Elections everywhere! – Doing Europe at a S-P-E-E-D

Hey, ho. So I’m back in Oslo. Or rather, I take a tiny little break from my holiday in order to finish up some of my projects here that have been lying around most of this summer. Well, so it never ended up being France I went to. Instead, after demonstration against Bush in Copenhagen and visiting my grandmother and going to see my parents and hang around with my other grandmother in Sydslesvig for a few days, I went on to Berlin on “party business”. After visiting both comrades from Solid and high school class mates, I took the bus North towards Copenhagen to visit the Youth of the Enhedslisten, whom I had met during the Bush demonstration, at their summer camp in Viborg (Jutland). Unfortunately the bus was running late, so I stayed at my grand mothers over night before taking the train the next morning. Four days later, I went back to western Zealand only for a single day to celebrate my birthday (25!) with my parents, my sister, and two couples my parents age at the family’s summer house between Slagelse and Kalundborg, before leaving on the evening of my birthday to Copenhagen and taking the overnight bus back to Oslo. Puh! And now it’s all about getting everything fixed here for the next week, before I dip down into North-Central Europe one last time for this summer.

I had actually never been in the party head quarters in Berlin oalthough “KL-Haus” is a term I have known since at least early 1999, as it’s sort of the most central place for the PDS. Especially within the youth, back then it was known for being controlled by some Berlin control freaks that wouldn’t let any of us in the provinces have a say in anything. Back in high school I had conencted a lot with the young activist form McPomm, East Germany’s most northern state, as the state I was from, Schleswig-Holstein, is West-German and like the rest of West Germany utterly anti-communist. Standing downtown day after day in two different cities and driving back in forth through Germany’s geographically largest county with posters for all the small villages in connection with at least three different elections all within in 1.5 years, in connection with being branded a terrorist by most of the older population, made me flight to McPomm quite often. During some periods, I used to go there every single week end.
And now, by 2005, two of my comrades from McPomm have made it to the central in Berlin. And then I have met most of the other central igures over the years at various summer camps, so it didn’t feel that weird when they asked whether I would like to help to plan the summer camp.
But besides them, there were also those class mates from high school. I probably mentioned it before, but they really make out a rather alive community both in Berlin and Copenhagen it seems. Last time I was in Berlin to visit them was two years ago, and I stayed there for two weeks. Despite several of them claiming that they feel that they have very little to do with the Duborg crew in comparison with earlier, they hang around oneanother whenever I see them.
The two groups of Berliners do not seem very compatible – or at least they haven’t met. This time I tried getting them to at least have a basic impression of oneanother, so I took three of the comrades to my the apartment of the guy where I was to spend the night. Now his father is a dentist from Sylt (the rich people’ sisland) which means his parents own his apartment, and my three comrades were — East Germans. Although the meeting only lasted a few minutes while I put down my bags and ask Daniel for directions to a restaurant where we can eat after a long day at the office, I am sure it will be referred to by both parties for many years to come.
But although I am sure they’ll both mostly focus on how different the others were, both groups have a lot in common when it comes to their relationship to the concept of nationality or nationalism. While none of my Sydslesvig friends is quite as politically active as I am, they all have a almost a Luxemburgian view of the national question: nationalist movements are just another way of hiding single groups interests and are to be regarded as highly reactionary. This view originates in their own personal backgrounds as having a trans- or non-national identity in a world where the national affiliation is the main reference point for just about everyone else, but it goes further than that. After a party the first night there, one of them complained about one of the mono-national (German) girls that was there. She had tried to argue that Germans were better composers than Italians, by asking everyone to name ten German and ten Italian composers. “She studies Italian at the university because she claims Italian is more beautiful than French,” my friend complained two nights later, “just like any girl in any German afternoon sitcom.” A student with a non-European who had claimed that there also had been composed music in his country was dismissed by her declaring: “oh I wasn’t talking about folk music.” Folk music doesn’t have a composer that can be pined down, according to her. My friedn is furious, that she hasn’t understood “that the entire distinction is only made by and in the interest of those (red. European composers) that try to distance themselves from folk music.” “Only in Europe have people invented anything, everyone else has just been doing nothing,” my friend paraphrases the logical conclusion of her logic, “some people you just can not help – they have completely bought in to the world view as it was presented to us in school no matter how far out that really is.”
Now my DDR friends have an equally complicated relationship to the concept of the nation. They were born in a country, and socialized into an imagery of a country that now no longer exists. On top of that, they can’t really act as if they are nationals of West Germany, as the high level of unemployment, both in East and West, mean that they are seen as unwanted elements by quite a portion of the west German population. And then many don’t want to be Wessis. Now the younger ones, and especially those that are very politically active, have a quite pragmatic view on the matter, but nevertheless is it something that shows up all the time. When we were to go to my sleep place, the three of them were concerned whether we had gone too far and ended up in West Berlin – not a very popular area amongst them.
But they’re still different, that I must admit: their “minority” is much bigger, and they haven’t lived under the colonial education structure that Denmark has established in Sydslesvig.
Well, after three intensive days in Berlin, I went on to Copenhagen. In the bus I met a guy from Sachsen who was about to visit his sister who had moved to Copenhagen in order to study some kind of business stuff. “I also want to go to Scandinavia”, he explained, “you know they have jobs. (…) Now you can go to the West (red.: Germany), but then you’ll always be the Ossi that is taking the job.” When I was sure that he must have thought that I was East German myself, he asked: “but you are German? Cause you sound like a Norwegian who has learned to speak German.”
Hmm, that thing again, huh? Three few nights earlier one of the Sydslesvig girls’ girlfriends had proclaimed “You are German!”, when I tried to say that I didn’t really have a nation. And two night later one of the Copenhagen activists proclaimed with a similar facial expression “He is Danish!”, when some girls thought they had to pinpoint me to a single nation. At the Danish camp I was a guest for Solid, but my Danish was both signified by Norwegian word order and Norwegian prepositions. But that is a longer story…

Oh well, last night, when telling some of my experiences to one of my non-political Oslo friends, he tried to say that when I am speaking Danish it is really Danish, while when I speak Norwegian, it’s not really Norwegian (or something). Well how can one explain that languages are defined in relation to one another to a mono-national, who will never be in the situation that people will doubt their right to claim ownership in at least one of the nations that has a geographic area connected to it? Luckily the number of days for the mono-nationals should be limited given the current speed of globalization…

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