PATHOS Penpal Project
Deutsch-Amerikanischer Briefaustausch zwischen Antigone Akgün (DE) und John L. Peacock (USA)
Im Rahmen der Reihe «King Kong und die weissen Frauen»
sorry for the late reply. I was sick the last week. No Covid. But still something that was combined with heavy fever and made the darkness of November even darker.
You had asked what is going on in Germany right now. I do not know exactly. Maybe impatience? Maybe ignorance? Maybe recklessness? In any case, I have the feeling that politically surreal opinions have increased enormously in recent weeks. A lot of people are protesting (without face masks) against the government’s efforts to get the pandemic under control. Instead, these people prefer to believe in conspiracy myths, compare our democracy to a dictatorship, and what is even worse: they dare to compare themselves and their nationalistic, racist attitudes to resistance fighters like Anne Frank and Sophie Scholl.
How a historical consciousness can get so confused, how perpetrators can portray themselves as victims… I don’t think even Adorno had foreseen this when he warned not to let history repeat itself.
What really worries me is that there are more and more people who let discriminatory thoughts in their heads and out of their mouths and doubt the greatness of democracy. I mean, I still feel pretty okay in my little theatre-bubble, where intersectionality is still a topic.
Whereby, let’s be clear: Intersectionality is being debated in this theatre-bubble, by many people with a lot of openness and I am very happy about that. Nevertheless, there is eternal discussion and little action. And after many minutes, hours and years of debate, I often still see how big eyes looking at me questioningly: „Antigone, you as a person of color, do you know, how we can become more diverse? Huh, it is sooooo difficult, you know?!?“
When I look at the actions, I don’t really know anymore whether we want to become more diverse, or whether it’s not more convenient to buy intersectionality temporarily in order to be trendy, but not to open the holy high culture to new influences forever.
Nevertheless: if I briefly lean my head out of this bubble, I see how suddenly unthinkable attitudes have become socially acceptable again. One no longer complains by saying “ one will be allowed to say that“ (a very German phrase by the way), one just says what he/she wants.
I am curious to see where this behavior will lead. No, actually, I do not want it to lead anywhere. What it needs is real resistance. People like us, who stand up for democratic values, should leave their safe spaces and take up space so that inhumanity and obnoxiousness no longer have a stage. Of course, I also understand that many people feel insecure and want to wait at home for better days (although you can also stand up for humanity from home!).
Today I was in a shopping mall for the first time. A dystopian spectacle: on the one hand there are hardly any people in the streets (except of the protesting groups), on the other hand people are trying to buy something in the stores to feel at least a little bit of entertaining happiness. And soon it will be Christmas. Strange Christmas.
Did I ever tell you that I especially like the Christmas-pre-season or Advent? This time of year, when everything is brightly lit, people smile more friendly, gestures mean something and not just bureaucracy. Well, maybe that’s just in my head. Or a cliché that I’ve been listening to on Frank Sinatra’s playlist since the end of October.
I bought a few things today, too. Little presents. For me. I felt very strange doing this. And then I noticed that I hardly did anything for myself this year. No wellness. No treatment. Instead, I have worked very intensively and of course I am very grateful for that and know what a great privilege I enjoyed in these difficult times, to be constantly involved in different projects. But sometimes I also wondered if work wasn’t an excuse for me not to have to deal with reality. If work was the drug that made me stop dealing with myself and the world.
Anyways, I will find out, now in December, when I have a little more time with myself. I am really looking forward to that.
How are you doing? Did you enjoy the black week? Haha, little joke. I’m looking forward to hearing your news!
Read you soon,
all the best,
First, and very much foremost, I hope that you have well recovered from your ailment. I assume most people who heard of your being sick had to ask…this seems to be a common symptom of the pandemic’s side effects on the mind, emotional wellbeing, and general psyche of the societies ravaged by is. I mean, I would have thought to ask the same question had you not given that caveat.
I suppose it is not surprising to hear of the “anti-maskers” (our word for them out here, is there an equivalent in Germany?) protesting about governmental actions to curb the spread of the virus and to work towards a post-pandemic world with the fewest casualties possible. I’m not surprised, but am sad to hear our tale of that lot happening elsewhere. In America our anti-masker protestors cry of it being “Un-American” and an impediment of our “freedom.” America loves our freedom; even as a group led by our current President discusses destroying Democracy by challenging our election to try to eliminate legal votes to keep him in power, they do so with the song of freedom on their lips.
And trust me, the irony of even my own circle of friends and myself discussing how the Electoral College could change the outcome of the vote back in 2016 under the guise of “he didn’t win the popular vote” and, “He’s an incompetent baboon and isn’t this what the Electoral College was set up to do?? To be a failsafe against an accidental election of an incompetent baboon?!” is very much not lost on me today. I get it now, that to want a Democracy to sustain itself we have to live with the consequences of the rules of that Democracy, and the votes that others make even if we KNOW they’re making the wrong decision…we have to live with each other, with pluralism, with diversity in order for Democracy to continue…to want homogony is to want dictatorship and oppression (for all who don’t homogenize).
America seems to be finally opening its eyes to the conversation of intersectionality on a societal, country-wide scale, and even we intellectuals who studied the marches and speeches of the Civil Rights Movement are looking around and seeing the system of white supremacy imbedded in the very fabric and history of our country and culture, and we white ones (like myself) are aghast at how stupid and how willingly blind we’ve been this whole time. Yeah, I get wanting to ask a person of color what I should do to “make it better,” I understand those doe eyes cocked in your direction, but I don’t understand why so many escalate that instinct brought on by fear and uncertainty into action of leaning on others hoping they can be our crutch, savior, and diligent parent (“Good job you,” the parent says,” helping to eliminate racism. Now go make your bed before catching the school bus.” And we sit back and feel good about ourselves.) Very early on I started to understand how personally offensive that can be, how much of a copout that is, and how we who have had the white privilege we’ve had for so long need to figure out how to crush it to the ground on our own. We made the bed, we lied in it for hundreds, thousands of years, now we need to burn it the fuck down and figure a better way to live life together. Pluralism. That’s what I dig about Democracy. It not only allows for that, but, when the people are allowed to see it for its beauty, and when they don’t let their ego vote for them (“they want what I have…that means I get less…boo……….”), Democracy celebrates pluralism and the ethos of building each other up. Which is to say that I believe you and I would agree on a lot of things surrounding this issue.
My partner and I got our advent calendar today! Funny coincidence. We decorated with our little fake tree, something we’ve shoved into the closet every January for five years and running, and listened to a little Frank’s Christmas and others. I like Johnny Cash’s Christmas album, the one he does with his wife June Carter and family. It’s silly at times, but has a lovely family feel to it that has already helped with this holiday season where I won’t get to visit any of my family. No in-person shopping for me, yet, and I’m not even sure if the famous Union Square Christmas Market over in Manhattan is open this year, but I hope to get into the City to see some of the beautiful decorations they do each year.
I hope the season is a good one for you, that you have time for yourself but are able to connect with others in some way. I hope next year will bring more of an understanding of the major differences our societies are struggling with, and that we are able to come together with theatre, art, and unity once again. I look forward to your next letter, to hearing about your recovery and about what is your vision of next year.
Until then, Be Well,
Jon L Peacock