They should have called it Burnin.
Haha. How funny am I.
Berlin was many things throughout history, and only became capital of Germany during the Nazi regime. The idea was to make it a bastion of civilization, per example of Rome in early history. It turned out slightly different and if anything, Berlin shows a past of extreme controversy.
A friend of mine described the place as marginal and I can see why: Half the people you meet on the street openly carry alcohol, there’s graffiti literally everywhere, and no one at all seems to have a job around here.
This marginality however, is at the same time the strength of the city. It is not a sign of a failing society, but instead a glimpse of an alternative one. This might be Berlin’s most attractive quality: Its history as a place of extreme conflict has attracted artists, squatters and freedom fighters from all around the world, who have had the chance to play a part in its reconstruction, and have established an underground society amongst themselves.
It is fascinating how many people are opening tiny bars and alternative restaurants, and how many get by painting or busking. The apparent ease with how they escape the supposed rules of our economy and choose a "different" way of getting by, motivates to reconsider your own perspective on how you make your money. All these people together reshape what was once a heavily industrialized city to a melting pot of art, political resistance, solidarity and beauty that frankly, serves as an example to us all, around the globe.
Ironically, the popularity of this system will mean its decline. Squatters can no longer live in peace with everyone photographing their homes and the whole world is joining the debate on their viewpoint, which only makes the oppression more unbearable. I don’t envy them: They are losing their homes and right to live as they want. Frankly, their raison d’être is slowly fading, as social injustice these days concerns few more than those who fight for it.
In English: While they used to fight for all of us and managed to win, they have promptly been forgotten and now have to fight for themselves; a struggle they will, eventually, lose.
The signs of massive change are everywhere: Not a squat without a banner pleading for support. Even everyday citizens are feeling it: Everywhere are debates about and protests against rising rent al prices. It seems that already, Berlin is only a shadow of what it used to be, which isn’t even close to its full potential.
While it’s a dead shame to see Berlin “normalize” over time, I don’t think it makes sense to see it as a global trend towards a colder, capitalist society. I feel that the squatters and artists democratic ideals are just so close to the commonly accepted ones, that they are blending and will transfer into the next era as one, which will hopefully retain the spontaneous spirit they have to contribute.
After the Berlin wall fell, people were dying of starvation. Homosexuals were prosecuted, injustice was everywhere and severe. This is no longer the case. Granted, there are many more problems to be addressed, but the harsh, unforgiving fight for equality is one that is now fought elsewhere.
There are more cities out there that need their social debate addressed through street art. Other places are fighting and will, in time, win and grow to be much like Berlin. This doesn’t make the systematic prosecution of squatters any less of a tragedy, but puts it into a greater perspective; one that sees Berlin as part of a greater movement, the remarkable tendency for art to combat discrimination and offer support to those in need.
The world’s eyes are on the artists, and they have but to point. In Berlin they might have little to point at but themselves, but they have proven to have the efficiency of an army. It was fascinating to see what it can lead to, and equally painful to see it dwindle slowly. And just like everyone who ever visits Berlin the “right” way, I wished, for a moment, that I had any artistic talent to speak of, and the courage to drop everything and join the ranks in hopes of making a difference. And like most tourists, I nodded my head and went home, under the illusion that I had it all figured out after a week. I guess it goes to show that Berlin is, if anything, a city of extreme controversy.