Changing the neighborhood

WITH all the courting, cajoling, promises of [decades of] tax breaks and free land and infrastructure upgrades that we see towns and localities using to persuade the tech giants to relocate in and resuscitate moribund burgs large, medium and small, it turns out we could all learn a thing or two from Berlin:

Campaigners in a bohemian district of Berlin are celebrating after the internet giant Google abandoned strongly opposed plans to open a large campus there. The US firm had planned to set up an incubator for startup companies in Kreuzberg, one of the older districts in the west of the capital.

But the company’s German spokesman Ralf Bremer announced on Wednesday that the 3,000 m2 (3,590 square-yard) space – planned to host offices, cafes and communal work areas – would instead go to two local humanitarian associations.

Bremer did not say if local resistance to the plans over the past two years had played a part in the change of heart, although he had told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper that Google does not allow protests to dictate its actions.

“The struggle pays off,” tweeted GloReiche Nachbarschaft, one of the groups opposed to the Kreuzberg campus plan and part of the “Fuck off Google” campaign.

Some campaigners objected to what they described as Google’s “evil” corporate practices, such as tax evasion and the unethical use of personal data. Some opposed the gentrification of the district, which might price many people out of the area.

As we see everywhere, gentrification is a tricky thing to fight off. It helps if you can summon the power to think well and high of yourself, to defend your neighborhoods from a position of strength. An earlier article this past May lays out it pretty clearly:

“I’m not saying [Google] don’t have to come here, but they have to realise they are part of something that is really frightening people … If such a big enterprise wants to join the most cool, the most rebellious, the most creative neighbourhood in Berlin – perhaps in Europe – then there must be a way they can contribute to saving the neighbourhood,” Schmidt says.

Bravi, Kreuzberg!

Image: Author photo, Brandenburg Tor

Shoe strings and dirty sleeves

You can play a shoestring if you’re sincere.

– John Coltrane

And he definitely would know. Earnestness, sincerity, plays a role in anything you do. Being true to yourself at something first, knowing what you want to do even if you don’t yet know how to do it is a way of moving forward. Coltrane said when they first heard him and Miles Davis together, people didn’t like it. Knowing what you’re doing, whether playing, listening, watching, or making, is a prerequisite all around.

But, with those guys at least, we all got with the program soon enough. They turned all kinds of things into art and back again, even music, whether it was really new or really old disguised as new. Without any explanation whatsoever, a character in Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor twice refers to “the tune of the Greensleeves.” The song gets mentioned by Falstaff: some claim Henry VIII wrote it. So it was already pretty well known by the time Coltrane recorded it in 1961 for his first Impulse! release, Africa/Brass. It’s a traditional English folk song, with lyrics and everything:


My men were clothed all in green,
And they did ever wait on thee;
All this was gallant to be seen,
And yet thou wouldst not love me.

According to Wikipedia,

It is widely thought that Lady Green Sleeves was a promiscuous young woman and perhaps a prostitute.[2] At the time, the word “green” had sexual connotations, most notably in the phrase “a green gown”, a reference to the way that grass stains might be seen on a lady’s dress if she had made love outside.[3]

Ah, connections. It’s funny how you can start nosing around and before long, you’ve stumbled onto what you were looking for. The name of a really well-known tune, supposedly written way back when for Anne Boleyn, turns up all over the place and even rhymes with a concept being obliterated in real time. That’s perseverance. What is it we are doing? What’s the key? Well, Sun Ra claimed he was from Saturn.

“Isness of the was” indeed.