do not mention the war

Hopes and Dreams

In History on January 21, 2021 at 15:30

Without being an expert, the inauguration of a new president is always a sign of what is to come. Four years ago, it was the fist of Trump, in 2021 it is none other than the Boss restoring some hope.

The fist of Trump gave a whole new meaning to the image of the right fist.

A raised fist was once a sign of solidarity. It first came to global prominence during the Mexico Olympics in 1968 when Tommy Smith and John Carlos stood on the rostrum raising their black gloves hands in protest against the discrimination against people of colour, specifically the Afro-American population of the US. The Black Power salute on this stage saw both athletes banned from the US team and sent home. Trump’s use of it devalued their protest.

It was quite a remarkable difference when Bruce Springsteen made his already second appearance at an inauguration; his first came in 2009 for Barack Obama’s ceremony. Back then it was a rendition of This Land is your land with Pete Seeger. Twelve years later he sang one of his own songs, Land of Hope and Dreams.

Springsteen sings:

You’ll need a good companion

For this part of the ride

Leave behind your sorrows

Let this day be the last

Tomorrow there’ll be sunshine

And all this darkness past

With this he expresses his wish for a better future – something he has done ever since he became a musician in the late 1960s. It is an image of a better tomorrow which many – not only in America – hope will come with Joe Biden as president. There is little hope however that Biden will be the one to bring about change but his term in office can set the wheels in motion. The inauguration of 2021 is a return to typical American pathos but it we have rather have that than a fist bumping narcissist and nihilist.

Magdeburg 1945

In History on January 16, 2021 at 10:00

My home town is a city called Magdeburg in central Germany. Before January 16, 1945 it was a beautiful city, one that boasted many buildings from the baroque period and the turn of the 19th century. At around 9:25pm that day, the city was heavily destroyed by allied bombers. It would never be the same again.

After the destruction it looked like that:

Every year at 9:30pm the bells of all churches will ring and in the concert hall Beethoven’s symphony No. 9 will be played.

The Year That Was

In History on December 31, 2020 at 12:00

It is fair to say that this year has been dominated by Coronavirus and that most of the year was spent preventing its spread. It did not work as large parts of Europe are in partial or total lockdown – again.

Personally, this has been a hard year. In total I have been working about ten or eleven weeks at school. This was an experience that I had to make. Teaching is not always easy and a lot depends on your mindset. Mine was not positive at the beginning of the year as money was tight or totally absent, the bank decided to close down my account leaving me with a mountain to climb to restore my banking credibility. I managed that – just – yet decided to open an account that offers no cheque book – an essential component of daily life in France. No association of any kind that does not demand a cheque for inscription.

The schools I worked at were ordinary Parisian ones, either located at the fringes of the city, still within the périphérique which marks the geographical border between Paris and the suburbs yet the latter are already within eye sight. It was a bit of no man’s land in both cases.

Teaching kids aged twelve to fourteen or fifteen is difficult, however I think I managed – sometimes – not only to tame the kids but also to get something across. Moreover, getting something across and the kids remember the next time. At this age you have to be more of an animal tamer than teacher. The kids develop their personas and that happens all the time and everywhere. Since they spend a lot of time at school, it is inevitable that this development happens right in front of your eyes.

From mid-March until late May it was home schooling for me. I must admit I have adapted badly to this, letting the kids wait for some time before I managed to get some exercises together. This was partly due to my own disillusionment about my own work but was also fed by the believe that by sending exercises regularly, there would be more screen time for the kids who already spend most of their days staring at several devices, though hardly ever for learning but for playing and browsing. The former I’m ok with, the latter not.

The summer was nice and mostly spent away from Paris. Being able to travel again was a pleasure and we went to Germany, the west coast of France and the Cévennes in the south of France. In the midst of the summer, wearing a mask in large public spaces became compulsory again; it was a sign of what was to come in autumn and towards the end of the year: masks became mandatory at all times outside and in stores and shopping centres. As if this was not enough in mid-October there came a partial lockdown, during which swimming pools, ice rinks, theatres, cinemas closed down for a fortnight – they have not reopened since.

It made the end of the year trist as the outlook for 2021 is not much better. Yes, there is a vaccine available, that has been developed in what seems a record time, i.e. in a very short period of time. Yet, when people will receive it and how long the roll out will need before a certain normalcy may return, is open to speculation.

This was another difficult year. One that will leave its footprint on us and its consequences we’ll only be able to see in a few years time. Will it alter capitalism to such an extent that it will become more levelled? Will our society understand the causes of this pandemic and draw the necessary conclusions from it? Those questions came up during the several periods of full or partial lockdown. They cannot be answered easily. They require a common effort which currently I cannot see.

To end this lite review of 2020, there is a nice thought developing. The number of people whom I want to have a beer with in 2021 is enormous, nurturing the idea that this new year will be much more sociable than the last one. A nice glimmer of hope!

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