29.10.14

Misandry: It's a Big Deal (Not)

Spot the victim: almost all of the above images are from mundane, every day ads on magazines, billboards and news sites.  Some are indistinguishable from images of true violence against women (bottom, center).  Ads like this tap into the misogynist's fantasy life and whether we share that fantasy or not, we have to admit it's riddled with violence and hate... which means that society is, too
I've been reading about the recent Gamergate debate(s) on Twitter - which I've still not got my head around, and am unlikely to, now that the number of tweet accusations flying around has reached critical mass.  But one thing that stuck with me after reading a few threads was the shocking blitheness with which guys on these threads bandy the word 'misandry' about.  They seem to have decided that the word 'misandrist' can be used to refer to any woman who says or thinks negative things about men. 

Is being negative about sexist men such an innately wrong behaviour that is somehow amounts to a real, actual prejudice, though?  And are men such super special beings that they never make mistakes or bad judgements that need to be criticised?  I don't think so. Any man who would suggest such a thing probably needs to get over himself.

When feminists criticise a man's behaviour as sexist, it's like when a colleague says to him at work , 'Just because you're good at your job doesn't mean that you can ask me to make coffee for you.'  The man in question may be doing well in every other respect, but if his behaviour is unconsciously and unfairly burdening another person, then that other person is entitled to criticise. This also applies to misogynist women, by the way.

But even if there are women out there who are just saying unfair, nasty things about men for the hell of it, I don't see how that is in any way as bad as beating up on men; yelling at them in the streets because they're not paying enough attention to us; rubbing up against them on crowded trains; raping them; tailgating them because we assume that their entire gender doesn't know how to drive; paying them too little or no money for their work; trafficking them; renting or buying them like commodities; refusing to treat their illnesses because it's 'all in their head'; and otherwise preventing their ability to live full, equal and safe lives, using the power that an unfair system has granted us over them. 

Let's face it: misandry simply lacks the same opportunities to manifest that misogyny has manufactured for itself, over the last dozen or so centuries.  If misandry exists on a large scale, then it mostly exists in the heads of females who hate men.  Misogyny, on the other hand, exists right out in the open where everyone can see it, where its random targets cannot avoid it, and where bystanders are desensitised by their exposure to it.  It even exists in the system.  That's why women cannot expect protection from misogyny, ironically enough... it's too ubiquitous. 

The restrictions misogyny places on us changes from country to country but they're ever-present, the deadening weight of prejudice embodied in flesh, steel and stone.  Sometimes, it just seems safer just to stay home, quit our jobs and squish ourselves into whatever tiny role the misogynists condone for us.  Indeed, it takes a force of will not to do that, even nowadays.  Any man who'd equate such immediate, physical oppression with the effect of some poorly-chosen words, is only showing how out-of-touch with women's reality he really is.  He would do better to stop and think about what the reality behind a woman's words is actually like to live in, before flinging the word 'misandry' out there as a defense against his wounded pride.  Misogyny is not just another virtual debate in which words are the only component; plenty of actions are involved in it too.  But maybe this point is lost on people who spend more time online than they do in the real world.

If feminists don't want to fight for the man who feels he isn't getting all the respect he deserves from every woman on the planet, it's just because they're already embattled on that front and many others.  They might feel that man's pain, sure, but their own pain is a bigger threat to their immediate existence.  All feminists, and the vast majority of women, do know how it feels to be shamed and snubbed and condescended to... but they also know how it feels to be threatened, groped, injured, shouted down and ridiculed by men who have too much power over their lives. 

So if you think that you're a good guy who doesn't deserve to be tarred with the same brush as all the other sexist guys out there, then that's great.  But it doesn't mean that you have the right to ask feminists to make sure your feelings aren't getting hurt. We have our own work to do too, you know.  

6.10.14

Review: Two Nights in Berlin City





The dancefloor was as industrialized and austere as the tunes: it was a square, black dance pit lit with strobelights, surrounded by metal railings.  Krautrock, proto-industrial, acid house and guttural techno were the sounds of the night.  They were bold, chunky, crude... sounds from the primordial soup that brought the modern variants of techno and electro to a boil.  

The Horrorist's set contained ingredients from all of the above styles, stripping them back down to the basics: four-four beats and two-chord riffs, but vested with the intensity of a rock opera.  The opening DJ, Denard Henry played a more sumptuous, plasmic kind of EBM that could have just as well been labelled 'ambient', interspersed with harder obscure finds.  Later on, DJ Deathbat played music that was 'minimal' in a bold way, unlike so much of the techno that's been placed under that heading: Trashwave, French, Batcave, Deathrock, Postpunk, Synth were his preferred styles, thin on basslines, repetitive to the point of hypnosis, yet inexplicably dark and moving.


Blitzlicht brought a small but flamboyant & loyal fan base from around Berlin to the rustic venue, under a restaurant in Rosa-Luxemburg Platz.  Lanky, excitable boys reeled through the dance floor in introverted delirium, mouthing the lyrics to the tunes that had them.  Androgyne postpunk divas sat with their eyes wide shut, clad in precisely-curated scraps of cloth, nodding extravagant mohawks that looked like exhibits torn from a backstreet gallery. 

Image from 'Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace'
The club felt full despite it being mid-week at a niche show: about 150 people came and went, clustering around the sidelines in nefarious conference, eyeing the dancers doing aerobics through smoke machine fog at the center of the room. 

After chatting to Oliver (a.k.a. the Horrorist) and his partner Andi - a photographer and author of the book Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace - we headed to the ‘new’ Kaffee Burger that was just around the corner, on Torstrasse.  Unfortunately, Kaffee Burger's draped banquettes and pink and purple lighting reminded us a bit too much of a Shisha bar at closing time.  It had the same contrast of faux-Roman decor and red-eyed customers drinking like Huns on the lash that all too many Friedrichshain bars have.  Maybe it was just the wrong hour of day for us to be there, but for the pick n' mix assortment of binge drinkers dancing and signing along to classic rock tunes on the other side of the bar, it was definitely still party time.  All the time.  

Kaffee Burger is open 24/7 by the way... there's a tip for any night owl that finds his or herself stranded in Mitte at 5 a.m.!

Our night finished up in Friedrichshain at a bar called Hexe (Witch), where we'd almost slipped into a stupor when Andi got told off loudly (but playfully) by a stout Berlin barmaid, after inadvertently nicking a staff-only seat from her.  At the same time, someone’s mobile got nicked from a table next to ours - a mini crimewave in progress! - and then voices were raised, chairs were overturned, cops were called.  As we were hustled out of there, two cruisers and a riot van tore past us and started cordoning off the street around the bar.   I wondered who that stolen phone must have belonged - they must have been a film star to get such a full-on response from Berlin's Idlest.     

Grounded Theory @ Stattbad, September 26th

The scene on Gerichtstrasse was strangely similar, when we arrived at Stattbad Wedding the following weekend: the whole street had been closed off but, this time, it was blocked by big white trailers instead of police cruisers.  We quickly realised there was a film being shot on location somewhere nearby - a new production by Tom Tykwer, the director of Run Lola, Run, actually.  So there was already drama was in the air before we even got inside the club. 

In the downstairs hallway, on the way to the Boiler Room, we met an all-female Italian crew with some very exotic cigarettes to share.  After sitting and talking for ages as the venue filled up, we watched Acid Maria play in the main room.  The legendary Berlin DJ lived up to her name with a solid, stomping set of 303’s in the tightly packed Boiler Room.   But personally, I preferred the atmosphere in the pressurised depths of the Bunker Room, where DJ Henning Baer was playing, ghetto style, behind concrete beams.  The low-hanging, exposed ceilings were damp with sweat all night long.

The only downside was that, whenever you left the Bunker dancefloor, the squatty mayhem was quickly watered down by throngs of incredulous-looking twenty-something's proceeding past.    
Sightseeing clubbers seem to be a peculiarly Wedding phenomenon, though.  Maybe it's because the clubs in the area are cheap, authentic and don't have much a door policy(?).  Anyways, the looky-loos were all gone by 5:00 a.m.   By the time, Drumcode’s Alan Fitzpatrick had taken to the decks, all that was left in the club were scads of techno fans, dancing and abandoning whatever state of Germany/mind they'd come from to transcend the superficial details of where they were and how they looked.  The fast-paced, heady mixing left little time for anything else but dancing.  


2.10.14

Let's Just Call It 'World Unity Day'


There was a comment on Twitter today that referred to children of migrants living in the U.S. as 'illegal'.  Seeing that made me stop and think about how bizarre a term that is, 'iIllegal'.  Maybe it's because the term was being applied to children, who are totally blameless of any stupid law that already existed when they entered this world.  But also, being 'illegal' isn't like some sort of measurable characteristic is it - it's not like being tall or skinny.  Yet these anti-immigration crazies talk about it like it's a real, actual thing instead of a 100% subjective, made-up classification.

What is even stranger is that the classification of 'illegal' was made up by other people!  I would think that, if you are a person (and if you're not I really want to know how you heard about this blog) then you'd want to avoid making up a law that criminalizes other people simply for being, and only when they are being on the wrong side of the border, at that.  It seems like such a mindless, hyper-territorial reflex.  Is this just the sort of muddy thinking that results from a life spent taking steroids, I wonder?  Do all but the most primordial parts of one's brain eventually get crowded out by muscle?  Inquiring minds want to know...

Why do people in expensive suits always seem to be angry?
At Supamolly in Friedrichshain tonight, there is a benefit party to raise cash for Lampedusa, the refugee rights collective.  Part of the group recently survived 14 days on a hostel rooftop in Friedrichshain with nothing but water and they are still being shunted around town from occupied site to occupied site.  The last I heard, they'd chained themselves to a stairwell inside the offices of the DGB labour union, who had called the cops to have them removed.  Serves you right for not joining the union, guys!  But seriously: what Lampedusa really needs right now is a lawyer, not a union.  This benefit party hopes to help them cover the costs.

Tomorrow at K9 (Kinzingstr. 9) in Friedrichshain, there is another benefit party for refugees called 'Another Step Over the Wall.'  The name refers to the national holiday on October 3rd, German Unity Day which celebrates the reunification of East and West Germany.  While Germany celebrates the elimination of an unnecessary border that caused pointless suffering for millions, it is worth reflecting that the country's modern border is being maintained at a similar cost... but now, it's refugees and migrants that are paying the price.

"Are there still borders? More than ever!
Every home owner, or even every tenant nails his name plate on the door, like a coat of arms and studies the morning paper as if he were a world leader.  Germany has crumbled into as many small states as there are individuals.  And these small states are mobile.  Everyone carries his own small state with him, and demands a toll when another wants to enter."

Wim Wenders, from the film 'Wings of Desire'


21.9.14

Photoblog: Silent Climate Parade 2014

Parade passes by the Berliner Dom

When was it: Sunday, September 21st at 2:00 p.m.

Where was it: Alexanderplatz to Brandenburger Tor, in Berlin's Mitte

What happened: Several thousand Berliners donned headphones and danced their way through the streets while listening to live DJ mixes and short speeches about climate change, that were being broadcast over the headsets.  Organizers also coordinated a 'crowd tsunami'... basically, that's a giant version of the Mexican wave.  By that point the parade had covered the whole length of Unter den Linden and the effect of the wave was pretty awesome.  
Everything at the parade was environmentally-friendly, too, from the electric tuk-tuk vehicles used by the DJs and drink sellers, to the balloons and even the toilets at the end of the parade. 

Why was it: The UN conference on climate change starts on September 23rd in New York.  September 21st was therefore chosen as a global day of action, when 2,808 demonstrations were held across the world.  The aim is to show the leaders gathering in New York that the public is running out of patience with official apathy toward tackling climate change.  

Who was there: Thousands of concerned people from all walks of life, ages, races and faiths.

How has it changed things? I suppose we'll find out next week...

Highlight: Taking off my headphones and realizing just how surreal the sight of thousands of dancing, cheering people looks when you can't hear the music playing in the background.  Also: the festival at Brandenburger Tor with bands, stalls and a sound system.  A simple-but-effective, fusion of flashmob action, urgency and passion to make change. 

Installation at Brandenburger Tor

WWF activists pose with panda bear while a familiar face from a previous blog entry passes by

Dancing demonstrators on Unter den Linden

Cyclist sign


Sign thrown together by yours truly in about 20 minutes (!)

17.9.14

Preview: NYC Tonight?


I was just flipping through all of the events in Berlin that interest me this week, when I realized hey!  All these events have something in common... they're all about New York, somehow.     

Tonight, on Wednesday the 17th there's Blitzlicht, an EBM / Industrial / Synth night with the Horrorist DJing.  The Horrorist is from New York and back in the 90s, he made a famous, dark techno tune called "One Night in New York City".  The video is here in case you happen to be one of the ten techno fans in the world who hasn't heard it before. 

Even though he was a big hit in the techno scene, the Horrorist says that he also likes Goth nights and names Front 242, Nitzer Ebb and Depeche Mode among his influences. He's the perfect person to introduce you to club night in Berlin).


Starting Friday there is the Tattoo Circus in Kreuzberg - where else?  This is a three-day event where tattoos, gigs, political workshops, films and prison tales all rub their inked-up biceps in a couple of venues in the gritty-but-green Mariennenplatz.   One of the main venues for the event is the Rauch Haus squat in Kreuzberg.  But guess what the second venue is?  That's right, it's New Yorck at the Bethanien.

There is a ton of free stuff going on at Tattoo Circus, so you're bound to find something that you like there, especially if you read this blog regularly.  Just check out the program on the event link.  As the website says: "neither the tattooists, nor the piercers, the bands, performers or speakers will work for their own profit [...] the complete proceeds will get to those people who fight against the state and capitalism."  By far the most intriguing event they've listed for this weekend, at least in my novelty-starved opinion, is the 'Clowns, Freaks, Queers and Criminals walk' from Bethanien to Rauch Haus.  That's on Saturday September 20th.  It'll be short, and anything but sweet.

Psychic TV's only German gig is also on Saturday the 20th of September at Gretchen.  Psychic TV are legendary genre-benders of the eighties and nineties.  They started their career in the UK but, after a Satanic Panic scandal that saw them falsely accused of ritual abuse by Britain's Channel 4, they moved to the U.S.  Since 1996  the face of the band, Genesis P-Orridge, has been living in Brooklyn, which is in New York.  Okay, so that connection is a bit of a stretch... but it gets better so read on!

Genesis P-Orridge says: "We should all be thinking as a species instead of as parts of the species as rivals." The singer's visual intensity is captured well in this line drawing by Gluki-Goroda of Deviant Art
If I could afford to go out clubbing on Saturday night myself, I'd go see Adam X playing at Stattbad Wedding.  When reading Adam X's Resident Advisor biography I was surprised to learn that he is, 'one of the original techno DJ pioneers of the NYC techno scene.'  Or maybe I should say that I was 'unsurprised' because by now, the whole NYC theme to the week was becoming kind of apparent to me.

The final connection came when I was invited to a political party event that's happening during the day this Sunday.   The Silent Climate Parade starts at 2 p.m. by Neptunbrunnen (that's the fountain with the mythical-looking dude holding a pitchfork in it) next to the TV tower (that's the really tall concrete pole with the giant disco ball on top of it).  The reason why I'm being extra-clear in these descriptions is so that any New Yorkers who are reading this blog will know how to find them.  Because, as everyone knows, the average American's knowledge of the world only extends as far as New York city itself... and maybe L.A. too*

At the start of the parade you can rent receiver-headphones and then, later, you can use them to listen to live DJ sets that will be broadcast over them as the parade wends its way through Berlin.  Perhaps that's some kind of a commentary on how the climate change crisis has failed to raise a reaction from society as a whole, despite being on everyone's minds.


Also on Sunday, a "bike disco" critical mass ride gets rolling out of Kreuzberg at 2:30 p.m.  It will end at Brandenburger Tor, where it meets up with the silent march.  From 5 p.m. onward there will be a climate change demonstration-festival by the Tor.  It's part of a globally coordinated series of actions that are intended to draw attention to the start of the U.N. climate change summit on September 23rd.  And guess where that summit is taking place?  That's right: in New York City.  

There's a sign-making workshop before the demonstration, for anyone who knows exactly what they want to say to the status quo.  It's on Friday at 6 p.m., at Werbellinstr. 50 Neukolln.  More details about that event can be found here

Now that I'm at the end of this entry, I realize that all these events have something else in common: they are all being put on by people who want to shake up the status quo.  But then again, that's pretty much a constant theme on my blog... and in Berlin.  So I'll just wrap it up with some final words from George Monbiot: 

"Humankind’s greatest crisis coincides with the rise of an ideology that makes it impossible to address.  The self-hating state cannot act. Captured by interests that democracy is supposed to restrain, it can only sit on the road, ears pricked and whiskers twitching, as the truck thunders towards it. Confrontation is forbidden, action is a mortal sin. You may, perhaps, disperse some money for new energy; you may not legislate against the old." From Forbidden Planet.  



*Just kidding, I know plenty of well-travelled Yanks... but just love winding them up!

Image from systemchangenotclimatechange.org

 

11.9.14

Rooftop Protestors Say Police Withheld Food, Water

The nine men who were living on the roof of a Friedrichshain hostel to protest their sudden eviction from it by police two weeks ago, have finally come down for health reasons. Yesterday, they told a Taz reporter that the police withheld food that was brought up to them by well-wishers, and then ate it in front of their eyes. Police also denied water to a protestor who had tuberculosis, and a police doctor refused to examine the man close-up.  
This translated article from the Taz has more details...


BERLIN taz | The rooftop squatters at a refugee hostel in Friedrichshain Gürtelstraße have raised some serious allegations against the Berlin police and politicians. They say that an official statement that was made last Saturday, claiming that the protesters were regularly examined by a police doctor during their rooftoop occupation, is a lie.

"In 13 days a doctor came twice, but he remained ten feet away from us," said Mohamed Danko from Niger on Tuesday, at a press conference that was held in Oranienplatz by the rooftop squatters.

Since the end of the rooftop occupation, Danko has come to a bitter conclusion: "There are no human rights for refugees in Germany, there is no democracy and no freedom for blacks." On Sunday evening, the rooftop squatters ended their protest. On Tuesday, eight of them reported from Oranienplatz to say how they were treated during their 13-day blockade.

The police largely denied them water and food over the 13-day period, as well as access to lawyers or pastors - a fact which still leaves Danko and the other men stunned. "I'm amazed that the interior minister is now saying that our asylum agreement is invalid. And that a court allows the police to starve us," says Danko. Over three days, the men got half a liter of water a day for nine men, says Ibrahim Amadou. "There was a bit of bread for Mohamed because he is sick. But for the rest of us, there was nothing. "

Mohamed Danko, who is suffering from tuberculosis, was given his medicine by the police after two days, although they gave it to him without water initially. Eventually he was given some water, but no solid food, as his doctor said it necessary for him to have. "I asked the police: 'Is that how they do it with you, over here?'" says Danko. "And he said: 'Yes, it’s just the way it is here.'"

Danko, Amadou and a third man with the first name Saidu also report that police officers kept the food that was brought to them by residents and a pastor, and then ate it in front of their eyes.

"The police said to us: 'If you do not come down you will die. No one cares about you, you will be forgotten.’  That is why we are down - we did not want to die, "says Saidu.

Danko says: "In Africa we have experienced hunger and war, and we came here to survive, not to die." They are not criminals; they want to live in peace in Berlin, and study and work.

Saidu says the decisive factor for the end of their protest was that Danko had to give up the rooftop occupation for health reasons; he came down in the early hours of Sunday. In addition, the only non-policeman who was allowed to go to them, the pastor of Kreuzberg Holy Cross Church,  has offered to give the men a month in his community property.  They are now living there in offices without beds or a place to retreat. What's next after that? The men do not know.

Meanwhile, the rest of the 50 or so evictees from that hostel are still living rough.  You can show support for them by dropping by Guertelstrasse park camp (at the corner of Frankfurter Allee) or checking out the info stand in Oranienplatz.

9.9.14

Thank F*ck for Fuck Parade!


 

Before heading out to F*ck Parade last Saturday, I saw a tweet that described the streetparty-demonstration as being 'anti-everything'.  I don't think that's necessarily true.  

It's true that FuPa (as it's also known) was founded in 1997 as an antidote to the Love Parade; as a way for Berlin's underground ravers to extend a middle finger at the hyper-commercial parade that had branded their city.  It's true that the Fuck Parade sometimes attracts a few macho types who think that it's an excuse to barge through dense crowds, instead of dancing.  And it's true that the parade's political message usually consists of a series of banners with words like 'Tourismuscheizze' and 'Gentrification' crossed out on them.  But I think that the Fuck Parade pulls loads of people to Berlin year after year because of what it stands for, not because of what it stands against.  

It stands for the no-frills unity that can only happen when you trawl a line of sound systems through a densely-populated area, pumping out repetitive techno beats that can be heard from miles away, through doors, windows, walls and cement.  

It stands for turning an entire city into a dancefloor.  Forget about queuing up or dressing up: if you can hear it, you can dance to it.  It doesn't get much more egalitarian than that.  

It stands for grabbing people - who are either off their heads and dancing, or scratching their heads and wondering what the hell just hit them - and pulling them into the public spotlight.  It is for encouraging them to do whatever they want under the cover of musical mayhem, without fear or ridicule.  

It is for shattering the silence of all the newly-finished luxury blocks that dot the city's streets, forbidding to the average Berliner despite being nearly empty.     

It stands for giving a venue to underground scenes that cannot afford to put on a flashy club night; that are too edgy to be sponsored by a big brand name.  And it's for doing that right in the middle of Berlin every single year.  Every year, more of the hardcore faithful from around Germany and Europe come here to take advantage of it.  

We ended the night dancing to bassy, bouncy techno pulsing out of a van backed up against a graffiti covered, abandoned train platform in one of those last surviving parts of old Berlin; a badland of eroded grass.  It was bordered by the chrysalis of an emerging, modernized Ostkreuz station on one side, and by blocks of million-Euro flats housed in renovated GDR blocks on the other... a nameless, faceless, in-between zone that exists just to be lived in and used, not branded and admired from a remote distance.  That's the Berlin of the F*ck Parade and all its followers.  And like that strip of badlands where the parade ended, that Berlin is being eroded away a bit at a time, year after year.  FuPa's annual occupation of those kinds of spaces keeps them open for the public.  Whether you like their music or not, it's hard not to agree with that spirit. 

But I loved the music, along with several thousand other people. 

As I was leaving the parade, I don't remember thinking, 'Thank god I didn't dress up / pay too much money / around stand on the sidelines'.  I only remember thinking about the people who I did laugh with... talk to... dance beside.  I thought about all the one-off scenarios that were born on the streets as the parade passed through them, that would be stillborn without free events like this one.  I thought about that guy moving an armchair down the street while a crowd of ravers surged fluidly around him... the white haired residents smiling at us from their balconies... the endless re-combinations of cheap booze, strange props, masks, hats, idealistic T-shirt slogans and extreme music, every which way I looked...

...and then I thought, 'Thank f*ck for the F*ck Parade!'  It might be anti-all the things that are making Berlin a more restrictive place but if you think about it, that only means that it's pro-freedom. 

A 2011 view of Kynaststrasse in Rummelsburg, where the parade ended.