Monday, November 09, 2009

Wall bad. Don't forget it.

Time to reminisce on two related thingies; the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the 4.1 year anniversary of our variety-packed trip to Germany.

Casting my mind back to 1989, I do vaguely recall nonchalantly trudging past the TV while Mum and Dad excitedly exclaimed "Look, the Berlin wall is coming down! I never thought we'd see the day!". I (probably) responded with a grunt and wheelspun noisily away in the Datsun 1600, more interested in what my equally fashion-challenged mates' thought of my new happy pants.

I'm thankful that 16 years later, my nerd-ish curiosity forced me to bone up on my cold-war history in order to make the 2005 trip a little more interesting. And boy, did it...

Yet the world seems to have gone in the reverse direction to me. I'm (still) discovering the sheer weight, scope and relevance of "The Fall of The Wall". Others seem to think it almost a tragedy. We've been numbed to the significance of it. With articles like this in the UK's Guardian it's no wonder. It's called "creeping socialism", prevalent throughout our mainstream politics and media.

I'm bemused to see some influential members of the modern intelligentsia reflecting on the euphoria of the Berlin Wall's destruction, yet elsewhere champion the very things which put it up in the first place. It's one thing to have Ostalgie- morbid fascination for the quirky things of the former east. Sharon and I sure did; the time-capsule chic, serial blandness, happy traffic light icons, and the wonderfully awful Trabant.

Happy little communist girl says WALK...or we'll lock you up in a small, steel cell and deprive you of sleep for ten days...

But it's another thing to willfully ignore the arrests, tortures, imprisonments, and murders of those who simply had an opinion, the surveilance, the corruption, the gulags, the deprivation, the control.

Let's break it down into two often-quoted expressions of socialist romanticism, which were said to me first hand, by some of my dearest German friends from the former east:

There was no poverty in the GDR.

There was no crime in the GDR (former East Germany).

Indeed. Poverty is relative. There was no poverty in the GDR because everyone was poor. And of course there was no crime in the GDR- amongst the citizens. All the crime was being committed by the government.

I was also told this: Secret State Police? Everyone has them! Australia has ASIO, no?

Sure, except here our "secret" police protect us from terrorism. In the GDR, they protected the regime from criticism. Using whatever brutal means necessary.

If you're like me and let the actual event pass you by, it's not too late to learn what it meant. And, let me spell it out for you, why it was a fantastic day. The wall didn't "fall". It was pushed. By very, very brave people. I hope that spirit doesn't remain in the past.


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