklich alles?

Nein. Ein kleiner Rest von Menschenverstand fragt sich, wo seine Verwandten geblieben sind. Was ist passiert?

Die zu Eis erstarrten Tropfen auf dem Fahrradsattel haben es schon angedeutet. Es ist der Beginn einer neuen Eiszeit, die von Nordamerika ausgeht und droht, den Rest der Welt zu bedrohen. Die Ursache: Der menschliche Verstand.

Selbst in einer fernen kleinen deutschen Stadt am Meer fragen sich die Menschen: Was tun mit den Amerikanern? Die findige Bäckereiverkäuferin hat die Antwort: Heute wollen alle die Amerikaner verschlingen, auffressen, vernichten. Diese kleinen süßen Teigteilchen aus trockenem Teig und unangenehm süßer Zuckerglasur. Auch wenn die süße Verlockung auf den ersten Blick auf manche einladend wirkt: Spätestens nach dem ersten Bissen merkt man, dass man sich hat täuschen lassen. Der Teig ist geschmacklos, der Belag so süß, das einem die Zähne schmerzen. Aber es ist zu spät. Gekauft ist gekauft. Jetzt muss man damit klarkommen, was man gewählt hat.

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“I’m not capitulating!” (quote: Ionesco 1959, picture: Isolde Treibholz)

Ähnlich wird es womöglich denjenigen gehen, die an diesem Dienstag im November 2016 den 45. Präsidenten der Vereinigten Staaten gewählt haben. Gekauft wurde eine Fassade, der Inhalt ist unbekannt. Den möglichen Zahnschmerzen nach dem ersten Bissen kann man jetzt nicht mehr entkommen. Der Unterschied zu dem süßen Gebäck von der Ladentheke ist, dass alle mit den Folgen des Zuckers leben müssen, nicht nur diejenigen, die sich dafür entschieden haben, alle US-Amerikaner, womöglich die ganze Welt. Das bedeutete jeden Tag muss man diese süßen Amerikaner essen. Jeden Tag für mindesten 4 Jahre. 365 Amerikaner pro Jahr. 1461 Amerikaner in den nächsten 4 Jahren. Die Spätfolgen dieser ungesunden Ernährung sind noch nicht abzuschätzen. Weil jeder weiß, das zu viel Zucker ungesund ist lässt sich aber mit relativ großer Wahrscheinlichkeit sagen: Sie werden immens sein.

Da verwunderst es wenig, das einige mit dem Gedanken spielen, sich die nächsten vier Jahre einfrieren zu lassen. Das Risiko für die Gesundheit ist sehr hoch.

Doch was sollen all diejenigen machen, die sich nicht einfrieren lassen können?

Eine mögliche Perspektive wurde schon im Jahr 2004 vorgestellt. Wenn die ganze USA unter einer riesigen Eismasse festgefroren wird, fliehen die Menschen nach Süden, über den Rio Grande hinweg ins geliebte Mexiko. Alle die zu spät fliehen, erfrieren zwangsläufig. Eine weitere filmische Vorbereitung aus dem Jahr 2007, ist die Flucht nach Kanada. Die Kanadier kennen den Winter, sie sind auf lange Eiszeiten und Schneestürme vorbereitet.

Die Ursache für diese Massenflucht ist der Mensch. Der Mensch von dem schon Kant gefordert hatte, dass er sich seines eigenen Verstandes bedienen soll. Doch warum hat diese Botschaft auch nach über 200 Jahren noch nicht alle Menschen erreichen können? Bräuchte Kant eine eigene Fernsehsendung um seine Botschaft zu verbreiten? Der menschliche Verstand ist ein Mysterium. Sobald man sich sicher ist, das die Menschen logisch denken, hat man verloren und muss sich eingestehen: Vielleicht gibt es so etwas wie menschlichen Verstand gar nicht. Wie sonst ist zu erklären, dass ein ganzes Inselreich beschließt, aus einer Gemeinschaft die ihnen viele wirtschaftliche, machtpolitische und wissenschaftliche Vorteile bringt, auszutreten? Oder das eine Mehrheit einen Präsidenten wählt, der kaum konkrete Ziele kommuniziert, sich selbst ständig widerspricht und deutlich mehr als die Hälfte seiner künftigen Untertanen öffentlich mehrfach beleidigt hat?

Mit menschlichem Verstand lässt sich das nicht erklären. Die logische Konsequenz ist die traurige Erkenntnis: Es gibt keinen Menschenverstand. Auch wenn die Menschen wiederholt daran glauben wollen und alle Gegenbeweise als Ausnahmen wahrnehmen. Es gibt in der Geschichte genug Beispiele dafür, woran der Begriff Menschenverstand krankt: Dem Wort Mensch, und dem Wort Verstand. Vereint in einem Widerspruch. Der Mensch ist nicht rational. Er ist nicht menschlich. Alles was existiert, ist ein Ideal, was scheinbar leider nicht Wirklichkeit werden kann.

Alles, was einem bleibt, ist der beherzte Biss in den Amerikaner.

In diesem Sinne: God bless America.

 

The Whitewashed Waves of Empathy

I cannot remember many news that spontaneously shocked me like the news from France during the weekend.

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Lebanese and Syrians show solidarity with Syrian civilians killed in 2013 (pic: Mohamed Azakir for Reuters

And of course the entire world is showing their sympathy with France, who seizes the moment to bath in patriotism, much like the USA after the attacks of 2001.

The last attacks in Paris however have been little over 10 moths ago, when gunmen attacked the satire magazine Charlie Hebdo and killed 17 people. And one similarity becomes visible in the reaction to both incidences: internationally people make it to be known, that they stand with the victims and their loved ones. The french that is. Ten moths ago Boko Haram had killed 2000 people in the deadliest massacre the group had done until this year. Nigeria’s President Johnathan Goodluck had expressed his deepest sympathies to the victim of the attack against Charlie Hebdo. No statement however was made to console or address the massacre in his own country. The leader of the world did not march in unity through the city of Baga to show their support. The people did not make je suis Baga their Facebook profile.

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Grief in Paris under the eyes of the media (picture taken from i3.mirror.co.uk)

And it is not different this time. One day before hundreds of people were brutally murdered in Paris, the same group of murderers killed 44 people in Beirut and wounded 200. But there is no filter on social media to be found to show that you stand with the Lebanese. No international outrage about terror in the city, once known to be the Paris of the Middle East. No rant about the worth of the rich Lebanese culture in comparison to the medieval perception of culture from the IS. Non Western victims during the war in Syria are invisible to the Western media, unless they show up with hundreds of thousands refugees at the shores of the EU. And even then they are mostly treated as an enemy to western civilization.

But it could be all different, if we had a little more empathy towards people in other parts of the world. Anna Barnard writes in the New York Times that the consecutive rampages, both claimed by the IS, inspired feelings of shared, even global vulnerability – especially in Lebanon, where many expressed shock that such chaos had reached France.

The reactions to the events in Paris are sometimes understandable, but also show our western entitlement to hold the ultimate power. As an obvious measure of revenge, several US states announces their refusal to take in the people who have fled the terror regimes of both Assad and IS. France has launched massive airstrikes against Raqqa, of which the group Raqqa is being slaughtered silently has counted seven since Monday. It does not look like this military action will reduce the stream of refugees to safer shores anytime soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Germans, Patriots and the 9th of November

Pegida Demonstration in Dresden (source: derstansart.at)

Pegida Demonstration in Dresden (source: derstansart.at)

Internationally people tend to simplify the images they have about other countries. And those images change with the news, and the shared experiences in international events such as the FIFA World Cup. It was the world cup 2006 in Germany that transformed the dominant new image of the country. Friendly hosts, who rediscovered their long-lost patriotism. But warnings were issued about so-called no-go-areas for foreigners. Not for the reason like in other countries, that they might become robbed as tourists, no. in this areas foreign looking people were warned about the possibility of a racist motivated attack. The warnings were still valid when the chancellor Angela Merkel marched over the field into the changing rooms of the German team to comfort them after they have just lost.

The image of the empathic leader Merkel changed drastically during the Euro crisis, when the world remembered that the best way of insulting a German is, to compare them to Hitler. During most of the last year the German government under Angela Merkel has shown power, when it came to protect the interests of the rich and powerful, mainly themselves. But now it seems that the powerful woman has lost her ability to reign. Not only in her own country, but also in the rest of Europe. The reason is her nonnegotiable stand on the refugee situation. Within Germany her polls have dropped down to the levels of 2011, when she opportunistically tried to make Germany a country free of nuclear energy. She does not seem to be able anymore, to push other heads of state to help out with the load of this gigantic humanitarian crisis at hands. Rescuing refugees from war and winter on the streets does not saves banks enough it seems.

Meanwhile in Germany the movement against refugees, especially those who are muslims are still claiming the street after one year. After a lot of struggles, and inner debates, Pegida still exists and marched Dresden on the 9th of November. A date that has marked the German history like no other. It was the 9th of November when the recently deceased Günter Schabowski accidentally opened the Berlin Wall, but it also has been the 9th of November, that initiated one of the biggest genocide in the German history in 1938.

Reichstkristallnacht 1938 (source:P5focus.de=

Reichstkristallnacht 1938 (source:P5focus.de=

This year front woman Tatjana Festerling from Pegida announced on this historically loaded date, that the ‘German guilt’ is over. Something the right-wing always felt was hindering their success. But Tatjana Festerling has over looked something scary and essential in her speech about the left, who apparently cannot get enough from Hitler comparisons. From one attack on an asylum center in 2007 to 438 of which 96 were arson in this year alone. Hardly any of the attackers have been sentenced. A fireman who admitted of putting fire in an asylum house, was set free, because the judges did not see a xenophobic motive, to him the man simply was scared of refugees.

Hard to believe we still do not see the danger of history repeating itself, over 77 years after the synagogues in the Third Reich were burning in the Reichskristallnacht.

Check your privileges

Lounge in Schiphol

Lounge in Schiphol (picture: Isolde Treibholz)

At this moment I’m at Schiphol airport, on my way to Latin America. I spent the night on uncomfortable airport bridges. Those sadistic creations on which everybody’s seat is separated from the next with barriers that make it next to impossible to stretch out and get some proper sleep. Naturally my mood was not the cheeriest when I passed through the security check. At the paper control I witnessed some fine racial profiling. In front of me, in line for Eu-passports was a Asian looking family. The man controlling the passports counted all of us together “you are with four?” After I connected the assumption that my passport was in  their pile as well, he became even grumpier and asked who “that wife” was in their group. Did I mention that they were a couple with a teenaged son? I became even more irritated when he asked them if they were traveling for leisure or “other things”.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, my expectation was a similar treatment, due to somebody else not being a morning person. I was wrong. One superficial look at my passport got me a friendly ” gute Reise”. It once more showed me, that the simple fact of begin secure and European gives me many privileges. One of which is that people do not assume that I’m up to something fishy when I travel around. In other words: not only do I have nearly unlimited travel possibilities, but people automatically assume that I’m a good person.

Presumptions and Poetry

.. Google’s automatic suggestions when one searches for something can be shocking, like the UN ad series regarding sexism, and sometimes give you the poetry of the logarithms. This poem is “written” by the search engine, with only few words to work on.

If only I

if only I had plenty of money

if only I could turn back the time

if only I be so grossly incondescent

if only I had an enemy

bigger than my apathy

I could have won

Home is where we share

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Visitors’ bikes parked outside of the THUIS opening (picture: Isolde Treibholz)

There are many ways to improve our world, making it a friendlier, more sustainable, safer and fairer place. A lot of those initiatives happen quietly and nearly invisible to the beneficiaries. Sometimes they need a little support and acknowledgement so they can carry on.

In a small university town, where a large percentage of the population is in some way involved with the university, the „common“ citizens and the constantly changing student population don’t mix with each other on many occasions. An initiative in Wageningen wants to change that. Tutku Yuksel and Elsje van de Weg celebrated in the beginning of October the opening of THUIS (Dutch for `home´) , a public living room for everyone. The vision is a place, where people can work, make art, play and cook together, next to a program of workshops and events. The former meeting place for elderly has been remodeled into a vintage style lounge with wooden floors, a vertical garden and comfy furniture.

Visitors hang out togeter

Visitors and volunteers enjoy a chat after the free lunch (picture: Isolde Treibholz)

The ceremony started with the usual speeches of founders, board and supporters. The mayor of the city, (who just a couple of months ago I could not track down in order to extract a statement to the same topic) showed himself so enthusiastically. that he remained amongst the crowd, long after his official job is done and he took off his mayor chain.

The same roof also hosts another initiative, which is still looking for funding and people, the Deelkelder Wageningen, a place, where people can share tools because the initiator as he emphasised in a speech, thinks that the future lies in access rather than ownership.

The rest of the event as well went like one would expect: the entertainment  included musicians, magicians, dancers and a Dj. What really became the prove of the necessity of this idea: the audience was constantly changing and interacting with each other. People from every age and background played board games, shared coffee and stories. Not only the initiatives that are situated in the building took their chance of introducing themselves to the public, but all sorts of food related groups used the opportunity to gain more small-town fame.

The visitors of the event enjoyed a free lunch and music (picture: Isolde Treibholz)

The visitors of the event enjoyed a free lunch and music (picture: Isolde Treibholz)

The project has gathered so much sympathy from the start, that the contributions of the people are various. Some donated free food and drinks to share, others volunteer to keep the premises tidy, while others bring gifts, like two living birds, or share their talent by providing free haircuts to the women later in the evening.

Thinking of Going to Calais?

In all media we hear, read and see people leaving their homes, in the hope to gain safety and a better life. It is encouraging that there are so many people in the European Union willing to help, despite the slow reactions of their governments, against the hate of those who attack refugee camps, the people in it and the people trying to share some humanity. The `jungle´ as it is called is one of the biggest defeats of humanity within the EU in the last years. Here are some thoughts for those who want to help.

ALISON PLAYFORD - ACTIVIST, WRITER, ACTOR

Thinking of going to Calais? I’ve just got back and would like to share some thoughts with you.

It appears that a large wave of European citizens are in the process of taking ‘aid’ to Calais and other areas in Europe where migrants and refugees are camped or travelling.

People in the UK and across Europe who are distressed to see pictures of drowned children want to help. I am glad to see this response, but would like to add a few points to the debate, as I think that we are in danger of perpetuating the problem by framing the situation through the political lens of those who created it.

Why is it happening?

Firstly, we must remember that people are fleeing countries which our government has helped to destabilise and make uninhabitable. Britain’s ‘special relationship’ with the US, and the policies of other rich governments, have forced this…

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How hitchhiking sums up my world view

disclaimer: the battery is dying and the WiFi bad, please forgive the lack in editing

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Why hitchhiking became an essential element to explain my world view

Staying for prolonged periods of time in stranger’s cars really made me think about the construct of my world view. I used to say that I believe in the universal human rights. However this declaration the righteous and oppressed call upon only scratches the surface. In my eyes everybody is a part of a society. The membership comes with the human rights, but also with duties. The duties that one’s prosperity is not build on the costs of others, including the environment. Basically this is sustainability regarding the natural and the social environment.

It is an old hitchhiker’s knowledge that we must treat those who deny us a lift with the same politeness and kindness as those who help us out. Don’t leave a bad impression and spoil the opportunity for others. We ask for a favour and offer nothing in return that is visible for the accountants. We are company, a short term friend and often a confession cell. People are free to grant us the favour or to deny it. With our without good reasons.

It makes nobody a bad person. I think that most people are good, if given the chance and opportunity to be so. The bad person is the exception, the deviant of a society. What is good in details differs according to cultural and social norms, but the basic rules, don’t steal, don’t kill, seen to be intrinsic in the human rule book.

We all have the ability to do evil, when given the chance and opportunity as well, but even then we want to justify. Find excuse in circumstances or claim to just follow orders.

Hitchhikers are often looked at with suspicion. We deviate in several ways from the common paradigm. For one, we rely on others to come from one point to another. Both in action and in resources. In western societies this is shameful, because it allegedly proves you to be useless to society. This notion makes asking others for help both humbling and humiliating. The other astonishing paradigm shift we provoke is the trust we show to others. Every single conversation while hitchhiking crosses the warning of others, not to trust ‘people out there’. The world is presented as such a dangerous place.

In trusting another person we, the hitchhikers indirectly link all the people out there to a large community, in which social and philosophical exchange is alive, and in which every person experiences the chance of doing something altruistic. And of course to reduce the carbon footprint.

Somewhere under the Rainbow

Let’s celebrate the Pride

People are dancing in the Streets.  After fourteen years, when the Netherlands achieved marriage equality, the USA has joined the group of then twenty countries to do so.

Worldwide rights regarding homosexual expressions and relationships source: Wikipedia

Worldwide rights regarding homosexual expressions and relationships source: Wikipedia

Right on time for the New York City Pride, the US Supreme Court has ruled the ban for same-sex marriages unconstitutional. The coverage in the media was much bigger than earlier this year, when Ireland as the first country in history has voted in favour of equal rights during a referendum. The symbol coming from the United States was strong. It made it clear once more, that the legal equality of the LGBTQ+ community is one of the human rights struggles of our time. Although the marriage equality is but one issue of that struggle how Everydayfeminism.com points out, but it is a visible statement. A statement of countries that they stand up for human rights, diversity and acceptance amongst and for their people. Times have changed. In the last days even people who used to be ashamed of talking about their gay brother’s family just a few years ago now have a Rainbow colouring their Facebook profile pictures. Large companies like Yahoo took the opportunity to jump on the wagon and not only show how mainstream support for equality is, but also how much they stand by it. Mozambique has removed an anti-gay law from their justice system, although this law has not been enforced, it is a big step towards the safety of the LGBTQ+ community to see it go.

The battle is won, but the war is not over

Water cannons to disperse Istanbul Pride create rainbows in the streets

Water cannons to disperse Istanbul Pride create rainbows in the streets

But it is not all glitters and rainbows. As visible in the map above, the legal situation is only taken care of in a few countries in the world, and even there, homophobia is alive and kicking. Encouraged by the signs of a changing society an italian junior minister has announced to go on hunger strike, to press the issue onto the countries agenda. The same day a petition has been issued to the german Chancellor, whose office did not light up in Rainbow-colours when in 2013 the constitutional court ruled that the fiscal benefits for marriages, also have to be expanded to people in same-sex civil unions. The petition demands a free vote on marriage equality in the parliament. The minister of justice, Heiko Maas already has stated, that with the conservative senior partner in the coalition, a real marriage equality would be unlikely to pass but he wrote a legal draft which is supposed to “remove injustices”. Next to legal quarrels in Europe, other governments have taken drastic measures into different directions. The Gay Pride in Istanbul has been dispersed by the police with tear gas and water cannons. After decades of becoming the biggest Pride in a dominantly muslim country, it was the first time that the turkish government has reacted violently to the parade. In China, where homosexuality has been removed from the list with mental disorders only in 2001, the LGBTQ+ community is now fighting to eradicate so-called gay-conversion-therapy. In these pricy therapy sessions people are tortured with drugs or electroshock to “cure” their sexual orientation. AJ+, the online channel of Al Jazeera has made a short documentary about the first of such cases that has been brought to court. Spoiler alert: according to the court, Yanzi Peng is entitled to receive compensation for the treatment, because now in China, homosexuality is not a disease, and hence does not have to be treated.