If you are a photographer, you have read the recent stories about photographers being harassed for taking images on the streets. It seems to be particularly bad in the UK and in the US, here in Austria it’s currently bearable. Remember “524 – For You Blue“? I took that image in a public bath. Granted, I used a small point’n’shoot camera in little more than a plastic bag, thus I may not have looked particularly dangerous, but it could as well have gone severely wrong. I didn’t know then, and I guess in the UK I could have ended up in jail.
As comforting as things still are on this front, the overall climate of hysteria and xenophobia has not spared us. We’ll be having general elections at the end of September, and – as always the last years – the main issue is the invasion of foreigners that we seem to suffer. Seemingly there are only two positions that the parties want to take: open xenophobia and weak defensiveness. Only two small parties, the Green and the newly resurrected Liberals, stand up openly against this kind of populism, but their voices are drowned in the never-ending waves of brain wash that are spewn forth by populist politicians and the yellow press. Tell me, is it really possible that this spiral can only ever go downward???
It wouldn’t take very much to break the circle, would it? Some logic maybe? Well, without people of other nationalities we would not even be able to run this state at all. Not its economy and certainly not its health system. So what?
The Image of the Day, a lonely paper bag standing on the sidewalk, immediately reminded me of the other big hysteria of our times: terrorism! Sure, I did not believe that it contains a bomb, but even the very thought of it is perverse. We had a similar situation in the 1970s with some incidents of terrorism in Austria and especially Germany, but nothing compared to the witch hunt after 9/11.
Please don’t get me wrong. I know what 9/11 meant to people in the US. Basically it was the first act of war on your home turf since Pearl Harbor, and there was a terrible count of victims and so forth, but now just have a look at some statistics on the pages of “Drive and Stay Alive“. In 2001, the number of total road deaths in the USA was 42,196. That’s more than 10 times the victims of the attacks, and these numbers stayed pretty constant over the years. What did the US? In an economically tight situation, they fought the most expensive war of their history, risked their international reputation by using methods of torture, and they didn’t even get Bin Laden. Is that strange?
Well, it’s so easy to criticize the powers when you are not even in a position to make their faults, but what about Europe? We try to keep out of military action (which I think is a good idea), but we blindly follow the American lead when it’s about giving up our rights. CCTV cameras everywhere, total surveillance of all communication, a constant erosion of constitutional rights in the name of God Safety, we have all that. And, guess what, in Austria, as a small country, we had only about 1000 road deaths in 2001 and were down to approximately 700 in 2007, but we had ZERO victims of terrorism since the one or two in the 1970s. Try to divide that: gives quite a ratio!
What can I do? Certainly vote against xenophobia and populism, for freedom and rationalism, for democracy ultimately. Stand up, raise my voice. Gosh, it’s so little, sometimes I’d like to despair.
Have you ever read Albert Camus’ “The Plague“? If not, well, if I would have to recommend one single book, none more, a book to learn by heart and to literally become the book, just like in Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451“, then I would certainly choose “The Plague” for its central message, that it is our damn job to carry on regardless.
Sorry for the overall depressive tone. It has to be said at times.