me again – believe it or not.
As it seems like my life is finally finding back into some kind of normality after me moving from Austria to Germany and into a new life (even though it happened not to be quite like I imagined it) these days for the first time in about six weeks did I find (or take) my time to read through what used to be my daily share of information source: various international and national newspapers and – of course – blogs (pretty much what can be found in my blogroll). Six weeks without much time (or longing) to read newspapers, dependant on that one Austrian news website I was visiting every once in a while and those news on TV and radio I listened to every couple of days. Only as a side note did I hear about the elections in Israel, the worsening global economic crisis, new troubles in Gaza, South Africa’s Jacob Zuma being cleared of corruption accusations (no word about rape) again and the beginning of Obama’s term of “change” (by the by: everybody speaking German just has to read Ruth’s article on Obama and Mao. Perhaps I should translate the most crucial parts but right now I just don’t feel like it. For now non-German-speakers could have a look here for some clues.)
One should think that after six weeks of being away from the news, away from writing, in a way even away from thinking about global politics it would be hard to find back into it. Yet surprisingly I found things having changed little. It’s still the same problems being written about. The Conflict (TM) is still pretty much the same as it used to be six weeks ago. The US are still pretty much the same as they used to be six weeks ago. In a way a lot of things have changed but then, in another way, they led to nothing anyway on the long run. They didn’t change a lot after the first round of media coverage was over.
Perhaps, it came to my mind as I wrote this, that’s the problem of our time. The real problem, I mean. There is just no change anymore. Our world camouflages as so modern, so fast, so changing but in fact I am not sure whether any more then the surface ever changes. Climate Change is no news. The global economic crisis is no news (as far as the media is concerned there was reporting about one after the other for years now anyway). Corrupt, striving-for-power politicians are no news. And of course the Middle East Conflict is no news. Details may change, names and photographs may change but does it have any affect on the big picture? Does it change the global situation and the way men all around the place go on with their daily life?
I remember when I was a teenager I was pretty much active with some locale socialist youth group (if only I didn’t know so many people who “used to be” socialist, green or whatever …). Rumours held it that we had even gathered the interest of the (most likely permanently under-occupied) Austrian Federal Bureau for Protection of the Constitution (Austria’s idea of a national intelligence agency). Of course for us back then this was nothing but a big compliment. Sometimes, when we would organize big demonstrations (up to 5’000-10’000 people in our best times) one of us would bring a camera with a huge telephoto and shoot back at the guys hiding in nearby buildings with their huge telephotos. We really had a nice collection we loved to look at when sitting in our small, crowded office operating our iMacs.
However. This was some time in the late 1990ies, remember? Back then 5’000 people on the street were no big deal. Recruiting new members of our organisation was no big deal. We went out there and thought we could move something, change something if only we could gather enough people, enough media coverage (which we did). We would do all kind of things like publicly burying a coffin labelled “education”. We would write articles and talk talk talk. And of course we partied a lot, went out for “seminars” on which we were talking about how to rescue the world during daytime and having a hell of a party during nighttime. We thought we could be a part of democracy – and had fun doing so.
I don’t know how about the others but after a year or two it struck me that we had archived nothing at all. That our huge demonstrations, our speeches, our fliers and all the media attention we got hadn’t changed a thing. I guess those politicians in Vienna realized the same thing. Had, earlier, our actions at least made them give press conferences talking bullshit about how they were taking care of the problem with time they ceased. In fact they ceased everything; they just wouldn’t react anymore at all. Next came the media: Had we triggered articles in most of Austria’s important newspapers without much more then a press release before now we could be lucky if we were mentioned in a side note in a local paper. Some years later I would – by mere coincidence – find out that there had been a teacher’s demonstration in Vienna (might have been around 2002/03) that blocked Vienna’s main traffic route (the “Ring”) for the whole morning but they didn’t get a line of media coverage, they had just been ignored.
Slowly our group fell apart. Was it because people – like me – realized they couldn’t change a thing or was it mostly because we grew up and got all to involved with starting our studies, lifes, careers? Some of us subsequently became local politicians with the social democratic party but the rest was never again seen in any kind of politics. I paid a visit to our old office some years later and was shocked by what I found: The next generation of our organisation was concerned about little but where they would get their alcohol from. I offered to help them if they needed a hand but they were doing nothing at all anyway. My last demonstration was in Germany about four years ago. It was against tuition fees introduced at German universities back then. Nearly everybody I knew was worried about how to pay for school and some said they would quit for they couldn’t afford it (in fact some did, others are hardly eating anything but potatoes). The demonstration took part in a city in reach of some of Germany’s biggest universities. I guess about 100’000 students must have been within a 45 minutes travel. Now guess how many attended? 400 according to both the media and the police. The organisers didn’t even give an estimate. We were 30 people heading there from my university, which was a 30 minutes ride by train. I was the only one who didn’t belief in communism … it was my last demonstration.
During the 1990ies people of my generation were taught that they couldn’t change a thing, that they weren’t meant to participate. Did we ever get the feeling that we are tomorrow’s leaders? Did we ever get the idea that we are to take over as soon as the Baby Boomer-generation steps back? Today we have finished our studies and are being pushed from one internship into the another. Half of the time we aren’t paid at all. Does anybody wonder there’s nobody to lead anymore? Does anybody wonder there’s no change, no movement, no interest in politics? For decades democracy has worked through associations showing the system’s problems and clearing the way for change. Youth groups and other grassroots movements put a halt to things if they were going too far the wrong direction. For about ten years it hasn’t happened anymore or nobody gave a damn. Does anybody wonder where we are today?