Berlin is a safe city, by American standards. I’ve never felt particularly threatened here; even Kotbusser Tor, the corner/U-bahn station that until recently served as the city’s recognized open-air drug market, never felt anything like as threatening as walking in various streets in San Francisco late at night. Race violence is an issue in some neighborhoods, but even this is relatively minor.
What Berlin does is fires. Cars, for the most part, often as many as one a night. It’s a kind of sport for the left wing, what they call autonomous left groups. While not exactly supporting this, I’ve had a hard time feeling sorry for people who have had their Mercedes or BMWs burned in the middle of the night here. This isn’t a particularly supportable reaction — a childish one, even, and easy for me as I don’t depend on a car for a job, to drive a child to school, etc. — but people who have their Mercedes or Audis burned in a city that offers such excellent public transportation haven’t drawn any tears. There’s insurance, and it’s a message not to get too attached to things.
The last few weeks has seen a sharp climb in the number of cars burned, in part related to “Action Weeks,” a several-week long protest against gentrification in the city. The police have recorded 27 cars burned in the first two weeks of June. But Tuesday night was something a bit different — the arsonists attacked a company that primarily delivers food to schools, preschools and senior citizens’ homes, burning the delivery trucks in the yard in the middle of the night.
A mistake? According to the article, the company is viewed by the autonomous groups as “providing help to asylum seekers” — another variation on the left/right political divide that makes me scratch my head. I’m used to right-wingers being anti-immigrant; but I suppose the save-our-jobs anti-capitalist left might swing into this kind of racism as well.
Of course it’s possible that the company burned the trucks itself. For the insurance, or some other less transparent reason. It might not have been related to Action Weeks. But if so: WTH? I am sympathetic to arguments focusing on the rapaciousness and ammorality of modern financial capitalism; the moral arguments of classical (not black-block) anarchism, if not its psychological acuity, resonate deeply with me. I have no patience for false ideologues who attack services for the elderly.