This seems as good a time as any to bow out. In fact, maybe there’s no better time at all.
Berlin is almost certainly about to get its first CDU-led government since 2001 (the year after I moved to Berlin, when I paid 400 Deutschmarks for a flat in Wrangelkiez). What more is there to add, as the racism-laced clouds of Christian Democracy gather over the city? (Again.) It’s pretty depressing that Mayor-in-waiting Kai Wegner won the February election with a campaign that deliberately awakened the darkest prejudices of Berlin’s suburb-dwellers about the threats posed by Berlin’s Muslim communities.
Have you noticed how new things keep happening and yet nothing ever changes?
I’m decrepit now, and I can’t remember when I started writing this column exactly [Ed: we can, it was October 2006], but it was definitely up and running in 2010, when an ex-Berlin finance minister called Thilo Sarrazin published a bestseller called Germany Abolishes Itself, which argued that Muslims were threatening Germany’s greatness by existing here and selling fruit. Why did he do that? Who knows, he must have got bored of selling off the city’s affordable social housing to property developers. He was a Social Democrat, by the way.
Kai Wegner won the election with a campaign that deliberately awakened the darkest prejudices of Berlin’s suburb-dwellers
Then, 13 wearying years of politics later, naughty kids threw fireworks on New Year’s Eve, and Wegner’s CDU demanded that the police release their first names because the public (i.e. white people) need to check whether they sound Muslim or not. It wasn’t exactly politics of vision and hope, but hey, it worked, because racism nearly always works: the CDU extended its lead over the SPD and the Greens in the polls. Nothing focuses the minds of voters who live nowhere near Neukölln like being told that this place poses a threat to their safety because the police are famously just too nice to brown people.
What else am I tired of? Hmm… Oh yeah: Wegner’s CDU – not even in office yet – has already suggested there should be a new referendum about building housing on Tempelhofer Feld. Back in 2014, about halfway through my stint in these pages, there was a referendum in which 64 percent of people ensured that there would be a law protecting the former airfield as a park and nature reserve. Well, we’ll soon change that, said Wegner earlier in March. Why should those Green-voting sex-party-people inside the ring have all that lovely grass to recover from their hangovers in? There’s money to be made from that field.
I’m decrepit now, and I can’t remember when I started writing this column exactly
“BUT Berlin needs to build, build, build!” people say. That will cure the housing crisis – obviously. Sure, build all you like, but it won’t bring down your rent. If building new buildings brought down rent, no company would ever do it. Property prices in major cities aren’t surging because apartments are in short supply; they’re surging because property has been systematically turned into a vehicle for accumulating wealth. That is the point. A random fact just popped into my head: 80 percent of the CDU’s publicly-recorded donations come from the real estate sector (hey, they’ve got to spend your un-capped rent on something).
So it is time for me to leave. Like I said, I’m tired. I’m going to lie down on the last patch of grass that’s left.