Berlin is basically a conservative town. Obviously if you’re going to live in Germany there’s no other sane choice, but underneath the expanding colony of scruffy cafes full of young, vibrant people doing bad performance art and drinking Club Mate, we Berliners, like Germans everywhere, want everything to stay as it is. We’re like children who prefer their bedrooms messy.
Luckily, unlike Stuttgart, whose mild-mannered bourgeoisie had to spend months fighting like crazed dogs to slow down their city’s major transport infrastructure project, Berlin has a spectacularly incompetent government that exactly suits our fundamental laziness.
As the last two decades of fanciful airport plans ticked by, we knew that we could stay in bed, complacently pondering our next spoken word gig (“Should I do it with a DJ accompaniment?”), safe in the knowledge that Klaus Wowereit and his sparkling-wine-swilling cabinet will do their piss-up-in-a-brewery routine so long that their latest piece of vainglory will never see the light of day, or at least not for a while yet. I mean, that’s why we voted for him three times – because he’s a benign buffoon who won’t get anything done. He’s the mayor that Berlin wants.
In the past few days, much of the media has been talking about how Berlin is an “embarrassment” for Germany. According to Bild , Wowereit’s personal inability to build an airport has made the rest of the world look at us, “and laugh itself hoarse.”
Der Spiegel, meanwhile, wrote a piece accusing Wowereit of ducking the blame for the fiasco, and slamming our affable mayor for squeezing his official statement/apology to the Berlin parliament between a cocktail party and a trip to Paris – “instead of dropping everything and finding out what went wrong.” Now even Green party leader Jürgen Trittin wants him to resign.
Well yes, I suppose they’ve got a point. Alright, Wowereit was on the board responsible for the project… yah de yah de yah.
But really, let’s face it; we don’t actually give a shit, for all Bild‘s bluster that “Berliners’ trust is exhausted.” Mine isn’t. I’m actually quite glad that for one more summer, I’ll be snuggling up to that rancid old Schönefeld Easyjet counter like a duvet that hasn’t been washed for a month because it smells so comfortingly of my own body. I was put out enough when they built the covered walkway on the path from the S-Bahn station.
And all that talk about incomplete fire safety systems, sprinklers being used by hand (“like in the Middle Ages!” spluttered Bild melodramatically, as if medieval Europe had anything resembling a sprinkler) and glitches with the baggage retrieval system – none of that is real.
Those are merely the symptoms of an underlying psychological cause: Berlin’s subconscious yearning for everything to be like in the old days, when cinema tickets were cheaper, porn was harder to get and people didn’t fly here all the time in great big airplanes. Perhaps Berlin wasn’t held enough as a baby, or maybe it got chased by a dog as a toddler, but one thing is for sure, the city is secretly hoping that if those builders delay long enough, maybe they’ll forget the whole thing.