10
Jun
16

Condensed Europe

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Friday afternoon, a beautiful breeze, the end of two uninterrupted working weeks, and the expectation of a fabulous concert and a nice weekend in Berlin – with a little cloud, though: MeinMann is prisoner in Brexitland…and there will not be enough photos of gorgeous Berlin blue skies to share to compensate for that!

In the pleasant no man’s land between working and networking, two appointments with two persons I only knew online and never met in real life. Both have something to do with the spoken word, as I have, and both live in Berlin.

This blog is something in between a balcony and a Dachboden, sometimes a place where to store – not in the brightest order – impressions and ideas (and cute cats, yes). Sometimes a balcony from which to wave at other digital neighbors. And sometimes the digital neighbors meet!

It is nothing so new after all…especially for all those who were keen penpals in the 80s and 90s.

3pm, appointment at in Gendarmemarkt with Holger.

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I am a keen reader of Holger’s publications and over the past years, even if we happened to be both in the same places a few times, respective schedules made it impossible to meet and exchange in person thoughts about the economy, so we conversed from each other’s virtual balcony.

Holger has moved to Berlin recently and now this is a good occasion to meet here Unten den Linden for Tee und Kuchen. But first we walk around our thoughts and the streets which line Gendarmenmarkt. While sharing our impressions on today’s Mr Schäuble speech and the most recent polls, it looks as though Europe is materializing in front of us: Franzoesischer und Deutscher Dom, the Auswaertiges Amt, Hausvogteiplatz, not far from us is Bebelplatz. This was the playground of the Humboldt brothers (sounds like the Chemical brothers and to some extent they were!). All places here remind us of cornerstones of European history.

Only a couple of weeks separate us from the Leave or Remain referendum. The protest vote in the UK may well activate the eject trigger, it is a close call. Holger mentions that in UK universities not only foreign students like his son but also british ones value and recognize the importance of Europe for their studies, research and yes, career. Still the views can be very different and what MeinMann reports from Northern England is not very reassuring.

While we walk, we mention also the fate of Trieste. Like Berlin, a city shaped by immigration of people who wanted to build their own future, jews, huguenots, immigrants of all kinds, all walks of life, all nationalities. Cities without history, born in a muddy steppe or on an uncomfortable rocky shore. Hardly the places were great cities thrives, in the ample bosom of a mighty river, like Rome, Florence, London, or Paris…

Sometimes geopolitics and sudden decisions have lasting influence and change the destiny of populations. For sure, one cannot compare the border of Italy with Slovenia and Austria with the UK. But I still struggle to understand which logic brought the irredentismo to fight with all means against Austria-Hungary in order to join Italy. With hindsight, it was not a good decision. A lot of blood awaited the newly surgically attached Venezia Giulia to Italy in 1920. And again, after 1954, when a once UN-chaperoned Trieste was reattached once again to Italy, a suspended future.

Still the truth of the matter is always the same. Mongrel cities, unimpressed by the power of religions, so blasées as to regard language and culture differences like minor nuances, eventually give in to the pressure of mono-coltural conformism. Too much freedom and common sense are a threat to power, apparently. And so what was once an orchard full of diversity growing on a poor soil in a sturdy way, has to become an alien field of genetically modified maize crops, needing a lot of political water and oppressive practices to thrive…the forced italianization, the fascist years, the crippled economy…the nazi years, the DDR model-city, the crippled economy…

Trieste found its own strange balance after all, its diversity is most probably lower than it was in 1910, its economy is less dynamic, a city built by immigrants still sees people leaving nowadays, but to kick-start again its spirit takes decades. But if Berlin managed to change the tide, maybe also Trieste can manage, and stubbornly be herself and go ahead.

Trieste, Berlin should remind Europe…this is what happens when infighting becomes short-sighted. You end up losing the raison d’etre, and it takes long to get it back.

While on the Continent we may feel not so much concerned by what happens with the UK if the Leave vote prevails on the Remain, nobody needs the rippling domino effect of yet another irrational nationalist protest vote, on our economies, and on our european identity. After all, even if we do not realise it, in our european DNA some chromosomes are definitely british.

 


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