The Promised Land

Arab Berlin. Sonnenallee, December 2015.

The grass is always greener on the other side. As far as truisms go, there’s not much to argue with. The Promised Land was never promised to anyone, and there’s never enough milk or honey to go around once you get there. Yet, faith in the idea that the foreign is always better remains a constant. Just ask the million plus refugees from the Middle East that arrived in Germany last year.

The fact of the matter is that despite the mixed welcome they received, they weren’t entirely wrong. Nor are the millions of refugees and immigrants that made their way from Europe to the Americas, and Israel, before them, only to be met by racism and economic hardship. Compared to what they were leaving – war and genocide – the big picture was always  better. The details were always something to be negotiated later.

It’s those next level struggles that often get illuminated in Berlin immigrant neighborhoods like Neukölln, which historically have served as home for radicals and activists, as much as they have catered to new arrivals from Turkey, Lebanon and Syria. Hence, the juxtaposition of the two photographs in this article – an Arab dairy truck, on the Sonnenalee, just before New Year’s Eve, and anti-authoritarian flyers, below.

As alien as they seem, both describe different facets of the same Germany – one which, on a base level, is a refuge from war and tragedy. But, also the Germany of the twentieth century, of the Communist and Nazi periods, and of neoliberalism, as well.

Neukölln, December 2015.

Are you sure? (L)

Are you sure that armed and uniformed patrols march through the streets for your protection? That their presence, the normalisation of controls and surveillance make your life safer and free?

Are you sure that you need someone to tell you what you should or should not do, when and what to be afraid of or what is good or bad for you?

Are you sure that you want that someone coming up with conflicts for you to solve, so people are more easily moved by force, threats and punishment?

Are you sure that the relationships between people, as well as their conflicts, rules, commands, and limitations on social and financial positions should be governed?

Unsure now?

For where our lives are controlled and determined by others and where our individual choice is exploited, then our freedom is sold off.

Where wealth and a “peaceful” life are gained through the shitty situation and the suffering of others, we are sure that:

There is no life in freedom without a revolt against this system, against these conditions, against any authority and against any control!


We are against prisons and any form of society that needs them!

Undeniably, there are many forms of (in)justice. The most dominant form is the one that is defined and executed by the rule of law through judicial process and the police. State institutions such as the courts, prisons, army and police are not neutral entities that want to use the “law” to bring about “justice”, as anyone who has ever come into conflict with the law fully knows. The police are usually neither a friend nor a helper, at least not to those of us who do not want to or cannot comply with prevailing values as they are.

The crime has already been committed, if you don’t follow the path set out for you.

The ideology of good and evil, of right and wrong will only be visible after one realises that people are awarded more privileges because of their race, colour, sex or wealth. Thus they have more opportunities to live their lives freely in comparison to people who suffer discrimination, who are underpaid and who are illegal. The ideology of justice is based on exploitation and intimidation, people who do not comply with the realities of life, are overcome. The courts are not neutral places of justice, they support a society that has criminalised the poor and made any other form of justice values and ideas about life impossible. The claim that it is mainly murderers and rapists in prison is not the reality. Most cells are occupied by people whose survival strategies are outside the established order. Many of these people are pushed by that same order into a life of so-called “crime”. If I cannot work legally because of my nationality, I have no choice but to work illegally.

People are locked up because they do not have the right ID. This means that the only people that have a right to “justice”, are those relatively high up in society’s echelons. Basically, those people who were born in the “right place” with enough social support, enough money and a “normal” sexual orientation.

Everyone else who refuses to be categorised like this is disciplined, in many institutions such as school, university, work, etc. Ultimately, they are reeducated and locked up in prisons, which akin to social isolation and destruction. If these pressures are insufficient, then anything from subtle threats to the painfully noticeable deprivation of freedom are implemented. Then there is the  military, which is designed to be blindly obedient.

Freedom for all prisoners!

(Edited using an extract from a text by the Anarchist Black Cross Vienna)

Translated from the German by Samuel Morgan. Photographs courtesy of Joel Schalit.