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


Many people associate that date with Columbus, the year he returned with 17 ships and the multi-century salvation massacre of indigenous North Americans commenced. We don’t know our own history and this creates all sorts of cognitive dissonance and other cultural blockages not at all unrelated to sustainable issues. We recognize who we are in what we’ve done – we identify ourselves with wars and conquests in ways that most, if not all, of those more malign events happen of their own volition and/or the hand of destiny – we just don’t know who or what is responsible for those. That our popular entertainments mostly exacerbate this self-re-certification in terms of all we know as good and true, and hence lead to indictments of culture and entertainments, are crimes which appear to be their own punishments.

And if it’s too early in the week for you to follow that kind of Calvinist logic, remember: the best way to discover anything to be willing to find out.

Take it from a no good coward, an American, too. (A North American, that is).