No Right Way To Be Left

At Easter weekend, I went to the talk by Spiral Tribe members at Mensch Meier.  Taking place in a wood paneled bar area that full of yellow-lit smoke and boozy air, the talk had the ambiance of being at a 1920's meeting of banned radicals in an after hours working man’s club... albeit one that was plastered in absurdist posters and satirical signs. And instead of working men, the place was bustling with a restless, flushed cluster of Generation Y techno hippies.  The strikingly youthful Tribe members didn’t look much older than them despite being part of the first generation of free party people that founded the squat rave scene.

Energetic and chatty, the speakers seemed like they were up for a debate, but it wasn't forthcoming... the crowd seemed a bit awed, sitting back with typical German reverence to let the speakers say their piece and let the wisdom seep in.

At one point, Debbie and Mark said, “We’ve been together for 25 years and it hasn’t been smooth sailing the whole time. There are some big personalities in the collective. T hey haven’t always gotten along… it takes work to keep it going.”

Two weeks later, we were at HAU to see Laurie Penny speaking and she made a similar statement when she said that, “we should avoid perfectionism in left wing” (or words to that effect). At least, in my mind I connected it with what the Tribe had said a few days earlier.  After she said this about a third of the people in the audience sat up and nodded, murmuring their agreement.

That talk was also taking place in a wood-paneled theatre with a 1920's ambience, a place where you could imagine Rosa Luxemburg giving a speech to a disgruntled crowd.   People were packed, literally up to the rafters, from the front rows to the double decker balcony seats at the back, to see Laurie Penny (who is apparently a celeb here in Berlin) talk. 

For a few seconds it seemed that the exact same realization that I have been having lately were suffusing different types of people in different scenes, across the spectrum of Berlin’s left-wing.

There may be a very good reason why both Laurie Penny and the Tribe members have had perfectionism and conflict within their own ranks on their minds, lately. It seems that whenever the media features a segment about anything left-wing lately, it takes the form of people ranting and raging at each other, splitting hairs, calling each other out over a badly phrased statements and impulsive tweets that revealed some residual trace of prejudicial, unethical tendencies. 

We're definitely being manipulated by the media here; after all, the mass media's largely stage-managed by capitalism, and if it gave the left an entirely fair representation, it would effectively be shooting itself in the head.  But the tendency to seek out and destroy any expression of damaged or damaging tendencies, even to the extent of destroying the person that they belong to, was already pre-existing in the left.  And it's a betrayal of what left is really about. 

In the past few years that I've lived in Berlin, I’ve witnessed materialist anarchists bashing pagan anarchists; first wave feminists being trashed by third wave feminists; queers trashing trans people; vegans getting bashed by vegetarians. Even if they speak in the gentle reasoning tone and pepper their critique with terms like "intersectionality" and "privilege" the underlying message is the same: "Their methods aren't respectful/sensitive/revolutionary enough. They aren't really left wing."
That doesn't mean that we shouldn't even try to redress bad attitudes and behaviours, but it also doesn't mean that, once we start trying, we have to be puritanical about it and put all our humanity on hold until our aims are attained.  The search for the perfection in the left also stunts its growth at grassroots level, I think, by turning off would-be activists because, well, the majority of people are flawed, 'tainted' by prejudice to some extent.

The left and all the causes that fall under that vast umbrella, is all about salvaging society from the self destructive path that it's on.  Assuming that's true then salvaging people has to matter, as well, e even if they're destructive.  Especially if they're destructive.  Excluding or rejecting them on the basis of any fuck up is draconian and changes nothing.  Changing them is all that changes anything.

That they aren't automatically deserving as much respect as friends and family, the people that we'd give them a second chance unhesitatingly if they fucked up.  And it assumes that they have to measure up to some universal, untouchable definition of a "perfect" human.  Funnily enough, that's exactly what the existing system says as well.

Maybe this all just reinforces the fact that we are never really free from the system, and that, whatever attempts we make to change it will fail unless we manage to break its chains on our subconscious expectations. But maybe it just means that the left needs to question those expectations as regularly as it questions other people's behaviour and attitudes.

Lame as it may be to draw on organized religion for inspiration, I'm tempted to quote that old Christian adage of, "hate the sin, love the sinner".  After 2000 years of practice, the Christians do know a thing or two about persuasion, and it's definitely easier to persuade people to change their ways when you reach out to them, rather than by telling them off for doing things wrong all the time (which is the Catholic approach).

Therefore, the Berlin left may want to at least experiment with the idea of “hate the bigotry, love the bigot” and see where that takes it. If you accept a person that has the same general aims as you, rather than expecting all their specific strengths and weaknesses to match yours exactly, you stand a chance of helping them shed said baggage. But shut the door in their faces and you lose that chance, as well as gaining a new enemy to your cause.

That’s not to suggest that the left wing scene should turn a blind eye to bad behaviour or bad ethics... but maybe try taking it on a case-by-case basis.  That's what we do with our colleagues, school friends, neighbours, family members.  They may act entitled and prejudiced at times, but we carry on making the effort to relate to them because we’re deeply enough entwined in their existence that we can see the benefits as well as the drawbacks.  Why should it be any different with fellow activists?  Shouldn’t the aim be to get to know them just as well as that, and be able to benefit from their qualities, as well as addressing their weaknesses? 

The Gegen crew that does genre and gender-bending parties at Kit Kat club seems to have gotten their inspiration for their party’s name from the constant repetition of the word gegen (against) in Berlin's leftist, queer scenes.  Along with anti and stoppen these are that scene's most beloved terms.  But Gegen, in the end, made an attempt to embody the state of ‘not-being’, effectively turning it into a state of being.  I believe that that's the secret to their success, and that the rest of the Berlin left could learn a few things from them.  Eventually, you run out of things to be against, to stop and reject.  After that you’re left with whatever you are and the strange, discomfiting fact that it’s all you will ever have to change the world with - and that these flawed people are the best allies that you'll ever have.


Preview: Partying in the Present (In)Tense

Apparently there's a part of your mind that doesn't register time, only experiences.  Its point of view is recorded in pure emotion... a state where people seem frozen in time with sounds drawn out for eternity.  I feel like that's the part of my mind that comes out to play whenever I'm at a party, so this entry is going to be dedicated to places where it would feel at home, this weekend. 

Tonight, there's The Long Now, an Atonal-inspired 30-hour closing party at Kraftwerk Berlin (which is the big industrial hall space above Tresor).

The blurb for the event describes this as "a place for the enduring present. A space in which time itself can unfold, where the sense of time can take uncharted paths and even depart".  Well, having been to the last Atonal, I can confirm that it is a pretty apt description of the type of music that they play there.  It's a bit like watching a Bill Viola video through your ears. 

You'll want to wear your comfy clothes to this party, 'cause they expect you to take it lying down: "Beds are provided and sleeping over is recommended!" says the RA event blurb for the surreal sundowner, starting at 18:18 tonight.  At the very least, that makes it a pretty cool place to bring the sex-istentialist you met at the Radialsystem Maerzmuzik festival. 

Later on tonight, Oscillate at About Blank will feature a DJ who is connected to two of my Berlin lieblingslabels (a compound word that I just invented).   DJ Eomac of Stroboscopic Artefacts and Killekill plays us some subconscious, eternity-surfing stuff... but with some fluffy, dance-able acid thrown in for good measure.

Check out Eomac at  Oscillate from midnight tonight.
On Sunday night Ancient Methods (or Asian Meth Heads, as I like to call him) is playing at Berghain.  Go there if you want to feel like you've gone to some sort of underground party bunker on the set of the film Donnie Darko.

Asian Meth -- I mean Ancient Methods, has the most killer samples of any DJ that I have ever heard, cut an queued to fit his neurotically dark style like an Exacto knife. There's a pretty steady techno bass running through all that he plays too.

But by far the best thing about him is his biography on Resident Advisor.  Other DJ's  will obsessively tell us about how many underground parties they've played and how many big names they've rubbed shoulders with, or even what colour of skinny jeans they like to wear... all the while avoiding telling you what actual style of music they play. Ancient Methods is more straightforward than that, with a bio that simply reads:

He's also a DJ who makes you feel like time has stopped.  The last time I saw him, he played a "2-hour" set that lasted for around 6 hours in Tresor's basement, to a womyn-dominated crowd.  (Anybody who claims that chicks don't dig the harder tunes obviously was not present there.)

We all know that the party has to end eventually but the feeling is what keeps it going while it lasts... and any of the above parties will give you a little piece of that.



Breaking With the Easyjet Set

Do you live in Berlin?  Yes?  Let me guess: you are probably an underemployed, liberal artist of some kind.  You probably eat local, organically-grown organic products.  You almost definitely always return your bottles for the pfand (deposit).  Your energy probably comes from a renewable source.  You cycle from A to B and use public transport whenever you can (because, let's face it, it's all you can afford).  In other words, you don't use up that much carbon per year, right?  So surely, you can afford to take a flight some place warm every now and then. 

It's a presumption that many people - myself included - make.  So I figured it was time to sit down and do the math to find out if that presumption was really true.  And here's what I learned:

1) A return trip from New York City to Berlin causes as much damage as putting 2 or 3 tons* of CO2 per person into the air, per flight.

2) On average, each person in Berlin produces about 6 tons of CO2** per year

So as it turns out, taking a single transatlantic trip isn't just a small indulgence - in fact, in that 14 hour flight, I do as much damage to the Earth as I would normally do in half a year of life in Berlin.

That's like consuming 40% more of everything that I use per year: 40% more Bratwursts, Sternis, Pall Malls, spare parts for my Diamant, hairspray, glitter, black tights, slippers, smartphone batteries, Geisha fans, fizzy water, taxis, recycling, compost and all that jazz.  Can you imagine how much it would cost to pay for 40% more of everything that you use in a year?  I'm guessing, a lot more than a return flight to New York would cost…

This, I think, is exactly the problem with cheap flights. They make it hard to keep track of how much carbon you've used because flight prices never reflect the true CO2 cost.  But how are airlines able to keep their seat prices so unrealistically low in the first place?  Well in a nutshell, it's because they have successfully evaded most attempts to make them pay the same fuel and carbon taxes that other transportation services (train, coaches, boats and buses) have to pay.  Basically, they're getting a free pass to pollute at a time when everyone else is scrimping and scrounging to minimize their carbon footprint. I could go into some long, tedious dissection of how they managed to get that free pass, but it's the same old story as ever: they got it through corruption and bribes corporate lobbying.   And they’re passing their tendency to evade the consequences on to their consumers: that’s right, me and you.

This is why we get such deeply unrealistic prices on our flights, and even less realistic advertising campaigns to go with them.  These almost always paint a picture of clean, blue skies and natural splendour that are utterly undefiled by dirty industries.... like, erm, the aviation industry.  But getting there costs just €24.99!   Airline companies almost make it easier to fly away than it is to stay in an increasingly smoggy Berlin (or London, Paris, or New York).  They sell an escapist fantasy and one that you and I will end up paying for in reality soon enough.  We already are, in the form of floods, droughts, heatwaves and fires.

With 2015 being the hottest year on record, and the second winter in a row with no snow staying on the ground in Berlin, more and more people that I meet are saying, "I know climate change is real, but what can I do to stop it?" 

The answer is pretty simple: don't do anything… just stop doing something.  Stop flying.  Or at least, stop flying as much as you do right now.  As far as saving the planet, the future and everything goes, it's the least strenuous act of heroism a person could ever make.  All that it requires is that we spend less money, and take more time off when we travel.  Not exactly mortal sacrifices at the end of the day.  That’s why I’ve given up flying in 2016, and why I hope you will too.  If you absolutely cannot quit then follow your doctor’s advice and cut back.

The world's richest 5% who can afford to fly hold a large part of the climate future in their hands
But I've noticed that a lot of what makes my peers in Berlin fly is social pressure.  When I tell them that I'm taking the train or bus to travel, they stare at me like I'm just too dimwitted to fly.  It gets worse when I tell them that I love traveling around Europe the "backwards" way, on trains and buses and bikes.  The irony that built into the term "Easyjet set" seems to have eluded these people: they take serious pride in the superiority that traveling by air supposedly grants them.  But does getting places faster means that you're somehow more advanced, or profiting more from the travel experience?  I don't think so. 

Air travel minimizes your exposure to other people, the landscape, and the reality of the place you're in.  In a plane, you never have the option of changing your plans or stepping outside for a breath of fresh air... if there is any of that left, after your plane has just passed by.  Maybe that's why biggest air travel junkies that I've met are also the ones who are least aware of the damage that flying causes: because they don't travel as far outside of the plane as some people do.  The climate-controlled interior of the plane seals them off from the damage and shoots them past it, all at the same time.  But if the Easyjet Set and I were all in the same boat (or hitchhiking the same car) they'd be swapping tales with me about their mad treks across the land instead of turning their noses up at it.  And why not?  Getting there is a part of the adventure.

Air travel puts up a barrier between fellow travelers, adding a tier to separate people who are headed the same way.  And, if the masses of backpackers that I've seen, forlornly tapping on their smartphones all alone are any indication, that has deprived them of the best part of the experience: the unexpected friendships that can only arise when you're faced with a long journey, and nothing better to do than to chat to the person next to you.

For more tips how to get down to the 4 ton annual CO2 limit that Shrink That Footprint recommends, check out their website.  

* The actual CO2 released is less than that but, "When aviation fuel is burned at high altitude make emissions from aeroplanes nearly four times as damaging as those at ground level."  Guardian Environmental Editor, John Vidal

*Based on Berlin.de's figure of 21 million tons of CO2 for the entire city per year


New Kids on the Black Bloc

Plateau Gallery @ The Greenhouse Berlin

Greenhouse Berlin
Neglected urban spaces seem to capture a large part of the Berlin aesthetic.  That's why the city's endless, derelict stretches are such a huge attraction in and of themselves.  They don't need signposts or missions statements - no, those would just get in the way.  Instead, they speak to us through a special feeling: like you've just reached the final frontier in the last undeveloped European city.  Like there's still something undefined that you can reach for beyond the unyielding bricks and cement, existing only to be experienced.  Like the terms haven't been created yet to describe what lies out there...

That's why I'm uplifted to hear that more and more DIY, multipurpose event spaces are cropping up on the outskirts of the city, and opting to keep the city's left-wing, activist ethics alive.  There's a part of the modern Berlin soul that you can only you capture by giving people a place and a time to explore, experiment and leave their own mark without any pre-judgement.  Unfortunately, many people who come here are too busy leaving their trademark around town to let that happen.  But the thing about the underground wellspring is, when you block off one outlet, another one pops up somewhere else.  And the fact that that a lot of those are still popping up tells me that the current here is still going strong. 


La Casa. (U-Bahn: Louis Lewin Strasse)

La Casa has established itself as a makeshift Antifa HQ and freewheeling drop-in center for activists, refugees, music lovers, street artists... basically, the kind of people that you and I would be happy to call "locals". If you want to get a taste of what the place is like firsthand, read on...

La Casa's party space by night.  And probably by day too.

Streetart... in Marzahn?!  Yes this really is happening!
Tonight, La Casa's partying Marzahn hard techno-style, courtesy of the Druzba collective.  As well as dark, ceiling-dripping technothey'll also be laying on "fresh fruit, decorations from Leipzig and live lighting."  All at low, low prices - surely the biggest perk of partying on the outskirts of town.  For a sample of the sort of music they'll be bashing out, check out this mix by Princess-o-mat of the 'Procrastinators United' label  (probably 99% of Berliners could be signed on to that one).


The Greenhouse Berlin (U-Bahn Hermanstrasse)

The Greenhouse is a green beehive near the south end of Tempelhof that has "more than 200 artists’ studios dedicated to different forms of music, arts, design and multimedia."  It hosts everything from alternative fashion shows to art installations to theatre and parties. 

Tonight, it's hosting an art exhibition in it's 8th story Plateau Gallery (pictured top), which starts at 8 p.m.


Mensch Meier (Landsberger Allee S-Bahn)

Can't not mention the Mensch!  I've already written a bit about them here and here.  Tonight, they'll be doing an Artists in Action event that comes complete with, "Kino, Kabarett, Konzert + Kunstinstallation + Workshops".  That's just a direct quote from their website, but I feel that it translates pretty well into English, too.

And finally, here's one just for the clubbers...

WEYDE in Schöneweide (Tram 17,27 or 37)

According to the Berlin Ist Techno website, Weyde was designed by Berghain's architectural firm.  But from what I've seen so far, their music policy is already a tad more diverse than that.  At the very least, they'll throw a bit of Goa and psy into the mix alongside the banging techno.  

The 1000-capacity club will eventually comprise three floors: on the rooftop, by the riverside and a cave floor indoors for those who like to shun the daylight.  But tonight you can get a sneak preview at their weekly event called... "Weyde".

Just like many of their more centrally-located predecessors, the venues above are made up of vast spaces: sprawling factories with adjacent vacant lots and rivers and towering brickwork canvases for walls.  Sure, they might be a wee bit further out than most of us are used to going but, come spring, the trek will be just another excuse to catch a breeze on a long, balmy night.  

So why not be the first and check them out now?


Photo Blog: We are the Children of Zoo...

Berlin has two zoos, but its more exotic wildlife can be found on the streets in between them...

Even when there are bricks all around you, it's easy to forget that you're in a city, in Berlin - animistic figures seem to creep into the background from every angle.

Here is a roundup of some of the weirder & more wonderful creatures that have flown, hopped, prowled, slithered and trotted into view over the past few years, as I wandered around the city snapping pics. Feel free to share your own on Twitter @UnsceneBerlin or in the comment box below!

Bunnies as seen thru the eyes of streetartist Roa
The Easter Bunny, as seen through the eyes of streetartist Roa

Bikes don't have a rearview mirror, so people have to find a more creative place for their fluffy toys.

Seen at a demonstration that had nothing to do with unicorns, whatsoever.

Add caption

Wild things used to come out of the woodwork at Zapata bar (R.I.P.)

The elephant in the room at Brunnen 70

The Berlin Bear had a night on the tiles, it seems.

Still not sure what this was meant to be, but it's kind of cute

The "Smile" Cat

Where the Wild Things Are: Berlin.

Want more like this? Check out this post: Berlin's Urban Monsters


WTF Happened in Rigaer Strasse?

Berlin's Thought Police in action

You might have seen the footage on the news in the last few weeks of flack-jacketed cops milling around outside of one of Friedrichshain's playfully patchworked 'squats' (which aren't actually squats, anymore, although they once were). You might have read a snippet of text or two, telling you about an attack on a passer-by in the street, and a raid on a house.  The chances are very good, though, that you didn't get the whole story of what actually happened in Rigaer Strasse.  I know I didn't.  So in this post, I'm going to share what I've learned about it so far. 

According to the press, on January 13th, a police officer was attacked in  in Rigaer Strasse in North FriedrichshainDer Spiegel wrote that the injured officer in question "was overthrown, beaten and kicked to the ground" by four people who were "suspected" left wingers. "According to police, the 52-year-old officer was wearing no protective clothing and was injured by the attack." Der Spiegel wrote"The four attackers then fled into the house in Rigaer Strasse."  

Later that same day, 550 police officers stormed the house.  There, they claimed to have found "missiles and so-called "crow's feet", which can be used to damage car tires.”  The "missiles" turned out to be nothing more than paving stones which were being used for construction.  

It later transpired that the police didn't even have a search warrant when they entered the house, and that they had no reason to assume the attackers were still on site.  So why the OTT raid, then?  No answers are forthcoming, yet.  But one gets the impression that the police and their bosses  seem to have assumed that no one would even think of asking that question. Turns out that they were wrong. Yesterday, a meeting by the Committee on Internal Affairs was tasked with investigating the heavy handed response to the attack in Rigaer Strasse.  Interior Minister Henkel, who claimed full responsibility for ordering the raid, only said that he "prefers to use a few more officials now rather than later losing control."  Translated, this means that he favours busting people who haven't actually committed any crimes.  

But the events of January 13th aren't where the story actually begins. Rigaer Strasse 94, a left-wing collective based in the area, wrote on their website in November that residents were "being made to show their ID cards and were being searched, while others were dragged into vans and let out somewhere different. People were not accused of anything concrete, but their style of dress was cited as a reason for a dismissal from the zones around the street."  Here, "styles of dress" seems to mean that the victims looked a bit punk and left-wing.  If you thought Kater Blau's fashion police were bad, well, in Rigaer Strasse the police have moved the dresscode from the club door to people's front doorsteps.  Only in this case, it's getting out of the building that's a problem, not getting in.   

The residents of Rigaer Strasse have been subject to police harassment since October 2015, when Interior Minister Henkel stated that the residents of Rigaer Street were "terrorists" and vowed that he would crack down on them, following a rash of attacks against police in the area the previous year.  In 2015, police were attacked 9 times in Rigaer Strasse.  In most of these attacks, objects were thrown at them from the roofs.  It's worth noting that the attacks mostly happen during events like "The Long Night of Rigaer Strasse", a street festival that sees the squats open their doors to the general public, so it's questionable how responsible the permanent residents of Rigaer Strasse are for the attacks Henkel is referring to.  Also, most attacks like this happen in the summer which is tourist season in Friedrichshain (yes, even in the left-wing scene), so the chances of the same assailants still being in the area in the winter are slim.  But maybe the real point of attacking the area in winter is more cold-blooded and strategic, than legal: the population is smaller now, and it's easier to wrest control away from the left wing scene.  But why?  More on that below.  

But first, let's get back to the raid on January 13th.  Sending 550 police officers into a house without a warrant when there weren't even any suspects in it was already pretty over the top, but Henkel went even further still, by sending in members of Berlin's Special Task Force (SEK), too.

According to Wikipedia, the main missions of SEK units are to "to deal with barricaded suspects. Hostage sieges, kidnappings and raids.They don't say that the SEK is normally used to raid left-wing, vegan cooperatives full of unarmed non-suspects but I suspect that's not standard procedureDoes Mr. Henkel know that?  

Apparently, "The basic gear for every SEK officer is a standard sidearm and a submachine gun. SEK's other weaponry includes rifles, sniper rifles, and even machine guns." 

So that's definitely going over the top, then.   

As an interesting aside, Wikipedia states that “the SEK units partially consist of officers who were members of East Germany's GSG 9 counterpart, a unit called Diensteinheit IX."  I assume that means that quite a few members of the unit were trained to operate within a totalitarian socialist context instead of this totalitarian capitalist one.  Boy, does that explain a lot.

Proud to be the 'terror' of the neighbourhood: a 'squat' house in Rigaer Strasse
Totalitarian or not, the police response to Rigaer Strasse suggests that the City's intention here was not to take out a defined threat, but to eradicate even the tendency to defy authority, in Rigaer Strasse.  Perhaps they find it easier to do that with armed police than by addressing the sorts of problems that make people become defiant in the first place.  

One of those problems is the stress that gentrification is putting upon the neighbourhood around Rigaer Strasse.  The area north of Frankfurter Allee is truly a neighbourhood, one of the last bastions of long-term renters living in a borough that's been almost entirely given over to holiday-makers, living in overpriced sublets close to the club hubs of Revaler Strasse and Simon Dach Strasse.  

In the right wing media, the defiance of neighbourhoods like Rigaer Strasse is usually portrayed as some sort of adolescent rebellion.  But take a walk around north and south Friedrichshain in the summer and you'll see that what the north is aiming for isn't some sort of unattainable utopia, after all - it's just the bare minimum state of permanence that's needed to stay on in a neighbourhood from one year to the next.  But as the surrounding properties get bought up by image-conscious developpers, residents are facing pressure to move on and make way for wave after wave of short-term residents.

One begins to suspect that the City's decision to harass the residents of Rigaer Strasse has more to do with its cozy relationship to the kinds of property investors who would love to fill North Friedrichshain with shorter-term tenants, providing them with constant opportunities to raise their rents.  (Note: in Berlin, a landlord can only raise the rent after a tenant moves out).

Berlin's city government has a long history of courting such property investors by unethical means.  In the 1990s the city of Berlin was even bankrupted by its CDU government because it went so overboard in its attempts to please local real estate developpers.  At the time, Berlin was a majority shareholder in the BGB bank and local officials handed out 600 million Euros credit to friends working in the real estate sector.  They illegally waived any credit checks because they were overconfident that they would get all that money back with interest, once wealthy people started flooding into Berlin and renting out the newly refurbished flats at inflated prices.  Their gamble didn't pay off though and BGB went bankrupt due to its mismanagement.   

At the time, Berlin was a sort of Wild West ghost town, filled with empty houses.  I imagine that the city councillors felt like they'd won the Lottery, coming into a city full of attractive empty properties, and it made them a bit careless: a gold-rush mentality.   But what the City failed to consider was just how it was going to let out all those newly refurbished flats to wealthy emigres when the unemployment rate in Berlin is so high and there is a glaring lack of stable industry to attract wealth 
The CDU has never answered that questionInstead, it seems content to go on making rash, unsustainable choices - basically, gambling on the hope that they will get a miraculous payout from the rental market using a combination of muscle, money and corruption.   But as long as they fail to address the city's underlying problems, this amounts to wishful thinking.    

Part of the problem now is that the City is desperate to pay off the huge debt that it helped to create in the 1990s with its mismanagement - and the SPD was implicated in that mismanagement as well, so it shares that desperation with the CDUSo whenever the prospect of easy cash presents itself, the City throws all caution to the wind, and the people of Berlin usually end up paying the price; the City passed off much of its bad debt to Berliners in the form of higher taxation and cuts to social services and now it wants to take their homes as well But seriously... who's fault is it that the debt is there in the first place?  

The City's government behaves less like a government than a gambling addict who keeps putting more money into a losing slot machine, the property market, in the hopes of saving face.  A big win is the only thing that might make its stupidity seem suddenly clever, againIn the meantime it doesn't seem to care who it displaces, raids, arrests or slanders as it pursues this losing strategy... even if it means calling in the SEK.   

Judging by the positive tone of comments made about Rigaer Strasse in Berlin's cultural media, most people seem to enjoy spending time in the "terrorist" 'hood" (or gefahrengebiet, as it's known in German) Maybe Rigaer Strasse is still a popular area because it's still vibrant and cheap, and full of exciting venues and peopleMaybe Berliners like it because, when they're there, they don't get that sense of an encroaching gentrification creeping along behind them, preparing to put up territorial fences behind them when they leave. 

Clearly the bigger problem is that Berlin isn't the sort of city where the government can just sit back and collect the profits... which is often all that it seems prepared to doAs a city, it is too young and historically complex, and too beset by unique economic and social problems, for the standard model of "gentrification" to work.  What it needs is an administration that's prepared to take a proactive approach and build a stable community, complete with jobs, social services and free resources that bring people together.  The left wing scene is trying very hard to provide those last two options with its limited resources because the government doesn't leave them much choice.  It simply isn't doing enough to pick up the slack.

So maybe, instead of evicting the residents of Rigaer Strasse, the city of Berlin would be better off taking suggestions from them instead.

If you agree, then be sure to check out the solidarity demo on Feburary 6th.  It starts at 16:00 at Rummelplatz, the wagon village on Guertelstrasse (nearest station Ostkreuz).


Preview: Am Boden's Balaclava Ballroom

Fidelity Kastrow plays Friday @ Mensch Meier
I've written here a few times about Mensch Meier, the multi-purpose party space that's near to Landsberger Allee, but they've been putting on such a wide variety of events in the past year that it's getting pretty damn hard to sum the place up in just a few lines.

If you're curious what the Mensch Meier phenomenon is all about, this weekend may be a good time to get down there and get a feel for exactly what kind of place it is.

This Friday, Nachtasyl's party 'Am Boden' will serve up several Mensch Meier specialties at once (several, but not all).  It will have decadence, a dark theatrical flair, a generous helping of left-wing ethics plus lots of banging, subversive tunes.  Experimental / dark / rough techno, disco and dubtechno are all on the menu.  

The Princess of Death. Friday @ Mensch Meier

The organizers say they have "been organizing raves in abandoned basements and houses" since 2013 and fittingly, their party motto is "using the unused". And when you see acts like The Princess of Death appear onstage dressed like they've dredged a darkroom gutter for discarded party accessories, playing music that sounds like it's been ripped up and stuck back together again using attitude in place of glue, you might just understand what they mean.

Nachtasyl says that this party will be driven by two main principles which, in their own words, are:

#1: We want to make an intensive and thoughtful party that makes you dance to rough and dark Techno sounds as well as making you enjoy atmospheric and experimental Beat- and Disco-sets. We want to design a space that gives you the chance to escape.

#2: We want to make a good party for the sake of a good party. We don't want to make money. We are donating 50% of our profit to "You can't break a Movement", a Rote Hilfe e.V. project that pays legal fees for regugees and refugee
activists. The other 50% will be saved up to lower our personal risks and cover expenses for the next edition of the party.

To put it another way, this isn't so much a benefit party as it as a ball for the balaclava-wearing set.

Check out Am Boden this Friday January 22nd at Storkower Strasse 121. Doors open 11:00 p.m. Entrance costs 10.00 Euros. Enjoy!