I suppose this one is more for the Berliners out there, but I am sure we have a similar story to tell…
Berlin is the city I have chosen to live in for almost five years now. It’s a great city, full of great people. Another extremely nice thing about it is that in the majority of the districts, you can take a nice relaxing walk or cycle without being bombarded by Macdonalds, Starbucks, etc. etc. Being lucky enough to travel around a lot, I see a lot of cities and it’s really quite incredible how homogeneous they have all become. When I return to Berlin, one of the nicest things about it is that I instantly know I have arrived – it looks different, it feels different. It’s certainly not the most attractive city in the world, but what can you expect with the history that it has? And besides, anyone who has spent enough time here will tell you that there is a certain charm to its cold, industrial architecture.
The city is changing, and extremely rapidly. It’s easy to be nostalgic about the past, but having only been here for five years, I am not even really part of that past. Having said that, even in the short time I have been here, it has changed dramatically. But change is good, its exciting – another thing that is so nice about the city is the speed in which it evolves. I, for one, sure am happy that there are so many great restaurants in Berlin. And you can get a good cup of coffee now, which sure is nice too. “Gentrification” is a word you hear a lot, and I suppose some people would see the above as an example of that, but the way I see it, if somebody wants to open a bar, a restaurant, or a shop that they think will benefit the community, then I say good luck to them.
Despite what seems to be a global vision of Berlin as some kind of mythical dream city, especially for creative people, that view is at best outdated. It’s unbelievably hard to find a room or an apartment to rent. Prices are rising, but it’s still cheap compared to other capitals – the problem is the insane amount of competition for every possible space that one could put a bed and a sink. Its tough out there – I’ve heard it described as a “property crisis”, but I have no idea who decides those things and what it takes to get that definition. As hard as it is becoming to simply find a place to live, I can’t help but think the term was fabricated in order to justify the new style of Berlin apartments being build all around. These are apartments with elevators to lift your car (yes, your car…) to the floor that you live on, and other such amenities that are so ludicrous that they are almost laughable. These kind of apartments are not being built for the people who need them – rather for people who could live anywhere and afford anything.
Despite that, I understand that this kind of thing is, sadly, inevitable, and sooner or later Berlin will become like any other popular capital, where its own citizens are priced out their own cities. I also understand that by moving here, I am in some way part of the problem and I understand the hypocrisy of all this, but when I read a recent news story, I felt like things were going a little too far.
You can read the article in English here.
This is just the latest story concerning the privatisation of the riverbank in what is/was a great area, and one that was frequently used by tourists and locals alike. But there is something about this specific story which is just one step to far. To rip down part of a historic structure that represents something worth remembering and contemplating in order to build YET MORE luxury apartments is, I feel, almost just like one big “fuck you” from the government of Berlin to the people who have been fighting these kind of developments for years. And that is the reason I think you should sign this petition. You can’t fight everything, you have to pick your battles, but to me this just shows how audacious the government (or governments of the western world, I should say) have become. They KNOW that this will be hugely unpopular, they just don’t care, because the public’s apathy has reached such a critical that they feel like they can do whatever the hell they want. Remember that the government should be there for the benefit of citizens, and not the other way around. So come on, just sign the petition so I don’t have to ride my bike past that horrible, ugly building that they propose – one that will act only as a representation of how callous and fearless our “representatives” have become.
I have no idea if a petition can make the slightest bit of difference – but its worth a try, isn’t it?