This originally appeared at my place in 2007 on the eve of the anniversary of German Reunification. The title “zur Einheit” means both “To Unity” and “To Uniformity”. It was a commentary on the development of the area along the river Spree, particularly a stretch in my neighborhood that got dubbed “Mediaspree” because of the nature of some of the businesses set to move in.
I re-entered it as “zu unverbindlichen Bürgerentscheiden” (To Non-Binding Referenda) on Sunday, 13 July 2008, which was the day of a referendum on a choice of alternatives to the plans put in place. It basically involved the desire to delimit construction: first, that a 50 meter strip of publicly available space remain between any construction and the river and, second, that no structure exceed the height limit that had been standard prior to the massive sell-off that occurred with reunification. (There are stories, lots and lots of stories (pun intended)).
Our Green Party mayor at that time had forged a compromise question (labeled B to the initiators A). The turnout met the threshold* and the result was not just an overwhelming “Ja” of 87% to Question A, but an equally round “Nein” to the compromise.
*The threshold was a joke no matter how you saw it. Opponents of the referendum certainly found 15% voter participation to be laughably low, but the bottom line was that it was non-binding. Sure, there was talk of “taking it under advisement” after the surprising result, but investors’ threats to sue did that in. A similar phenomenon is going on right now as there was a referendum on keeping Tegel Airport open on last week’s ballot. Berlin is fond of referenda on deals already done. It’s an extension of our pretend democracy.
For the occasion, I’ll re-deem this…
The river flows slowly
the mountain range more so
but the latter ‘ll one day
dwarf that long held division
which ran along
the banks of the former, here
in old Fritz’s Grove.
To scrape the prize from
the face of the sky
one story upon the other
into the heavens
over this once cleft city
one unit beside the other
rising to form a concrete tribute
to flights of fancy wings of desire
and reign triumphant, cementing
the division fore the banks
for when these chains flow steady
the spoils go to the victorious one-
Do my shackles come with a key?
My film maker friend Schmacke was keen to adapt my poem for a stop motion project to enter into a contest meant to come up with adverts for something else along the river. It’s a bit odd, but the capitalist gets dragged away at the end. We call it Einheit oder Vielfalt (Uniformity or Diversity). Schmacke does the reading (to give it that Werner Herzog docu-feel).