4th WG: "Nostalgia of Freedom"

The fourth Berlin-WG took place on 10 December 2019 in Kreuzberg.

Can the Berlin promise of freedom still be kept today? What does freedom mean to you? And how can individual freedom thinking be reconciled with the common good? Seven participants in Kräuterlimo, Craft Beer and Guacamole-Häppchen discussed this with Joab Nist (founder of the blog „Notes of Berlin“) .

Who's in the flat on December 10th?

  • Martin, PR consultant; plus-size model; influencer from Mitte: 
    "My heart beats for this city and I can't imagine living anywhere else."
  • Anastasija, commercial business guide from Moabit:
    "There is a community for everything in Berlin. You can do everything here".
  • Viktoria (Viki), QA Test Coordinator from Charlottenburg: 
    "I want to share my experience and like to hear different opinions and stories from other people".​​​​​​​
  • Manuela, writer from Prenzlauer Berg:
    "I am interested in the exchange with other creative people - especially about our city and our time.​​​​​​​"
  • Sven, online editor from Oberschöneweide:
    "As a Wessi I would probably never have landed in Berlin without freedom after the fall of communism."
  • Elke, initiator and 1st chairman of Silbernetz e.V. from Wedding:
    "Berlin for me is freedom of choice. I can live here quite stuffy or quite internationally - that inspires me."​​​​​​​
  • Lukasz, communication and graphic designer from Reinickendorf
    "I like the exchange of opinions with very different people in Berlin.​​​​​​​

What was discussed at the WG table?

Freedom can mean something completely different for each person, depending on their origin and personal experience. Not everyone associates freedom first and foremost with the big picture, with our democratic system. Freedom can express itself just as well in small things, in personal lifestyles. How many nuances freedom has, why freedom is an issue especially in Berlin and what dark sides freedom can have in a society - an exciting exchange developed between the WG residents on these questions.

"What does Berlin stand for?" Joab wanted to know from everyone. While Sven described his adopted country as a "village metropolis", Martin chose the image of a trench coat to describe it: "Casual and practical, you can wear it openly when you're in the mood. If you're not, you'll be able to fold up your collar and be left alone by the city." He appreciates this change of dynamics and constants.

Elke added: "For me, Berlin is freedom of choice", and thus led well to the topic. Elke lives in Wedding in a house with 28 different nations from four continents - and loves this mixture. The 75-year-old also sees the opportunity to deal with so many different cultures right on her own doorstep as a freedom.

Many other small examples from everyday life would speak in favour of freedom of choice, the other guests agreed. No matter whether yoga on the bikini house, a 20 kilometre race through the Grunewald or the organisation of a charity run - "there are always a few noses to join in", said Anastasija, who came to Germany from Russia with her parents as a child.

What contributes to the personal sense of freedom?

The topics of diversity and tolerance, which contribute to their sense of freedom, were of great importance to all WG residents. In his Bavarian homeland, freedom consisted of drawer A and drawer B, reported Martin, who now lives in Mitte with "Husband No. 2". In the past, great attention was paid to what the neighbours said. In Berlin, on the other hand, people can walk around as they please and move around more freely. There are these many "could-options" here, which he appreciates very much, even if he doesn't perceive them all himself.

"The bigger the city, the greater the tolerance," summarized Manuela, who lives as a writer in Prenzlauer Berg. Berlin's many nightlife offers were perceived by all participants as part of their personal freedom, including the missing curfew.

Lukasz, who comes from Poland, mentioned other practical advantages of the capital that give him a feeling of freedom: "It is the many possibilities of locomotion. And the bus doesn't always arrive 30 minutes late.

"Do you take more liberties here than anywhere else?"

With this question Joab opened a discussion about the dark side of freedom in a big city. Sven, who comes from a village in West Germany, remarked that the bicycle rules were only rarely heeded here. Second row parking was also an annoying Berlin phenomenon.

"Freedom is one thing - neglect and ruthlessness another," Anastasija affirmed. Unfortunately, the anonymity of the city also contributes to this. And for some years now, as a woman, she has no longer felt safe at night in all places, for example at Alexanderplatz. "There used to be rules of the game in the city, not everyone knows them anymore." Lukasz added: "Some unfortunately often demand more freedom for themselves than they give themselves.

Viktoria therefore also called a "combination of freedom and rule" an important factor for the right balance. The 26-year-old comes from the Ukraine, lives in Moabit and works as an IT specialist in Mitte. As a result, she regularly comes into direct contact with a particularly precious good of freedom: demonstrations in the political centre of Berlin. While others then complained about traffic obstructions, she remained calm. "If you give yourself the opportunity to be free, you also give others the opportunity to be free - in their own way.

"Why is Berlin especially associated with freedom?"

With this question, Joab drew the attention of the audience to the history of the city. It was the fall of the Berlin Wall that primarily connected the capital with the fall of the Wall and thus with the idea of freedom, said Sven.

Anastasija emphasized the special "Berlin spirit of freedom": "It was never the politicians, it was always the Berliners themselves who shaped the freedom of their city - therefore the city will survive every politician and every party. This very special history of freedom, which also included the fall of the Berlin Wall, was ahead of all other cities.

The current development of the city - keywords such as mad rents and gentrification - is worrying many participants. "Berlin is splitting," Elke stated. "Not everyone can afford every district any more. Old people in particular are affected. She recalled the celebration of the "100 Years of Greater Berlin" event in 2020. In 1920, Berlin suddenly became the second largest metropolis in the world after New York as a result of the merger of tens of small cities, communities and districts. A vision of the future as big as that of the past is also necessary today, Elke said: "We need a vision of how we want to shape the next 100 years.

This evening has provided enough inspiration for such a vision. Joab summarized the contributions of the participants once again: "Freedom means peace, tolerance, but also consideration and binding rules", before he closed the round with the popular Neukölln toast "Freedom, free beer & peace".

We thank all participants for the lively and inspiring exchange.

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