„Brand-new residential building on the corner of Johanniterstrasse and Brachvogelstrasse in Kreuzberg – deep frustration caused by gentrification of the Kiez and the enormous rise in local rents makes itself felt again.“ –kreuzberged.com (Facebook), Nov. 7, 2015
I’d say throwing paint bombs at facades is a relatively moderate form of expressing frustration. One could trivialize such actions as senseless vandalism or as just being artsy-fartsy. At worst, it could be the start of an escalation process based on hate and envy. In September 2014 in Kreuzberg, temper tantrums escalated with windows of inhabited apartment buildings being smashed and cars and busses being randomly torched, with little regard for human life.
I’m not certain, but it could be a German thing (Schadenfreude?) to burn accommodations, dwellings, residential buildings, etc. In the media one reads the “reasoning” behind those attacks is somehow political, or just being “concerned”. But here, one must differentiate with utmost intellectual tact. Not all dwelling structures are equal; the differences may be based on law and politics, or reflect the economic circumstances of their future inhabitants. In the latter case, I’d really hate to think about the confused feelings of a Syrian doctor – who in the future may have reached a comfortable position in life – and those apprehensions of his/her family if their new home were to be attacked, torched: Are we no longer welcome? Are these and other neighbors – the inhabitants of entire buildings – being told in not uncertain terms to move out? Should they anticipate further violence? The German Justice Minister, Heiko Maas (SPD), an untainted moral instance in German politics, twittered, “all citizens should oppose violent action.“
But, it must be frustrating for self-proclaimed activists who – despite Herr Maas’ moral sermon – try desperately to differentiate between good and bad buildings, good and bad people, while minimizing collateral damage. In my neighborhood, I have spoken with persons whose cars had been set on fire. One was an artist, who drives to a northern of Berlin to teach under-privileged children; another car owner was a building custodian who sweeps the stairs of residential buildings. Must these people realize that there are higher ideals than their pitiful existences? I also know several families – some of whom are recent immigrants – who have purchased newly built apartments. It may be surprising for some Kreuzbergers, but there are people who have jobs, families, pay taxes …and may even come from countries where home ownership is standard fare and when possible, choose not to pay monthly rent.
In Berlin neighborhoods there are those skeptics who may cause an outsider to ponder: who are the vandals, the arsonists, the haters? One hears they could be Leftists, Neo-Nazis or even Mormons. There is no proof, only conjecture. Therefore, the allusion to “deep frustration caused by gentrification” is a mere opinion with no substantiation whatsoever. Therefore, there remains only one option: “all citizens (and politicians) should oppose such violence”.
William Wires, 7. Nov. 2015