Monday, July 25, 2016

Close to home

I guess in the meantime more or less everyone got the news about the horrible tragedy that hit Munich on Friday evening, but especially for the not German friends who might have not heard too much detail here a quick summary:

A few minutes before 6 pm on Friday July 22 an 18-year-old boy started shooting people in and in front of a McDonald's restaurant at Hanauer Straße in Munich, crossed the street heading towards and then inside a shopping mall still shooting. He ended up killing 9 people and injuring over a dozen more - mostly (but not only) teenagers his age and children younger than him. He managed to escape at first but when the police later made contact with him he killed himself. 

What is known so far is that although he is from a German-Iranian family the horrible attack has NO religious background.
The boy was born in Germany and lived with his family in a nice area in central Munich (an area I could not effort). He was filmed communicating with a bystander who was yelling at him from a balcony and he answered in accent free German insisting he was German.
The shooter was treated for psychological problems, had trouble at school and with other teenagers his age and was fascinated by a shooting where a teenager killed former classmates and teachers in small German town a few years ago. Books about kids on killing sprees and articles about similar motivated and executed attacks were in his room.

So basically we look at an attack planned and executed by a mentally very sick person that finally snapped. What we do not have is the classical political / religious terror attack.  I cannot stress this enough. It does not make a difference for the families who lost their loved ones, it does not help the innocent children in hospital traumatized and wounded and their parents, but it does make a difference for the city of Munich, for Germany. (* please see update about Ansbach a bit below)

Because it was not clear from the start what was going on and traumatized, shocked people are very bad witnesses and could not properly report facts the police treated the event as a terror attack until they knew better and put the city under something like a lock down. Public transport was stopped, people were asked to stay home or find a safe place, main hubs in the city were evacuated especially since spontaneously rising waves of panic made people "hear" shots everywhere (there were no other shootings in the city anywhere in the end). I personally got the impression the police did the exact right thing, but I was not in Munich (later more on that) and I leave that in the end for those to judge who experienced it first hand.

This time Germany was "lucky" (as far as lucky goes with so many dead and injured) and it was not a terror attack, but it gave everyone quite a taste of how that case of emergency would look like and it was very scary ... even from the distance just staring on the news unfolding on the screen.

*Update 1: Only hours after I posted a Syrian refugee killed himself and injured 12 people in the city of Ansbach, Germany, with a bomb in his backpack. He arrived in Germany over 2 years ago - well before the main wave of refugees - and made several suicide attempts (not involving others) before, had a record with the police and his application for asylum was denied. The reason for him being still in Germany is the active war situation in Syria. He had tried to enter a small music festival but turned away when he realized he would not pass the mandatory bag check at the entrance and so brought his bomb to explosion a few meters down the road in front of a pub.

So far the general summary ... now a few more personal words. My story here begins the night before. I was on the phone with my sister. We had no chance to properly talk since a while and were catching up. One of her questions was how I feel in Glasgow and if I was still enjoying it thinking it was the right thing to do to move here ... even now with the Brexit shit (and it is big bad shit). I told her that was I was still very happy with my decision and that I love my flat and my life here and Glasgow and that I was not really homesick BUT that I would kind of love to go to the OEZ as I used to do Friday after work and go for a little shopping tour in all the familiar stores and buy some of my favorite things.

I was talking about exactly THAT shopping mall where less than 24 hours later people would die from bullets randomly fired at them.
THAT shopping mall is only 5 minutes walk from my old apartment in Munich where I lived for 12 years. Fridays used to be my home office days where I would finish work just before 6 and get out of the door and do all my weekend shopping at the mall between 6 and 8 pm when the shops would close. I loved doing that ... it would kick off my weekend.

If I would not have moved away a few months ago the likeliness I would have walked right into the shooting is almost 100%.  It was exactly the right weekday at the exactly right time of the day and he even entered the mall through exactly the entrance I would always use and injured and killed people right in front of my favorite store and on the escalator and stairs I used hundreds of times to go to the downstairs grocery store.  

IF ....

Don't get me wrong. I am fine. Absolutely nothing happened to me and I am no victim here and thankfully as far as I know also no one I personally know. I was very lucky.
But what happened was that my sister and I both had our weak knees moment at some point that evening which she put into words:  "You could have been on the floor of  that mall now - dead."

For quite a long time the fear that this could be a terror attack was very real also. We all are aware that in the end every moment something like this could unfold basically anywhere but a situation like that adds a good portion of reality to it. You immediately feel a strong wish to grab the children (in my case my nieces) and hide at the safest place you can find and wait with them there until mankind comes back to sense again .. at least a bit more than just the now. I am half seriously considering some village hidden away in the Highlands at the moment.

BTW ... If you feel the same and I guess lots of you do then think for a moment of all the refugees we look at as "a danger" for our culture and economy and what ever. The very most of them are just like you ... they press their children against their chests and RUN for their lives. So before you get irrationally scared by a tired faced family because of the man having a dark beard and the woman probably covering her hair just think for moment of that cold hand grabbing your own heart when smelling some real danger in the air ... and then try to mentally add some very real falling bombs to that picture. Just saying ... 

Update 2: I still stand to these words after Ansbach. The thing is that attacks like these make the majority of the refugees to victims again together with us. They try desperately to escape the terror but can't really. It also robs them off what they need most: humanity and hospitality and hope.
That is btw exactly the goal of terror ... to make you feel trapped and powerless and separate and divide people by fear. 

Back to the big IF.

As you know I did a lot of thinking before I moved to Glasgow. It was one of the biggest forks in my life path and the decision was hard to make for me because it brings uncertainty, change, a loss of routine and security. Just ... security ... what even is that?  Now just imagine I would have decided that I am too fearful to make that move and had decided for security, normality, routine. That "security" would have had me walking right into the arms of the shooter. 

We are not secure. Never. Life is fragile and short and happiness is even more fragile and just in the moment. That is on one hand the scariest learning ever but then again it is the most liberating as well. If nothing is "secure" then why hold back, why not taking the leap of faith and at least try to do what you would love to do?
I do not mean to act dumb or reckless obviously but I mean trying to live life for the fullest whatever that means for you personally.

PS: I think the next blog post I write is a review of Biffy Clyro's new album "Ellipsis". Not that it would need another review and especially not one written by a helplessly biased person like me, but I so desperately want to write a silly happy blog post as soon as possible. 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

We're on a hell slide ... help us, help us!

At the peak of a windy but wonderful evening in Belfast, Northern Island, on June 25 2016 I was singing these words (9/15ths by Biffy Clyro) back at my favorite band from the top of my lungs taking them very seriously and literally. Obviously guitarist Mike Vennart playing a few arm lengths away from me felt the same thing in the same moment because he posted this after the show:

Mike Vennart ‏@Vennart  Jun 26
Most cathartic version of 9/15s I've ever played tonight in Belfast.

I will try not to write too much about the political background of what is going on in the UK. I could but it all cost me so much nerves and energy since the referendum that I spent almost all day today in bed / on couch sleeping. I simply could not take it anymore.

Here my position in very short bullet points.

  • I am an EU citizen living in the UK and I am obviously and logically in the REMAIN camp. I am also aware that almost half of the citizens of the UK are as well (in the meantime maybe even more than 50%). 
  • I do not think everything is great in the EU and how the EU works - far from that - but I strongly believe that leaving the EU is the most stupid idea ever - for the society, for the economy, for every single citizen of the UK and especially for the youth. The effects will be overwhelmingly negative. 
  • There will be no awesome and special deal for the UK - the EU has zero interest in allowing this. Believing there would be one just shows that lots of people including politicians do not understand where the UK stands in a bigger context. They should probably listen more to some of those pesky EU immigrants that seem to be such a thread .. they can offer valuable outside perspective just as these weird folks called experts, too. 
  • Yes, I am very worried for my little self because me living in Glasgow is based on EU laws and regulations and I am worried about the economical impact as it will directly influence my work life and career.
  • I have not given up the last bits of hope as the referendum is not binding. Only a parliamentarian mandate for the PM to invoke Article 50 will be binding. I hope that will never happen although I am aware that this is not a big hope. 
  • I rather live in an independent Scotland that is part of the EU as in an united Great Britain outside of the EU. Is that even an option? I do not know at this moment (depends very much on the position the EU will take on this). Did I want this to be the options I might have to consider? Absolutely not. 
  • To everyone that read the horrible news about the outbreak of xenophobia in the UK towards all kind of people (white with accent, of color with and without accent) and is worried about my well being:  I am fine. The Glaswegians are as friendly as always. I had only one person making a comment and that was my regular taxi driver who always takes me to the airport and he was actually worried what it all means for me and if I was alright. 

I could write a lot more .. for example what an absolute MESS the two biggest UK parties are and how disgusting UKIP is or how incredibly irresponsible the politicians are acting in this situation. I could also give a lecture about parliamentarian vs direct democracy. I mean .. I have a master degree in political science ... and I chose that topic for a reason when I started university, but I want to focus on something else. Something bigger:


It is not just what is going on in the UK. I mean ...  How the hell is Donald Trump a serious presidential candidate? How can we let thousands of people drown in the Mediterranean sea? How can we have hundreds of thousand people in refugee camps under terrible conditions? And how could we let it get so far that millions of people need to leave their destroyed homes saving nothing but their lives .. if they are lucky? Who had the weird idea that said people are a threat and not the victims? How is racism, hate and xenophobia acceptable behavior? How it is a thing that you can get shot at a rock n roll show or dancing with your friends in a night club? Why do people still judge other people for who they love? How do we still allow big companies to destroy our planet and pretend evoking earthquakes (as one example) is a good idea? How do we have a significant concentration of military forces at the Eastern European border of the NATO and it is not even properly in the news? Why could I spend days extending this list nightmare by nightmare, horror story by horror story? How did we end up on this hell slide????

You know, I am learning a lot at the moment and it is probably the first time ever I am sad about learning something. At school in Germany you hear about the Nazis a lot. Questions I never really found answers for despite the many history lessons were  "How could this happen? How did the majority of people not see what was going on? Why did the people who were understanding it not doing more to stop it?" 

I now understand that those people likely felt as helpless as I do now. Communication seems to be pointless, discussions are leading nowhere, lots of people seem to be out of reach of arguments with closed minds and hearts. 

I have no solution, no smart ideas how to stop it. Leading with example is probably the only thing ... trying to be kind to the person next to you, practicing humanity, tolerance and inclusion - and being clear and outspoken about it.

Simon said down from the stage on that windy Saturday last week: "Music makes everything better." He is right - it really does. And it brings people together in the best way possible.

That said .... I will go to bed now, listen to "Medicine" a couple of times and despite all the things that are frightening and sad at the moment I will keep counting down the days to the release of "Ellipsis". We can't let the darkness win and take away the things we love and looking forward to.