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11 January 2016 @ 08:27 pm
In which Sam Tom remembers the world we have lost  
In the early 2000s, I visited Cologne with my mother. It was one of the nicest places I have been in Germany. I have fond memories of the chocolate museum and the great zoo that offered much better conditions for animals that anywhere I have ever been. I loved the architecture and Mrs Lyle loved the beer. The only bad thing that happened was an angry cyclist shouting "Dumme Frau!" at Mrs Lyle for inadvertently walking in a cycle lane (they take those very seriously). I once thought Germany was nice and envisaged maybe living there one day.

So I was particularly disturbed by the mass violence against women that surfaced at the start of this year in Cologne, and as it has transpired despite the attempted cover-up, all over western Germany as well as Finland, Austria, Sweden and Switzerland. (Not to mention ongoing violence in my former country of residence, France, where the horror has reached the level of murder rather than "just" sexual assault and rape.) It has made me seriously rethink large portions of my personal politics. I am musing about it here because I don't think kneejerk Facebook/Twitter reactions are helpful, but I would still like an outlet in written form. If what I say offends anyone, well, that's too bad, don't read me anymore. I am not driven by hate but by dismay at what Europe is coming to. I know I'm not a bigot - it's hard to be one when you've lived in such a diverse city as London and got to know many people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, all different and all individual. So if anyone thinks I am one, I actually don't care because they are wrong. I just think Germany's "open door" policy - admitting anyone claiming to be Syrian, with no background checks - in response to the tragedy in Syria was a terrible decision that has had an awful impact on the whole of Western Europe. I am not against the idea of admitting refugees per se - it's hard not to feel sorry for anyone in that situation - but they have gone about it in a very dangerous way, which seems more about injecting large volumes of working-age men into the labour market than helping the weakest.

The people that I used to align myself with ideologically - feminists, liberals, the Left - have utterly disgusted me in their response to the attacks. Expecting them to condemn a mass assault on innocent women in a straightforward manner, without further political posturing and virtue signalling, was clearly asking too much. I've read a lot of articles about the event in the Guardian, Independent and feminist web pages where the authors clearly feel unable to simply acknowledge that women have suffered and extend compassion. As women have suffered in the Middle East, so now are they suffering here. Yet the online feminist commentators make feeble gestures at condemning generalised "male violence" that must be instantly followed up with assertions that it happens everywhere. Many of the women who day in, day out condemn "rape culture" in the West are strangely silent. Today the Everyday Sexism page on Facebook has a feature about...sexism in Star Wars. Columnists like Penny and Hinscliff make me not want to be a liberal or a feminist any more. I wouldn't call myself right-wing and have never even voted Tory, but I simply cannot align myself with these people now.

It's true, rape happens everywhere (a fact so self-evident, post-Savile, that it's amazing that anyone feels compelled to state it). But 1,000 men setting on women in impunity in a public place in Europe as the police look on powerlessly, then try and pretend it never happened, is new to me. The mayoress of Cologne tells women to remain "at arm's length" from men, and to avoid looking too cheerful, and the Viennese police chief warns women not to go out on their own. Chancellor Merkel says now it's time to get tough; immigrant men must be deported if they offend "time and again". Yet no-one has yet been convicted and it's hard to pin an offence on any one man in this kind of mass attack. Some of those women may find it hard to have a "Happy New Year" again, as they may always remember that night in 2015. But who cares? We've got to protect Schengen, right?

At times like this, I am actually slightly glad I am transgender because I don't know how I would cope as a female-bodied person if I were trying to just live life as an ordinary woman. A century of feminism seems to have achieved nothing when it comes to the crunch. Liberal politicians pay lip service to women's rights as long as they don't contradict the rights of another group. Yet as soon as they do, we see that women are still at the bottom of the pile in society. Literally everyone comes before them. It is fine to sacrifice them on the altar of a borderless Europe, in pursuit of the multicultural dream. They are just meat to our globalist leaders in Western Europe. They are an absence, a hole, not even real people. I'd suspected it previously and now my fears have been confirmed.

I had been thinking about visiting Leipzig this year for a holiday as Jack is keen to go to the Gothic Pogo festival. But now I'm not so sure. I think I'd rather go somewhere nice. It's not that I would personally feel unsafe, but I don't want to encourage the country down the route it's going and there are plenty of less rich countries that could do with the tourism money.
Even androids feel...: depresseddepressed
Pansentient Hegemonyesoteria80 on January 12th, 2016 08:57 pm (UTC)
I wonder if the problem is who (it seems, allegedly, etc) committed these crimes? I think the left would have more to say if it was a massive crowd of German soldiers on leave, for example. The problem here is if you believe in equality for everyone, including women, how do you include in your equality a group who whole-heartedly do not believe in equality of women? Whose equality do you cherish? In this instance, and a lot more lately, it's not women's, which is terrible. That's why there's still articles about sexism in Star Wars, because Star Wars is a nice western tradition "that should know better" so it's easier than asking how far respecting other cultures means excusing abhorrent viewpoints.
Lylesam_tom_sam on January 13th, 2016 12:43 am (UTC)
I am sure that is the case. I think the German establishment is still a hostage to its past, always trying to prove it has overcome racism. Ironically its actions only serve to stoke it.

It is strange to see people who claim to believe in the rights of women and sexual minorities stifle any criticism of societies that really don't treat these groups nicely at all. It's moral relativism on steroids.

But perhaps it's good to revise one's opinions from time to time in life. This whole affair has shown me that concerns like women's rights can't be neatly slotted into a left-right spectrum. I think many on the left would like to take ownership of this issues but they have proved themselves unworthy of doing so, which is why they are complaining so much that 'bigots' (i.e. people who disagree with them) are stealing 'their' concerns.
Joy Silencejoysilence on January 13th, 2016 03:42 pm (UTC)
"The problem here is if you believe in equality for everyone, including women, how do you include in your equality a group who whole-heartedly do not believe in equality of women?"
I think this is especially a problem for left-wing liberals because they seem to feel a bizarre and somewhat arrogant need to come across as totally open-handed and unbiased, like a God, and a duty to treat everyone the same. This something right-wingers just aren't burdened with.

Personally I am very left-wing for a British person but I am not sure how "liberal" I am, if "liberal" means accepting beliefs that are anti-me. I feel left-wingers should just say "You know what? We're NOT 100% impartial, we think sexism is wrong and we're going to oppose anyone who disagrees with that".

Of course, it's not really peoples' beliefs that are the problem here. I don't really have a big problem with people secretly thinking I'm an abomination because I wear trousers, as long as they keep their beliefs to themselves, or are content to sit muttering about me with other idiots of the same persuasion. It's the fact that the Cologne bigots broke the law repeatedly, a law that they knew all about when they entered the country (or learnt about very soon after coming here), that justifies them being deported. And the more lax the government is about rooting out these tossers from the majority of respectable immigrants, the harder it will be for anyone trying to make a new life in Germany. There have already been "retaliation" attacks on innocent immigrants. Well done Cologne.
vieannelylevieannelyle on January 13th, 2016 12:20 pm (UTC)
cologne, less fragrant, more flagrant
Yes, I remember Cologne very well; the cathedral (Dom)just behind the train station, and the square beyond the cathedral, overlooked by impossibly expensive hotels. Mrs Merkel probably regrets her open door policy now, if only because it has provided her political adversaries a stick to beat her with. It looks like Cameron was being canny to announce Britain would take people already in refugee camps in Lebanon/Jordan: those people would have been 'processed', and the ones likely to integrate the best would have been chosen.
The Afghan refugees I helped to learn English about fifteen years ago used to put on meals made from food bought with their food stamps, to say thank you to the group of volunteers who helped them in diverse ways to settle in Exeter. Alas, not all refugees are of the same cloth, they are not all grateful for help. The bullies who attacked the citizens of Cologne and other cities picked on women to express disrespect for cultures which allow women to be out on their own, yes, but mainly because women are perceived to be a softer target than men.
I have known some truly delightful men and women who are Moslems, this isn't about religion, but religion has been hijacked by bullies, so they can use it as a tool of repression, anywhere in the world.
Lyle: Cult Heroessam_tom_sam on January 13th, 2016 02:23 pm (UTC)
No de Cologne
Yes I remember that, I also remember helping the Afghan Miriam downstairs in Peckham. She was very nice and definitely grateful, although some aspects of British life seemed to surprise her, like the fact black and white people mix here. She seemed open to adapting though.

I feel it's a numbers game: a small number of well-disposed people can be integrated perhaps (although really, the liberal establishments of most Western European countries don't seem to encourage this), but large groups of furious men with an overwhelming sense of entitlement aren't good news.

Actually quite a few men were among the crowds being attacked in Cologne but anyone is a 'soft target' when they are surrounded, outnumbered and not used to having to defend themselves.
Joy Silencejoysilence on January 13th, 2016 12:38 pm (UTC)
I'm quite interested to find out exactly who was responsible for these attacks - Syrians, "real" German citizens with appalling beliefs, terrorists, or what - but only in an academic kind of way, because really if they catch any of these people the correct procedure would be to chuck them into a bottomless pit, regardless of where they come from. The whole cover-up was appalling, especially that "code of conduct" thing that mayor was said to be peddling, but if Germany thinks we're going to forget the concentration camps just because they do an energetic "la la la I can't hear you" to bigots today, they are clearly not as logical as one had been led to believe.
Lyle: Ivor Novellosam_tom_sam on January 13th, 2016 02:14 pm (UTC)
Some of the tinfoil hat brigade have been mooting the idea of it being the fault of the "Far Right" but I doubt they'd have gone to that much trouble when Merkel is doing their job for them anyway.

According to the reports I've read, nearly all the suspects they picked up are immigrants, mostly from Morocco as well as a few Syrians and other nationalities. Apparently the whole region has had a problem with organised crime gangs from North Africa for a while.

I won't be visiting Cologne again until its mayoress Reker is out of office. Utterly vile comments. Proof that just getting women into positions of power achieves nothing in itself.

Edited at 2016-01-13 02:15 pm (UTC)
Joy Silencejoysilence on January 13th, 2016 03:29 pm (UTC)
Well I hope those suspects get jolly went sent back wherever they came from if they are found guilty. Canada tried to address this problem of feared sexism among Syrian immigrants by saying it would only take in women, children, and men who can prove a relationship with women and children, but that seems very unfair to male immigrants whose families have been blown up in the bombings. Plus just having a wife and kid is hardly a sign of honour.

I'm OK with large numbers of Syrian immigrants coming to France, and certainly don't feel unsafe around the Muslims we see in Caen etc., though that's partly because I suspect the French police would come down on this sort of behaviour like a ton of briques. I just don't understand why the Germans are't doing that, it would be a rare opportunity to make both feminists and right-wingers happy for once!
Lylesam_tom_sam on January 13th, 2016 06:35 pm (UTC)
I think most of the people in Cologne (and all the other cities affected) felt safe before the attacks. As far as I know the German police were unprepared and overwhelmed, having never experienced anything like this.

France's public spaces will indeed be safer since it is in a state of emergency. Not a great situation for anyone though really. Unbelievable how the actions of one leader can ruin so much for so many people.

Edited at 2016-01-13 06:36 pm (UTC)
Joy Silencejoysilence on January 14th, 2016 01:07 am (UTC)
I should think that after the decades the West has spent stirring shit all over the world it's pretty amazing that anyone feels safe in any city in Europe, especially after the bombings in France and London. I'm not saying this to blame the women of Koln for exhibiting a cheerful demeanour (or whatever other heinous behavioural abomination they're currently being accused of by the mayor) but as a criticism of the politicians and police there, who clearly think the harmonious vision of Europe as hawked by the Germans in the 90s is a thing that actually exists.

Anyway, when I was at RWS my Spanish colleagues were shocked because Germany started shrieking that it was going to chuck out any Spaniards who weren't in work (and other Europeans presumably, but the Spanish are particularly hard-hit as they have such a large amount of work-seeking emigrants.) I wish they'd make up their minds.