Sunday, September 07, 2008

We stood by the great Schanzen fire.,1518,576781,00.html

10 February, 2007, Berlin:
I said I would definitely go check that film. I asked to see whether she wanted to join. She said:

"If you don't mind going alone, I'll stay here and do some work and wait for you. Then you can bring us dinner on your way back."

I saw the film Szabadság, szerelem at Zoo Palast. The film was set in 1956 Summer Olympics that took place simultaneously with the Hungarian Revolution. As the Hungarians were fighting back the Soviets, their world-famous waterpolo team was trying to beat their counterparts in the Olympics semi-finals. Both encounters (war and waterpolo) were quite bloody and further dramatised by the cinema's wonders. After the film, it was time for questions and answers with the film crew: The young actors had little knowledge about the Hungarian Revolution as they answered the questions from the floor. The audience was challenging the limits of Soviet brutalism and acknowledging Germany's place in the 'free world'. After their introduction, the producer of the film came in a nice, black suit. He was a mid-50's man with a chubby posture. He said some familiar words:

"I am proud to be here at the Berlinale, for the first ever screening of this film. It is, for me, of special significance that this film was shot on the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution and now is being screened here, where was once West Berlin and where now anyone from the West, East or anywhere in the united and independent Europe and the rest of the world can come and see it".

He had a reason to celebrate and his remarks were not incorrect but this amplified enthusiasm of west = independence equation made it almost feel as if the Hungarian Revolution never was.

2008 saw celebrations of 40th anniversary of May 1968 movements. Retrospective looks at various journal articles, photo images and stories from the year also paid tribute to Prague Spring. The whole year marked Europe's embracement of social democracy that was means, ends and last glory days of what once Europe flourished upon: the welfare states, and universal social rights spread across societies. Film screenings and concerts reminded a revolution-drained masses of what rights were being fought for 'back in the days'.

6 September 2008, Hamburg:
I suddenly remember where I left the posters.

Only half an hour ago I was feeling too tired and lonely in this great crowd. Thousands of young people enjoying the great warm Autumn weather and partying after a whole day's flea-market shopping and entertainment. Streets were filled with antiques from 1960's households, silver teapots, give-away vinyls, an old turntable, a funnily elegant, rusty chandelier, film posters from German comedy or cheap erotic movies of the former decades. By every cafe/bar, there was a young self-proclaimed DJ hitting some tunes, and all sorts of food from the regular kebabs to meatballs, falafel to tandoori, bratwurst to muffins. Beer was sold for 1 Euro at some stalls, tequila for only €2. It was all very inviting, but having passed by here earlier, I was feeling even lonelier in the mess. But I came back to Susannenstrasse from Altona with at least one purpose. I was going to get ice-cream from the same shop I did 2 summers ago during the World Cup Final. I wanted to stroll back and forth on the very same street and maybe this time I would run into someone I knew or wanted to get to know.

I walked up towards Feldstrasse but returned towards the Schanzenfest area via Schanzenstrasse where I once bought a %85 volume Absinth to a friend back in Turkey. There was some Reggae music and it was enough to get me in the mood. At Altona, at dinner time, I had quickly drunk 2 beers and 2 ouzos and all I needed was another beer and some movements. Within 5 minutes I was smiling at the people nearby and dancing slowly on my own. I walked back onto Susannenstrasse and then into Schulterblatt, the heart of the event. The live-music stage at the junction of Susannenstrasse and Schulterblatt was being dismantled. Time was 22:40. I took a small rest on a bollard on Schulterblatt. My head was somewhat dizzy. I was taking the last sips from my beer, giving my all into the music, now a mixture of some house, reggae and electronic beats from various sources. Across me, at the occupied theatre hall were the usual Schanzenviertel punks and metalheads. Behind me were the Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Turkish 'kneipe's lined up properly according to geographic positions. Kafe X was in ruins and who knew where Ibo was at that moment. My head was just telling me to 'go with the flow'.

I suddenly remember where I left the two posters I bought earlier during the day.

They were from some funny German movies with a super-hero woman character in one of them. I forgot them at the cheap call-shop by the ice-cream place up the road when I called H. 3 hours ago before going to Altona to meet with her. I quickly got up to my feet and walked into the shop. I said to myself:

"If the posters are there, I will celebrate this by calling D."

Lurching from the alcohol, I slowly walked into the shop. I did not know Schulterblatt street was getting ready for some action at that point.

I was right. The posters were where I left them, at Phone Booth 5, on the ground. I picked them up, and sat myself comfortably on the stool and had a 8-9 minute conversation with D. on the phone. I left the booth, paid for the call and slowlz left the building, now filled with a misty cloud of waterpipe smoke and smell. Outside had already turned into a post-hurricane atmosphere, water over the streets, an emergency breakout, police tankers rolling down Schulterblatt and police forces marching orderly into the junction I was easily at 15 minutes ago.

A total darkness settled into the immediate sky. Around 25 people were running at me, and my dizzy and happy head was just dragging my feet into the middle of the incidents. I could see a fire on the middle of the road and there were barricades set by the police. All 4 sides of the junction were now being loosely covered by the police. A tanker swept the streets beside me. Its plate number read HH 7499. A beer bottle broke with noise 5 meters away from me and its shattered glasses hit my shoes and my jeans. I was surprised at what I was seeing and how calmly I was walking into the core of it. At that moment I recalled some blank cartridges exploding on the streets before I went into the phone-shop. The police shouted through megaphones installed on the green tankers:

"Everyone on the Schulterblatt and Susannenstrasse streets. Please evacuate the road immediately, move onto the side pavement and leave the junction."

I saw some of the tankers and bunch of cops with cameras and flashlights on them taking pictures of the people and incidents. I was right at the junction when the hell broke loose. Some 7-8 people rushed into the police and they were immediately repelled and beaten. I was pushed aside gently by a police into the mouth of Juliusstrasse, at the West edge of the junction, where most of the rebels ran away into. Now this 4th edge of the junction was also surrounded by the police and this was actually the one where there were no cafes/restaurants. Everyone on the street were either residents or the core rebels of the incidents. I was standing among them, watching everything still with utmost serenity, only 15 meters away from the police strip.

The tankers were filling up water to spray onto people if needed to repel them. I was expecting the rebels to come back to the junction and throw flaming bottles at them, but nothing happened within the following 30 minutes. The cops shouted once again:

"Juliusstrasse is surrounded by the police and no pass through the junction is allowed until midnight. Please use the further western streets up the road to exit the area".
I was disappointed at the lack of activity by the rebels. Apparently, as S. would tell me the following day, this is how they could run away from the police (after only a instantenous attack) and carry on their activities throughout the city in different events and gatherings. Slowly, the civil war atmosphere vaned. My shock as I had left the phone-shop had already transformed into curiosity. I was mainly suprised at one thing throughout the process. The police had treated me very kindly, while I was acting super-cool and rather imitating as if I was a tourist unaware of all of this and had no political ideology or consciousness whatsoever. This made me feel somewhat sick about myself as well but gave me a lot to think about.
Remembering scenes from May Day activities in Istanbul, or all the stories we heard about the pre-1971 and pre-1980 military interventions, in which the political right and left would kill each other, supported by the police and gendarmerie forces for absolute nothing (in effect), I realised how 'civilised' and rather 'organised' these whole protestations came about. It was as if the state had also given the social right of destructive rebellion to its citizens and regulated it with conscious police forces and rolling cameras. This is what many of us back home clashed about. Some argued 'police should get some education', some argued 'the police is the enemy by nature' and will always be confronted, so, the more agressive and stupid they are, the more we have the right to confront them. And this is exactly where it gets confusing. Have all these movements been made for self-justification against a brutal state that knew no rights or were they means of 'reminding' the state of the rights it levied on its citizens, taking the 'state' for granted? It seemed like the softer, the social-democratic, the reformist tendency to me, the stance that both the police and the rebellions were taking. All in all, this was a civilised breakout. In England, people would have already realised the unnecessity in it. Despite the common belief, Germans are still much more sentimental. Maybe, this is why I feel more at home in this country that founded the Romantic movement.
Later at night:

I decided to walk back home around midnight but took a really long detour as I was disoriented because of all the incidents. It took me about an hour and some exhausted legs but gave me a lot of time to think about what had just happened.

I thought about people back home who has what they consider as clear political ideologies. Some of them have been fighting for them which I always respected and at some points of my life, felt guilty of not contributing enough to. However, I did have my times of rebellion. Rebelling against the school's dining-catering policies, rebelling against family on education issues, rebeling against friends, joining protestations and walks for familiar global causes; war on Iraq, NATO gatherings, gay and lesbian rights. Above all, I have long rebeled against myself. The more I could not express within a community, the more I suffered personally. When I came to think of it, this was the biggest difference here in Germany. People still lived a much more communal life than in England. And they lived a more productive one than the guys back in Turkey. After all, Germany was still trying to preserve some of its social, welfare-state policies and people, especially the young ones, had no intention to succumb into losing them. In England, however, a different mind was prevailing, maybe a more realist one. At the capital of Capital, people learned the ways of not spending efforts on such movements. Or rather they have been drained of their free time and economic means to do so. Back home, we had too much free time, or created it, and there was always a question of doubt in our own movements. A disparity among the rebels. Somehow, we believed too much in the rebellion and rebelled against ourselves and each other too much to come up with something useful against the 'common enemy' that we forgot to define too long ago.

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