We Berliners live dangerously. We’re used to crossing busy streets and jumping out of the way of that crazy idiot ignoring a red light. We warm up our Döner from two days ago. In the middle of winter, we dance in our T-shirts in front of some street musicians (IF we like the music). We breathe the most polluted air in Europe and smoke a smuggled cigarette on top. When some Imbiss has tables outside, we will use them, even when it’s -10. One of our favorite districts for going out is the battleground of a full-fledged gang-war. We eat raw fish when the summers are so hot, the parks look like the Sahara. If the S-Bahn breaks down (like almost every winter) and we’re stuck for hours somewhere in the snow, we start singing christmas songs loudly with complete strangers. And at May 1st, we just take a small step backwards to let the riot go past & keep watching the bands while barricades are burning behind our back.
It is not easy to get us shocked. Or scared. Or randomly hate groups of people. We leave that to the luckily still relatively small amount of “worried citizens”.
We’re from France. From Holland. From Venezuela and Brazil. From Pakistan, Lebanon and Egypt. Some of us come from Spain, from Greece. From Poland or Bosnia. From Turkey, South-Africa or Japan. Some of us are import from Baden-Württemberg, the Ruhrpot, Ost-Friesland or Sachsen-Anhalt, or a “Fischkopf” from Hamburg. Some of us are “original”-Berliners.
But no matter where we come from, we all soon adopt the Berlin attitude: we don’t believe the hype.
After the incident last monday, we’re shocked, yes. But the general attitude is “You won’t get our fear, you won’t get our hate”.
By now, everyone having some sort of connection to the outer world must know about what happened in Berlin, this monday around 8pm.
For those who didn’t, just the bare facts. Someone hijacked a truck, and drove it through a crowd of people at one of the most popular Berlin Christmas markets. Twelve people died, many got injured. That’s all we know for certain. Everything else is not known. Though this might change in the time that I’m typing this.
Twelve people died just because they were at the wrong time at the wrong place, by the act of a criminal insane person. I call this person criminally insane. No matter your motives, be it personal, political or maybe for money, if you kidnap a truck driver, stab him quite a few times, drive his truck through a random crowd killing people, and shoot that driver, you’re insane, and you’re a criminal.
So yes. We’re shocked.
Even as Berliners, we’re shocked. But we leave fear and hate to others.
The most common, and very human, reaction is shock. Though we stay calm, we’re still shocked.
Now, violence, or people dying, is not uncommon on this planet. So why are we shocked if a relatively small amount of people die or get injured?
First of all, I think being shocked is still a good thing. It means what happened is still a rare thing. People die because of car accidents all the time. Or heart attacks. Or getting their purses stolen. We’re not even shocked anymore by rape (sadly enough). It is common. We’re all aware this can happen to us too. We’re weary when crossing a busy street. We try to sort of look after our health. We watch our bags when walking through a crowd. A woman walking alone in a dark street, tends to walk faster. But we’re not shocked when we read about an elderly lady being killed by a drunk driver. Unless we know her of course. We feel sorry for the person who just got her purse stolen, but well, shit happens. And rape, well, unfortunately, most women are way too aware it can happen any time, any place, to be shocked to read about it in the newspapers.
Luckily we’re still shocked if someone randomly drives through a market and kills people.
Or, as another recent incident showed, shocked about the almost casual way some hooligans kicked a woman down the stairs at a metro station. What was most shocking about it, was the utter indifference of the kicker. Walking by, seeing the woman, kicking her hard in her back, grabbing his beer, and walking on, laughing with his friends. It had a very strong “Clockwork Orange” feeling for me. And I was shocked mostly about the complete ruthlessness and lack of conscience of the kicker.
Or shocked when a “confused person” pushes a complete stranger in front of a subway train, which happened in january this year here in Berlin.
Or another mentally not stable person flies a passenger plane into a mountain.
Thank goodness, these are still incidents. Not common…
Next, we’re shocked because we can identify with the victims or their family.
Though I’m personally not a big fan of christmas markets (I don’t like hot wine, I don’t get the fun of christmas-hats with glowlights, or over-expensive heartshaped sweets) and probably lack the cultural background to enjoy them, it could have happened to me. One of my colleagues or friends might have tried to convince me to at least try a christmas market and dragged me there. Or it might have been one of my friends or colleagues visiting that market.
In the case of the woman being kicked down the stairs, it could have been any of us. We could have been the one trying to catch a metro and suddenly finding ourselves down the stairs with a broken arm.
We could have been in that plane. Being pushed in front of the subway.
And just like these people, if we were in their situation, we wouldn’t be aware we were at risk, were a target, or maybe could have been prepared for it.
In the news we read a lot about death and violence. And the acts themselves are actually quite shocking. But we somehow manage to shrug them off. Because.. it won’t happen to us.
- Doctors or nurses shot at an abortion clinic? We don’t work at an abortion clinic, and heck, that’s far away anyway.
- A politician or ambassador being killed? We’re not politicians or ambassadors, and again, that’s some other country.
- The death penalty for atheists? Luckily we don’t live in a country like that.
- A banker’s son being kidnapped for ransom? We’re not rich.
- People at a mosque being shot? We’re not muslims.
- A homeless guy being set on fire? We’re not homeless.
- A drug dealer being stabbed to death at the RAW Gelände? We’re not drug dealers. Though this might get close, we could get involved in something like that just by being around at that time.
- A few gay people being beaten up at Alexanderplatz? We’re not… ho, wait-a-sec, we have a lot of gay friends or might not be completely straight ourselves. Now this IS getting close.
Maybe next time, when I travel with them over Alexanderplatz, I have to warn them not to act too gay. I don’t want to get beaten up by association.
Ho. Wait-a-sec. Again.
Why would I warn my friends not to be too obviously gay?
Why would I become scared? And start acting upon it?
Isn’t that exactly what those homophobic people want??
One of the things which very unpleasantly surprised me yesterday was how soon it was deemed an “attack”.
Though nobody knew what exactly happened, and most important, the motives of the truck-driver, it was an attack almost immediately after the news got out.
The first thing I noticed was how fast facebook-friends declared themselves safe during the “Attack on Berlin”. Facebook later renamed the safety check to “Violent Incident”, but the damage was done.
Though the german media, even the tabloids, adopted a far more “wait and see what actually happened” attitude, facebook immediately jumped to a conclusion. It was an ATTACK. And of course, all over the world, people jumped to conclusions. It was an attack, it was an act of TERRRRORRR. But please don’t panic. Right.
One of the results was that friends and family, who really knew I was not the kind of person for visiting a christmas market, fervently tried to text, message or email me asking if I was safe. And I know a lot of fellow-Berliners, many not too big fans of christmas markets, had the same thing happening.
When in a city of a few million people, 12 people die because of some kind of freak incident, probably no one would have worried. But call it an attack, as facebook did, start talking about a terrorist act (like a lot of international, also mainstream, media did) and panic starts.
Even if later, it turns out to be not a terrorist act, but for example, a drunk or overworked driver, a criminal act gone horribly wrong, or some “confused” person running amok. Or other motives. The damage is done. The fear is sown.
As for example happened with the truck driver in Nice (who wasn’t a fanatic muslim, but a mentally ill person), or an axe-wielder in a train in Germany, the crazy guy in a train from Holland to Paris, or a burned-out nerd doing a coupe in dutch television. Too many examples of amok-runners (which is sad anyway) which were, sometimes only temporarily, deemed a terrorist act.
We’re not afraid of confused people running amok. They’re just, you know, crazy. And there’s not much we can do about crazy people suddenly deciding to, well, go crazy. They are so unpredictable, we adapt the “shit happens” attitude.
We’re not too afraid of violent criminals. Because, there’s still some sort of logic, an understandable motive, greed. They are nicely (relatively) predictable.
But we are o-so afraid of terrorists. Because they do not seem to be crazy. They seem to have some kind of rationality. We just don’t get their logic. We don’t get their fanaticism. But they seem to have a purpose.
Indeed they do.
One of reasons terrorists perform terrorist acts, is not the act themselves. They want to inflict fear. It’s not the few people killed. They don’t really matter. It is the fear for that we, personally, might be next.
See above. Random acts of violence that could happen to us.
And anything which helps create the fear, helps the terrorists.
That’s what facebook did. That’s what quite a few mainstream media from outside Germany do.
I’ve heard stories about school trips to Berlin being cancelled. Because, you know, Alexanderplatz isn’t safe.
This is exactly doing what the terrorists want you to do. Start cowering.
Just like me telling my gay friends not to act too gay when traveling in the metro. That’s helping the homophobics.
The best you can do is stay calm. Don’t panic. Don’t give in to fear. Proceed as normally. That way you are taking away the terrorists main instrument.
Luckily the Berlin people acted that way. We mourn, we’re in shock. But we don’t let ourselves intimidated (IF it was a terrorist act, we won’t give them what they want). The christmas markets were open today.
Omg, how we would love to have someone to blame. Someone who is guilty of this. Well. There is. The truck driver.
But he (or maybe a she?) is the only we can blame. For now.
Unfortunately, there were quite a few people who happily jumped the bandwagon and used this utter tragedy for their own agenda, or personal gain.
And the worst has been seen. Especially after a (later deemed innocent) refugee from Pakistan was arrested. But already before this.
On the social media. Facebook, Twitter. Even before the innocent guy from Pakistan was arrested, immediately especially the xenophobes started screaming and throwing mud. Of course it was an attack. And a terrorist one too. And one to blame on refugees, migrants, or muslims. Close all the borders! Deport anyone with a skin color darker than bright white! Shave off all beards! Remove any female headcover!
After the refugee was arrested it got even worse. The german xenophobic party started using terminology such as “Merkel’s dead”. Memes started to pop up with the german chancellor with bloody hands. This also internationally.
But the social media were only the start. Especially from mainstream media from outside germany, the finger-pointing started. Immigrants. Muslims. Refugees. The german open borders. They were all to blame. Close the borders! Start deporting! Stop any humanitarian help! More security! More surveillance! Less privacy!
Then there were all the politicians. Using it to further their own agenda. Though I was never a big fan of Trump (*cough*) his reaction to the violence in Turkey, Zürich and Berlin was utterly disgusting. Nothing was known at that time. And he already started blaming immigrants and calling it an attack on christianity. I almost had to puke.
Every xenophobic politician in Europe followed suit.
And then it turns out, the refugee from Pakistan was innocent. And they became silent again.
But the damage was done. The past 48 hours, random acts of violence against refugees increased dramatically. Very dramatically. And motives and purpose of the committers of these crimes were very, very clear. No speculation needed.
Today a xenophobic spin-off of the Pegida organized an “anti-Merkel” demonstration at the market. To claim this horrible incident to further your agenda is so… plainly disgusting. It reminds me of the reaction of the xenophobes to the acts of sexual violence against women during New Year’s Eve in Cologne. All of a sudden, these white male chauvinists would protect women’s right. Well, if I was sexually assaulted, the last “knight in shining armor” I would look to for protection, would be one of the same kind of people as the ones that (in a group) pushed me up to the wall in a subway station, calling me a “leftish slut”. A “slut” because I was female, and “leftish”, since I happen to live in an alternative neighbourhood.
(Update: the xenophobic demonstration was met with a huge crowd of people holding hearts up. We don’t let hate win.)
And talking about pointing fingers. That video of the people kicking a woman down the stairs in a subway station? The guys looked dark-skinned. I’ve seen so much hate going on. The video was posted as “Afghan refugees attacking woman”. And other accusations without any real back-up. After it turned out, the kicker was an european hooligan, they went silent. Very, very silent.
But the damage was done. Not everyone (the video went quite viral) who saw the video, has also gotten the information of who the actual committer of the crime was. The story went on its own.
The same thing is happening again. We still have no clue what the motives of the driver are. Or who he is. Or she. The person is still on the lose. Which is kinda scary, since it’s the kind of person who is capable of stabbing someone multiple times and shooting him. But we don’t even know if the driving into the crowd was on purpose. It might have been a result of the struggle between the driver and his kidnapper. Or the kidnapper simply having no clue how to drive a truck. We don’t know.
But the fingers are pointed. And as so many examples from the (recent) past have shown, they might very well point in the wrong direction. What about the 60+ Israeli lady who is missing? Maybe she was behind all of it (not seriously meant, just pointing the finger to a very unlikely suspect).. At the moment, only rumors and suspicions exist. About smuggling cigarettes. About the hijacking having a criminal background (and gone horribly wrong). Now, the papers of a Tunesian have been found in the truck. A Tunesian, about to be deported, a known small criminal, someone who had the attention of the secret service for some time, and who’s phone had been tapped because he might have been planning an armored robbery. Someone who might have been “radicalized”. But we still don’t know if it was him. Leaving your purse with identity papers on the scene of a crime doesn’t really sound… smart? It’s not something your average burglar would do.
But even if it was this person, we’re still not sure about his motives. If it was someone with a muslim background, seeking asylum… Don’t generalize. Don’t point fingers. “You won’t get our hate”. As quite a lot of people from here, from Berlin have said, posted, put notes on the scene of the crime. And that’s the right attitude. Shock. Yes. Fear, don’t. Hate. No. The only ones profiting from fear and hate are the terrorists and the xenophobes.
No one is to blame. Not refugees. Not muslims. Not “Gutmenschen”. Only the driver of the truck.
A message to the xenophobes: Stop crying wolf. Unfortunately, people still believe you. But you have been crying wolf wrongly so many times now, they might stop believing you.
Same to the terrorists. Really, nobody believes you anymore when you claim a violent crime as your own terrorist act days later. Just give up, will you?
You won’t get our fear. You won’t get our hate. Just give up and get lost.