Write, write, write

A poster announcing the “internationales literaturfestival berlin 2023” prints in big letters: “Read, read, read, … 14 times”. This is a quote from Werner Herzog when he was asked what makes a good filmmaker. The message from Manjeet Mann to the young audience at Berlin added to this: “write, write, write”. At least this was my impression as a summary of the talk and her short readings from her novel in verse “The crossing”.
The lecture hall of the “Stabi” was packed with students from high-school who felt at ease with the English language presentation and talk. The host Shiva Mesgarian managed to get the crowd of students to ask questions in the huge lecture theatre. Manjeet was giving a lot of insights into writing, editing, motivation and the difficulty to give a voice to persons from marginalized backgrounds. In her case as a person of colour herself, born and raised in England with additional links to India, she took issue with the topic of refugees. Living in Folkestone (Kent), she is confronted with people crossing the Channel on a daily basis.
Her book “The crossing” is actually building bridges between countries and continents. Her entertaining way to talk about her hard work as writer motivates, inspires and encourages young persons to pick up their pencil and/or notebook to start writing. Just don’t stop. Journaling helps. Take your emotions of an issue seriously, then work on it. Give characters a voice who have not received much attention. Go out and interview persons to get authentic input.
It is not about appropriation of a story. It is about meeting and exchanging with marginalised persons. Return your written pieces to those “sensitive readers”, whose story you attempt to develop. All this takes time. Re-writing is an important element as well. “Having written the story for yourself, you then re-write it for the readers”. Edit, clarify, sharpen, blur, attend to detail – all this helps the reader to follow and enjoy. These were the messages to all the students who were grateful for advice as the new season of essay writing in school, university and beyond is about to start.

Europa Meer

Europa und das Meer, so lautet der Titel eines Buches und Katalogs zu einer Ausstellung des Deutschen Historischen Museums (DHM) aus dem Jahr 2018. In 2023 im August sind die Zeitungen voll mit Artikeln über Meererwärmung und die schwerwiegenden Folgen für Menschheit und Bio-diversität. Die Geschichte der Beziehung zwischen Europa und dem Meer ist leidvoll und euphorisch zugleich. Alljährlich zur Sommerszeit wird das Mittelmeer von Wellen mit Touristen überspült die „over-tourism“ erleiden müssen. Menschen sind oft eine in Massen, aber nicht in Maßen, auftretende Spezies. Das Meer spielt zusätzlich eine faszinierende, verheißungsvolle Anziehungskraft aus. Europa sieht sich zudem gerne noch als Dreh- und Angelpunkt der Weltgeschichte.

Der Ausstellungskatalog enthält lesenswerte Beiträge von der Antike übers Mittelalter bis in die Neuzeit. Die Thematisierung von Herrschafts- und Handelsräumen , Brückenschlagen und Grenzziehungen, Meer als Ressource bis hin zum Sehnsuchts- und Imaginationsort bieten eine originelle Herangehensweise. Schon 2018 enthielt der Katalog einen Beitrag zum Massengrab Mittelmeer sowie zum Sehnsuchtsort Hafenmetropole Odessa.

Migration in ferne Länder samt der Verheißung eines vermeintlich besseren Lebens sind so alt wie die Menschheit. Die Weite des Meeres suggeriert zusätzlich die Möglichkeit des Neuanfangs und Althergebrachtes, hinter sich zu lassen. Freiwillig oder gezwungen, das ist dabei oft die entscheidende, unterscheidende Frage.

Kelani Abass, Casing history, Gropiusbau 2023


We teach about the process of gentrification and segregation in sociology in most of our courses. Consulting is also busy with telling policy makers, urban planners and architects about this fundamental social process. A mathematical description of the process has been provided by Schelling as well. A recent striking depiction of the process evolving over years in Brussels is produced by Karim Douieb (dataViz and Jetpack, image below! and more, THANKS). The data is from the Brussels institute of statistics and analysis. Policy-makers have a hard time to work against the well-known tendency: birds of the same feather, gather together. Humans do not seem to be much different, at least when it comes to large metropolitan cities. Only a small China town is missing in Brussels.
What is masked in the grouping by nationalities of residents, is the underlying mechanisms that drive this gentrification. Even previously mixed parts of the city might suffer a slow process of erosion due to educational, job, wealth, poverty and housing differentiation between people and Brussels communities. Falling behind in educational achievement, then higher unemployment leads to lower credit worthiness and residence in less comfortable housing. The Belgian and EU15 residents are much more likely to follow virtuous upward mobility. Hence the process of gentrification trickles down through subsequent generations. Start with learning and socialising of kids and adult learning to overcome the discriminatory process. Ethnic communities will also have to open up to interact with locals. Social progress is hard work for all.