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Beats Against Racism: Sarcasm Meets Criticism

Burnt down "House of the 28 doors "at Oranienplatz.  PHOTO: dpa.

Racism. Modernism. Criticism. Imperialism. Alcoholism. Activism. Liberalism. Egoism. Hipsterism. Who decides which of these “isms” we encounter in our lives, and who tells us how to handle them? It seems that it all depends on our individual “ism”, perhaps your individualism. But doesn't individualism already imply a kind of egoism that is embedded in our individuality and identity? Are these “isms” likely to be ordered in a causal chain where one necessarily leads to another, and doesn't exist without the other, stuck together in a web of mental catastrophes and avoidance?

At the Beats Against Racism demonstration and concert on 18 April at Oranienplatz, one could identify several “isms” carried by individuals on stage as well as in the audience; from anti-capitalism to anti-fascism, to an attempt at cosmopolitanism. From three o´clock in the afternoon until ten that night, bands played and speeches were given, both by individuals speaking for the first time and some who were old hands. Seemingly, they had all gathered for the same reason: to protest against the intensification of the asylum law and for the unconditional right to stay.

The line, “Say it loud, say it clear: refugees are welcome here!” was sung over and over again, creating an atmosphere of endlessness, as if we were speaking with the “ism” of our ideal and ignoring the reason for our coming. The awareness and interest in the topic of escape, and the frustration towards German and European politics in dealing with it, was mirrored in the mass of at least ten thousand people who attended the event, as well as the (sadly) much smaller number who passionately went on to demonstrate afterwards.

Our perception was sometimes blinded by emotions through speeches and music, which led to the odd dance to Peter Fox´s Der letzte Tag (The last day). His appearance was followed by a sea of question marks on people´s faces. But, apart from those already enriched by wealth and social equality, there were bands who actually made the effort to make a political statement before they started playing, or whose songs contained the topic of refugees, injustice and unity. Groups like Antinational Embassy, Carmel Zoum and the magical last act of Irie Révoltés, supported by fireworks in the background, created such a mixed but merry picture of Oranienplatz. This could not have been more of a contrast to the images from between 2012 and 2014, when the square served as a refugee camp, and where demonstrations against asylum laws were already taking place.

The refugee camp in Kreuzberg, Berlin, resulted in a Berlin- - or let´s say - Germany-wide discussion of moral beliefs depending on the “isms” that different people subscribe to. This particular discourse was vividly discussed by the duo Zugezogen Maskulin (Newcomer Masculine) who, founded in 2010, brilliantly shared their criticism of the political and social discourse at the Beats against Racism demonstration. The two members of Zugezogen Maskulin, aka Testo and Grim104, are already known for their critique of a certain individualism where people just follow trends to define themselves or others, or prize their egoism not only over others but over humanity.

Should I buy my trainers from Nike or Adidas? These are the problems I face while you are on a nice little boat trip. (Zugezogen Maskulin, Oranienplatz)

Statements like this are found in great numbers within the young duo´s lyrics, where they criticise the status of consumption in a modern and seemingly enlightened city like Berlin while people drown in the Mediterranean Sea. But where the enlightenment towards certain discourses and worldly topics arrived from seems to be questionable. Shouting their songs through a megaphone, Zugezogen Maskulin become part of the enlightenment, particularly for younger generations, recalling moments like the one where activist, Napuli Langa, sat in a tree at Oranienplatz for five days to protest, and the ensuing media and political focus. However, some still seem blasé when it comes to other people´s problems. Especially if the German citizen is the one who has to pay for a dilemma taking place outside of their environment. Through the use of sarcasm and loud shouting, these essential issues are articulated by the rap duo:
 Rolled up in a rose-decorated blanket that´s how you've been chilling the past three days in a sycamore tree Oranienplatz, fenced in and guarded and all that from my taxes, thank you Frank, well done! (Zugezogen Maskulin, Oranienplatz)

The song Oranienplatz was energetically performed by the group on 18 April and, with its theme, fantastically mirrored the zeitgeist of Berlin as well as German, European and global issues. The sensitisation and the awareness of the problems the world faces, and will face, even after the fireworks fall to the ground and the butts have been picked up, should be carried around and we should try to manifest it in our lives. It does not matter whether you're a hipster or whatever you would call yourself in this respect, and it does not help to criticise all of it either.

The critique of hipsters cannot replace the hipsters of critique. (Zugezogen Maskulin, Agenturensohn). We shouldn't fight individualism and, therefore, neither our own individuality nor someone else's. We should make up our minds about which of these “isms” to ignore and which to value. Get into them or simply take bits and transform them while seeing and acting through the lens of our individualism. It is for us to decide which of these “isms” we adopt and which we should try to follow - or try to forget. Maybe in a web of criticism there develops a causal chain that could actually allow us to advance. Whether you roll up your trousers or not.

Sources for lyrics and info:

By Maleen Schwinger

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