Remembering

On the 1. September 1939,  seventy-eight years ago, WW II began. I remember the day like yesterday. There was nobody in my family then as old as I am now. Had there been such a person, this person would have been born in 1857; a number that was as ancient to me then as must now be the year 1939 to the present generation of children and teenagers.

The Nazi Government of Germany started the whole thing and it turned out to be a disaster for the world, and the Germans were on the wrong side of history.

Even a neutral observer today can see that it was wrong to start that war. It was a war of aggression and as such reprehensible. The people are never asked whether they want such a war.

When my wife and I demonstrated against the Iraqi War at a peaceful rally in Sydney the participants were called ‘the mob’ by our warmongering Prime Minister. Nobody behaved like ‘The Mob’ there. As far as I could see they were all respectable human beings. They were just sick of the rhetoric of the Western leaders.

Today’s generation knows nothing about WW II and not much about the Iraqi War. It was started by US President George W Bush and it became the cause of the terrorism we are battling today. There was never a Nuremberg War Tribunal for Bush, Blair and Howard. Come to think of it, Nuremberg would be the right place for a permanent War Criminal Tribunal.

Now I am an old man. Recollections of my life are floating in and out of my memory. So many people are now dead who I once knew. There must have been hundreds. Those people were once real to me like the people that are part of my life now. My maternal grandparents were the first to pass away. Where did they go?  Children would go straight to heaven if they died, I was told. But where did the older people go when they died? Apparently, they went to the cemetery which we visited regularly. Later, on such a visit to the cemetery, we children discovered a children’s grave adorned by an angel figurine. Another illusion was destroyed.

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My maternal grandparents in 1922 on the occasion of my parent’s engagement

The day my Opa died I looked up to the sky for a sign that he had arrived in heaven. But it all looked too ordinary; puffs of white clouds moved across the blue sky. Perhaps the air was clearer than usual. Was that the sign I was looking for? Granddad was actually my first body I was allowed to see. All was so quiet as his body lay on a bed. The adults were whispering as if they were afraid he could hear them.

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We lived in the ground floor apartment (right in the corner) and my grandparents above us on the first floor. The boy in the picture is our Great-Grandson Lucas during our visit to Berlin in 2016. Lucas is standing in the same spot my Grandfather walked over five generations before.

During the war, I saw enough bodies to fill half a cemetery. They did not look as peaceful as I remember my Granddad. Some bodies looked grotesque and would not have wished their mothers to have seen them in their final agony.

One of the most memorable experiences in this regard was the death of a seven-year-old girl who was run over by a tram. I knew her from my way to school and I wrote a partly fictional account of the day of that tragic event. I only saw her tiny legs sticking out from underneath a blanket a kindly person had thrown over her.

I  think, I wanted to write something differently when I started this post but it seems my memories took me on an unexpected path. That is one of the characteristics of remembering, one can drift, dreamlike, from one memory to another.

Despite everything, I sort of like my memories. I always tell myself there was nothing traumatic because nobody made a fuss about it. We always got on with it. Memories have shaped and formed us into the persons we are today. But we will take them to our graves and this seems to be a pity. Why can’t we end up sitting on a cloud and remembering things? We would have a lot of time doing it.

Three years ago we went to the theatre in Sydney and saw Maxim Gorki’s “Children of the Sun“. I had completely forgotten about it and can’t even remember it after FaceBook reminded me of it. Apparently, we had a nice day in Sydney and my wife even published a post on her blog about it. Regrettably, she did not write anything about the play.

I know what the play is all about and realise we are all “Children of the Sun” in Western societies. We are all blind to the realities that surround us. When Gorki wrote his play in prison, he had enough foreboding of the time ahead; just waiting around the corner was the WW I.  I have now the same foreboding of the future that awaits my grand- and great-grandchildren.

Similarly, written a few years earlier, was H.G. Wells “The Time Machine”. He even looked further ahead. Today,  we live “Eloi” like and could not care much for the wage-slaves in China, Bangladesh or Indonesia. Our beliefs in a technologically advanced future, in which “AI” will help us to survive, will only create our own “Morlocks” in our own image.

Today arrived the news as to how the political and financial elite is cheating on their tax liabilities. It is so disgusting as they are treating us all like mugs. They are mocking the multitude and their laughter of derision can be heard as they count their ill-gotten billions. The late Australian billionaire Frank Packer was ridiculing and challenging the questioners at a parliamentary inquiry by stating he would be a mug paying any more tax than he needs to. Indeed, the logic cannot be challenged but the tax laws could be changed. This proves tax laws are made to favour the rich and to disfavour the rest of us.

But is has been like this all through the centuries. The contemporary, political elite has learnt the lesson and they know now how to delay, but unable to avert,  the day of the reckoning for a while yet. But the revolution will come and it will be as horrible as any revolution before. We are literally dancing on a volcano and the climate change is making sure it is getting even hotter.

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said in a conflict between reason and will, “will” will always win.  So, the prospect that mankind can solve its conflicts and problems in a “reasonable” manner, is pretty slim. We are stumbling from crisis to crisis and keep dancing until we fall flat on our faces.

I wish I could be more optimistic but the experience of my life does not allow this. There are good and reasonable people among us but they are not running the show. Barack Obama is such a person but when he entered the Oval Office to start his presidency and said, “Yes, I can!”,  all his advisors shouted in unison, “No, you can’t!” He had high hopes and expressed it in this way,

“Hope is not blind optimism. It’s not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It’s not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it. Hope is the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by the men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.”

I wish I could share his optimism.

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This baby vine leaf is full of hope. It does not, and will never, know that it is only part of a process.

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Cystoscopy

Wouldn’t that title suit a movie? It would promote a mystery and a bit of drama.

The date and time for the “production” were set weeks ago and I was invited to provide the setting for the production, namely my bladder.

As sometimes is in movie making, the setting becomes the star of the film, as, for instance, a film set in Paris or Berlin can be.  And so it was with my bladder. A bladder is not so exciting as Paris or Berlin but it is to me as the doctors hold out the prospect of ripping it out of me.

I had a cystoscopy done before. It was done at a doctor’s surgery without much fuss.    A competent nurse inserted a catheter into my urethra and then the doctor inserted a camera into my bladder. I was invited to watch it all on a screen. “There is cancer”, he exclaimed as if he had discovered a new small-sized planet. I didn’t see anything,  it all looked uninteresting to me. That was it. They let me go home to nurse my manly pride.

Not this time. It was to be big, bigger than “Ben Hur” apparently. “You have to fast from midnight,” they said, “and you need an anaesthetic,” they added. I did not understand. It is hospital procedure and they added that I have to have someone to drive me home. I can go by bus, Oh no, you can’t.

I became angrier and angrier and called the whole thing off. It did not take long and another female person, more friendly, rang me back and explained why an anaesthetic was necessary this time. Now we know I had cancer and if it looks like it could be back they would take a biopsy. If I cancel the procedure I would lose my place in the queue and it could take months before I could be treated again. Reconsider! I did.

I had my evening meal at seven pm and was allowed to eat and drink up to midnight. But when I went to sleep at eleven I did not feel like a meal.

Next morning I took the bus, accompanied by my wife for moral support. We were early and waited in the visitor’s lounge until the appointed time.

When I fronted the reception desk I was instructed to sit down and wait for the nurse. It wouldn’t take long I was assured. As any actor would be able to tell you, movie making is actually very, very boring. There are long waiting times between takes and the setting up of the set

On a big wall TV screen, we were informed that the hospital performed many procedures that day and ten were of a urological nature, just like me.  In the meantime, ambulances brought emergency cases to the ward which meant I had to wait longer. After about an hour one nurse came to invite me into the inner sanctuary. My hope that it was soon my turn was quashed quickly. She put some stockings on me and questioned me in regard to my persona. Having established that I really was the one I claimed to be I was duly tagged with two tags, wrist and ankle. “It won’t be long,” she promised.

It was back to the waiting room in which a silly TV receiver showed constantly ads in which they inserted snippets of news. My stomach began to rumble. Seventeen hours had passed since my last food and drink. The TV started to show an old American movie. How did I know it was an old movie? The people did not use a cell phone (mobile phone) and nobody stared at a smartphone. They were actually talking to each other.

My bladder is not the only part of my body that gives me cause to worry and to consider my future here on Earth. For instance, if I sit for long I have problems walking, my right leg becomes almost useless.  So, from time to time I have to get up and pace like a panther in the zoo up and down the waiting room. By doing this I can be sure I can actually walk into the ward for my procedure and not collapse because of my immobile right leg.

The silly movie made way for more ads with some news reports inserted.  In the waiting room beside us was only one other lady. She too complained about the long waiting time and she too had nothing eaten since the previous night. Hungry people are not patient people. They are getting angrier with each rumble of the stomach.

During my walks around the ward, I saw a poster on the wall inviting us to give the ward manager a call when you have any concern before, during or after the procedure. In times long gone by, those managers were called Head Sisters or Matrons but in today’s modern times everything has to be managed. I was wondering how anybody under an anaesthetic could call the manager during the procedure? But anyway, I was still before the procedure and gave her a ring because the lady at the reception desk had long gone home. My case needed to be managed.

The manager was surprised to hear from me when I explained that there were still two patients waiting for their procedures. She promised to come out and “look into it”.  I would say they had forgotten us.

When she came out, she wanted to know who I was. She explained that they have been rather busy and had worked their way down the list and it so happened that they had reached us on their list. The lady patient and I  should come in now and we would be  taken care of. Finally!

I must tell you here that I wasn’t so keen on the anaesthetic in the first place, plus I was silly enough to watch the night before a hospital drama in which a patient died during an operation because of a haemorrhaging brain tumour.

Instead of getting an early mark the crew in the operation theatre still had to look through a peephole into my bladder and take pretty pictures of what they saw. And if what they saw was not to their liking a biopsy had to be taken.

The man who prepared me for my anaesthetic was delighted to see the back of my hand looked like “a map of Papua New Guinea”. The veins were sticking out like a river system in a rainforest. There was no need to search for a place were to stick in the cannula.

I started to remember an operation I had when I was nine years of age. I was so afraid of the anaesthetic that I screamed like hell. I wanted to get off the table and run away. But the staff tied me down with leather belts on all of my four limbs. I was naked and it was freezing cold. There was a war going on, the enemy was only 100km away and American and British bombers were pounding our city day and night at any time of their liking.

A sister put a gauze over my face on which droplets of ether was trickled. “Count to hundred and back again,” I was instructed. I was so scared then and did not expect to survive. It all went well but would a nine-year-old expect that?

Back to the future. While the anaesthetic tried to shut down my senses I was heard myself saying, “I feel I’m getting drowsy…”.  This time I was not scared only concerned and then nothing…

When one is unconscious time does not exist. I could have been dead or died during the procedure. I would never have known. But suddenly,  a sweet, angelic voice was saying, “Peter, it is all over.” That is what the voice said but it was not what I actually heard. I heard, “Peter, it is ALL over!”

That could only mean one thing, I was dead. When I opened my eyes I found I was still in the operating theatre and the nurses prepared me to take me to recovery.  There they took a few measurements like pulse and blood pressure.  All seemed to be okay and they offered me some hot tea and sandwiches. This was very welcome after fasting for twenty-three hours.

A young resident doctor by the name of Shaun turned up and told me that he had indeed found a new cancer in my bladder and he had removed it. The biopsy would also show whether they got it all out and the surrounding tissue was free of cancer.

While I was munching on my sandwiches my wife and daughter were suddenly standing beside my bed. I was satisfied that my story had a happy end and soon we were on the way home. We practically had been eight hours in the hospital.

I think, being alive is a good substitute for being in “heaven”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Russia House” and the “Dutch Cafe”

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Last Monday we,  my wife Uta (also known as Aunty Uta) and I,  went to Bulli Beach for a cup of coffee. We had to kill some time as we waited for the doctor to start work. We were early.

Uta wanted to relax with a book she brought along. She loves books written by Andrew M. Greeley and this one, “The Bishop in the West Wing” seemed especially of interest to her.  Greeley is called ‘author and priest’ but I can tell you, he is not your common garden variety priest. His novels are always political, as seems to be right for a man with an Irish background. While Uta was delving into her book I decided on a little stroll as I can’t sit for long. Movement is the best for my ageing and aching legs.

The above picture does not show Bulli Beach (on the Illawarra Coast of NSW) but the neighbouring Sandon Point Beach. Along the shoreline runs Blackall Street. New, modern houses have sprung up there over the years and replaced many of the old houses that I remember from more than fifty years ago; many have disappeared or were altered beyond recognition.

During the sixties, I worked with another German from Berlin beautifying the old houses there. This kind of work brought us in contact with so many people of different walks of life.  For instance, migrants who still had to come to grips with the cultural shock they had suffered after coming to Australia. Australian men did not like us “New-Australians” but the women did.  Meeting us those women found out, that men actually were able to talk and converse with women as that. We often had great conversations with them during our lunch breaks. They always supplied us with cups of tea and ‘bikkies’ as is the Australian way.

Here at Sandon Point’s Blackall Street, we struck migrants who had made Australia their home after World War Two and all the destruction and replacement that went with it. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean surely must have been a kind of paradise for them.

First, we worked on a cottage that belonged to a Dutch family. They were older than we were and could have been our parents. They were from a region in the Netherlands that was close to the border to Germany and they were able to talk in German to us. They preferred that to speaking English.

We were able to establish an instant rapport with them, even though, we were on opposite sites during the war.  They were so friendly that they provided coffee and cake every afternoon. We were sitting and talking about the war and Australia. We dubbed the place “The Dutch Cafe”. We learned, during our conversations with them,  that the husband of the Dutch couple used to be a truck driver during the war and was on tour to Berlin on many occasions. He also worked for the Dutch resistance and had to spy and report on what he saw in Germany. It was a dangerous mission.

They put us in contact with another lady who lived down the road from them. We were able to do the same work on her house as well. The lady was from Russia but was of German descent. She was much older than the Dutch people but they had taken an interest in her and her wellbeing.

While working on her house she was telling us about her life in Russia and the Soviet Union. She had experienced the Russian Revolution and had no good word about it. Her German family were decried as capitalists as they were in the habit of painting their fences. The old lady cried a little as she told us her family history. On a table, I saw a photo of her husband, as a young man, standing in the Red Square of Moscow. The view of the Kremlin was in stark contrast to the view from her tiny upstairs window towards the ocean. We nicknamed her home “Russia House”.

 

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This is the view from Russia House today

When we left her premises, she gave us a piece of advice, probably born out of her own bitter experience, never to trust a Russian. Some of my followers will know, from reading some of my previous posts, that I had to trust Russians to survive.

Walking along Blackall Street I could not help noticing the changes and gentrification of the street. Where would the families of the former Dutch and Russian families be today? We all have moved on, some of us have gone back to eternity and we ourselves are waiting to move there.

But, I’m not in a hurry yet, despite dreaming last night that on a visit to my doctor he informed me, that he had bad news for me; the government would like to let me know that I would depart to the hereafter soon.

I still want to write a few more posts for this blog.

 

 

 

 

Encounter at the Shot Tower

It was noisy. People were rushing to and fro.

The trains were arriving at the underground station and were disgorging people who were searching for relief from the oppressive heat of the train carriages. They could surely find air-conditioned comfort in the shopping paradise that is Melbourne Central.

In the main hall, topped by a glass dome, is an old brick building adorned with a tower; it was Coop’s Shot Tower.

Mick was in Melbourne for the first time and was surprised that there wasn’t any clock in the tower.  He was not aware of the historical purpose of the tower and looked up the tower again and again as if by a miracle a clock would have appeared. He felt it would have added some old fashioned atmosphere to the place.

Instead, some enterprising soul had the idea to install an oversized pocket watch on the wall opposite the tower.

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Every hour a section was lowered out of the clock with cockatoos on it dancing to the tune of Waltzing Matilda, played by a boy figurine.

Melbournians took no notice but children and tourists were delighted when the clock struck the full hour. Mick took a seat in one of the cafés.  He expected to meet a woman he had befriended on a chat site on the internet.  After a few weeks chatting they decided it was time to meet. They agreed that the giant pocket watch at Melbourne Central, of which they had heard about, would be a suitable, neutral place to meet.

At 12 o’clock the birds were dancing and the sound of the song about the jolly jumbuck and the thief had filled the hall. Some Japanese girls were giggling and taking pictures of the great event. But there had been no sign of Pam, the lady from the net. Mick checked the time unconsciously on his watch and ordered a second cup of coffee. After a while, there was a sudden voice coming from behind him.

‘You must be Mick?’ Surprised, Mick jumped up, turned and offered Pam his hand.

‘Pleased to meet you,’ he said truthfully as he was pleasantly surprised that Pam looked more attractive in the flesh than on the pictures of the single site.

‘Sorry, I’m late,’ Pam said with a shrug, ‘I forgot that the trains  are not running in reverse through the City Loop yet.’

‘What a lame excuse,’ Mick thought as he was unaware of one of Melbourne’s biggest sacrosanct anomalies. But, he did not dare say so aloud. It would poison the new relationship.

‘It is a lively place,’  Pam said, looking around. ‘Being not so familiar with Melbourne, I haven’t been here before. And look at this big pocket watch above us?’

‘It plays Waltzing Matilda on the hour. Sorry, you missed that.’

‘I don’t believe you,’ she thought incredulous, but she did not say anything either as she wanted to go on with what they had started. They ordered coffee. It was Micks’s third cup this morning and he felt his heart racing already.

Pam started to rummage in her bag and finally pulled out a book and showed it to him.

‘This Rumi guy, we were chatting about him, is very interesting. I think we are all on the path to the truth. In fact, in the end, the truth is awaiting us.’

‘Indeed! Isn’t that the truth?’ Mick said with a faint smile.

They decided to have lunch together and Mike was happy that he had finally met Pam.

 

 

 

 

 

In Berlin on a Hot Day

On our trip to Berlin in June last year,  we had the opportunity to vote for the federal election at the Australian Embassy in the centre of Berlin.

In Berlin, you can find statues of the Berlin emblem, the Berlin Bear, everywhere in all different disguises. We even found one inside the embassy.

 

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The Berlin Bear greets little Aussie Lucas at the Australian embassy.

But there was a kangaroo too. It looked a bit on the “dry” side in a Berlin court yard.

 

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“Skippy” the Bush-Kangaroo hiding in a backyard in Berlin on a diplomatic mission

In the next picture, you see indeed some Aussies marking the ballot papers. The children thought we went there for a scribble session and Lucas wanted to have a pencil and a piece of paper too.  This is election Australian style. The voting papers are not marked in secret nor are there any cabins where you can hide what you are doing.

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It was a very hot day in Berlin, actually 33°C. So we felt quite at home and what better idea than heading for the water. We did a river cruise.

 

 

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One of the modern buildings replacing the infamous Wall.

Remnants of the Wall can be seen nearby.

 

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Parts of the old Wall has been transformed into an outdoor gallery.

Not far away up-river is the beautiful Oberbaum Bridge. You can see another Berlin anomaly where the underground train is actually an elevated train.

 

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A castle-like structure over which the, here elevated, yellow underground train traverses.

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At the Technical Museum, the elevated train crosses the Landwehrkanal meeting a plane that used to be part of the air-bridge during the “Blockade” of 1948 / 49

 

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The office of the Chancellery as seen from the River Spree. From here Frau Merkel runs the country.

The river cruise took us right through the centre of Berlin.

 

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This is the Central Railway Station. Trains are pulling in from all directions of the compass. The East/West trains are above the ground and the North / South trains are under ground.

 

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This is the Parliament building the centre of the German democracy.

 

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The “Ganymed” Restaurant and the theatre of the world famous “Berlin Ensemble” to the right of it.

 

The “Ganymed” was once owned by a member of my wife’s family. Because of the closeness to the theatre, it attracted members of the cast and crews after the show.

 

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The ‘Berlin Cathedral at the Pleasure Garden.

At the end of the 3-hour cruise, we were all exhausted and when we arrived at the train station we found this sign:

 

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Train has been cancelled

It wasn’t as bad as it sounds because in Berlin the trains run every few minutes and every station is well stocked with food and drinks of all description. As we were parched we were able to buy some bottled water.

 

It was a memorable day

 

 

 

 

Our Identities in the 21st Century

We all have heard of the famous pronouncement Samuel Johnson was supposed to have made, that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

What then is the meaning of the statement President Trump made in the front of the Capitol when he made his inaugural speech?

“It’s time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget that                              whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots.”

Apparently, he wanted to remind his fellow Americans that they were all patriots and they should put America first.

The same is happening here in Australia. Our Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull asked new citizens if they seek, “to join our Australian family to join us as Australian Patriots – committed to the values that define us, committed to the values that unite us.”

So, is Trump now one of Samuel Johnson’s scoundrels? Or is he just pulling America back from its international role to its traditional isolationist position?

Being a patriot and “our values” in all their forms has a lot to do with our identity. Where does that identity come from?  Our identity more likely comes from our culture and language. This identity is formed by the things that surround us, our family, our neighbourhood, our landscape, the country that is formed by the borders that define the nation, religion, climate etc.

Along come the politicians and ask us to be patriots and defend those national borders. There is no doubt our identity gives us at times comfort and security. At other times it gives us anxiety and we cringe when we are asked, in the name of patriotism, to defend something that does not feel right.

If our language is the framework for our identity then what if we are bilingual and have learnt to love another culture other than the culture of our upbringing? Scientists say our brain is rewired by a second language. Are we then less patriotic? Or can we ask the other way around, are we tied to the circumstance of our upbringing?

Towards the end of the 20th century Europeans, for instance, have grown less nationalistic and have embraced a common European cultural upbringing. Shock horror then when the English people living in other EU countries felt horrified about the negative Brexit vote. They felt more European than British and thousands want to apply for German citizenship as soon as they can. A European identity seems to take over from the old national identities. Suddenly those Britons feel the old border was being re-erected where there wasn’t any anymore. Suddenly the drawbridge is pulled back in and the English Channel becomes a moat again.

For a couple of generations, borders seemed to disappear or at least they became meaningless. Does that mean we were all losing our identities? I have the feeling national borders, often artificial constructs anyway, are not necessarily the cause of our identity.

As the population mix here in Australia changes due to immigration there is a discussion whether we belong to the West or whether we are Asian now. Asian countries become suspicious of us as we are not sufficiently Asian. They are asking whether the old colonial powers have left a Trojan Horse in their backyard. Clearly, their identity tells them we are of a different identity of which they have to be wary.

I’m sure, over the years we will, here in Australia,  develop a new identity. Most of the values our Prime Minister speaks about are universal ones anyway and they are easy to understand.

Who am I then? German or Australian? A bit of both? Or am I already forming a new identity? My two languages give me the opportunity to roam the literature of two cultures, albeit they are not too different. It is said that thinking in two languages is like having two souls. It can be very stressful to have “two souls in one’s breast”! Especially when one’s loyalties are being tested one way or another.

In my opinion questioning the policies of our government is not disloyalty at all. It is the opposite! It shows commitment to a better society. They like to speak about fairness but their policies are anything but. My Australian identity is sufficiently challenged by policies that favour the rich and discriminate against the poor.

Is my anger the reflection of some sort of identity? And if our identities are changing over time who will we be in this and the next century? And if ever there is a threat from outer space, will we discover that we have a universal identity here on Earth? It seems an identity is only apparent with an opposing identity.

I think we should ditch all those different identities and declare that we belong to the same humanity in a borderless, global society where we are all siblings of the same family under the natural guidance of Mother Earth.

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My dear Followers…

 

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Mount Keira

…you are probably wondering what this old man in “Downunder” is up to?

“Why don’t he write? (is one of my favourite lines from the film ‘Dances with Wolves’)”

Yes, why haven’t I written for a few months?  I’m busy coping with life. I am active but everything takes longer nowadays. On top of it, the medical profession has taken up a big chunk of my precious time. They ponder the question of how they can prolong, or extent,  my life. “Prolong” sound negative, doesn’t it? I’m sure I want my life to go on a bit longer.

The photo on the top was taken during one of my two recent stays in hospital at Wollongong, NSW. It is a picture of Mount Keira.  A small hill, compared to all the big mountains in the world. But since it raises 464meters from practical sea level it is dominating the city. It is part of the Illawarra Escarpment.

 

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The coastal plain as seen from Mt Keira

 

And this is part of the view from the top of Mount Keira. It is breathtaking.

The region in which we live, the Illawarra, is as beautiful as it gets. Less than 100 km south of Sydney.  It is almost unknown by the Sydneysiders. They rather go north on their weekends or vacations. And if they go south they bypass the region on the motorway.

During February we had downpour after downpour, resulting in local flooding in local areas. A boy, only thirteen years old, drowned in a creek. He was being swept away in the deluge while riding a boogie board with about twenty other children. That is what children do. When I was that age I played with my friends in the ruins of Berlin after the war. That too was a dangerous pastime. Luckily, nothing serious happened to me and I’m here to tell the story.

We live in a world of unprecedented uncertainty. I know, life was always uncertain but what we have now is on a scale that is simply frightening. People have lost trust in their system of government. And governments have lost trust in their voters.

Much of the uncertainty and the fear it creates is the result of modern communications. The global village is today’s reality and not only a thought bubble emanating from  Marshall McLuhan’s brain.

For me, a frightening world is still an interesting world. It is an opportunity to learn. We are conscious beings, who are forced to learn or we won’t survive. We are craving “input”  like the robot “Johnny 5” in the 1986 film “Short Circuit”. The problem with the majority of us is, that we are craving junk input too. To know what to learn and what not to learn then becomes the question.

At this stage of my life, I have to learn to deal with what my doctor announced with a stern face, “You have a tumour! You know, a tumour?” Yes, I heard him the first time. This is my reality now.

After a couple of invasive procedures and a six weeks treatment regime, I am free to spend my time in a more or less unstructured way. We, Aunty Uta and I, had time to go and see a couple of movies. The outstanding one was “Frantz” a French- German coproduction. It is an anti-war movie par excellence. It is shot mainly in black and white to express the mood of the time in 1919.  Occasionally, the colour appears at some beautiful moments in the story. There is only one very short scene of what actually happened during a battle. Perhaps it was necessary to show why the main protagonist acted in the way he did. War not only kills people but messes with the lives of the survivors too.

Today,  I’m happy to report that France and Germany are the best of friends. And this after hundreds of years of fighting each other. This gives raise to some sort of optimism as those two European nations, having seen the past, understand that the only way forward is through cooperation.  The British on the other hand have pulled up the bridges and wallow in their insularity.

Last month was my birthday. The 82nd no less. I took my wife to downtown Wollongong and we had a cheese platter in a roof top restaurant. The sun shone and warmed us on the outside and the cheese and wine on the inside. We were in a life-affirming mood and were reflecting on our sixty years of marriage.

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We had a great time and wished us both a long life together.

I hope, I will write another post soon.