We were born in West Germany in the 1960s.
For our parents, everything was progressing steadily onwards and upwards,
they had employment and bright prospects for the future,
they had unshakeable confidence that they would continue to live in wealth and safety,
in freedom and democracy.
Consequently, we grew up without any material need and were brought up well,
in the age of the Cold War, days of goodies (the “free west”) and baddies (the “eastern block”).
Our grandparents told us stories about the war and Hitler,
some of them painted this in very bleak tones,
but most didn’t.
Ruins, bunkers, air-raid shelters, test alarms – all of this was still totally normal.
We played on the street,
we were there when our parents bought their first fridge, first TV, first washing machine and first car.
We saw their pride.
We saw how the telephone, central heating, having your own bedroom, all became standard.
The mailman still came round twice a day.
In the tram there was a conductor.
At the railway station you had to get a ticket to even get on the platform,
workers streamed out of the factories in the afternoon.
The chimneys were smoking.
When you went shopping you could go to the dairy, the greengrocers, the butcher, the baker, the imported goods store, the delicatessen.
We played Ludo or Mikado,
chose between Lego and Fischertechnik,
between model train sets and slot cars,
between Matchbox and wooden toys.
We listened to fairy tales
and watched “the kid’s programme” (limited to just one hour a day),
I loved the programs, the “Maulwurf”, “Pittiplatsch” and “Sandmännchen”, but Mickey Mouse and his friends not so much.
We were amazed by the first record players and tape decks.
At our grandmother’s we fiddled with the radio settings, loved the “Magische Auge”, listened to the static, the peeping and distorted voices from all over the world.
We witnessed the first lunar landing.
We drove away on holiday to Austria, Italy, Yugoslavia.
I visited my relatives in East Germany frequently.
We wanted spaghetti more often than spinach.
A pizza was the exception,
we had never heard of sushi.
We had mince patties, schnitzel or red bream.
I ate a lot of fruit and oats.
We had to go to bed early,
but the days were long and filled with playing out on the street or in people’s backyards,
reading, painting, playing the piano.
There were always lots of us.
We were the babies of the baby-boom.
There were forty kids in a class.
But there were also lots of spaces to withdraw to, we were not constantly monitored, you could also get lost in the crowd if you wanted to.
At least three of us were called Thomas, Christian, Petra or Andrea.
The classes were mixed from all social backgrounds:
kids of factory workers, shopkeepers, company owners, all mixed together.
We had a grotesque mix of right and left-wing teachers, ex-Nazis and anti-fascists.
There were different fractions based on fountain pens: the Pelikan fraction and the Geha fraction.
We had Tippex in tubes, which were quickly used for blow darts.
The reformed syllabus gave us Brecht, Frisch, Böll, Bachmann, Enzensberger and Hemingway,
We learned English from texts by John Lennon, Bob Marley and Malcolm X,
history and social science lessons sharpened our critical faculties towards the idyll of our parents.
We wore parkas and “Atomic power? No, thanks!” badges.
Jeans had to be either Wranglers or Levi’s ,
and the shoes either Adidas or Puma.
We had posters of Che Guevara.
There were performances, happenings, pop art and teach-ins.
I was confirmed in the year known as the “German Autumn”.
In the cinema we watched Fassbinder, Herzog, Malle, Truffaut, Godard, Bergman, Pasolini and Antonioni.
We straddled the enormous gap between The Beatles, The Doors, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin to Joy Division, Tuxedomoon, Human League and DAF.
And we were often embedded in some form of classical music training on the piano or violin, at the very least on the recorder.
We are the kids of Krautrock.
We were the first generation who were fed on electronic music while suckling at our mothers’ breasts.
We travelled by bus to peace demonstrations and CND marches.
We occupied apartment blocks and refused military service.
We donated money for Nicaragua and were aghast at the crimes of the “civilized world”.
We understood where the RAF were coming from.
We could get any drugs we wanted.
We often provoked our parents to the last straw.
In return, we were told, “Then go to East Germany if you don’t like it here!”
We profited from the progress made by the free love movement.
We hitchhiked across Europe and slept in sleeping bags at the railway stations of Venice, Athens and Marseilles.
We registered the first signs of strain in the social framework:
the oil crisis.
The first wave of incipient mass unemployment.
The issue of “sovereign debt”.
I passed my Arbitur high school graduation in the year in which Helmut Kohl announced the “geistig moralische Wende” (social and moral turning point).
Private TV channels appeared,
and from then on, everything began to be privatized, faster and faster, more and more..
The world was based on a security that we came to doubt.
Reagan pushed the world closer to war.
We read “Global 2000”.
Then came Chernobyl.
Then came Gorbatschov.
Then the wall came down.
We studied across all kinds of disciplines.
We were hippies,
we were punks,
we were into disco,
we were ascetics,
we occupied apartment blocks,
we made techno.
We travelled the world.
We experienced a lot,
but the worst always came from the news.
The idea of a new, different world was confirmed –
but generally in a negative sense as neo-liberalism increasingly confirmed itself
as being what capitalism always was.
The world became brasher, louder, more disjointed and faster – all of this, yes,
but not more peaceful, fair, just or colourful.
It became colder, more uniform, more economical, more efficient, more hectic, and at the same time more full of contradiction, more fragmented, less considerate, more vulgar and more cutthroat.
We were active participants in rapidly accelerating technological progress:
within 25 years we listened to music on vinyl, on tape, on cassettes, on Walkmans, CDs, DATs, minidisks and MP3 players.
We watched films in TV, on super-8, video VHS and DVD.
We replaced the slide rule with the pocket calculator,
the analogue gauge with red LED.
A C64 was sensational, then followed Amiga and Atari,
we completed each stage of the evolution from PC to laptop to internet to mobile phone to iPad and smart phone.
Most of us live in cities that are getting bigger and bigger and are getting more and more differentiated between rich and poor, trendy and forelorn.
Most people live alone.
We have started, lived through and ended at least three important long-standing relationships.
We are solo-parents, live in patchwork families or without kids.
We often have pets.
We take air travel to anywhere on Earth for granted.
Languages are dissolving into one global pot of business English and chatroom English.
Everywhere on Earth is becoming increasingly similar, provided it throws up a profit.
Everything else is uninteresting.
More of everything does not mean more of the best.
Growth does not mean development.
Anyone can succeed but not all of us at the same time!
Between security and insecurity,
between anxiety and willing acceptance,
between being enlightened and a false sense of independence,
between day-dreaming and disillusionment,
between being world-weary and addicted to petty distractions,
between solidarity and competition,
between identity and enforced needs
packaged as “reality” and “opportunity”.
that we do
what we should
what is expected
what is “responsible” and “realistic”,
what has a “good chance of success”.
I call this “the false sense of independence”, in a literal sense.
I always hear sentences like:
If I don’t do it, someone else will.
What I am doing is just a short-term thing,
If I could do things like I wanted to…
Actually, I want to do things entirely differently.
Often people only liven up when
a camera is running.
We appear to have every freedom,
but no real perspectives are discussed:
things are as they are.
Everything is there, more or less
and everything is possible,
everything is ok,
as a result nothing has any real value any more.
Everything could be totally different tomorrow.
Profundity has become anachronistic,
time, distance and peace and quiet a luxury,
being unattainable a privilege,
depth of perception, thinking and feeling, something rare.
However, what is rare is valuable and precious.
Everything that has ever been
thought, written, painted, played and composed still lies
before us like in an encyclopedia from which we can read.
History is still only edited, not censored or deleted.
Yet a feeling for history has evolved into retro,
out of clever, smart,
out of adjusted, flexible,
out of action, acting,
out of experiencing, simulation,
out of intuition, instinct,
out of clarity, a cool factor,
out of monitoring, security,
out of security, self-responsibility,
out of sense, purpose,
out of self-actualization, an adaption to reality,
out of a multi-facetted personality, a variable role,
out of a career, a job,
out of consideration, empathy and reprehension, belittled naivety.
We can still switch off the navigation system,
and find our own way.
We still turn the lights on and off ourselves.
The profound depths are still there to be explored with all their dimensions and potential.
But depth requires
peace and quiet,
Independence is a question of attitude.
Attitude comes from the content.
And the content comes from stopping for a moment.
Stopping for a moment – being content with that moment – is the prerequisite for making the next step consciously.