27.5.17

Crying "Terror" In Error



 Austerity has always had a high body count, and the recent spate of lone wolf attacks seem to be a part of that. When is Europe going to learn that prevention may be better than the cure?
 

 
"According to Brooks Brown, Klebold and Harris were the most ostracized students in the entire school, and even many of those close to them regarded the two as "the losers of the losers".[83]" Columbine Massacre

"I will call them, from now on, losers because that's what they are: losers." Donald Trump, describing the attackers [sic] behind the Manchester suicide bombing.

"Real life sucks losers dry. If you wanna fuck with the eagles, you gotta learn to fly." Heather Chandler, 'Heathers'

The other day, I came across a report that the FBI released in 2002. It described a phenomenon of deadly and random public attacks by 'lone wolf' shooters. The report had found that all these attacks had had several features in common:

    •    They were rarely sudden, impulsive acts.

    •    Most attackers did not threaten their targets directly prior to advancing the attack.

    •    There was no accurate or useful profile of [people] who engaged in targeted violence.

    •    Most attackers engaged in some behaviour prior to the incident that caused others concern or indicated a need for help.

    •    Many attackers felt bullied, persecuted, or injured by others prior to the attack.

    •    Most attackers had access to and had used weapons prior to the attack.

    •    In many cases, other[s] were involved in some capacity.

A person could be forgiven for thinking that this report was describing the recent spate of mass murder attacks in Europe. Armed with vans, knives and home-made explosives, lone wolf attackers have been self-destructing in increasingly public and deadly way over the past 5 or 6 years. Their resemblance to the attackers described above is uncanny, but the report is actually referring to the perpetrators behind 37 high-school shootings that happened in affluent, American neighbourhoods during the 1990s.

The Columbine High School massacre was easily the worst of these shooting attacks. In April 1999, two disaffected students went to school fully armed with shotguns and semi automatic weapons, and callously murdered 12 students, injuring 21 more. As USA Today wrote, it was a "suicidal attack [that was] planned as a grand—if badly implemented—terrorist bombing. In addition to the shootings, the complex and highly planned attack involved a fire bomb to divert fire-fighters, propane tanks converted to bombs [...] 99 explosive devices, and car bombs."

Columbine was truly planned as if it was a 'terrorist' attack, a feature that it shares with many of the mass murders that have happened in England, France and Belgium in recent years. But dig a little deeper and all similarities to real terrorism end.  After all, what was Columbine fighting against? What was it fighting for?  The same could be said for the recent Manchester stadium attack. These questions never seem to get answered. Because they leave no manifestos behind, the head-scratching nature of what happened in the attackers’ minds before they snapped endures. They resist all attempts to penetrate and explain - and therefore prevent - their actions.

These attacks have been largely blamed on the attackers’ religion (when the attackers come from an Islamic country or family) or political beliefs (when the attackers hold right-wing views). But neither of these factors adequately explains what these people have done and why. Like the high school shootings described in the above FBI report the attacks resemble nothing so much as an extreme, emotional and psychological meltdown.

“On the whole, lone wolves have more in common with apolitical mass murderers than with members of organized terrorist cells. And despite the small numbers overall, there are more lone wolf attacks today than there ever have been.” 

-From "Lone Wolf Attacks Are Becoming More Common-And More Deadly" by Katie Worth, FrontLine.

The people we label as 'terrorists' today rarely have aims, demands, manifestos or statements. We call them 'jihadist' because ISIS and Al Quaeda have claimed responsibility for some of their attacks. In the majority of cases, though, no tangible links to those groups are ever found. (The Wikipedia entry on Islamic Terrorism cites just 8 incidents out of more than 50 that have been linked in some way to a terror group. The rest of the examples are merely assumed to be ‘Islamic’ because of the attacker’s nationality, family history, or because he said ‘Allah’ during the attack).  A similar pattern emerges with far-right attackers.

As Lydia Wilson of the Nation says, “Many assume that these fighters are motivated by a belief in the Islamic State, a caliphate ruled by a caliph with the traditional title Emir al-Muminiin, ‘Commander of the faithful,’ a role currently held by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi; that fighters all over the world are flocking to the area for a chance to fight for this dream. But this just doesn’t hold for the prisoners we are interviewing. They are woefully ignorant about Islam and have difficulty answering questions about Sharia law, militant jihad, and the caliphate.”

Law enforcement would tell us that this wave of terrorism is so scary precisely because it lacks a narrative, a structure, and clear demands. Hell, it even lacks a network.  Consequently, they’ve attempted to expand the definition of terrorism to encompass all the traits exhibited by these lone wolves. Angry banter on the Internet can now land you in jail, the public’s everyday activities are under surveillance, and water bottles and lighters are banned from planes. It may sound sarcastic to suggest (as some paranoiacs do), that the authorities will soon start scanning our brains for signs of terrorism too, but that does seem to be the general direction that they are headed in. 

Perhaps we should be asking an altogether different question: if such unlikely people are committing ‘terror’ attacks, are they even terrorists at all? And if not, what are they?

An Austere Regard for Life.

"Resilience, in particular, has become the neoliberal trait par excellence for surviving austerity. As Mark Neocleous argues: "Good subjects will 'survive and thrive in any situation', they will 'achieve balance' across several insecure and part-time jobs, they have 'overcome life's hurdles' such as facing retirement without a pension to speak of, and just 'bounce back' from whatever life throws, whether it be cuts to benefits, wage freezes or global economic meltdown."

Austerity Neoliberalism: A New Discursive Formation (Opendemocracy)


When we leave the word 'terror' out of the recent news reports altogether, what we are left with is a wave of mass murder-suicides that have been undertaken by an array of people, from an array of backgrounds, with an array of vague rationales for their behaviour. Perhaps a more effective way to read these events would be to look at what they have in common, instead of what sets them apart.

The attackers all seem to have subsisted at the extreme, marginal and/or unsustainable end of European life. The Breitscheidplatz attacker was a drug addict who’d been denied asylum. The shooter in the Zurich mosque attack was a jobless black man with an interest in the occult. Ibrahim El Bakraoui and his brother (two of the people behind the Paris and Brussels attacks) were children of refugees who had been raised Belgian. These are the same marginal types of people that the welfare state was created to care for and rehabilitate. As that welfare state is eroded by ‘austerity measures’ and economic reforms, it’s perhaps unsurprising these people at the edge are simply going over it... taking many others with them when they fall.

Socio-economic factors can never justify acts of mass murder, but they can certainly help explain them. To show why, I’ll return to the example of high school shootings in America.

As that FBI report shows, the pattern that is seen in modern ‘terror attacks’ is very similar to what is seen in high school shootings. The high school shooter is usually a quiet, transient or outcast male. He has usually been rejected by classmates for failing to meet their high standards. He lacks support at home and has been exposed to violence on a regular basis. He gradually descends into resentment and pathological hate before self-destructing, taking as many peers down with him as he can. His death can therefore be seen as a strike against the system as a whole, rather than a desire to change any part of it.

None of these individual pressures can be blamed, all on their own. Everyone has some pressures to deal with at school: bad parents, bullies, poor grades, poverty, and violence. Yet, the students that have snapped have all belonged to that statistically extreme minority of students who experience all the drawbacks of being a teen, but none of the benefits.

The pressure to succeed is arguably far greater in American high schools - as great as it is in everyday life, here in Austerity Europe. So it could also be argued that the lack of a decent welfare state may be the root cause of both the high school shootings and the terror attacks.

The U.S. schooling system is designed to prepare students for the harsh realities of a life in a country where medical care is a luxury - where welfare barely even exists. Being able to fit in and be ‘part of the team’ can almost be the difference between life and death. Students must surely be aware that there is no support system waiting for them beyond graduation day, so it’s easy to see how failing in school could lead them to feel they’ve failed in life. Here in Europe, such harsh realities have only recently begun to threaten the working-age population but, since the introduction of the Austerity regime, they’ve become even more noticeable. Interestingly, the implementation of the first austerity measures in Europe coincides with the rise in lone wolf attacks. 

So a rising tide of economic insecurity has been closely matched by a rising tide of ‘terror attacks’ on both sides of the Atlantic.  Bad grades, mental health issues, transient lifestyles, failure to assimilate are all a part of the fallout from such cutbacks.  But, unlike Middle Eastern terrorism, these are areas that the West has control over... and that it can change. Our terrorists aren’t exotic assassins sneaking in from abroad. That is why the NSA can’t track them and warfare cannot stop them. A stable, healthy welfare state has a far better chance of of doing that than any counter-terrorism unit does.

“Salman? I’m astonished by this. He was such a quiet boy, always very respectful towards me,” a friend of Salman Ramadan Abedi, the perpetrator behind the Manchester stadium attack, was recently quoted as saying.

‘Quiet and respectful’ is exactly kind of personality type who could easily be crushed under the wheels of our new, American-style Austerity. Such a person would feel relentless pressure to fit into an alienating, ‘tough’ and impervious status quo in order to succeed, just like his counterparts in U.S. high schools do.

When we look at terror suspects, we often see people who are the opposite of their explosive alter egos: they tend to be sad, shy outcasts. They tend to be vulnerable people who should have been receiving benefits, seeing a therapist, getting career support or continuing education, and living in subsidized housing.

Too meek to best the enemies that surround them in real life, these people are desperate enough that they might just take sanctuary in the idea of dying as a martyr in a ‘blaze of glory’ (as they see it), rather than fading quietly away.  That doesn’t justify their actions, but it might help to explain them. And what can be explained, can be prevented.

Perhaps what we’re seeing now is the real cost of the austerity package, the one that the number-crunchers left out of their calculations. Rising bigotry, rising extremism, rising desperation, rising hatred, attacks and death.

I'd hasten to add here that I don't defend the actions of lone wolf attackers in any way. I am well aware that there are many creative ways to change reality for the better. That the desire to destroy is pathology in itself. But it’s a pathology that austerity embodies, and tacitly encourages by brutally deterring people from helping one another, through legal means. The cutbacks that Austerity has brought in have, in some areas, been so harsh that they are an allegory for a killing spree. 



The above excerpt from a report into deaths of people who have undergone a benefits review shows that, over 3 years, 81,140 people in the UK died around the same time they came off benefits. Although the report stresses that no inferences can be drawn from these statistics, anecdotal evidence suggests that starvation, exposure, illness and suicide played a large role in many of the deaths.

Websites like Calum’s List record the names and deaths of people who have committed suicide after being denied benefits or sanctioned in the UK.  It clearly shows us that, for each madman who starts shooting into a crowd, there are thousands upon thousands of quietly-decaying people who have been crushed by the Austerity regime.

School of Fear.

"People are gonna see the ashes of Westerberg High School and they're gonna think, 'there's a school that self-destructed, not because society doesn't care, but because that school was society.'" - J.D., Heathers (1988)

The cutthroat atmosphere in American high schools was brilliantly satirized in 'Heathers', a black comedy from the late '80s.  The film tells the story of J.D. and Veronica, two outcasts that fall foul of their high school’s most powerful clique, the Heathers. The elitism and hyper-competitive attitude of that clique drives them to start bumping them off. At the end, one of the main characters attempts to bomb the school.  (Despite all that, it’s actually a really funny film).

Heathers was almost unknown when the first high school shootings began in America - its release predated them by at least 2 years - but subsequent events lent it an air of prophecy. It has never been suggested that Heathers inspired any real-life high school massacres, perhaps because it’s too reflective, standing alone as a rare example of American youth culture getting to the heart of what it fears - and values - the most. (The writer was fresh out of high school himself when he wrote the screenplay).

At one point in the film, Veronica writes in her diary: “Dear diary, my teenage angst has a body count.” Well, austerity has a real body count too, and the rash of attacks by disaffected, marginal men are just a part of it. The fantasies that they harbour about being part of a radical elite, freedom fighters, are as vague as anything that was ever said by teen high school shooters.

This is not ‘terrorism’ proper: it is mass-scale disaffection with the system. For some, lone-wolf terrorism has become a last, best hope at being recognized as human beings who have been damaged by the economic savagery of Austerity Europe.

The fact is, extremist groups can only successfully export their message via the internet when the climate in the recipient’s surroundings is favourable to that message. The next question then becomes, what has made the Western environment so favourable to breeding the mantras of sectarian hate? Has the Austerity regime created a psychological warzone here that is roughly on par with the physical warzone in the Middle East? It is a question that never gets asked.

Perhaps that's because labeling the problem as ‘terrorism’ creates a great premise for the Western weapons industry to sell the arms that Europe ‘needs’ to go tearing after alleged extremists, both here and in the Middle East. The public is aiding and abetting them every time that it buys the ‘terror’ explanation without question. Perhaps that’s because it's easier than admitting that the real cause - an unsympathetic and aggressive economic regime - is our own problem to fix.

"It is terrible, just terrible. When we heard about what he did, we felt very, very upset. We could not believe it. What he did was dreadful.  But Abdelhamid was brought up in Brussels, and he went to Syria. He has never been here. This place is innocent of what Abdelhamid did." 

- Sayeed, 65, a Moroccan relative of the "mastermind" of the Paris attacks in 2015. (the Daily Mail)

29.4.17

The Evolutionary First of May



I've worked in tourism for most of my time here, and I've found that most people under the age of 35 who come to Berlin are coming here for the underground culture or street culture.  For 363 days of the year, they really do struggle to find it, but on the last day of April and first day of May, the entire southeast side of the city magically sheds its pretentious, stylish veneer and the underground breaks through the surface.

You still have to know where to look for it and, in some areas, it tends to be diluted or even washed away altogether by the consumerist masses (for example, at the MyFest) but it can be found fairly easily and anyone just stumbling around town, assuming they stumble far enough. There's a lot of chaff mixed in with the wheat, so to speak, so be persistent until you find it what you're looking for!

May Day is a day when even the most hardened Berlin capitalists seem to feel the need to share and share alike, so that everyday people can celebrate Berlin in its most authentic party state: raw, unrefined, but always evolving... kind of like an unclaimed lot that hasn't yet been cleared to make way for the developers.

Here are some random examples of parties like that, that I picked up from my feeds. All the below parties parties are free but you'll pay with legwork and networking to find the best places, so wear comfortable shoes and keep your eyes, ears and mind open.
 
Freaky 23 kicks off MayDay weekend with Hekate and Spiral Tribe DJs playing at Rauchhaus  in Kreuzberg
Mongolifiere Libere Open Air party with an array of truly underground talent on May 1st

A banging Berlina fur Techno free party will be on at Burg Schnabel



✪ On Sunday, Void Club holds a free drum n' bass and techno party, offering a down-to-earth alternative for dancing into May

Hell, even Berghain's garden opening party is free on May Day, but be warned: the usual stress associated with getting in "May" apply.



28.4.17

May Day Is No Bull


We shouldn't be surprised that a celebration that can be linked with both Taurus and Mithras - two Anatolian deities - is a big deal in Berlin's favourite Turkish district. But few people seem to realize that there is any deeper connection between them. In this article, I explain how the seeds of the May Day rituals we know and love today were sown in ancient Turkey. 



When it comes to May Day in Berlin, the connections between the holiday and the city's Turkish population seem like they are mostly incidental. The aged, cynical patriarchs of the Turkish community seem reluctant to deal with the drunken tourist crowd, even as they desperately compete to entice it into their shops and restaurants to spend, spend, spend. But the Turkish community may well have more of a right than some Germans do to take an interest in May Day. after all, its connection to this spring holiday stretches back far beyond the Kreuzberg riots of the 1980's. In fact, it stretches back almost 12,000 years, to the dawn of civilization itself.

Anatolia: Sowing the Seeds of May


In Turkey, at the foot of the Taurus mountains in Anatolia, the ruins of the world's oldest civilization suggest that the fertility rites that would eventually turn into May Day began way back in Neolithic times. There wasn't much written language back then, but the realities of life as Neolithic Anatolians  knew it are described in carved images that are still strangely meaningful to us, today. Carvings of a bull - which is still the same symbol that we use for the month of May, today - are found all over such ancient sites. A sun is often depicted between the bull's horns; it's the same sun that that is traditionally celebrated across Europe on the eve of May each year, by burning bonfires and dancing all night long. 

"The question is why the bull, above all other animals, remained such a powerful symbol for over 15,000 years," writes one author about the bull carvings in Gobelki Tepe. His words echo the perplexity of countless archaeologists before him, as they tried to explain what those symbols might mean.

I don't think it's all that mysterious, actually. The bull is still a fairly potent symbol for people who happen to be born under the sign of Taurus and that's a purely abstract connection, based on the almost-invisible movements of stars that we can't even touch, taste or smell. For ancient Anatolians (and Egyptians... and Persians... and Sumerians... and Romans...) the bull and the sun had a much more tangible connection to their lives, and to the springtime, too.  May was when the growing season typically started and, as such, it was a time to harness one's bull to a plough and start putting down seeds that would sprout and grow under the summer sun.

So right from the dawn of settled human civilization, then,  the link between fertility, bulls, females, and the sun was pretty explicit. The same author writes that, "stone and clay female figurines, showing young woman; woman giving birth to child, ram, or bull" are found in Gobelki Tepe.  Clearly, women in ancient times were considered to be pretty instrumental in the whole animal-domestication process, somehow. Maybe they were the ones who delivered new bull calves into the world by hand - who knows?  At any rate, the people living near the Taurus mountains seem to have attributed the presence of their sacred bulls to women, or to female gods.

Even the name "Taurus mountains" seems like kind of a flashing neon sign, announcing to the world that the area has been known for bulls since time out of mind.  And it makes sense they would have been important species: they were probably the most powerful animals that had ever been domesticated by humans, up until that point. Cattle would have been instrumental in helping Neolithic humans plough the fields and plant grains on a mass scale... as they still are today, in some places. Rearing crops would have made those Neolithic peoples unimaginably rich compared to their hunter-gatherer peers. The bull and the sun were all the tools that a Neolithic clan needed to rear a few decent crops that they could live off of and prosper, all year round.

In that sense, having a bull in your village must have been the Neolitihic equivalent of owning a Porsche or a Mercedes...  and we all know how many modern humans deify those tools. Why wouldn't the same reverence apply to the original 'engine' of human development, the humble bull?

Then again, these animals probably could have easily turned on and killed their human 'owners' at any time. I reckon that would have made Neolithic peoples just a bit more eager to earn their livestock's cooperation, by paying homage to their gods.

The bull worship cult isn't exactly dead, yet. Some think that it may be the reason why cows are still considered sacred in India to this day.



Minos: Taking the Bull by the Horns


Anatolian peoples later helped to found the Minoan culture in Crete, which was a peaceful and apparently egalitarian culture that, weirdly enough, inspired the patriarchal Greek civilization that came right after it. Women seem to have been in charge of the spiritual life in Minoan society, though.  Minoans also loved the arts, and they fed everyone well and housed them, regardless of their status. They also worshipped bulls in a very hands-on way, like their ancient fore-mothers and fathers had. In Minoan artwork, young men and women are often shown grabbing actual bulls by their literal horns and flipping over them. Why, you ask? Probably because it was the most badass thing that a teenage Cretan could do in those days. 

The Minoans' creation myth also stated that Crete was founded when a Phoenician queen named Europa moved to the island by hitching a ride there on the back of a god who was disguised as (drum roll, please)... a bull.  She later married and had kids with the god, thus creating the Minoan race.

Rome: Earth Revolves Around the Son



Even the Jesus story in Christianity seems to have been shaped in such a way as to replace yet another, ancient bull & sun cult: namely, Mithraism.  Mithras was a 1st Century A.D. Roman deity who was connected with the sun, and who was traditionally shown wearing Anatolian clothing.... for reasons that will probably seem clear when one looks to Gobelki Tepe, the Taurus mountains, and the sun worship evident there. Like Jesus, Mithras was born of a virgin on December 25th (the date of the Roman solstice). What we know about his story tends towards the same general themes of salvation that are seen in Jesus' tales. But, unlike Jesus, Mithras was a pagan god and therefore, heretical. It may be the main reason why he didn't last that long.

Unfortunately for bulls everywhere, Mithras also had a bad habit of slaughtering the animal once a year. Yes, he may have been a pagan deity but, rather than working together with the "feminine" energies of the bull, he seemed more hellbent on sacrificing her for his own glory... which really says something about the the core values of the soldiers who worshipped Mithras IMHO.

Modern Christianity commemorates Jesus' rebirth (Easter) and Ascension on dates that are closely connected to the old pagan rites of Mithras and of spring... rites which are in turn connected to the mating of livestock and the return of the sun to its full productive strength. All such rituals that can be traced back to the birth of agrarian civilization that centred around bulls and sun worship, such as those unearthed at Gobelki Tepe and Catal Hyuk, also in Turkey. 


Beltane: The Bonfire of Vanities

Photo via the Festival Sherpa website
Every year in Germany on the 30th of April - a date also known as 'witches night' - bonfires are still lit (probably to symbolize the sun). Men and women traditionally dance this night away, probably so as to give them a great excuse to fall into bed with a hot stranger the next morning, and sow some (ahem) fields together. Jumping over bonfires is a May Day tradition that pagans and Wiccans have kept alive to this day; some say it's a great way of heating things up below the belt.  Cattle were also made to jump over burning embers in ancient times, presumably to ensure their fertility, as well as that of the humans among them. 

Today, many central European countries claim that their May Day traditions include bonfires because they symbolize the burning of women, like the Church used to do back in its witch-hunting days. This interpretation may reflect more recent historical events, but the older origins of those fires can be glimpsed in Scotland and Wales, where the bonfire celebrations that happen every May Eve and May Day are euphoric events that focus on enjoying life (and setting stuff on fire).  At Beltane, as the Celtic British holiday is called, bonfires, fireworks, poi and dancing are combined in a purely exhibitionist, hedonist way... and then there's the May Pole dance, which sees people dancing around a giant phallus.  Subtle it ain't, but the thousands of years of constant observance suggest that having a day like May Day each year is crucial to us humans.

These old rituals, which are pretty much unchanged since Celtic times, suggest that European May Day traditions have historically been more about bringing the sexes together to celebrate life - not about turning them against each other to cause death, as later 'traditions' have tried to insist.

Mayday: Butting Heads with Authority



The American left-wing scene unconsciously harnessed the thrusting creative energy of May the 1st when it decided to make the day an international, annual holiday to celebrate (and fight for) workers' rights. May Day commemorates a grim day back in the late 19th century, when several anarchists were executed in Chicago because they had committed the 'crime' of organizing a demo that had turned violent. Yet, as worthy as that cause may be, the real reason why May Day has become so insanely popular is probably because it is connected to those ancient yearnings to create life, rather than anything to do with death. Bringing everything back full circle, modern-day Turkey has also been the scene of some incredibly dramatic and tragic May Day events in recent memory: at the 1977 Taksim Square massacre, authorities killed dozens of protestors, for example.  

When you take all of the above histories into account, it seems almost inevitable that May Day - the day when the Bull constellation charges back into the skies, and the Anatolian sun god Mithras returns to his full strength - centres around Kreuzberg, which has got to be one of the best-known Turkish 'expat' neighbourhoods in Berlin. It seems strangely fitting that the most chaotic and radical May Day events tend to happen around there, too.The reckless bullish energy that May represents, heated up by the sun, pushes people to break out in ways that can be as destructive as they are euphoric... but that trend has lasted tens of thousands of years so far, and it ain't about to change.

May Day is also a time when most people in Berlin naturally feel a rush of reckless energy, pushing them to start whatever changes that they feel are necessary after a long winter, spent in reflection. Don't be afraid of playing your part in that, this year: just grab a bull by the horns and jump in.

6.3.17

Day Tripper: Best of Berlin's Afterhours Scene

It's March and I'm too tired to stay up all night, aren't you? That's what makes winter & spring such a great time to explore Berlin's afterhour scenes...


Same Bitches @ OHM


DJ Handmade plays regularly at Same Bitches @ OHM


Each time the door cracks open it admits some light, along with a few bodies from the huddle by the cash desk outside. Their shadows quickly dissolve into the dark sound chamber, wading into the music like ducks into water.

Tiled walls and low ceilings gleam with damp in the retired bathhouse, making each watery analogy I dream up seem even more appropriate: people don't come here just to listen to the music, they come here to swim in it.

The rhythm of the waves is being controlled by DJ Handmade who's playing sublime banging mix of techno, tribal house, hard house, acid techno, acid house... Far from sounding like a mishmash, though, these tunes are lined up with an intuition that makes them all seem part of a single genre, a pulse arising from the eternal & pressing need to dance. Here, we're never alone in that mission: the flickering of light in one person ignites something in the others and brings about a revival of the previous night's buzz. The DJ's upbeat, optimistic energy lifts our tired bodies like a pair of helping hands.

Same Bitches is one of a slew of occasional daytime after parties that is fast outstripping the weekly nighttime moves with its dynamic style and sound.  Siegesaeule Magazine has called it, "The sleazy and filthy unofficial Gegen after-hour." If that's true, then it must be true that enlightenment is easier to see in the dark, and purity in the muck; at Same Bitches, the sleaze and filth seamlessly translates into clear-headed euphoria. Sometimes, it's well worth getting a bit of muck on your boots, to grow some wings.

No date has been set for the next Same Bitches party yet, but with two months between each party, it should be around the first week of May.



2. Staub @ About Blank




Another energetic afterhour marathon is Staub, which runs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the last Saturday of each month. Its music tends to be much harder than Same Bitches but the atmosphere is just as much unadulterated fun.

You go there to have an encounter with proper techno, rather than big DJ names because, at Staub, the lineups are never announced. The DJ's sound like they've been selected by someone who likes dancing with their eyes closed, too. Every time I'm there, I hear some new and amazing act that has been rescued from the anonymous DJ slushpile and elevated to new heights of passion, by a restless & adoring crowd.  For that reason, you can't expect to see the same acts twice and the acts that you do see? There's a good chance they'll never sound the same again. The anonymity of Staub works both ways, freeing everyone up whether they're on the dancefloor or behind the decks.

On the lobby dancefloor we saw Esther Dujin playing everything from early 1990s hard techno to more modern Tresor style sounds, with bits of gabber and trance thrown in. Guess she was feeling lucky to try and pull off a mix like that, but it really worked!  On the MDF dancefloor, the music by I/Y was more like hardtek, but still 'soft' enough for regular techno fans to immerse themselves in. Meanwhile, the garden floor was transformed into a beautiful chillout, with warm ambient grooves, plenty of seats, coloured lights, gleaming baubles and vines draped around the ceiling beams. 
In the interests of preserving that image-free vibe, Staub make no promises about its lineups, but the curious can find some sample tunes on their Soundcloud channel.


3. Something Slow @ Beate Uwe 



 


Next, moving even deeper into a retro 1990s chill-out vibe, we headed to this sumptuous Sunday afterhour. It started at around 4 p.m. and drew us with the promise of free brunch eats (they're really good, we tried 'em). The crew at Something Slow greeted everyone with a smile and encouraged us to take off our shoes & dance on the carpet like we would in our own living room (as people are wont to do when they're still rolling, as they roll through the door).

Something Slow was one of the friendliest after parties we've ever been to in Berlin. In all honesty, kindness is the one ingredient that anyone attempting a "retro" rave these days tends to neglect. The nineties were a heyday for chemical happiness, so arriving at any venue that's surrounded by tense bouncers, or full of punters sneering at each others' fashion faux pas, tends to make me feel as marooned in the narcissistic 'now' as watching a Trump speech on TV.  So, it's a huge relief to see that at least three great afterhours parties being run by people who put their full trust in the dancers, letting them go with their inner flow... wherever that may lead.

The next Something Slow is happening Sunday March 12th, from 4 p.m. till dawn.


All photo credits belong to their respective DJs and club promoters


*Please note that OHM is not actually a bath-house - it just closely resembles when it's so crowded that there's sweat literally dripping from the tiled walls!

9.2.17

Summer in Berlin is sur-really something!


Hard to remember that fact in February though, isn't it? Winter in Berlin means grey skies, grey streets and a grey-black mood. But at least we have our cameras and videos to remember the summer by, eh? 

Just imagine this: up until colour photography started being widely used, even the memories that people used to keep of this city on film were grey.  That meant they weren't even able to escape into a vision of the summer that had been (and hopefully would be again) like we can. So we should probably all take a second to be thankful for our smartphones, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Youtube - and for Blogger of course!





Technology's transformed the camera since the black n' white days, and made it loads more accommodating to the mind reels of memories that all Berliners collect, to bursting point, each summer. There's never enough time to process all these memories at the time, so why not use the winter lull to try and catch up and make sense of it all? Or at least, to reaffirm how little sense any of it makes? 

As a mini-tribute to the little rectangular glowing screen in front of me that holds on to these memories, and doubles as my replacement sunlight over the winter months, I'm going to share a few of the sights I've stored on it from summer 2016.  Looking through these pictures today brought me a badly-needed hit of vicarious colour, heat and light to fill the end-of-winter void. Here's hoping it will do the same for you!


Streetart in sunny Strausberg, spotted on the way to a pristine lake


Stumbling into openair parties by accident, on the way home from work

Random unexplained statues on the Spree



Wreckage of old buildings being transformed into impromptu canvasses, outside of Berghain



Fete de la Musique @ Friedrichshain

...and protest parades under the sun


All-dayers at building sites full of sand the "beach"

Being able to walk anywhere, wearing anything, without getting cold...

...and keep walking...
...till you pass out in a flamingo boat!?
Ending the day with a sundowner on the Spree :-)

21.12.16

Poisoned Fruit in the Walled Garden - Part III

This is the third post in a 3- part series on the rise of extreme right hate speech on the internet. You can find the first post here and the second post here.



Addicted to sales? The Nazis helped Coke "open up" new markets in Europe in WWII
A third group that has been co-opting online discussions on a grand scale - possibly grander than any other group mentioned in this series - is the big business. Big business has been drowning out voices of opposition for so long, its efforts just sort of blend into the background now. And  its aggressive online tactics also extend to real world acts of aggression, assassination and even all-out warfare. 

In their essay, ‘Coca Cola goes to War’ Eleanor Jones and Florian Ritzmann trace the path to success taken by Max Keith, the German boss of drinks giant Coca-Cola, during World War II.  He tagged along with the Nazis everywhere they went in Europe, planting his soft drink bottles in their wake like sweet, fizzy, cocaine-flavoured bombs. Keith's ambition to place a bottle of coke in the hands of every member of their captive audience (literally captive, as was the case for concentration camp prisoners who were forced to work on Coca Cola's production lines) was seemingly as relentless as the fascist campaign itself. And it was just as heedless of human health and safety. 

Regardless of Keith's desired ends, his means lined up perfectly with the Fascists: both were chasing after total market domination, and both believed that success could be measured in superficial criteria alone. For the fascists, that superficial criteria was skin or eye colour whereas for Coca Cola, it was a soft drink brand. But their means to those separate ends were often one and the same: invasion, domination and even enslavement. 

According to Jones and Ritzman,'Coke's situation was so secure that Max Keith could get himself appointed to the Office of Enemy Property to supervise all soft drink plants, both in Germany and the captured teritory. As German troops overran Europe, Keith and Oppenhof followed, assisting and taking over the Coca-Cola businesses in Italy, France, Holland, Luxembourg, Belgium and Norway.'

Coca Cola was in so deep with the Nazis that it was only saved from becoming an official brand of the Third Reich by Keith’s adamant refusal to sign the brand over to the fascists. Far from being evidence that Coca-Cola's German boss cared about the company's American roots, though, this detail only emphasizes the psychopathic nature of his priorities. Employing slave labour was all right by him, but he was ready to put his life on the line just to avoid changing the name of his brand. 

But it may have been these exact priorities that endeared Keith to the Nazi regime, with its equally extreme fixation on appearances. The same priorities were definitely shared by many American corporations operating in Germany at the time, at any rate: they too, aimed to secure new markets at any cost and achieve success, no matter how superficial, for the glory of the brand. Many of the corporations that helped the Nazis still exist today, and can  still lay claim to vast, global markets. The inescapable nature of participation in those markets has survived well beyond the end of World War II into times of peace, and it may be fascism's most enduring legacy.  Is it any wonder that a planet dominated by them has given rise to fascism once again?

Some apologists have said that the allure of the captive European markets was just too ‘tempting’ for the likes of Coca Cola, Dow, Manhattan Chase, IBM, General Motors to resist… but taking advantage of them required a pathologically high regard for material gratification, and a pathologically low one for human health, life, liberty and justice. Just like the Nazis (and now the neo-Nazis) American corporations in WWII Europe availed themselves of any means necessary to outdo the competition... even if that meant trampling over masses of people.

Start as you mean to go on, so the old adage says: if the consumer base doesn't want the product or can't afford it, make them want it by whatever means necessary - even aggression and fear, a lesson learned by Coca-Cola in the Second World War. 

These same priorities can often be observed in the way that big business behaves online.  AOL Online, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical, has been embroiled in small-scale control freakery such as censoring a group that criticized it (alt.aol-sucks) or 'accidentally' blocking users' email accounts when they protested a new fee. And it's participated in much larger-scale control freakery too, like helping the NSA in its data-collection programs, according to leaked PRISM documents.  The authoritarian legacy that fascism has left on corporate culture is clear; big business is all too often willing to enact any kind of restriction, as long as it ensures a better standing, image or profit for the company. There is no consensus between big business and people nowadays; for the most part it's all co-option.

And the trend is catching on online, too.  Facebook has overstepped its bounds many, many times now, in its efforts to expand and improve its brand profile. To name but a few scandals, it has been caught cutting conservative news items and even about Facebook itself from the Trending feed and censoring activist feeds at the behest of Turkish president Erdogan, and apparently, the behest of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) project too... the list goes on, expanding year by year.

Added to which, it has led the push to make advertising even more ubiquitous online than it is offline, by planting ads in users' personal space. Between Facebook and Google, one can find oneself being stalked around the internet by sales messages that flash in one's face as one chats privately with friends. The totalitarian new reality of corporate-controlled internet wears a friendlier mask - it pretends to serve people's needs - yet, at the end of the day, it's forcefully pushing internet users to take up its own ideology: the ideology of raking in more cash, whether it's beneficial or not.


From AOL through to Facebook, Google and Twitter, corporate presences on the Internet have conspired to turn it into a series of enclosed, informational bio-domes, in which every move (and even every thought) is being edged towards an invisible bottom line; towards making a sale so someone else can 'win'.  Indeed, 'we are winning' is one of the phrases that alt-right most likes to torture in its flame wars with the left wing.

At least internet users can see where ads are coming from, though. The same thing cannot be said for comments and reviews that are posted by corporate shills under pseudonymous sock puppet accounts. NPR journalist David Folkenflick, who used to work at Fox News, has written a book describing how the media giant asked its staff to troll the web.  “One former [Fox News] staffer recalled using twenty different aliases to post pro-Fox rants. Another had one hundred," he wrote.  These sock puppet-masters apparently targeted bloggers and other commentators who were critical of Fox’s reporting.

In other words, rather than modify its site's content to suit the community which criticized it, or even investigate its complaints, Fox preferred to reshape what that community should think by posing as a member of it. But stories of major corporate players hiring internet shills are all over the place these days. There are too many dodgy incidents like the one involving Fox to be described here. What seems certain is that, if they were all added up, these corporate trolls and shills would far outstrip the trolls of the alt-right.

The precedent the alt-right follows - of carpet-bombing the masses into submissive consumers of whatever they have to 'sell' - was set long ago, and it was set by big business, working hand in hand with despotic interests.  

Don't Fight The System, Be The System?
Groups like the Billboard Liberation Front understand the totalitarian nature of advertising
The corporate monopoly on so much of our virtual world is no less intrusive than the activities of the alt-right, yet its power is based on a similar premise: that might is right, and brute force is a valid means to achieve necessary change. The only difference is whether that brute force is enabled by an engineered mob rule, or by money.

Perhaps this is what the alt-right network means when it claims that it's just using the same tactics that others have used before it. And it is true that big business and the government have highjacked the public lens both online and offline, for far too long.  Yet, by employing those oppressive tactics instead of breaking the pattern, or inventing something new, the alt-right is alienating itself even further from its claim of being a bona fide activist movement. 
 
Activists who are fighting for social, environmental or economic justice usually try to inject their view into a contrived homogeneity of mainstream voices, like so many dabs of colour in a bucket of white paint. The alt-right on the other hand, aims to replace that monochrome shade of white with another monochrome shade that more closely resembles their own. They want to replace the whitewash with beige wash.  



The alt-right's obsession with winning rivals Coca-Cola's
As an activist group, the alt-right is trying to claim the anti-globalization mantle for itself.  In this respect it is a cuckoo cause, snatching many of the arguments that were formerly embraced by anti-WTO and anti-G20 protesters, and wielding them in a way that squeezes various minorities out of the anti-globalization ‘nest’... beginning, of course, with the Jews. 

Reading through its writings about globalization, one is struck by the fact that its authors have merely substituted “The Jews/Zionism/ZOG” for the term “multinational corporations”, wherever that has traditionally appeared in anti-capitalist literature. How terribly convenient this must be for the readership of a site like Breitbart, which tends to be white, male, Christian and entrepreneurial. What a neat trick, to be able to reap all the rewards of globalized capitalism, while blaming everyone else for its existence.They don't seem to blame Hitler though.

Andrew Anglin, the founder of Daily Stormer (yes, him again) has been quoted as saying that '"Gas the k***s” sounds so outrageous that it can only be ironic.' Yet, someone who sees political correctness as some sort of inconvenient thought experiment, designed to stop people from being ironic, is probably isolated from truly globalized areas of the world. Those are the  big cities where Jews, blacks, feminists, refugees, queers and all the other alt-right bugbears mix with white straight guys: having relationships, living together and working together. What is truly ironic is that the loudest voices speaking out against the new, multicultural reality  seem to be so out of touch with it. Most people who denounce hate speech do so out of sympathy for their minority friends and family... not to mention, out of respect for themselves.

While the alt-right has plenty to say about its activist cause, though, it is much less forthcoming about the goals of that cause. This aversion to stating a goal is probably intentional, because it's pretty clear that it must be taking rights away from people who are currently equal, under the eyes of the law... rights which real activists helped to secure, in the past.

Instead, the people in the alt-right obsess about their supposed under-representation, trying to portray themselves as the victims of a liberal 'bias'. Perhaps their under-representation on the net may be due to the fact that it's the only place that equality, justice, truth, respect etc., can still achieve a critical mass... so it attracts those sorts of people.  The online world is not the native environment of right-wing ideas: the real world is. The likes of Coca Cola, working hand in hand with people like the Nazis, have made it that way. And now their bastard children, the alt-right, are trying to do the same thing online.

A glance at the news reveals wars happening between groups that have just as much racial hatred for each other, as the alt-right has for everyone. It reveals jihadis who ascribe to a fundamentalist faith that mirrors that of the American Bible Belt. It reveals feral capitalism that gets its way nearly everywhere, every day, regardless of what the people want, or what's good for their countries. It reveals human trafficking that reduces women and children to a dollar value. It reveals a wealthy, male, straight white gaze that has little time for anyone else. It's unsurprising if people don't want to see more of the same thing when they go online, isn't it?

The forces behind globalisation have imposed themselves on the world in much the same way that the totalitarian right are trying to do. Perhaps what these alt-right trolls are hiding from when they don an anonymous disguise online might not be a 'liberal bias', but their own unpopularity.

Tear Down This Wall(ed Garden) 

If the alt-right is guilty of fabricating echo chambers peopled by sock puppet mobs, though, then maybe they are just reflecting a general trend... albeit in a very negative, aggressive way. 

Most Internet users today live within their own 'echo chambers', where they have to pre-approve each and every person who gives them feedback, before they even speak.  If the creeping exposure of such venomous, bigoted echo chambers as the alt-right have have stunned internet users, it's probaby because they haven't been allowing enough space in their lives for random encounters with such people.  

Part of what is making the right wing so vehement may be a sense of being repelled by these endless, unseen defenses that people surround themselves with, online.  Predictive algorithms and privacy settings can be useful, but when they run out of control they tend to eliminate any element of random chance.  These defenses are now harder to escape than they ever have been before: undesirable commenters can now be pre-screened out of our feeds on Twitter, sight unseen. Facebook and Google's algorithms and website cookies filter out content that's either offensive or just plain unfamiliar without us knowing.

If people with undesirable views cannot easily engage in debate with a range of other views, that hardens them as much as it weakens everybody else.  It's a vicious cycle... and if it continues, even the most liberal people will eventually be compelled to convert their views into a form of dogmatism - a blunt tool that they use to defend their position, rather than to expand upon or develop it. 

So, what began as a reaction to hate speech (walled gardens were mainly designed to keep that sort of thing out, after all) has become another aggravating cause to it. Internet giants like Facebook and Google are feeding the trolls by starving them of any chance to hash their views out with others. They never learn about real alternatives, and latch on to the 'alt' instead.  

Are more walls the right response? No - as any gardener can tell you, any overly sheltered stretch of land becomes prone to invasion by weeds, eventually.  Only a diversity of life forms, like those found in the wild, can hope to keep them under control.  The price of that kind of openness, though, is eternal vigilance, it is critical thought and active engagement - otherwise we might eventually find ourselves living in a whole new kind of garden, where only the least tolerant species can survive.

To quote Saul Alinsky, the writer of activist handbook Rules for Radicals (which the alt-right often cites): "Conflict is the essential core of a free and open society. If one were to project the democratic way of life in the form of a musical score, its major theme would be the harmony of dissonance."

Or to put it another way,


 The tree that doesn’t bend, breaks




© A. E. Elliott 2016

This series of articles are taken from an upcoming book by the author. Any attempt to republish or re-use this work without accreditation and/or the author's consent will constitute a breach of copyright.
All writing & images © A. E. Elliott (unless otherwise specified)

Search This Blog

My photo
Berlin, Germany
...is NOT a fashion blogger! I write about underground music, streetart, left-wing activism, social media trends and green issues. Other publications that I have written for include: Urban Challenger Blog, Siegesaeule, Shlur, Alternative Berlin, Sensanostra.