2.6.17

Making Waves About the G20


Yesterday, the weather was sunny and mild with a light breeze: perfect conditions for making a few waves about the upcoming G20 events in Berlin and Hamburg.

The activist group Top Berlin organized a boat protest, "They Call It Partnership, We Call It Hell",  to help raise public awareness about the hypocrisy behind two major G20 events that are due to take place in Germany this summer: the African Partnership conference happening in Berlin on June 12-13th, and the G20 conference happening in Hamburg on July 7-8th.

Thankfully, cruising from Rummelsburger Bucht to Goerlitzer Park along the Spree's placid waters wasn't hellish at all. It was almost a trip to heaven, with smooth sailing almost all the way. Things got choppy at one point as a couple of police boats pulled up alongside us, but apparently they were just there to make we were safe and sound. I guess some pirates had been sighted in the area...?

Not all boat trips can happen under such favourable circumstances though, as the ever-rising death toll from the Mediterranean and Tripoli coasts reminds us. This year, a record number of refugees have already drowned whilst fleeing war-torn areas of the Middle East and impoverished parts of Africa, by boat. By the end of April, the Guardian reported that more than 1000 people had already lost their lives to those seas - a record number.

Fences for People - Freedom for Profits at SO36 on June 6th will dig deeper into the facts behind G20 rhetoric

As the organizers of the boat trip pointed out on their blog

"During the time of slavery, many people drowned in the sea because they were thrown overboard. Or because they jumped themselves to escape the hell of the slave ship and the plantation. Today they are drowning during the attempt to reach Europe in crowded boats... looking for a safe, better or simply different life."

International trade bodies like the G20 claim that they want to create a truly global economy, and the sorts of trade agreements that they favour do ensure that money and goods move from producers (e.g. the developing nations) to suppliers (e.g. developed nations) without too many regulatory or financial barriers getting in the way. On the other hand, though, many of the corporate interests that are represented by the G20 also make a killing (sometimes literally) by installing physical barriers to stop people moving from those same developing nations to the West.  Money can move freely, in other words, but people can't.  The freedom that the G20 talks about sounds great until you realize it's only freedom to create a modern kind of feudal system, where the workers are forced to stay in the fields and earn low wages, making cheap goods for their distant overlords. That system includes you and me whether we like it or not and, as the old adage says, 'If you're not a part of the solution, you're part of the problem.'





It's a subject that touches an especially raw nerve in Germany. The legal system here seems like it's still heavily biased toward protecting property, rather than people; for instance, it's illegal to touch someone else's garbage but, until last year, there was no law against sexually assaulting a woman on the street. How's that for a stark contrast?

And, at least two guys that I know here have been arrested for throwing a plastic drink bottle at a car after its driver attempted to run them over at a demo. So apparently, attacking a car riles up the authorities more than the idea of vehicular homicide does. Absurd situations like this are a constant bone of contention here in Germany, so it's understandable that the left wants to stop them being exported to the rest of the world, too.  And exporting them is, arguably, the G20's whole raison d'etre.

All this makes the G20s decision to hold two of its annual meet-ups in Germany even more intriguing. Is the organization waving a red rag at the bull of the European left... or is it waving a white flag at all the activists who have criticized it for being too inaccessible, in the past? The only way to find out is to get involved!

The next boat tour will be on June 10th at 11 a.m.  More info is available on this link

The German language call to action for all G20 event can be found here

English info about G20 activism worldwide can be found here


Making anti-capitalism cuddly again? The boat owners showed the softer side of the left scene via a teddy bear masthead.



30.5.17

Crying Terror In Error?





The other day, I came across a report that the FBI released in 2002. It described a wave of deadly and random public attacks by 'lone wolf' shooters that had spread across the U.S. during the 1990s. 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.

A person could be forgiven for thinking that this report was describing the recent spate of mass murders carried out by extremists across Europe and the UK. However, the report was actually referring to the perpetrators behind 37 high-school shootings that happened in affluent, American neighbourhoods.  As I recently found out, many more parallels can be found between the phenomenon of high school shootings in the U.S., and the wave of lone-wolf ‘terror’ attacks that is now creeping across Europe (and the U.S.).

The Columbine High School massacre was easily the worst of the high school shootings that were examined in the 2002 FBI report. In April 1999, two disaffected students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, went to the school fully armed with shotguns and semi automatic weapons and proceeded to murdered 12 students, injuring 21 more.
 

USA Today wrote that Columbine was, "a suicidal attack [that was] planned as a grand—if badly implemented—terrorist bombing.” 

The article goes on to list an entire arsenal of weapons that Harris and Klebold had prepared for the attack:  “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."

The way that the Columbine massacre was planned bears a striking similarity to the bombing attack carried out in Oklahoma City in 1995 by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, two white nationalists. In 2011, far right nutter Anders Behring Breivik detonated a bomb in Oslo and then shot and killed more than sixty students at a liberal summer camp, in another similar attack. The similarities between all three incidents are not entirely a coincidence - both Breivik and the Columbine killers were inspired by the Oklahoma city attack. Though they hailed from radically different political backgrounds, ideology was no barrier to the love of violence that all these lone wolves shared.

The same could be said for the lone wolf terrorist attacks that are happening with increasing frequency across Europe today: whether they are carried out by right wing extremists, Islamic extremists or people claiming some other 'cause', they all share a kind of nihilistic disregard for all life, even the people who are supposedly on 'their' side. Though they may claim to be fighting for (or against) a specific group, these new lone wolf attackers seem more like they are targeting society as a whole

Statistics that break down European terror attacks by political and religious affiliation are hard to come by, so I refer to the Anti-Defamation League's annual hate crime report for 2016. It states that,

Over the past 10 years (2007-2016), domestic extremists of all kinds have killed at least 372 people in the United States. Of those deaths, approximately 74% were at the hands of right-wing extremists, about 24% of the victims were killed by domestic Islamic extremists, and the remainder were killed by left-wing extremists.

An Islamaphobe would probably point out that, since Islamic attacks are disproportionately high for their population density (the Islamic faith represents just 0.9% of the American population, compared to a much higher number for white Christians), this proves that Islam breeds violence. However, when looked at from a purely socio-economic angle it’s clear that the ‘Islamic’ population also bears a much heavier load of marginalization and stress (due to racial profiling, poverty, uncertain immigration status, cultural conflicts, etc.) than the white Christian population does, in the U.S.

Plus, how does one explain the awkward fact is that many of the people claiming to be Islamic extremists don’t even know the fundamentals of their own (supposed) religion?  Lydia Wilson of the Nation writes that,

Many assume that these fighters are motivated by a belief in the Islamic State, a caliphate ruled by a caliph; 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.

This is in line with what has been seen in European terror attacks, where the supposedly ‘Islamic’ instigators have often broken Islam’s most fundamental rules (adultery, drug use, theft, drinking and more) before turning to hard-line religion for their violent kicks.

So if not for religion or politics, what are these people fighting for? - or against?  This question might have been asked of instigator of the van attack at Breitscheidplatz in Berlin (2016), or the shooter at the Zurich mosque (2016). Like many modern lone-wolf terrorists, these mass killers rarely leave manifestos behind, making what went on in their heads before the attack even more difficult to explain - and therefore prevent. In fact, most lone wolf ‘terror’ attacks in Europe resemble nothing so much as an extreme emotional and/or psychological meltdown, rather than any sort of political campaign. 

Authorities are often left to deduce that there was a political motive for their murders, on the strength of their internet searches, reading materials, or a comment made to a friend.

The extremist ideologies that  all lone wolf killers tend to embrace tells us something even more important about them, though: whether by choice or by force, they were all living on the extreme edges of the social spectrum when they lost it.

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 (that isn’t to blame the occult in any way, but rather to underline how far outside of the mainstream of Zurich culture he may have felt). Ibrahim El Bakraoui and his brother, two of the instigators of the Paris and Brussels attacks, were children of refugees who had previously carried out armed robberies. Say what you like about their choice of death, but these were all people who were not getting by well, in life.

That fact does not excuse their behaviour of course, but it may help to explain it.

Perhaps we should be asking an altogether different question: if such unstable and politically vague people are committing ‘terror’ attacks, are they even terrorists? And if not, what are they?

School of Fear

When we leave the word 'terror' out of the news reports altogether, what we are left with is a rising wave of random mass murders and murder-suicides. The media focuses mainly on those with an Islamic 'link' but these attacks are being executed by an array of people, from an array of backgrounds, with an array of rationales for their behaviour. What they do have in common, as we have already seen, is a sense of living on the extreme edges society. So if the number of mass killers is growing then the extreme ends of the social spectrum must be growing, as well.

These people also tend to be just the kind of marginal types 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 people at the edge are moving toward bleak ideologies that better encapsulate their personal experience of an unsupported (and un-supportive) reality - an ideology that can offer them some form of release, however self-destructive. 

American high schools are a nearly perfect microcosm of the social climate that Europe is living in, right now, under austerity. Little wonder that extremists in both environments are reacting in an almost identical way…

The stereotypical high school shooter is nearly identical to a lone wolf terrorist. He is usually a quiet, transient, outcast male. Someone who’s been rejected by classmates for failing to meet their high standards. He lacks family support and has been exposed to violence on a fairly regular basis, at home or school, or both. He has access to weapons.

When he self-destructs, taking as many peers down with him as he can, his actions seem more like a strike against the system as a whole rather than a demand to change any part of the school. This is nothing like true political terrorism, which is usually motivated by a twisted, idealistic kind of hope. Lone wolf terrorism is motivated by a pessimism so deep that the idea of going out in a ‘blaze of glory’ (as they see it) in the name of a cause - any cause whatsoever - seems better than simply being snuffed out
The students who have snapped and started shooting other students at random have all belonged to the statistically extreme minority of people which experiences most the drawbacks of being alive, but few of the benefits.The same could be said of lone wolf terrorists. Breivik's home life was characterized by the Guardian as being, "miserable from the start:" His depressive mother considered sending him to an orphanage, he tortured animals as a child and was laughed off by most of his peers as "pathetic" and a poseur.  

All these attackers have lashed out in a psychopathic and hateful way, but their backgrounds showed a long history displacement and rejection which might have contributed to causing that lashout. here have also been a few lone-wolf style attacks carried out by asylum-seekers who were denied the right to stay after a long time spent in Europe’s hellish asylum system, although these are the rarest sort of lone wolf attacks.

The above headline is from an Al Jazeera America report in 2014. There have been 150 high school shootings in the U.S. since 2013, or about one every week. Since 2000 there has also been a drastic reduction in funding for counselling services and the emphasis has been on installing screening and security devices instead. 
Since high school shootings have been happening for a long time in the U.S., they’ve been much more thoroughly researched by experts than the lone wolf terror attacks in Europe. So maybe then we can learn something about how to deal with lone wolf terrorism by looking at the way that high school shootings have been handled in the U.S. According to one report on Al Jazeera America, American experts advise against profiling students as would-be shooters:

‘“We strongly discourage schools from taking a list of characteristics and saying, ‘Oh, a child who likes video games or dresses in black or does this or that is somehow dangerous,’” said professor Dewey Cornell, a forensic clinical psychologist at the University of Virginia. “That’s absolutely what we want to avoid.”’

Yet both here in Europe and in the American high school system, profiling techniques and screenings are almost the only measures that are being used to prevent terror attacks. Advice such as, “Preventing school violence depends on a team of school professionals, including counsellors and other mental health experts, who are trained to identify and support troubled students who may be on a path to violence" is being widely ignored.

An Austere Disregard for Life

Interestingly, the implementation of austerity measures in Europe coincided with the rise in lone wolf 'terror attacks'.  Wikipedia defines "Austerity" as: “A set of economic policies imposed on economies such as: cutting the state's budget to stabilize public finances, restore competitiveness through wage cuts and create better investment expectations by lowering future tax burdens.”


Austerity is, and always has been, a dubious strategy for improving the economy. It has been criticized by virtually everyone with an interest in preserving human rights. In a 2016 report, the U.N. cited no less than 27 humanitarian concerns that it had regarding UK austerity measures, including:

  Discrimination in accessing health care services against refugees, asylum-seekers, refused asylum-seekers and Travellers.
  The lack of adequate resources provided to mental health services.
  Significant inequalities in educational attainment, especially for children belonging to ethnic, religious or other minorities and children from low-income families which has the effect of limiting social mobility.
  Increasing university fees, which affect the equal access to higher education.

Even the London School of Economics, an organization which arguably prioritizes economic concerns above all else, has decried austerity in a 2015 working paper entitled, “Of Austerity, Human Rights and International Institutions."

But there are further, collateral effects that can’t be as easily measured as a loss in earnings can.  When people are unable to feed and house themselves, they're less able to reach out and help their neighbours and friends. So people who are already on the brink get even less support than they did, before. Again, that’s not to say that all the people on the brink will snap - and it’s certainly not an attempt to excuse them if they do - but if the tendency to snap is there, then the widespread hardships that are caused by widespread cutbacks seem likely to bring it out.

Austerity’s brutality is all the more disturbing because it is wholly unnecessary. The UK’s Tory party -  which has some of the most hard-line austerity policies outside of Greece - often claims that it cannot afford to fully fund the welfare state, yet it plans to spend 31 billion pounds on a new Trident missile system. So the state clearly has money to spend. 

But then again, maybe economics aren’t the point of austerity at all; maybe the suffering is. In an editorial from 2012, the Guardian reported that, back in 2010, "When Greece's then-premier, George Papandreou, begged for easier borrowing terms, he was told by Angela Merkel that the deal had to hurt."

For some leaders, austerity isn’t seen as an economic regime so much as an ideological one: forcing an antagonistic new paradigm on European culture is seen as a way to ‘toughen’ it up. In a sense, such leaders are crusaders on a quest, sacrificing human safety and lives to an inhuman deity of economic perfection. One might call them “economic jihadists” perhaps.   Are lone wolf terrorists merely paralleling the ‘dog-eat-dog’ paradigm that austerity has normalized in Europe since 2010? (Only in their case, it’s more like ‘underdog-eats-dog’).  

I'd hasten to add (for the nth time) that I don't defend the actions of lone wolf killers in any way. I am well aware that there are many more creative and inspiring ways of changing reality for the better. But I can't help but notice that the cutbacks that austerity has brought in have been so harsh, they're almost become an allegory for a killing spree. A person with homicidal, psychopathic tendencies might view such measures as a sign that violence is acceptable, not just a financial level, but also on an emotional, intellectual and physical one as well. The rise of 'terrorism' seems to mirror the rise in right wing extremism, and hate crimes in general, since 2010.

The above graphic is from a Department of Work and Pensions report in the UK. It shows that, over a 3-year period, 81,140 people in the UK died around the same time that they came off (or were thrown off) of their welfare 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 such 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.  This suggests that, for each madman who starts shooting into a crowd, there are thousands of quietly-decaying people who have been crushed in silent, invisible ways by the austerity regime.
  


Going to Extremes

In one recent case from America, a young lone-wolf killer subscribed to both ‘jihadist’ and far-right  ideologies before he went postal and killed two of his flatmates. So now, no one knows which sect of terrorists is to blame for his actions.

In his case, it’s clear that the urge to kill has taken precedence over ideologies of any kind, but the story has barely been discussed in the media as of yet. 
One thing is for sure: austerity has risen in tandem with lone-wolf terrorism, so it stands to reason that reversing austerity could also potentially reduce lone wolf attacks. The over-funded and invasive counter-terrorism industry that has risen up since the 9/11 attack on New York in 2001 and the 7/7 bombing in London in 2005, hasn’t done much to stop the recent wave of terrorism in Europe. 

Media pundits keep on telling us that the Arab Spring in 2010 and its fallout in the Middle East are to blame for the spike in terrorism, but how does that explain the fact that right wing terror was already on the rise before 2010? Or that all forms of lone-wolf extremism are growing, not just ISIS-inspired ones?

It’s true that 2010 was the dawn of many problems in the Middle Eastern and Arab worlds. However, it was also the dawn of many problems right here in Europe, caused by the implementation of the unethical and inhumane austerity measures. That cannot be a coincidence. 

What we’re seeing right now may the real, long-term cost of Austerity: rising bigotry, rising extremism, rising  hatred, carnage and death. These are the costs that the number-crunchers left out of their calculations when deciding on our current economic plan. They may be the trends that Europeans can expect more of as long as they are living under a regime that disregards & destroys the things that make life seem like it's worth living... or saving.

When a student makes a threat, it’s really a symptom of frustration, that the student has encountered some kind of conflict or problem that he or she can’t resolve. The threat assessment team is really there to help resolve the problem so that there’s really no need for the threat.” 

-The FBI’s Mary Ellen O’Toole in her 2000 report on school shootings

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 :-)

All writing & images © A. E. Elliott (unless otherwise specified)

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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.