Ten years ago, I attended Sziget, one of the biggest music festivals together with a friend. We pitched our tent after the downpour left the campsite in ankle-deep mud and puddles, which evaporated the next morning in the 35+°C that would heat up the scene for the next six days. Sziget, located on an island in the Danube river in the heart of the Hungarian capital Budapest, is huge: 6 days, one main stage, a few big ones, and all in all 60+ venues, more than 1000 acts, and some 400,000 visitors. The one in 2011 was voted “best festival” in Europe. The opening act was meant to be Amy Winehouse, yet she decided to move on two weeks ahead of the festival. Guess who jumped in: Prince! I never thought I’d see that legend of my teenie years live ever – not that I bothered, but hey, here he was, all inclusive. Amongst my favourite performances: Pulp, Chemical Brothers, Flogging Molly, Skunk Anansie, Gogol Bordello, Goran Bregović, and some less well-known acts in the Roma tent where I loved to hang out till dawn.
Plus sides: it does have something for everyone, including food (strong Balkan presence!), and it’s a celebration of diversity, a European kind of diversity. Hence the attempted attack by a Jobbik mob, a Hungarian racist-nazi group, that’s now happily represented in parliament.
Downsides: prices and policies (e.g. limits on bottles of water, packs of cigarettes, etc. to bring to the camping – and on site sales of, for instance, Marlboro only. That sort of monopolized capitalism). The prices make the festival almost unavailable for most locals.
October and kingdoms rise And kingdoms fall But you go on And on. (U2 – October, 1982)
I have two beginnings for this blog post. I’m not sure I have a suitable ending.
Opening one: I’m just back from a discussion, with Naika Foroutan, about East-German migration analogies and prejudices against East-Germans, here at the local Literarisches Zentrum. “Here” means: Göttingen, West-Germany, for me, an East German by origin, my home of seven years now. Diaspora as well as home. “Here” also means: amongst an audience of, primarily, West-Germans. Naika Foroutan and host Robert Pausch are West Germans, too. They (“they”) speak about East Germans (“us”). Some of “us” are in the room. Their safeguard is the “objectivity” of the (social) sciences. “Objectivity” implies an object. An object implies a subject. Who’s who? I can feel I am one of the objects here, regardless whether I want to or not, and someone else assumes the role of the subject-agent. I observe.
30 years ago today, the “Wende”, the peaceful revolution in East Germany, truly started. After the brutal crack down of police on protesters and bystanders alike in Magdeburg two days earlier, everyone knew that something would happen. October 9 was a Monday, and hence I was at school (EOS Humbodt) in the morning hours. Directors and staff leaders in pretty much every institution and company approached their staff or students or even children at kindergarten, threatening that if they went out into the streets tonight their (or their parents’!) safety could not be guaranteed.
August 1989, and we were the “last legion” to be trained in one of East Germany’s paramilitary camps – one of the things that had become part and parcel of growing up in East Germany. Now we were there for a last time, though we didn’t know that yet.
… at least when your birthday is in winter like mine. Even The Queen does it, only in time. I do it in space. After all her original birthday is not in winter. And German winter at that. Since I didn’t grow up in a region where people engage in winter sports much, nor where you could count on snow, the consequences in my childhood were: in-doors arrangements needed to be made, no garden party, and so on. You get the picture. As an adult I would sometimes defy the winter weather and have a garden party (I remember once doing a barbecue during a blizzard – me being the only one outside). But this year, for the second time in my life, I am in the south, and way down south!
Now after a number of people have sung for me in different languages (see also below), and Winnie surprised me with a great improvisation on “Happy Birthday” on the piano – and this guy also happens to be my boss!, and now that my stomach is filled with delicious food, I am home (ha! been in Auckland Lodge for almost a month now) ready to enjoy some of that duty-free whiskey in a moment. Nightcap. But for now I enjoy reflecting upon this day, here.
The following text is partly in response to friends or anyone really who is rightfully upset and hurt by ongoing racism in the world. My fear is that this pain makes it more and more difficult for us to engage openly, and to challenge ourselves and our prejudice, or if you like: myself and my prejudices. I sense that a lot of people on the receiving end of racism are fed up with finding themselves in a position where they are asked to explain or end racism or are asked to forgive, more so than those who commit acts of racism, directly or indirectly, are willing to do the work to overcome it, or even look at potential racist behaviour, or to admit to their position of privilege.
It’s become longer than I thought, and I believe what truth there is in it is personal, thus not necessarily The capital-T Truth.
I’m leaving Africa for a few days – there’s a party to attend, with some of my most favourite people in this universe, some paperwork and clothes for uni to pick up. I’m happy to visit friends and family. I leave Africa with lots of impressions, and a sense that I don’t have enough yet. I’m still hungry 😉
Back in Germany for a few days
The cold and the dark are appaling. I am still angry at my ancestors: they left the land of mangos, guavas and bananas to go north. Once there, they had to bleach their skin so the sun could make up for the poor diet. Then they realized they’d die in the winter months if they didn’t stress throughout spring and summer. So they became really good at that, stressing. It made them “successful”, if a stressful life is a success at all. So much so that they conquered the rest of the world and imposed this stressful system there as well, unnecessarily. Welcome the 20th and 21st centuries – my philosophy of history in short. We could be sitting under mango trees and wait for the next harvest, all the 5 million of us or so …
So, after loads and loads of stressful things, annoyances and all, I’m out. Out here on my way, and treading unknown paths mostly on my own, the feeling of it being my way is so much more intense … Continue reading →