No comment from me.
Yesterday and today there were BLM protests in my neck of the wood and since I was busy yesterday, my dad and I went today. The idea was to have two days so people could space out more, and given that there were a lot of us, that was a good idea.
Now, I must tell you, I haven’t gone to a protest that worried in a while. I didn’t bring the kids. I’m not generally against “bringing kids to protests”. For one thing, kids do have opinions, for another, it teaches them to stand up for what they believe. But with the scenes we’ve been seeing from around the world and also from Munich and Berlin, I wasn’t comfortable bringing them. All those water throwers that all seemed to be out of order when fucking Nazis and conspiracy theorists were violating all Corona rules and literally chasing cops over the Alexanderplatz are apparently back in good condition again. Because who will decide if we are behaving well at a protest against police violence? Right. Spot the problem.
And for sure they were ready in their riot gear. They didn’t get to use it and I hope they sweated sitting in their black gear inside their buses.
One really good thing was that this protest was organised and let by black people, predominantly black women, and not some well meaning but ultimately problematic white allies. They recounted their experiences with everyday racism from an early age. They told the cops that they are responsible for their bad apples unless they want to get tarred with the same brush, that to be silent is to be complicit.
And it’s more necessary than ever, because just yesterday there was an attack on a young black man, who told us about the guy who attacked him with a knife, yelling “you’re black, you must die!” It was heartbreaking to hear him, to see him, shaking and searching for his voice, reliving his trauma. Thankfully the attacker was caught and look and behold, they are indeed suspecting a racist motive.
In the end we sang “Happy Birthday” for Breona Tailor and Tamir Rice, and Amazing Grace, which the moderator mentioned to probably be the first instant of cultural appropriation as it was written by a slave owner after overhearing his slaves sing.
Whom I though was missing were other migrant groups. With a few exceptions I didn’t see any non black people of colour. I don’t know if it was the shortness of time, but I missed the other migrant organisations.
I also met a pupil of mine who was very embarrassed to see me there. He’ll live. And he’ll still have to do Maths with me tomorrow.
Trump likes to refer to himself as the president of “Law And Order” these days and his sycophants in the Geezers Only Party repeat those three words as a mantra. And their voters, presumably, lap it up as a chant worth following, as if those words represent something intrinsically good.
They do not.
Laws can be, and quite often are, impractical, counter-productive, or downright immoral and wrong. Lawful behavior is only as good as the laws that it follows, and unlawful behavior is only as bad as the laws it breaks are good. The order that ensues from enforcement of laws is in this regard completely value-neutral. It has no moral property in itself, it only reflects that of the legal system that has brought it into existence.
To anyone who yearns for Law and Order and not paying particular attention to what kind of Law and what kind of Order, I would like to put forth following points for consideration:
Draw from that any conclusions you want.
I have never seen LegalEagle lose his cool on camera, although I did not watch all his videos.
I have also never expected to live through a deadly pandemic and USA coming apart at the seams at the same time.
Life is full of surprises. To all our USA readers – please stay safe. Our hearts are with you, although we cannot do anything to help.
These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give a perfect and objective evaluation of anything but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty-eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.
At school we were constantly reminded that we are living in a socialist country that takes great care of its people, and where everything belongs to everybody. However, one of my schoolmates has once said “If you read the definition of socialism in a dictionary, you realize we are not actually living in socialism”. Which is a pretty deep insight for someone under thirteen. But was he right?
The blaring of propaganda was constant, overt as well as covert, and it all was poised to inform us about all the ills the societies to the west of us suffer (most of which were, even in hindsight, spot-on) and all the wondrous technological and social advancements that the USSR has made over its competitors (which were, in hindsight, grossly oversold). But the system never got rid of several things that it has criticized. Like private property and money-based economics. Which has left it with the pesky problem of ownership of the means of productions, which I have addressed partially in the past. I have seen this named “state-run capitalism” in comments on FtB, which is a term that I have always found a bit peculiar.
And this was the base of my schoolmate’s argument. The people do not own the means of production, the state does. The people do not have a say in how the fruits of their labor get distributed and used, the communist party does that. And thus the society is not truly socialist and equal, because there are still social strata, only not divided by the personal wealth, but by the status within the ruling party structure. After which this stratification got, of course, cemented by personal wealth too, since the party top brass were not too shy about accruing for themselves a bigger piece of the pie than the rest has got, as it always happens.
But did this make the country “not socialist”? I personally do not think so. It was still definitively a state whose policies were leftist and, at least on paper, aimed at the common good. But the peons were expected to shut up and work their asses off for their masters under the guise of working for the greater good, with the promise that the socialist paradise is just around the corner, if not for them, then for their children for sure. And its arrival was postponed for nearly two generations before the system finally collapsed. Any and all actual progress, both social and technological, was made only extremely slowly, because every criticism implying that the current course is perhaps not ideal, however mildly stated, could have dire consequences for the person making it.
The people have learned this lesson the hard way before I was even thought of, in spring 1968. That year the Czechoslovak communist party underwent a widely popular reform and started “Socialism with human face” politics, which has kept the socialist part of the party agenda but has intended to make away with authoritarianism. The USSR did not like it and invaded us. The top czechoslovak politicians were forced to sign a treaty literally at gunpoint and that was the end of any and all attempts at making their version of socialism viable in the long term. Because the “socialism” was not what was problematic with the regime’s politics, the “authoritarianism” was.
But since those two were (and arguably still are) inseparable in the minds of the communist parties of greatest socialist states in history, it is no wonder they are inseparable in many people’s minds both in the west and east to this very day too. Thus the leftist politics of the sixties has built an invisible iron curtain in our colective consciousness between socialism and freedom. And tearing that one down seems more difficult than the real one.
The state of British mainstream feminism has long been abysmal. All the major players seem to be massive transphobes, there’s court cases about people’s desire to abuse trans people and overall it has the feeling that they’re actually just in favour of them not being bothered by anything than a movement for women from all backgrounds and histories. And never was that White Feminist Approach demonstrated better than this week, when Owen Jones gently suggested that if you have a cleaner, you should pay them to stay at home, because the UK is only second to the US when it comes to Covid 19, with packed public transport posing a major risk for commuters. In case you don’t know who he is, Owen Jones is a British labour activist, a gay dude (this will be important later), a journalist, an antifascist and if that wasn’t bad enough, his major crime is being an ally to trans people. This turned into a furious row on Twitter with the who is who of White British Feminism* descending on him like it was judgement day with at least two published articles to follow.
Owen Jones: Declaring something simple doesn’t make it so: if someone can afford a cleaner, they should be paying them to stay at home and doing their own cleaning – they ‘ve certainly got the time to do it, otherwise they are a shockingly selfish human being.
Sarah Ditum: I don’t have more time in lockdown, I have less because I’m sharing my workspace with two teens and and another adult. There’s more dirt, because of the more people [sic]. the cleaning is killing me and this is a bad take.
Now, if Ditum had stopped after the first sentence she might have had a point: Corona parents are terribly stressed out because suddenly you’re a teacher for different age groups, have to cook all the meals the family would usually have at school/work and all of that while doing your job in home office. And there are good and valuable conversations about care work and the roll back on gender roles right now. Sarah isn’t part of them. Presumably exhaustion from cleaning. I don’t want to sound like supermummy, but I have two kids and a job as well and my husband is away during the week and so far cleaning hasn’t killed me. Mostly because I ignore it. It’s ok, I chose the flooring with having “how well does it hide dirt” in mind (very well).
Owen suggests that she might actually do something about the division of care work in her home:
Owen Jones: Get your teenagers to clean – we operated a rota system growing up to distribute daily household chores – and don’t force mostly low paid women to risk their health or even lives because that’s extremely selfish behaviour?
Sarah Ditum: Get my teenagers to clean? Declaring something simple doesn’t make it so
Remember, this is somebody who regularly claims that parents are making their children trans because, well, who knows. And hey, I kind of agree, making my teen do her chores certainly doesn’t have a fun tax added, but I’m in the business of raising competent adults who can look after themselves so yes, she still has to empty the dishwasher. We have a sort of clock with their pics on it. Occasionally my husband threatens to take the laundry that hasn’t been put away back to his place and he only washes whatever is in the hamper. But not Sarah Ditum’s poor children (what happened to the husband?)! I think I met a couple of Sarahs in parent teacher talks.
Me: Your son doesn’t do his tasks, only does what he wants and gets very angry when he’s reprimanded.
Mother: He’s never like this at home!
Me: What chores does he have to do at home?
Mother: Chores? My son doesn’t have to do any chores!
If that wasn’t bad enough, her pal Janice Turner chimes in:
Owen Jones: I have a twin sister and two elder brothers: we were all expected to do housework from the age of 11, using a daily rota system dividing up chores. I don’t understand why teenagers cannot be expected to do this?
Sounds sensible, doesn’t it? It’s not like those “we used to hop 15 miles through the snow on one foot” pieces of commentary, just a simple memory from a not too long ago childhood. You’re a family, you stick together, you live together, you take responsibility. Apparently for Janice Turner, mother to two teenage sons and supposedly married to a full grown ass man suggesting that your teens do chores is misogyny:
Janice Turner: Free online parenting and household management classes from a childless mansplainer. Mothers thank you for your service, Owen.
Now, apart from the homophobic dog whistle about a “childless man”, mothers are invoked. Welcome to the cult of true motherhood, as evidenced in the next tweet.
Janice Turner: Be great if Owen addressed the reason most families have cleaners. Not lazy bitches “with time on their hands” or crap mothers who won’t draw up rotas for teenage kids. But men. Men don’t do their share. Instead of hating on women tell the dude to pick up a fucking mop.
You mean like Mr. Ditum and Mr. Turner? Because both women are married to afaict able bodied men who are perfectly capable of picking up a fucking mop, as are their teenagers, three of them being of the male persuasion. When are they supposed to learn how to pick up a mop? But as I said, that’s work. Getting a teenager to do something is no task for the lilly-livered, I can tell you, nor is it to have those complicated conversations about the division of housework with your male partner. Turner’s solution: Make another woman come in and do it. That’s how your teenage sons learn responsibility and equality. Because according to her, most families have cleaners. Probably even her cleaner. While she is cleaning other people’s houses, somebody else is cleaning hers. Actually it’s just a big fucking pyramid scheme where we pass around the same 100 bucks to pay each other to clean our houses. This goes well past “middle class privilege” and takes it well into “colonial times erasure of all women who are not part of the ruling class” territory. It reminds me of the heroines of Jane Austen novels (I love Jane Austen novels): they struggle with financial hardship and consider themselves poor because they can only employ two or three servants.
Caroline Criado Perez, another UK feminist (her dad was the CEO of Safeway, if you need to guess her economic background), teetering on the brink of an epiphany:
Right, where’s the Mr Ditum, Mr Ditum junior, Mr Turner, Mr Turner junior and Mr Turner junior shaped gap in the analysis?
You’d think it couldn’t get any worse, would you? I’m sorry…
Again, Owen Jones agrees: men should pick up the tab instead of making other women risk their lives. Reasonable, or????
Owen Jones: Men should be shamed into doing their fair share of housework: couldn’t agree more.
But forcing largely low paid women, who also have to juggle their low paid work with unpaid household labour – to risk the health and lives of themselves and their families is disgraceful.
Janice Turner: No one is “forcing” them. People are making arrangementsso their cleaners are safe, providing gloves, anti-bac and staying out of the house whilst they are there. Believe it or not[,] many people, even cleaners, actually want to return to work. It makes them feel useful and normal.
I’m sorry if your jaw is hurting from the impact with the floor, but I did kinda warn you. Remember these people are also huge SWERFS (Sex Work Excluding (Radical) Feminists) who claim that all sex workers are forced into sex work and in need of rescue. When it’s their carpets, suddenly economic force is no longer a thing. Also, Janice, antibacterial shit isn’t any good when talking about a virus. But that’s just the running up to the “Arbeit macht frei” finale at the end of the tweet. Didn’t you know, people who employ cleaners aren’t exploiting usually racialised labour. No, they’re actually doing those women a favour because what sense of worth would they have without the approval of a white woman who keeps mispronouncing their name?
Also, you’re not staying out of the house for the benefit of the cleaner, you’re doing it because that person just had to commute to your place which potentially exposed them to Covid 19.
But we’re still missing some players. Here I present Julie Bindel with an especially interesting take:
Julie Bindel: I can only assume that abny male socialist giving instructions to women about the ethics of having a cleaner chooses not to consume pornography. After all, the women abused in the porn trade have their exploited ‘labour’ to the most extreme degree. [sic]
Julie Bindel is a political lesbian, aka somebody who is not actually that much into women but just not into men, who claims that bisexuality is a fake hobby for straight women, and who is here accusing a gay man of exploiting women in the production of porn he may or may not watch. It can’t get any more bizarre than this. Maybe it’s her own apparently confused ideas about sexual orientation that are showing. Does she think that gay men are actually political homosexuals because while they actually fancy women they just don’t want to have any kind of relationship with them because they’re secretly all MGTOW misogynists?
I’ve taken you on quite ride, and it should have a worthy finale, so here it is:
Sarah Ditum: Yep that would be a good way to deal with this, if I had a cleaner. But I don’t, I’m just knackered and deeply irritated by Owen’s presumption that everyone has a bunch of free time at the moment
Plot twist: Sarah Ditum doesn’t have a cleaner, but she is willing to lay down the lives of other people’s cleaners for your right to a clean kitchen. But she has since gone on (presumably well paid) record stating that she will get one as soon as she can, because she really doesn’t want to negotiate housework with her household, who are simultaneously grown ass adults and teenagers and who still leave peanutbutter smudges on door handles like toddlers. But instead of calling that piggy back, she’d rather yell at some other woman to clean up that mess.
*There are decent British feminists worth that name, somehow they don’t seem to get that many columns and newspaper slots…
** The author of this text has written it while repeatedly helping her kid with her homework, doing a WhatsApp English class and making the kid empty the dishwasher. Don’t you fucking dare to accuse me of not knowing how busy these times are.
Our current prime minister has been in the past often criticized as akin to Donald Trump re: conflict of interests and use of state resources to enrich himself and his family. And rightly so in my opinion, I cannot stand the man personally and politically.
However, when SARS-CoV-2 hit the Czech Republic, he, unlike Donald Trump, has done the right thing. In response to the pandemic, he has left decisions on the policy to actual epidemiology experts from the very beginning. Thus when CZ had mere 116 cases, 12 days after the first three on March 1., he declared a state of national emergency and just two days later virtually everything was put on hold except the absolute bare minimum (grocery stores, delivery services, apothecaries and some more). It was criticized by the opposition (our equivalent of US conservatives) as needless panic-making and fearmongering and the measures as needlessly draconian and a PR for himself and his party. Especially the order of mandatory face masks (home-made and improvised masks are allowed) was met with scorn.
On March 18. I have taken the data of confirmed cases so far, plotted them on a graph and calculated the best-fit exponential curve. It was at a daily increase of 39%, an effective doubling every two-three days, approsimately the same trajectory it has had all over Europe. This growth meant we should have over 140.000 cases today, but we, luckily, do not. We have less than 5.000. Howso?
Look at this graph:
The red curve is the actual cumulative cases as reported every day at midnight. The blue curve is the exponential best fit that I have calculated on March 18. And then there is the orange curve, which is also an exponential best-fit but only for the last week from March 28. to April 3. You can see that the two best-fit lines intersect on March 21.-22.
That is, in my opinion, the day when the enacted measures started to have a visible effect – eight to ten days after they were enacted. I do not know whether I am doing the right thing here mathematically – I have dabbled in statistics at work, but not in epidemiology – but it does seem right to me.
The new rate of growth is still exponential, but instead of 38% daily it is 8% daily. And although the difference between multiplying the cases daily by 1,08 instead of 1,39 does not intuitively look like much, it means the doubling of the cases is prolonged from mere 2-3 days to 10-11 days. Still not enough for an illness that can take up to 6 weeks to heal and kills 1% of infected people, but a very noticeable drop.
And AFAIK that drop is not due to insufficient testing. Testing has grown proportionally, although still not as much as it perhaps should have. But the ratio between positive/negative tests is getting lower, and that indicates that the drop in overall cases is real.
Now there is certainly much more to it than this oversimplified graph. For example, Germany took longer to enact strict active measures, relatively speaking. That is, CZ government enacted nation-wide strict measures when we had just several hundred people ill, whilst the German government did leave many decisions to individual states and instead of strict orders tried to control the situation with recommendations only at first. This has led to a bit of inconsistent reaction and different measures being enacted (and ignored by people) in different states. It worked, but not as much as was desired. Strong nation-wide measures started being implemented only when there were several thousand people ill already- at about the same time as in CZ. And at about the same weekend the curve began to break in Germany as well.
It was similar in Italy too, there the curve began to break at around March 15. (only estimated, I did not calculate the fit curves for Italy, I am doing this in OpenOffice and that is not the best program for this kind of work), about two weeks after the most-hit municipalities were put on lock-down.
Another quick analysis that can be done just by looking at the numbers – In Italy, it took 22 days for the cases to grow from about 100 to 20.000. In Germany, it took 24 days, in Spain 18 days, in UK and France 25 days and in the USA 20 days. The Czech Republic is now 24 days from its 100th case and we are nowhere near 20.000.
So even these amateurish and quick&dirty analyses show that quick reaction, regardless of what the nay-sayers say, is essential in avoiding the worst in case of an epidemic. The enacted measures work as intended. I only hope that our government and our people do not relax too soon.
Stay safe, stay at home whenever possible, and fingers crossed for you and your loved ones.
In the small Palestinian village of Al Walaja, just outside Bethlehem, lives an ancient olive tree, that may be one of the oldest trees in the world. It has been carbon-dated to an age range of 3,000 to 5,500 years old and it is the job of one man, Salah Abu Ali, to protect it.
Ali wakes every morning to tend to his family’s orchard. Entering through a neighbor’s yard, he trots down the grove’s narrow paths in a way that belies his age, occasionally reaching down to quickly toss aside trespassing stones; briskly descending verdant terraces, one after another until he comes to the edge of the orchard. It is at this edge where Ali spends most of his day, pumping water from the spring above or tending to the soil. It is where he sometimes sleeps at night, and where he hosts people that have made the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. But many come for the tree, an olive that some believe to be the oldest in the world.
The olive tree of Al Walaja, like all trees in the world, is under threat from climate change and is recovering from a recent drought. It is also under the added threat of Israeli expansionism.
But the olive tree of Al Walaja has become something else to its residents. Now, it’s a symbol of resistance. The village is a shadow of its former self. Most of the village’s residents were forced to flee their homes amidst heavy fighting during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. “In 1948, we came here and slept under the trees,” Ali says, as Israeli military personnel chant during drills in the valley below. After the dust settled and the demarcation lines were drawn, Al Walaja had lost around 70 percent of its land.
The town was further eroded after Israel captured the West Bank during the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel then expanded the Jerusalem Municipality, annexing around half of what was left of the village.
More recently, Israel’s separation wall threatened to once again cut the village in two, isolating the Al Badawi tree. But residents won a court battle which saw the chain-link wall diverted around the village. The wall now stands just below Ali’s family orchard, separating the new village from the site of the old, just across a narrow valley.
Despite the court victory, dozens of homes have been bulldozed to make way for the Jerusalem Municipality. Al Walaja still sits isolated, hemmed in on nearly all sides by Israel’s separation wall and no longer able to access uncultivated farmland or many of the village’s once-famed springs.
It is because of these threats that Ali guards the ancient olive tree, and he considers it his life work to protect it. Ali now receives a small sum from The Palestinian Authority to take care of the tree, due to reports of Israeli settlers and soldiers cutting down and burning ancient olive trees in other parts of the West Bank.
According to the United Nations, approximately 45 percent of agricultural land in the West Bank and Gaza Strip contain olive trees, providing income for some 100,000 families. “The Palestinians are attached to the olive tree,” Ali says. “The olive tree is a part of our resistance and a part of our religion. With the olive tree we live, and without it we don’t live.”
Story from Atlas Obscura
On the thread about the recent right wing terrorist attack in Germany, we had a slight disagreement about the role of misogyny in that particular attack. I decided to give that an extra post for several reasons. For one I didn’t want to get into that discussion on that thread, when we are all in basic agreement about the fascist nature of that attack. For another I don’t want to play “oppression olympics”, making this attack on young migrants some sort of white women’s woe. And finally I think it’s important to talk about these matters in a more general way, to raise awareness about the links between misogyny, white supremacy and how the former is a “gateway drug” for the latter.
The terrorist attack in Hanau shows many similarities to other recent right wing terrorist attacks: El Paso, Christchurch, Halle. The terrorist talked openly about their murder fantasies, they talked about exterminating groups of people, they tried to broadcast their attacks for maximum effect. And they were also misogynists. Sorry that the link is in German, I hope Google translate is passable. This is no coincidence. White supremacists are by nature concerned with two things:
These men usually have very “traditional views” on relationships and family life. They’re stuck somewhere in the 1960s (interestingly in the 1960s of West Germany) while the women are in the 2020s. It’s hard not to feel a pang of sympathy when they talk about missing things many of us take as ordinary things: a partner, a family, an intact personal support system, until you remember that they also think they are owed these things by women and that it’s feminism and the immigrants’ fault that they’re not getting it. Which links up to #2
— Populisten-Schreck 🇪🇺 🇩🇪 (@gutmenschen_inc) February 20, 2020
Men of colour are painted as both sexual predators from whom the white women must be protected, as well as a threat to white men’s access to white women. Especially young muslim men are their object of hatred: They are presumed to have more patriarchal views and societies, they are able to live the life those white men think they are owed, and on top of that they have to pay lip service denouncing those men in order to maintain the mainstream narrative of our societies being superior because “we” “respect” women. It’s quite telling how those who pre 2015 told women they need to dress modestly are now vigorously defending miniskirts.
Young male refugees present an additional danger. Not only do they tilt the gender balance some more, they also embody a lot of the stereotypes those men base their value on. Those young men have often seen war and violence. They had to prove themselves and make it against terrible odds. They are fighters and survivors. In short, they em,body everything those dudes think that men should be and they are not. As we know those men don’t even need to be anywhere close. At the height of the racist Pegida demonstrations there were five protestors for every Muslim in Saxony.
The “men of colour as a threat” is of course also an angle that gets white women attracted to far right groups, though so far they have constantly lower support among women than among men.
I hope these two points demonstrate why white supremacists are also always misogynists. They want a clear hierarchical structure with them at the top and they cannot get this without doing what men everywhere have done for millenia: controlling the fertility of women and others capable of having children. You will not find a white supremacist who is not a misogynist, or one who isn’t against abortion on demand (they aren’t against all abortions, though, let’s remember the recent eugenics debates).
Lastly I would like to come back to something I mentioned at the top: misogyny as a gateway drug. Now I have to formulate this carefully because I don’t want this to come off wrong: In many parts of society it is more acceptable to say misogynist shit than it is to say racist or antisemitic shit. I’m not talking about attitudes, just about the “saying it out loud” part. While many centrist people will quickly shush their own for talking favourably about Hitler, it hardly ever happens when some dude complains about women not fucking them. Or women having a career. German has it’s own horrible word for mothers who do not dedicate 24/7 to their kids: We are “Rabenmütter” raven mothers (which proves they know just as much about ravens as about anybody else). Attitudes like “women are naturally better with children” and “a child needs his mother” are widespread and can act as a gateway into the right wing mindset. A guy who feels lonely can easily get sucked into the world of right wing conspiracies, finally finding the culpable for his own personal woes.
As you may have heard already, there was a right wing terrorist attack in the German city of Hanau. The terrorist killed 9 people, mostly Kurds in two hookah lounges, went home, killed his mother and then himself. His manifesto is the typical mix of racism, incel misogyny and conspiracy theories. This attack only comes a few days after police arrested a right wing terrorist network that had planned attacks on mosques, trying to start a civil war.
It also comes after a couple of weeks into a political crisis started without need by the German liberals and Conservatives in Thuringia who voted together with the far right AfD for a liberal candidate for the Ministerpräsident. The discussions afterwards were endless rehashes of the bullshit horseshoe theory, as if the Left candidate who’d governed Thuringia for the last 5 years was the illegitimate son of Mao and Stalin, when at best he would have passed as a Social Democrat in poor light in the 1980s.
We’ve had the murder of a conservative(!) mayor by Nazis last year, we’ve had an antisemitic terrorist attack in Halle last year, when only a sturdy door prevented a massacre. Yes, right wing terrorism is a growing threat in Germany, yet still our politicians act like it isn’t. Even when talking about the horrible terrorist attack last night, the former leader of the Social Democrats (that’s Labour for the Brits) had this to say on Twitter:
Der Feind der #Demokratie steht rechts: Es lässt sich nicht abstreiten, dass linke Chaoten auf Polizisten eindreschen, Autos und Mülltonnen in Brand setzen und immer wieder hohe Sachschäden verursachen. Alles schlimm genug und nicht zu verharmlosen. #hanau
— Sigmar Gabriel (@sigmargabriel) February 20, 2020
“The enemy of democracy stands on the right [6 words in the original tweet]: It’s undeniable that left wing scatterbrains beat up police officers, set fire to cars and dumpsters and cause lots of monetary damage time after time. All of this is bad and mustn’t be played down [30 words]. #hanau”
That’s 9 words on right wing terrorism that just killed 10 innocent people, 30 words on “left wing terrorism” that causes damage against property. That’s equating burning dumpsters with dead Kurds. That’s zero words of condolence for the survivors, for the friends and family of the victims. That’s zero words towards our fellow citizens, friends, family, neighbours who are afraid to go to a café, a lounge, a Döner take away, a mosque because they have to fear for their lives because racists think they should be dead because of their skin colour, looks, ethnic origin or religion.
That’s contemptible, and Gabriel’s tweet is just the tip of the iceberg.
My heart goes out to the victims and their families, to all racially marginalised people in Germany who again not only have to see how their own get murdered, but also how those in charge play down right wing terrorism and compare them to dumpsters.
These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give a perfect and objective evaluation of anything but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty-eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.
“Zlaté české ručičky” (Golden Czech Hands) – a self-flattering saying that Czechs like to say about themselves for fairly long time. I was not able to google-fu the origin of the phrase, but one of the speculations I believe the most is that it originated during the times of the Iron Curtain.
I have already mentioned the centrally planned economy and the many negatives it has lead to. But I did not mention one of the at least somewhat positive things – the widespread ability to get the most out of whatever little there was available.
For example one of my uncles wanted to have a gramophone, but those were hard to get by. So he scraped and scrounged parts from defunct gramophones and has built a functioning one out of them. He also has built two high-quality loudspeakers for it – and they worked and sounded good for a long time. Previously he also has built a simple radio. And a bicycle from parts.
This uncle, a Ph.D. mathematician, has emigrated to USA when I was only about six years old and he took this mindset with him. He married a Korean-American woman, whom I have met in 1999 during my only visit there. One of her complaints about her husband was that she rarely gets to buy new stuff, because whenever something breaks – be it TV, vacuum, microwave or a kitchen robot – he repairs it. And indeed all these items around the house were visibly repaired.
I have this mindset too. I wanted a nice sturdy knife to take with me on forest walks, but they were expensive and hard to get by, so I have made one. I am not as handy with electronic as my uncle is, but have repurposed parts from his old radio project and used the speakers for building myself high-quality horn-speakers. And many other things.
But around here, this was not exceptional. Every man had to be a handyman, knowing a bit about electronics, plumbing, carpentry, masonry and, if you were lucky, car repair and maintenance. Because when something broke in the household, buying replacement was often not an option and getting a professional to do the job for you was not easy or fast enough. Of course, some were better at somethings than others, and a thriving black market of skills has emerged. Indeed the only way to thrive was to have a network of skilled friends or you were screwed.
Towards the end of the regime, in 1987, there emerged a TV show dedicated to this kind of “DIY” thing, named “Receptář nejen na neděli” (Recipe book not only for Sundays), whose spinoffs and follow-ups run until today under different names. There was also a periodical of the same name as the TV show, another periodical “Udělej si sám” (Do It Yourself :-)) and even one of the periodicals for children that I have previously mentioned (ABC) had sections dedicated to small crafts.
Today there is a lot of moaning about how this aspect of our culture is slowly disappearing. The availability of cheap goods on demand did lead to a decreased need to be inventive and frugal. Some of the moaning is just that – the regular moaning about the corruption of youth and the good old times – but some of it is to my mind justified. Indeed when working in Germany, I was often able to come up with creative solutions to some problems with the things I found in a drawer, exactly because that is what I was used to doing, whilst some of my colleagues were content with listing through a catalog.
I think that being poor is not a virtue, but being frugal and inventive is. The only problem that remains is how to raise inventive and frugal people when being lazy and wasteful is easier.
In my country, the Munich Agreement is still perceived as one of the most important lessons of history – the lesson being that western allies are not to be relied upon and that meeting the demands of fascist authoritarians only leads to further demands.
The recent betrayal of Kurds by the USA, via their imbecilic and barely literate president, has many similarities. And many more will follow, including mass graves.
The behavior of Turks, as I observed it on Twitter – before turning away in disgust – is jingoistic and racist, celebrating the violence being perpetrated and cheering the prospect of Kurds being driven into the desert. It drives home another similarity – Turks see Kurds just as Germans saw Slavs prior to WW2 – as lesser, as subhuman, as beings not worthy of consideration. Racism towards Kurds is, at this moment, one of the most prominent and defining features of being a “true Turk”.
Turkish persistent denial of the Armenian genocide is a stain on the country’s reputation and now they are starting another one. And the USA, the self-appointed world policeman, just watches and supplies weapons. Turkey is in NATO after all.