And the beat goes on…

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(picture not my own)

One rainy saturday afternoon, she was walking through town, to feed her eyes and mind with  images of life.

To escape the routine of waking early and going to work day in and day out.  Not that she did not get to mingle with people, the bus and subway rides, gave her plenty of things to think about, but she wanted to see people out and about with a happy purpose:  Teenagers spending their pocket money going shopping, ladies out with their girlfriends for coffee, couples  spending quality time and the singles, lonely and the elderly out in an attempt to fill the void, rubbing elbows with life

Smiling happy people…saturdays in town always had an atmosphere of excitement and festivity, no matter the season.  This week the theme was Gourmet.  White sheds had been put up and the top restaurants of the region sent their best chefs and staff to entice the  curious and hungry with their chef d’oeuvre.  Fine champagne and wines were offered, the sidewalks filled with tables, decked out with fine linens and fantastic flower arrangements, people seated and standing tasting the prepared morsels, while the cooks preened in their starched aprons and chef’s caps sweated and labored over their portable ovens.  Little girls holding their loop sided  plates with colorful deserts under the watchful eyes of their mothers and fathers, little boys  sitting properly between their grandpas and grandmas…all this, and the wonderful smells filled her with happiness.

She kept on walking through the trough of people, engrossed in their saturday activities until she came to a street corner, where a musician had sat up shop. A little old amp and his guitar case open to collect the coins.  Coldplay’s Fix you  sent goose bumps up her arms and she remained there, engrossed in the notes and the passion coming from this man.  People walking by, started to gather, giving themselves up to the sound just like her…with an appreciation for his skills.  Young couples with their arms around each other,  with love in their eyes, swaying gently to the sounds of Hallelujah, she could see the tears forming in the eyes of the women and the men reaching for the hands of their wives and girlfriends, as her own tears started to build up and she felt herself filling with a longing to reach out for a shoulder to lean on…alas, there was no one there.  When the song finished and the next one started, there was a crowd…she turned and watched the couple who had been holding hands, suddenly start to dance to With or without you, surrendering to the desire and  kissing like teenagers, demonstrating their long relationship in front of all these strangers….a shudder ran through her.  She walked on…

Coming around the corner, a group of young women, dressed in purple wings and pulling a pretty white hand cart, filled with champagne flutes and chocolates, passed her with their blissful laughter, on their way to celebrate the bachelorette’s last night..

She walked  on home alone to the sound of the beat that goes on! 

…plenty of fish in the sea?

...plenty of fish in the sea?

Great companions:

2 pounds boneless fish fillets or steaks,

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Juice of 1 large lemon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 pound onions, cut in half lengthwise and then sliced thinly across the grain

2 large garlic cloves, minced or puréed

1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes with juice (in summer use 2 pounds grated or peeled seeded ripe tomatoes)

1/8 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon tomato paste dissolved in 1/4 cup water

1/2 cup dry white wine or red wine

Leaves from 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

1. Pat the fish dry and season to taste with salt and pepper. Oil one or two baking dishes large enough to accommodate the fish in one layer. Lay the fish in the dish and pour on the lemon juice. Refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the onions. Cook, stirring often, until they have softened and begun to color slightly, 8 to 10 minutes. Add a generous pinch of salt and the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Stir in the tomatoes, sugar, paprika, cinnamon, dissolved tomato paste, wine, half the parsley and more salt and pepper to taste and bring to a simmer. Simmer uncovered, stirring often, until the sauce has cooked down a bit and is very fragrant, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour over the fish. Sprinkle on the remaining parsley.

Serve with: chilled Ouzo, or Greek white wine
PERFECT “Ersatz” vacation!

Cascading…

Cascading...

A kind heart is a fountain of gladness, making everything in its vicinity freshen into smiles.

Washington Irving 1783 – 1859, American author, essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat.

Ripples

Ripples

It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.
Robert Francis Kennedy – U.S. attorney general and adviser, 1925-1968

Unfortunate truths

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(Picture not my own)

 

 

There is a stark difference between the inconvenient truth and self-reassuring lies…

We are all part of this, conflict- if I may call it that.  Day in and day out we all witness injustice, inequality, discrimination, favoritism and abuse, to varying degrees and we turn away.  Because it does not concern us!

On the streets, on the job, in the neighborhood, mass transport – it is everywhere!  Most of us know the naked truth when we see it, it has  been taught to us in the home and in the schools, our circle of friends and yet, most of us turn the other way.  Because it does not concern us!

Our religions give us moral guidelines, which are interpreted freely by all, but hardly anyone lives by the philosophies.  In practice everything looks different and solutions are ambiguous…everyone claims their right to construct their walls as they see fit.

We sit on the bus with the bum, with his bags of collected recycling bottles in his tattered clothes, smelly and grimy and we turn away, disgusted – because it does not concern us…maybe momentarily we wonder HOW this happened, but we quickly sit in judgement of his odor and appearance and his desperate need to collect bottles from the garbage cans of the city…and we don’t ask, we turn away.

We see bullying at our schools and mobbing in the work force, we acoustically observe the  abuse going on behind the closed doors of our neighbors,  we all personally know someone who has been stalked, we gawk at our T.V. screens and witness crimes being carried out in the name of freedom and democracy while the camera is rolling, we endorse vast amounts of money spent on super constructions while the population needs schools, insurance and hospitals…and we do nothing, cause it does not concern us!

Misery, disease and power struggles born on the backs of the people in Africa,  thousands die sewing in the factories of Asia under inhuman conditions and we do nothing!  Because it does not concern us!

In America, a trend to return to the stone age is unfolding,  legally taking away the rights for  women to decide about their bodies.  While we do nothing…

We are spied upon, via satellites and by programs which infringe our rights, our privacy is invaded on all levels and we do nothing…

In the midst of Europe, the homeless, the poverty stricken children who have no future and  the  elderly desperately struggling with loneliness, abandoned  and  too poor to live out the last years in dignity and we don’t want to see it, because we don’t want to do anything about it.

We sympathize with abused animals, we weep in synchronicity  to the soap operas on T.V., we are moved by the books we read and participate in virtual causes, because that concerns us?

We have come to point in evolution where we dally in superficialities, elbowing through life, wearing blinders, gobbling GMO popcorn while watching rubbish on our tellies, fattened and heavy with our all consuming little realities…never asking WHY or HOW, when it does not concern our own egos.  Lacking empathy, civil courage and balls…

And there are those who are concerned, whose voices can hardly be made out in the roar of selfishness and apathy…

Would it not be wiser, since there are no guarantees that all this will NEVER concern us, to find a way to stand up and demand an end to all of this?

While we still have time to ask and to question and to ACT!

Again and again  Martin Niemöller’s poem “First the came for the…” rings in my ears…

All this concerns us!  All this can and could be you or me…

Indifference,  bigotry and hatred concerns us all!

There still is time…isn’t there?

Yours truly,

a concerned person! 

Bigotry at the Playground

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(picture not my own)

I posted this the other day in German.  It is something that my dear friend experienced.

  It is too important not to share in English.

 

LOTTEBLOGGT@WORDPESS.COM

 

Chanel

Gervinuspark, Essen-Frohnhausen:

For some time a group of Roma and Sinti have discovered for themselves, the benches and meadow of this park. As soon as the weather is good, they flock in droves of family associations and settle there. They stand and sit around gesticulating loudly, listen to music, eat and drink and leave a huge pile of garbage every day. Once again the City ordinance hotline was called!  They are no longer allowed to barbeque there, but this does not diminish their joy, nor does it detract from their meetings.

Older people who sit year in and year out on the benches in the summer, feel robbed of “their place” and disturbed by the deprived families aggressive tone, which is set also by the “gypsy kids” on the playground.  A discussion with their parents is difficult, not only because of communication difficulties, but also because a very high potential for violence prevails.

Yes, there is a problem.

On the playground now are the “educated” and “German white trash, -the uneducated, uncouth and poor which in recent years have led a kind of guerrilla war about whether smoking is allowed in the sandbox, slush ice-cream is harmful  and how to communicate with each other and with the children, in order to stand in a united front against the “pack”.

This is also a problem.

When I went again today with my daughter after a long time to the playground, I sat a little off with my study materials, I was watching the kids play in between, it happened: 
The “Gypsy children” came. And as always, they had no toys. As always, bursting with curiosity – which is understandable when you get yelled at and beaten half the day – they would also love to have a bucket and a shovel. And it must be bad for them, if you receive and are met with – no matter where you go – disgust and negative expectations. But they sat and stood only next to the other children. They just wanted to play.

All parents froze. They were waiting for something to happen. Some parents collected their children straight away from the sandbox, the rest were eyeing the action with eagle eyes to “protect” their own offspring in the case of the case.  And of course, something happened – all children quarrel – one was pelted with sand. It was something “typical  for children.  The dispute started out of a nullity, which should be treated as a typical, and the “gypsy child” only reacted.

The mother ran to the scene of the incident and shouted:  Enough is enough! Strike back Justin! We can no longer put up with this here! This is our playground! I want you to defend yourself reasonably!  If you cannot behave yourself, go to where ever you came from, you gypsy brat, you have no business being here anyway!  Another incident and I will get rough!  Lowlife shit! “

I could not stand it. 

I went to her and asked:  What is all this, have you lost your senses?

The Mother replied:  Stay out of it. Someone here must put a stop to the gypsies.

Me:   They are children! 

The Mother:  I do not give a damn. I do not want my son playing with them!  

Me:  And I do not want my daughter to experience something so anti-social here.

She:   Are you saying that I am anti-social?

Me:   Yeah!

She:   I think something is about to happen here.

Me:    Yes. I think so.

She:   You just do not know yet what’s going on here.

Me:    Yes, I do.

She:   No, you don’t.  The gypsy children beat my son the other day.

Me:    Which kids?

She:   The fucking gypsy children.

Me:    You mean these kids here?

She:   It does not matter!  Any of the fucking gypsy children.

Me:    I want YOU out of here immediately!

She:   No. We will not leave our playground. They leave!

Me:    No. You!

The mother calls over to all the other parents:  “So this is what it has come to already. This lunatic here, is on the side of the Gypsies.  Justin and I do not go.  Now finally speak up! You guys all share my opinion.”

The parents are there.  Rank and file, the doctors, the construction workers, the cashiers stand next to the social workers, the Hartz VI receiver alongside the journalists, their former “enemies”.  No one says anything.

I say:  I want you to comment on it now.

A mother says:  Yes … but it can’t continue like this here.

A murmur of agreement from all the others.

One of the “gypsy girls” comes to me and says:  My name is Chanel. We are here for the first time today.  My brother has done nothing. This boy threw sand in his eyes.  I’m afraid!

I’m scared, too.  And I feel despair, and a boundless rage.  I have the feeling that something terrible is happening.  In the middle of a playground!  In the midst of children!  A situation which we are not able to cope with is developing!  Something that the parents next to me, and those over there on the benches – who are fortunately too engaged with their food and their music, who have heard and noticed none of all this –  is coming to a head!  At least it did not happen today.

 

I say:  What just happened here, is racism. Something that can lead to something gruesome. Something we all should know about.  I am ashamed. I’m ashamed of us all. And I’ll stay here with these kids.

The mother goes to the other parents. Wild discussions.  Then I hear no more. In my head, it is roaring. As Chanel and her brother start to play – with the sand toys my daughter shares with them – I need to gather up all my strength not to cry. For two hours. When everyone else is gone, they are still playing. And I’m sitting next to them.

I do not know how to proceed…

What the flock?

What the flock?

I believe that everything happens for a reason.
People change, so that you can learn to let go.
Things go wrong, so that you appreciate them when they’re right.
You believe lies, so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself.
And sometimes good things fall apart, so better things can fall together.

Marilyn Monroe, 1926-1962
American actress, model, singer and major sex symbol

Bark-ing up the wrong tree

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My cousin’s wife, who works for the city, is receiving a social network platform training session.  For me that is equal to “learning” how to spy on those that you call “customers” too.

Where I can understand the governments’ will and efforts to curb abuse of the social benefit system, I am certain that those who absolutely abuse the system, will continue to corrupt the bureaucracy and the innocent at heart, will have theirs broken in more than one place.

The social support in this country is almost equal to none on this planet.  Where after a few reforms, it has been made difficult(but not impossible) to exploit the structure, the abusers with their boldness, continue to thrive- the meek and really needy, loiter in limbo-because of their shame and helplessness…things do and did not change for the better,

 

Speaking about the financial aid the city or government offers in support of or as a measure to constructively help its citizens to stand on their own two feet(funded by tax-payers), I am currently witnessing first hand how such “well intended strategies” fail to pan out in reality and should be considered squander.
For example, the city pays for a further education with a certificate from the local Chamber of Commerce. This paper alone should make it easier to obtain a job, as it shows not only theoretical but also practical qualifications. A great deal of planning and heart must have gone into the logistics of such courses, obviously developed by skilled, qualified and well seasoned professionals. Accepted by the employment office and granted at will to those who show interest or are deemed “fit”. So far, so good.
Where the theoretical part of the course is more than just valuable information, the practical part for many may not be such a positive experience. As unpaid labor, one has the possibilities and opportunities to observe how book-knowledge is implemented. For seven weeks and 40 hours a week, one can collect experiences and build up applied know-how.
Trainees, in serious businesses are somewhat burdensome, because of the efforts that have to be made in order to transfer knowledge by experienced staff, to guide, educate and foster. Many companies have programs and staff for just this purpose. They would never operate on a “throw them into the sea and let them swim” motto, cause the mistakes that are made early on, could cost the business its reputation and of course, cash(especially in the service oriented industry, word of mouth travels very fast). Those companies stand apart in more than one way. Taking on a trainee means, they are investing in a prospective employee. The wages and benefits they offer are fair and the chances for advancement both career-wise and financially, depend entirely on the ambitions of the people. The whole package enables them to leave their dependance on the state social benefits behind.

But the probability of such an ideal road of redemption is slim. Especially for the single mothers and the “elderly’ women. The former faces not only the dilemma of having to leave her child/ren while she works, but also the challenges of every day life, for which she alone, is responsible. Having single mother written on your C.V. instantaneously makes her an undesirable for every employer. Given the vast possibilities of childhood illnesses that have to be surpassed, she can not find employment where she chooses and that at the same time makes her the victim of exploitation for businesses which specialize in the lowest wages and conditions. While she works purely out of financial distress, because the aid she receives barely suffices for the minimums of life, she usually remains a sitting target. At the mercy of the State and the ethics of the economy, because she will hardly ever earn enough to escape the social aid, she subsides with her child/ren along the poverty line.
The latter – Women of a certain age, who out of changed life circumstances are forced to rejoin the labor pool, are faced with similar problems. They do not have small children to look after, but many of them don’t possess any marketable skills and are also equally marked by companies which use just this fact to their own advantage. These women are looking at a retirement future in which, without the support of the government and even with it, they are living a hand-to-mouth-existence.
It isn’t enough that women in the work force receive a whopping 23% less in wages than men! It isn’t enough that they bear children, the future tax payers of the economy. Nor that they literally work much more and much harder than men! No, it is not enough! Cause in the end, they are punished for raising children and not working towards a pension fund, or for that matter working to pay into a retirement pool at subsistence level.
Such programs developed by the State, proposed and passed as laws or reforms by our politicians, are what the Germans call WELTFREMD – quixotic. Tax payers money is wasted, in idealistic ideas that do not measure up to reality. But that is just money, money is just paper…but real people suffer the consequences!
Which brings me back to my title:

Barking up the wrong tree!
Which means…. to make the wrong choice; to ask the wrong person; to follow the wrong course.