Thoughts on air

Slow Solemn Drops on a September Day

I have a few post drafts on standby, waiting to be finished along with the half-dozen other projects I’ve started while waiting for school and a reply to my job applications. However, these have to wait and in the meantime I will reflect on something that I came across today. IMG_1741

I don’t live far from Theodor-Heuss Platz. It lies at the end of the Kaiserdamm, an extension of the famous Unter den Linden, Strasse des 17. Junis, and Bismarkstrasse. On a good day, you can stand about where that flame is burning and see the Victory Column and the Brandenburg Gate. Theodor-Heuss Platz used to be called Reichskanzlerplatz, Place of the Reich-Chancellor. From 1933-1945, it was also called Adolf Hitler Platz. Yes, you read that correctly.

Obviously, it stopped being called that after WWII, but it was not until 1955 that it got its new name: Theodor-Heuss Platz. Then, the first president of the Federal Republic of Germany (former west Germany) inducted the monument that honors the 14 million displaced Germans after World War II. These are not referring to the victims of the Holocaust, but rather the German citizens of East Prussia, Pomerania, Silesia, Romania, former Yugoslavia, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic who were forced out of their homes or interned in work camps as a result of the restructuring of the German nation and part of reparation payments. These people are not to be compared to the victims of the genocide, but they are worthy of remembrance and respect for the hardships they endured after World War II, forced to carry out heavy labor as a part of war reparations, or leave their homes and livelihoods and start new lives in places where the people often did not speak their language or want them. The monument consists of a block on which says

“Diese Flamme mahnt:
Nie wieder Vertreibung!”

“Displacement never again” and a flame that was not meant to be put out until Germany was reunited again.

As we know, Germany did get reunited again. But still, that flame burns. Now, it burns as a symbol of undying values:

 “Freiheit, Recht, Friede” (“Freedom, Justice, Peace”)

Designed by the League of Displaced People, this monument becomes a location of remembrance once a year around the Tag (day) of Heimat.

Heimat is one of those emotion-heavy words that means homeland–but homeland never just means homeland. And that’s why those wreaths are all over the space in front of the flame. I looked at the people who dedicated a few of them: the minister of Bavaria, the minister of Brandenburg, the President of Germany…

The beauty of this monument is that it stands for the past as well as for the future. It’s a symbol for the German duty to uphold these values for people who are forced to leave their homeland the world over. President* Gauck addressed this duty in his speech yesterday, since Germany is still struggling with the challenges presented by more than a million asylum seekers in the last year. Most Germans didn’t even know this speech was being held. I only found out because I wanted to know why all these wreaths were there.

Now that I know, I’m forced to reflect on the destruction of war and the horrible things that happen throughout and because of it. I’m reminded that Germany and the US haven’t had war on their soils in my lifetime or my parent’s lifetimes. We are incredibly lucky. And still, war is happening within the radius of our daily news and tweets and facebook posts. We can be kinder to those people who escape these wars, even if they don’t understand our “culture” or speak our language.

Some people deride public displays of remembrance like these, saying they don’t reach anyone and are a waste of resources. I disagree. I always thought the monument was specific for the Jewish and other victims of the Holocaust. I wouldn’t have related Germans as refugee seekers without this public display. I’m sympathetic to the asylum seekers anyway, but I am reminded more firmly that it is my duty to uphold the rights of these people when put in the position to do so, if I believe in these rights.

In line with these solemn reminders and thoughts, it was a dreary Sunday in Berlin, but it was still perfect for a little Sunday outing and a lot of desk work.

Hope you all have a great week!

Dorothea

*remember that the German political system is a bit like the British. There’s the representative head of state and the one who actually has power. Chancellor Angela Merkel still has the honor and responsibility of power. Joachim Gauck gets to hold all the important receptions and be all diplomatic.

Imagine if Turkey disappeared tomorrow…

Also, kommen Sie raus aus Ihrem Realitätszentrismus. Schnell. Das Internet ist unser Neuland. Und Instagram eines seiner wichtigsten politischen Organe. Wie also kam es dazu, dass Justin Biebers Instagram-Account verschwand, und was bedeutet das für uns?

I’m not a real pop fan. I swear, I’m not. I may know a little more than I want to about singers like Rihanna, Katy Perry, Ariana Grande (who went to the same school as some of my friends, by the way), but that’s only because while surfing the Internet about politics, social sciences, philosophy and literature, I also inform myself about sports and pop culture. 

Plus, I’m not the one who chooses to include articles about these people in between what should be serious news. 

The quote above is from an article by Julia Friese on a German news site Die Welt reporting on Justin Bieber’s decision to deactivate his Instagram account (oh? You didn’t know? Well now you do. You’re welcome). I am sure the whole article is a farce, and that the writer is making a joke of this event, but uncareful readers may actually think that she is really concerned and wants to get across how significant this event is. Considering that Justin Bieber has had nearly the same number of followers as people living in the dictatorship state of Turkey, the reporter remarks that the loss of his account is like erasing Turkey off the map. 

As if Justin Bieber’s ego needs more inflation. 

And this is how German reporters share this news with German readers. Seriously. 

I still think it’s a satirical piece, and the subtle message by the end is that if Bieber can live without his account, we all can live without one. I read the article to begin with, because I’m interested in reasons to stay with/leave social media (see “Shaky Streaming Quality” below). 

Upon closer reading, what I see in this article is commentary on the power of the Internet. 

Das Internet ist unser Neuland. Und Instagram eines seiner wichtigsten politischen Organe.

“The Internet is our ‘New World.'”(there’s thankfully more truth to this signifier than the first time it was used for N. And S. America). “And Instagram is one of its most important political bodies.”

You there, sitting in front of your screen, think this is insane (I figure you do, since you’re sensible enough to spend your free-time reading blogs like these). But what you maybe do not consider, is that 77 million + teenagers and young adults, those people who are up for some important political, medical, social positions in your future, are devastated affected by this. Should we be worried about these kinds of shifts? Maybe. 

As a closing note, if you opened this post hoping for some information about the situation in Turkey -sorry. I can tell you that the people of Turkey do not deserve to be compared to Bieber Instagram followers (even if a few of them were), and that I’m extremely concerned about Euro- German-Turkish relations, especially given that people from Turkey and with Turkish heritage make up the largest minority in Germany and given the large number of Turkish-Germans who declared their loyalty to Erdogan not so long ago. 

Just thought I’d post about this, this morning. I’m in the process of setting up daily routines that work for me, and so far, reading the news while listening to the RadioKlassik station and eating breakfast is something I’m enjoying. What, too snobbery for you? Deal with it. I’m reading about Justin Bieber for god’s sake. I can’t be that sophisticated. 😉

Hope you have a great day! 

Thoughts on-air: heroes

Today, my mother asked me if I was in love. Answering would have been a good opportunity to tell her, if it were the case, about the boy I had just met. Unfortunately, my only answer could be “no, I’m not,” because the real reason for my sudden insecurity about my purpose in life and questioning my goals is actually too embarrassing to admit to her. Clearly, though, the world wide web seems like the appropriate forum…

Basically, I’ve proven once again that I am only a mere mortal and not immune to the prospects of binge-watching a show on Netflix. This happened despite my ego watching over my shoulder, telling me that I will indeed regret waking up three hours later, having to function as a normal, rational being whose mind is not filled with images of awesome fight choreography and strategic plans (those must be formulated while the hero is doing laundry or cooking eggs, because I can’t imagine he has much time otherwise). I think my ego has too much fun watching the show himself  to be much help in these matters.

I have discovered that I am obsessed with heroes. The first hero I can remember admiring was Han Solo, because after he undergoes torture and melting out of his frozen state, he continues as handsome and charming as ever, even if he spends a short while being blind. Then, my next real obsession came with Ralph Fienne’s character in The Constant Gardener, for a different kind of heroism. High school and the revamping of the Superman franchise made me wonder how a hero can continue being a hero even if there’s no one there to help him carry out the task he laid upon himself (i.e. taking a huge mass of maliciously self-multiplying rock-land and creating a meteorite for, assuredly an Earth in a parallel universe), the task nearly kills him and still he goes on, and then came Netflix and Marvel’s Daredevil.

A few things hit me in-between, for example, Sherlock as embodied by Benedict Cumberbatch… the first character I bought a t-shirt celebrating, and of course Frodo, Sam and Aragorn in the books and  movies, but it’s Daredevil, embodied by the actor Charlie Cox, who made my mom ask if I am in love. Is it possible to have a crush on a fictional character? Well, duh… But I think the problem is more that these men (mostly men, because even Jessica Jones hasn’t convinced me of a woman’s power in doing this*…) embody traits that I would like to see in myself. But then, reality sets in that it’s fiction and not the reality of the life I lead, and that fact depresses me more than anything after watching any hero show. There’s enough research out there about how superhero movies (and movies in general) act like a drug- one is high (watching episode after episode, because Netflix so conveniently has a continuous play-mode) and then stone-cold sober (like at 6 AM) a short period of time later. I don’t pretend that I can add to this body of research.

However, since there’s no point in hoping for Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock to come walking through the door, asking me to be his sidekick (being a girlfriend would come in as close second), I have to think about some of the positive benefits of having this show, this role model, and others like it, in my life. After that, I have to move on.

Until I went through the thought-process that made me write this post, one of my main concerns about my obsession was that it could be entirely unhealthy. Basically, I recognized that a character (with a strong sense of justice and moral code) needs to get in some dire straits (preferably life-threatening) for him or her to be interesting to me. Usually there is some pain involved with lingering shots of the hero’s body presenting a canvas of the pain that is inflicted on him or her.

I suppose the reasons for this should be obvious. I recognize that what I admire is not the hero in pain (that would be rather sadistic, right?) but his/her ability to recover from it and bravely face the next source of pain. Rather, s/he returns “as strong as ever,” perhaps with even more resolution. The bravery is enhanced by the fact that the hero has experienced a taste of the consequences, and is willing to risk those again to carry out the task. He or she returns as confident and life-defying as ever.

As someone (again, remember I am a mere mortal) who faces insecurity and doubt every single day, from what I wear to the way I respond to teachers or students in the classroom, to the things I write online, I, and likely all the other mortals like me, appreciate the reminder that it is commendable to be at the bottom of our mental and/or physical strength, take the time to recover, and then enter the foray again despite the risk that we end up in the same state or worse.

Yet the tasks presented to me and most** of my species are not as life-threatening and the powers we have are equally admirable as supersonic senses, flight, super strength, et al, but not as cool. This (and read carefully, because this is where my “questioning my purpose in life” comes in) is what depresses me. They say that most people are ordinary, and that the extraordinary things they do make them heroic; I know this. However, I also want to be fighting for good everyday, not just when the opportunity presents itself.  Unlike the thousands of professions where people actually make a positive difference in someone’s life at the risk of their own: fire fighter, police officer, soldier, freedom fighter/pacifist, to mention a few, I don’t think I’m pursuing a heroic line of work. However, if one considers the positive things doctors, psychologists, lawyers, do at the expense of their time, physical energy, and emotional energies like  compassion, then the options for being a hero are a much longer list. This list includes research and teaching.

An admitted oversimplification of the work of research would be that it provides us with the theories to explain the phenomena in our inner and outer lives and, where necessary, provides us with cures to continue living; teaching these theories allows those who master them to find even more knowledge. Both are done at the expense of time, energy, risk of fulfilling personal needs, and hence, both are meritorious.

That last statement is both self-serving and open for debate, though (as per self-serving aspect) I’m inclined to agree. These guys do too. 

Still, the bottom line should remain that our powers, our talents, can all be empowering with identification and training, and they can help dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people. Does it help to reflect on this from time to time? Especially in moments of doubt when we think we’re not doing enough (wait, is that just me)? Most definitely. It’s useful to remember that the phase after the nearly-dying part in most super-hero movies (if it’s worth it’s salt in box-office collections) features some sort of reflection or considerations of the work s/he is doing.

This reflecting part just happened for me for the third time in these past six months since I finished my Masters and returned from Germany, so I guess it’s symptomatic of my anxiety as I wait for the next phase of my life to begin with news of my PhD applications. Thankfully though, there’s no near-dying involved and I guess I’m doing some good in this world in the meantime, even if there’s no bad-guy versus good-guy involved. I think I should do less binge-watching though… that lack of sleep is probably affecting my mood more than anything.

If you’ve actually read through this, thanks for reading! I debated putting it online, and if it’s been interesting, I’m glad I posted.

*I’m actually a fan of women superheroes… just not the ones that I’ve come across so far. A quick search tells me though, that I should look into Buffy, the Vampire Slayer to help fix this problem… and I’m partial to Katniss Everdeen as well, so I guess I just have to look harder outside of the Marvel/DC comics to find my fix. I’m also impressed at the caliber of some of the women in the comic industry. Maybe there’s another calling for me after I’ve filled my commitment (at least for the next three years) to academia.
Part of my difficulty with Jessica Jones has to do with another aspect altogether, the fact that it’s too close to reality, as Dave Gonzales at geek.com points out. “Jessica Jones has relateable stakes” and “[v]iewers aren’t likely to know the scientist who invents shrinking or live to see a sentient robot lift a European city out of the ground, they’re not going to box their way to a crime boss to save their city or meet an alien claiming to be a norse god — but they know someone who has suffered from some form of abuse. That makes Jessica Jones not only relatable, but maybe the first Marvel Cinematic Universe entry that actually has something to say about the real world.”
Thanks, Mr. Gonzales. Maybe I like my escapis pastimes to be such without making me think too much about how actual lives are affected by similar things to what I see on screen… but then again, being a philosophical mouse man, I doubt such a thing exists for me anyway. So, I guess I’ll continue watching JJ. At least I’m not tempted to binge-watch.

** I am hyper-aware that there are thousands of people who risk their lives, freedoms, and security for what they believe is right. I support them in thought and prayer. And, should the opportunity present itself, in action. Just putting that out there