To the early and less enduring snow of late autumn, that year followed abundant precipitations that soon covered with a white mantle the mountains around Munich. It could have been the landscape printed on a Christmas card or the atmosphere depicted by Thomas Mann in many of his novels. Perhaps even Hitler would have taken inspiration for a watercolour. It could have for sure promoted the sale of the frame, although soon to be replaced with some work of better quality. I was getting stressed on the workplace, because of the requests I received by the far too many stakeholders I had interaction with. By the tone and the feasibility of the targets, they also reminded me of Hitler, while shouting unintelligible orders to his generals. They also had the tune of a DDR hymn, so deeply impregnated by optimistic propaganda. We will complete the plan within the next five days, employing a team of four people, two of which on vacation and the other two new hires who have not already received their laptops. Of course I had to be stressed, but I had also to consider that I was paid because of my well renown soft skills, i.e. negotiation and stress management. I actually felt quite unprepared with both of them, but that was not what I wrote on my resumée under the direct supervision of my career advisor. On a wednesday night, after having got home at 1 a.m. because of an extenuating meeting with the whole management of my area, I decided to break the piggy bank and take part to a guided tour on the snowshoes. The local section of the DAV, the German Alpine Club, organized many excursions during the week ends. Unfortunately most of trips were often cancelled due to the most disparate reasons. It was so frustrating that I had already abandoned the idea to become a proficient mountaineer. I had however to try. My good friend Cristoph was away for a long mission related to his job and I also had enough to spend most of my time reading on the web edition of the local newspapers alarming reports about the presence of radical Islam in Bavaria. If I had been a young Pioneer in the DDR times, my supervisors would have for sure approved
such a proof of bravery defying the decadent entertainment of the Western countries. Actually, without a good income, I would have ever hardly been available to buy the necessary equipment and the efficiency of the Warsaw Pact would have made the roads to the mountains quite impracticable if not for an highly sophisticated military vehicle. Perhaps available only to the NATO. I did not want to take care of the opinion of high paid professionals, but just to stay away from the town for a short while. I prepared my backpack carefully, not to be stuck in an unknown place without the essential equipment. Relying on technology, it was not necessary to carry a voluminous luggage. The iPad is good enough to contain all the entertainment I need for several years. While selecting the food and handling a pocket of dried fruit, I realised how such a tendency to condense all the necessary resources for survival has started centuries ago. A long road to innovation, should add the commentary of a boring video on the human evolution. I also felt that my thought lack of ingenuousness. Perhaps I was not reading intensively enough and I was looking for new ideas. Like those you easily pick up from the best renowned magazines and, by quoting, you can easily assert to belong to a restricted elite of intellectuals. I also doubted whether I should acquire my information from alternative resources. The only conclusion was to adhere to any plot theory available on the web. I then realized how honest intellectuals should have felt under the DDR. The choice to believe to the carefully manipulated scientific publications of the University of Lipsia or the option to nourish your brain with not verified notions, partially developed by the mind of an uneducated political prisoner. For the following two days, in the comfort of a wooden building, immersed in a white world, I made a truce with my troubles.
The daylength was shortening and the winter was coming. Autumn, with its colourful games, was also leaving the pace to the quiet and well ordered mood of the winter. A Sunday morning I was going to pay the weekly visit to the local museums. I managed to wake up quite early, more than usual, because the weather forecast did not announce a favourable day for strolling around without an umbrella. Since I feel unsafe and annoyed when I cannot rely on both of my hands, I was accustomed, as I am nowadays, to wear an angling hat every time I felt in the need to cover my head against the rain. I had however forgotten it in my office at the bank and the purchase of an umbrella would have constituted an unnecessary expense. I proceeded cautious, pressing the soft and wet terrain to avoid to make my shoes dirtier than those of a member of the working class. Whose last members were slowly disappearing under the pressure of digital innovation and the rising costs to maintain an home in the centre of Munich. Walking along the Isar inspired me self confidence and quiet. I never felt alone even if I was acquainted to less than twenty people in a city of a million and a half. The crowd was familiar to me and I did not distrust the mob, as the common sense would have suggested in any other area of the planet. I left the Reichenbachbrücke behind me and the Deutsches Museum was getting closer. I stopped for a while. I looked at the river and at that mastodonic building that I admired so much in my youth. On a wall just close to the waterside, a graffiti was celebrating the Schickeria and the provocative actions of the local hooligans. I did not like it, but I liked even less that wall. It was not in a better shape than what I had seen in the former headquarters of the German intelligence. In both cases, those fragments of writing were testifying a decaying civilization, ready to cope with the latest drama. The audience could have waited for years, but for sure it would have been melodramatic. Suddenly the wind began to blow stronger, clouds were covering the sky. Against all my expectations, what was falling was more consistent than water, it was snowing. I was not dressed for the coldest winter and, although the humidity level in the air should have been significant, I did not find it such a strong inconvenience. On the contrary I decided to go further, in the direction of the Parliament and the Englischen Garten. I wanted to have a cake in Schwabing, in one of my favourite place that have been inaugurated during the previous months. If I could have caught a cold I really did not care. Nor would have a Vopo mesmerized by the dullness of the Wall while charged to prevent any undesired flight.
The exotic and fascinating aura generated by the Islamic community has not spared to influence Munich under different forms. The curvy belly dancers of the local burlesque review, Kurdish refugees, living in Germany for a whole life without having lost the attachment to Homeland, Iranian taxi drivers and engineers, sick of the idiocy of the Ayatollahs'regime. Also some Moroccan, of Berber extraction, and Bosnian émigrés, gifted with a mix of Balkanic stubbornness, a degree from American Universities and a natural amicable attitude. All of these could constitute an interesting collection of singularities.
We have just mentioned the liberals, but the portrait would not be complete without the contribution given by some members of radical Islam, distributing free copies of the Quran, offering an interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, not less biased than the introduction to the Book of Mormon provided by formally dressed and smiling blond guys from the U.S. They wear long robes, mostly white, long beards, they never forget to cover their head with a comfortable hat and appear less harmful than the Scientology psychologists or the marxist leninist preachers striving to gain some electoral gain for Die Linke.
These extreme believers, still speaking about Mohammedans and not leftist activists, subventioned by potentates of the Middle East, do not look aggressive. They are probably encouraged by the vision of the supreme truth, that make them quite sure that the harsh opposition they could encounter is the sign of their moral and intellectual superiority. Groups of women, with children, husband and brothers, free to wear the Burqa and move around the town for shopping, probably meet their hope of an Islamic Europe, but tourists from the Emirates don't openly express their gratitude and prefer to linger in the shopping malls and directly finance the temples of Western capitalism.
Few adherents are born in Europe, happy to have eventually found a framework that could contain their hatred against a world inadequate to their expectations. They are so enthusiastic to establish few clear and simple rules to determine any aspect of everyday life. The imam could provide them with directions and tasks, harsh and simple to be followed and executed. Fatwas and the dream of Paradise constitute strong enough pillars to sustain the weight of further layers of zealotry.
I have even personally met a couple of them, enjoying generous scholarships and healthcare, making a good career in local universities, where the liberal professors are afraid not to grant them Ph.D. by the fear to discriminate a supposed to be minority. They spend most of the time to outline the ignorance about the islamic world, blaming any critics against islamic radicalism. Hopefully they are also not more dangerous than a drunkard expressing some contorted idea at the end of a brilliant alcoholic night.
Actually my deep knowledge of Islam ends here, since I have never been able to go further than a circumstantial speech apt to appease any destructive tendency of a radical or to cope with repressed feelings of those who are just muslim by chance and not even compelled to quit their religion since they are not subject to any Kirchensteuer. Any further discussion has involved places where to conveniently spend the holidays, bars and clubs, with a focus on the quality of drinks and women attending the joints. Truly essential are just the daily rates reachable in well renowned financial centres all around the world. As during the Middle Ages, theology, or divinity, is indeed confined within the Universities, while all around the human kind more naturally strives for prosperity.
I came back quite tired that night, riding on the bicycle for more than 50 kms in a day is something I was not accustomed to. I am not either during these days. Just the time for a brief shower, then back to my highly demanding social life.
Since I have moved here, a small club of expatriates, free thinkers, some tinkers and really few ladies, although not deprived of aristocratic blood, has gathered around my abode or in the nearby bistros.
A British cockney, whose brilliant career at the bar has not deprived her of some sense of humour, a persian zoroastrian, whose faith will help his country to get ridden of the Ayatollahs, an Italian architect who does not regret to have left the Roman stones behind him, just to describe a meaningful specimen.
I used to meet them on Saturday and Friday evenings, sometimes also on Thursdays, whenever my finances appeared particularly florid, carefully rotating my companions. Not to avoid to get far too much involved in their lives, and problems, but just to be sure not to spend my time alone. Also by recurring to a moderate overbooking.
Strange thoughts were developed in my brain, especially when marauding alone in the heart of town, linking stones and monuments to the war against Prussia, the defeat, the annexation to the Empire and the second, harsher collapse, that brought to the III Reich. I made strange parallels, troubled by the commies waiting for me in the parlour of my family mansion, and my best effort to collect enough money and buy a roof on the other side of the recently rebuilt Iron Curtain.
That evening I had already fixed a date with some locals, including a young fellow with moroccan background. I could not restrain myself, against the common sense, to mention him the arabic graffitis that have amused, with a nuance of exotic adventure, my afternoon.
"No, my friend, sorry", he replied me with his broken English more proper to the bad guy facing James Bond, "but in Morocco we don't have any Green Revolution. We do not shut down our old energy plants, nor we shoot our leaders. We prefer to live wise and prosper". I would have never thought about any inkling to organized riots. At the best I had imagined a gathering of a gang of rappers smoking a joint and showing off scarce civic sense, or disrespect to the local institutions, through spray painting and loud music.
"How could you know that? Have you got any contacts?", the late hour and a couple of beers behind the safety line had definitely killed my concepts of caution and discretion. A Viking, just landed on the shores of Danelaw, would have proved a better practice of diplomacy.
Nevertheless the Moroccan laughed and gave me a hug, he smiled with that kind of complacency common to Mediterranean traders when are going to fraud a tourist. He reminded me of a taxi driver in East Jerusalem insisting about the importance of visiting the birthplace of our Lord Jesus, even if he was a professed muslim activist in a pro Palestinian association created by Soviets in the 1980s and 30 years later supported with the money of European left radicals.
I move around the ruins of an highly classified area, paying more attentions to the thriving nature than to the desolated buildings. Field flowers are surrounding the place. Like in a pre raphaelite painting, wild roses are embracing the surviving bricks. The atmosphere is enchanting, the only danger could come from a spiky rock. My shoes are old, they comfortably fit to my feet, but have also got acquainted far too well with the cobbler for periodical maintenance.
I would like to find a comfortable spot, where to stop and relax for a while. Some anarchist living beyond any social convention would approve my behaviour. Those are the kind of ruins chosen by an heroine addicted as shelter, or anyone who does not share the perfect feelings with the world he lives in. My is staring at me understanding I am up to something unusual. He is quite amused and interested about my quest and true goals.
“Are you really intentioned to search the place? What do you expect to find?”, “Some ostalgic memorabilia, the souvenir from an unauthorized expedition on the other side of the Berlin Wall”. “They have already brought with them everything. As soon as they have abandoned the buros, the place has been looted”. It is not the tomb of a Pharaoh, at the best the graveyard of false expectations of too many who joined the secret services with the promise of an adventurous life and they have suddenly discovered to do nothing more exciting than the routine activities of any bank employee.
He has given me an hint, although I am quite sceptical about the idea to recover anything more interesting than an old piece of barbed wire. Perhaps much more dangerous to my nice clothes than to any serious and self respecting spy.
I however decided to go on, even more troubled when I realised that, if I had stumbled on some hidden obstacle and required the help of the cops, they would have for sure fined me with a bußgeld equivalent to several months of my income. My level of attention suddenly increased.
My friend urged me to go on, while I was losing myself in the meanders of German social democratic penal system. An old rugged door, as those usually seen in the movies, was partially opened as inviting us to enter. “Why not?”. At least Munich is a safe city and nobody would have stolen our bicycles waiting outside, we still had several hours before sunset and at the worst we could have taken the S-Bahn.
The inside was completely empty. The efficiency of the German bureaucracy had guaranteed that no piece of furniture has been left behind with the end of the cold hostilities against Moscow. Completely abandoned, the place should have been used for some time by a group of second-generation immigrants from North Africa or the Middle East. Graffitis in arabic were all around, just a plain and clear calligraphy, quite elegant, written with blank ink on the walls and the ceilings. The artists should have attended the school in Bavaria for sure, since they took care to clean the floor from dust and cigarette stubs.
We smiled. “Well, enough of mystery today. Shall we go back?”, said my friend quite sceptical. I agreed, I was starting to feel tired and also uncomfortable at the idea to walk around unattended in a supposed to be restricted zone.
Ralph had become one of my best friends in Western Germany. Sympathetic with my peculiar condition, he was so deeply attracted by Italian culture that he allowed me to forget about the political troubles I had recently lived. Just like playing Bach, or Mozart, by speaking to him was like to travel back, on the other side of the Alps, in a XVIII century aristocratic mansion. On the shores of the lake Como. The peasants wearing a colourful dress, reminding those artificial ones, moreover quite ugly, still worn nowadays by gipsies. A world distant away, secretly hidden in my memory, strongly linked to the rays of the sun reflecting on the ocher surface of the neoclassical buildings. Palm trees and camellias, a white gravel path, well maintained by a loyal gardener. Music notes are coming out from the greenhouse, it does not make sense since the piano should be located in the sitting room. It is just a confusing dream, where I put together an inconsistent chain of elements until I realise the absurdity of the scene and I suddenly wake up. It is early in the morning, but I miss the will to stand up. I prefer to linger on the just vanished portrait of an ideal world. I plan to pay a visit to the local pinacotheque, the only place that could provide me similar feelings. The need to stay alone for a while is also quite strong, regretfully I have got a meeting with Ralph and I waste most of the time choosing what to do next. He rings my doorbell and I have got to be fast to get ready. He is quite flexible, not just in comparison to the average German understandment, especially about dates and time, but I prefer to avoid to abuse it too much. He has just bought a new bicycle, not an expensive one, but good enough to sustain every kind of terrain. The sun is really hot today and the woods along the Isar are inviting. I ask him to show me the way, I don't really mind where to go. I would be satisfied to do some exercise, nothing more. We ride together along the Isar, towards the south, just because I am already acquainted to the northern part, without any actual destination. The riverside is so peaceful although over populated by runners, dogs, mums and babies. Also some horse properly mounted. The first stop is the Zoo. Still obsessed by the socialist tyranny I have left behind, I cannot restrain myself from blaming those unfortunate animals. They have been offered, forcibly, a quiet life where everything is provided in exchange of liberty. I recall all those unfortunate who so hardly depicted the effect of capitalism, to choose a similar prison. Some of them have regretted their own choice, but it is now too late. We go further, we do not change direction until we reach a block of houses in Pullach. It's so quiet all around us. I perceive just singing birds from the forest, nothing else. Ralph shows me a path among the bushes. He has already explored the area several time and he has been thrilled by the discovery of a passage to an isolated block of houses quite completely covered by the vegetation.
I need to relax and play the music of Johann Sebastian Bach on the piano. It has been installed, on my special request, a silent mechanism. Just to watch out the reaction of my neighbours. Germans are quite sensible to any loud and their scarce artistic feelings would let them judge my tunes as much annoying as the sound produced by a drill. John Cage would have perhaps agreed, but the locals wouldn't have ever condoned him an applause. If not for the importance of silence in his works. 4′33″ could be adopted as a motivational anthem by most single ladies living in small block of flats, devoted to call the police as soon as they perceive a perturbation in the air.
To me it sounds to be back in the DDR, where to keep your mouth shut was the best way to survive. The good subjects were also well prone to inform the KGB for any slight inconvenience, perhaps relying on fake witnesses. Especially if, by their delation, any small advantage could have been obtained. By those who have celebrated their birthday at home and stayed awake till 11 pm, those who have hanged a paint on Sunday and used a nail to fix it to the wall. Even by someone who has parked his or her car and didn't use it for around a month. That is the favourite move of the German socialist sycophants. They scratch the bumper of their vehicle and look for a partner ready to accuse the owner of another car to have provoked the damage. The latter should prove himself innocent and, unless he has got any prove that the car has not been used in the designated timeframe, he must pay a good amount. Both to the supposed damaged party, and to the government. The institutions have moreover found a valuable way to drain out value from private property, by fixing the fines according to the personal income. Usually the outcoming is proper of a joke. For the aforementioned scratch wouldn't be rare to have to pay a fine amounting up to 50 times the costs to restore the auto body. That is actually never repaired, but soon used again for the same purpose, although with a different plate.
I am however much more sensible to old plates, played on recent versions of old gramophones. According to some connoisseur, they reproduce a gentler sound than the one coming from a CD or a digital file. I have got the feeling it is just a matter of being accustomed to. For most of us, digital music is something we have got the habit to listen to since we were teenagers, perhaps a little bit earlier. Decades of LPs consuming has definitely influenced the ear of our fathers, up until my generation. I am quite sure it will be rare to find any of those vinyl fan among anybody who is just ten years younger than me.
Propaganda and mass education have the same effect. In this case the admirers of the old technologies appear under a total different light than the Long Plays gentlemen. They are almost despised as nostalgic fascists in the west or scrubby and preposterous last standing members of the Party in the east. In a fashionable and conservative land like only the Italian Peninsula could be, the allurement of the past has managed to give the power back to the latter form of Homo Politicus. On the other side of the Berlin Wall, it has just inspired a couple of film producers who have found out a way to make money out of the ludicrous side of the soviet propaganda.
Bach did not rely on any ideology for his works. His composition reflects the pure logic of mathematics, with which the human beings have acquired the habit to describe the world. Though there are scarce alternatives to such rules, whose simplicity and effectiveness make them so relaxing and inspiring for an honest and independent mind.
Quite regularly the jewish community offers to the inhabitants of the city cultural initiatives, aimed to give to the gentiles a positive perception of its own presence. They are always enjoyable, mostly organized by gentle ladies who could have been depicted by an Agatha Christie's movie. Sometimes are lectures, mostly about a prominent jewish author who has written about Munich or worked for a while in the area. Others are concerts, mostly klezmer music, also including the top performers from NYC and the States. I particularly love to collect the gadgets, distributed on the stands put on in Odeonsplatz.
That location, in the very heart of Munich, is particularly well chosen due to the proximity both to museums and shops. Also the University is not really far, reachable on foot within ten minutes. A tourist, a student, a posh and young girl looking for a fashionable accessory should necessary pass by. Even Adolf Hitler spent more than an afternoon in the area, painting en plein air a watercolour of the square. It has astonishingly not changed a lot. Despite the war so sternly wanted by the painter.
I have also found the stands quite perchance, a thursday afternoon, coming back from work earlier than usual and marauding around the town. Just exploring. I was also looking for a good chat, feeling alone as usual. Anybody distributing leaflets and promoting a good cause would have attracted my attention. Already a big fan of jewish culture, I approached a table depicting the beauty of Israeli landscapes. They were giving palmtree seeds for free and I was starting to conceive to experiment a little gardening in my own apartment.
Others were raising funds for the most tragic memory, of those who lost their lives by the hand of the national socialists. I paid much more attention than time to the subject. I couldn't stand the idea of those deeds. Especially by recognizing myself among the chosen victims. Individuals who wanted to follow their own existence outside the frames of a dominating standardized culture. I felt on my skins the violence of the squads. As much as the contemptuous fleer of socialist intellectuals when debating about not conforming political opinions.
The latter would hardly resolve to recur to physical tortures. It is not their style. They prefer a subtler, and perhaps even more effective, psychological war. Making their victims feeling guilty for their own thoughts. If they don't obtain any success, they start to depict their enemies as the most pernicious human beings. Those unfortunate churls would eventually find themselves isolated and their unaligned thought totally armless.
A guitar and an accordion were diffusing klezmer music. At another table some attractive young ladies were giving a demo of a solar charger for laptops and mobile phones. I followed a part of the show curious of the so sophisticated ars oratoria of the girls, and changed my direction towards some much older ladies providing biscuits, a cup of tea and small paper Israeli flags.
I picked up two, as well as a couple of cookies. The banners are filling so well a gap in my kitchen, the blue star of David looks like a rare and beautiful flower. I am proud of my independence.
Among the others, I have acquired a good sense of familiarity with colleagues moved away from the former Socialist Republic of Romania. Some of them are actually Hungarian and still sadly recollect the Treaty of Trianon with all the consequences on the territorial integrity of their own land. Other just complain how in Yalta the doom of the Danubian nation has been decided, without even slightly taking care of feeling of her people. They found themselves with a Communist Regime, proclaimed by official elections. Scarce relevance had also been given to the well grounded doubts of frauds. The results of the polls became irreversible for the following fifty years.
I strongly sympathize with those fellow travellers, met by perchance on a common project 300 miles far from my hometown. We are both refugees, quite for similar reasons. Brainwashing, plots, vote rigging and once more brainwashing, have seriously affected the existence of all of us. We are just relieved to be able to openly point out the milestones of our disgraceful conditions. We are actually still fighting, on the other side of the Berlin Wall. By sparing money to become once again legitimate owners of our household. By starting a career from scratch, since our previous one has got no value here. By building a brand new social network around us.
It's not so easy as it could seem to be, after having read the biographies of thousands of successful businessmen, exiled and expatriated as we are, died after having created world renowned companies and institutions. For those few thousands, there are several many hundred thousands not so happy, yet even happier of a restored tranquillity. There are still however a large majority who will bear the scars of persecutions for the whole life. I feel to be among them, unsatisfied to simply accept my condition and being remunerated by a conspicuous bank account or a significant contemporary art collection.
Jo, the most loquacious member of the Romanian congregation, shares my same ideas. After having travelled the world doing consultancy, he has landed in Munich guided just by the good rates on his contract. He is much more like an entrepreneur, although he enjoys the security to be part of a bigger company. Nobody likes too much risk also under the most encouraging perspectives. A common expression is also there is no gain without risk. It is like to bet on the favourite horse. If you win, you just keep the money you have invested, but there is still some chance that your pure-sang wouldn't even end the race.
I always enjoy a nice conversation with Tom. Most colleagues of mine do not like him too much. He is likes the sound of his voice and, sure that also others do, he always speaks far too loud. He looks like a great guy to me and I would never leave him behind, if something wrong on our project would ever go wrong. I am however convinced, much more by conjectures than by facts, about the strength of his will. At least he has not surrendered the idea to reconstruct his own country. Nor to pay back the commies for the perseverance applied to destroy a huge part of his family. He can scarcely figure out a plan, but he foresees a day when all those monuments to the socialist revolution will be wiped out by the sudden awakening of the individuals.
On my part I don't know what to expect from the future. Lobbies are hard to lose their power, and the socialist one, especially among intellectuals, has carefully extended its own power to think tanks, medias and universities. For its adherents, any loss of influence would turn out to be the end of their own career, at least as they have built it. Just to enhance the perception of the unrightful interference of the state, into economy and private life, would be a satisfying medium term result. For the short term nothing better can be done than to stand fast to the daily intellectual challenges of the liberal propaganda.
It is not the same to work with a local company, that also hires foreigners to cut the budget still maintaining the habits of the country, and to be employed within a multinational based corporation. The latter attempts to involve everybody, almost on the same level, under the not written rules of an international coexistence. For such a goal is required an extremely flexible mind prone to accept any kind of insult deriving by mutual misunderstanding, or more realistically a good mix of common sense and duplicity.
Liberals are quite excellent at that, but if someone has got strong opinions, that could also seem despicable to a politically correct audience. For sure it will not be easy to stand fast on his or her own ground. Some contract will be for sure unavoidable, as well as strong convincements. Robust enough not to be easily upset, keep calm and be able to express every point rationally. Eventually a firm mindset is always welcome. Much more appreciated than the soft thinking of a mellifluous diplomat.
Sometimes the teams look like a United Nations committee and some witty tongue could also add that they are no more effective. I have however seen a really effective team so far, even when made up by people born and grown up all in the same area. The international experience has moreover enriched me with a superficial knowledge of languages I wouldn't have ever thought about. For instance, I am now fully aware that when Robert Mugabe summons the mob, bambere is the corresponding word for amen in such whimsical absolutist sunday services. The people is indeed expected to shout loud and clean "Bambere Mugabe", or simply reply "Bambere". A valuable variable is "Bambere ne ponga", to which is also expected to hear the refrain "Bambere!".
Being a white man and unwelcome to any political matter concerning Zimbabwe, I go back to my personal story and forget about Central Africa. Perhaps I could move there, when the invisible hand that rules not just economy, but also history, will have brought freedom of thought and action also on the Equatorial line. My feeling give me the hint that it will be an hard fight, to be started in central Europe.
Far better oriented, or better compatible to my mindset, are Indians and Pakistanis, who, to the doctrines of Nehru and Gandhi, largely prefer a capitalist perspective. Those are my best acquaintances, still influenced by the traditional flair mixed with the entrepreneurial spirit of Asia. They spend most of their free time by looking for new trade opportunities, not necessarily related with their job. I find it divine and try to support their initiatives at my own best.
Not to forget the Middle East delegation. Active as brokers and dealers along the silk road of yore. Some of them have got a second job, but they mostly thrive on an extended social network. When a specific opportunity is spotted, they check among their former friends and colleagues whether anybody could answer with the most appropriate offer. They usually do it also at work, but they never subtract more than a reasonable amount of time to common duties. It is just an alternative to waste energies with lunchtime, internet surfing and coffee break.
The most active one is a Palestinian, who has wide connections with a large part of the shops in the city centre. A purse for your lady, a golf club for your man, a gentleman hat, you should ask him and he will give you some satisfying directions. Just not forget to mention his name when you will be served, or you'll miss some discount and he will lose his commission. He seems to be a nice guy, and seldom discusses about politics.
On the contrary, more prone to waste their time are Europeans, excluding the Britons. Britons are really active as well. When the virus of modern day politics starts to affect my mates from Italy, France and Spain, they so easily lose their focus and begin with useless soliloquies on the magnificence of social assistance and high taxations. They seem to try to keep each other under a continuous brainwashing, not to have to recognize that, if seen under a different perspective, most of their beliefs are based on inconsistent assumptions.
It’s Monday once more and a new week will start among the labyrinth of cubicles that constitutes my workplace. If I could take a slice of the tower that is hosting me, among another couple of thousands of colleagues, take a picture and just slightly enhance the contrasts with Photoshop, I would have a perfect wallpaper for my screen. It’s just like that Jacques Tati’s movie, where the curious aesthetics of a modern office is so well depicted as a caricature. I however also enjoy the movie for the clean aseptic lines of those bright walls built with glass and marble. Although that film dates back to fifty years ago, nothing has changed a lot meanwhile.
A flat screen or a wireless mouse are not shaping the overall appearance of the desks. There’s always enough useful papers mixed with old books and memorabilia to restrict the operative surface. Some items are just left untouched because the legitimate owner is unknown. With total lack of sense of humour, a large and big lady, dressed with the style of a 1970s public employee, regularly patrols the area to count the number of chairs and complain about the mess created by the few unsocially minded white collars. The most usual crime involves a bunch of bottles abandoned on the table, while particularly outrageous postcards do not seem to concern her.
Perhaps she does not even care to give a look at the jokes on the postcards, it would violate the privacy guidelines. If two chairs are placed around the same desks, that is on the contrary the ground for a serious reprimand. It is not respectful towards the colleagues, that is the usual refrain. Although most of my mates don’t give a brass farthing unless their life is seriously jeopardized. That happens if anyone coughs or speaks too loudly. They however rarely deliver an official complain. They prefer a face to face discussion, although absurd, some impolite words and, if nothing else works, a meeting to judge the culprit among peers.
For most of us, such a trial is part of good civic attitudes applied to defend the rights of every worker. To me, it appears not a better way to undermine the public image of an individual, carefully isolate him and strike. A technique successfully applied during the 1970s, where so declared public enemies were chased in the universities and, if enough restitant, physically terminated by the intervention of the People’s Protection Brigades. However we still live in a democracy, where absolutism and socialism have been put aside.
I prefer not to think too much about committees and other similar habits that recollect me of the collectivized world I have left behind me. Perhaps I lack the fierce character to face the mob and eventually conquer her heart. The same General Bonaparte complained of the King of France, unable to issue the riot at the Tuileries and suppress the fury of the revolution by addressing an enchanting speech to his own people. It is on the other side comfortable that I am not living in Versailles and colleagues’ gossip is hardly a serious menace here. My mates hardly communicate each other, and if they do it, they limit themselves to mention the places they have spent their last holidays. Just the name of the places and few other brief information. Sometimes I even doubt about their QI, since I can hardly imagine that the account of a travel could be synthesized in a couple of lines.
Politics, indeed a taboo, is seldom discussed. However seldom does not mean never and there is some way to make your opinion well known even to those who do not care at all. It is a way to alleviate social pressure and censorship to those who are not fully conforming, a sort of free speech policy. Strong enough that I hardly think to any other tasks than those officially assigned to me and an 8 hours day is usually enough not to miss a deadline.
Focus, productivity, effective and tangible results are the only requirements for a successful career in the free market. I leave the place at 5:30 pm, enjoying the last minutes of daylight.
The sun has risen once more and it’s sunday. A day for preaching, it were not that I have preferred to declare myself an atheist than to pay the Kirchensteuer. An expensive toll extorted to any believer, on the western side of the Berlin Wall, as if they were purposely trying to eradicate any religious feeling. Yet, Germany is a democracy and does not belong to the Soviet Union. Any doubt about the intentions that such an extra fee, taken from the private incomes of every citizen who formally professes the existence of God, is actually directed to discourage to attend the Service on Sunday, should be confuted. At least by a simple mind.
Living alone, spending forlorn the whole week end could induce depression mixed with few moments of euphory. You could also linger, taking your own time, on fruitless studies, undertaken under the influence of some bad dream. Or you could also procrastinate to eternity the essential tasks of daily life. First among them cooking and properly washing the floor. A trend that eventually brings the unfortunate inhabitant of a single mansion to look like a dirty and scrubby eremite who hardly enjoys the pleasures to live within a community.
It is however quite desirable by anybody who does not like the interference of public opinion with the contingencies of private life. Nor that of the central government, although far too difficult to fight. For anybody concerned with state control, the previous night , or early morning, encounter, is most likely to be upsetting. I have indeed started a serie of unfortunate conjectures that have brought me to several emotional state, fear, anxiety, terror, rage up to an insane sense of revenge.
I felt the exile of that young lady not so dissimilar from mine and I felt the great injustice that a large community could bring to any kind of minority. Even more I did not accept that such a strong and unavoidable law, such as that provided by the invisible hand that wisely regulates the economy, could be so harshly denied. Up to the point that the madness by which the adepts of socialism are affected, so fiercely fights to forge and threaten the thoughts of individuals. Even in a nominal democracy, even in a country where private property is officially recognized as a basic right of a human being.
It is quite uncomfortable and threatening. Although I am allowed to posses my small piece of land, I live like an erratic existence figuring out to be a wandering jew persecuted for his own religion and condemn to seek shelter from a city to another. The will to react is strong, but it is also really hard. Mainly because lack of time and discipline. A true petit-bourgeois trouble, that so ironically affects any chance of success of my cause. My opponents do not have such problems. At least they do not reason like the Homo Economicus, therefore they don’t take account of scarcity of resources. Time, money, lumber or anything else.
Perhaps just scarcity of lumber would impel them to reason, at least those with a greenish background, but just to find the easy and immediate solution to cut any lumber provision to the needs of humans.
I felt stressed enough, playing with such tortuous elucubrations that just distract my mind by the most useful tasks. At the end of the day, without having accomplished the slightest goal, you feel even more depressed and, going back to your thoughts, you enjoy the last couple of hours before midnight in front of a screen. They broadcast some brain pain-killer, a trivial distraction, written somewhere in the western world by liberal writers, enacted by red performers, in order to provide a reasonable ROI to uncaring capitalist investors. Brain wash starts from there, but nobody seems to notice men and women from the middle class struggling not to be dragged away by the socialist flood.
At around 23:30 I was already completely asleep. I could estimate that time on the basis of some inferences derived by the last Facebook post and the length of the movie I had watched.
The hardships of exile sound harsh also for those whose spirit would tend anyway to expatriate and explore what lies beyond the horizon. What has been left behind is after all a full explored world and a rich social network. It is however hard to fully appreciate the essential nuances of a foreign country without living there for years. Sometimes they turn out to be nuisances as well, but it is the cost paid by most of the explorers.
As well as feeling along, in the middle of a tempest and spotting around nothing else than icebergs. I havn't the foggiest whether to approach on purpose such a mass of ice could be a viable way to save the lifes of an unfortunate crew. Let's put some imagination, assume to experience a videogame where every false move could be redone. I drive my boat in the direction of the biggest floating mountain I detect, I set the collision course and I peacefully wait for the next move. If I will crash, fall into the sea and perish, then the game will be over and any further decision will be meaningless.
A true free world should actually enable all of the players to commit mistakes, reset their status and go on with a series of infinite attempts. Yet the bureaucracy adopted by the Soviet Uniot emerging from the other side of the Alps hardly allows a faux pas. Everything is well recorded.
The best instrument to keep everybody under control. An act against the rules issued by the government and you are out. The party says you are out. Even your closest friends start to deem your lack of civic sense as a definite hint of the presence on an evil spirit. You have got to spend the remaining days of your life as an exile, segregated far away from the advantages conceded by the state to the faithfull subjects.
I have not gone so far, but the fight I have started against the new established socialist republic, my flight on the other side of the alps, my very same writings, are enough to classify myself as potentially dangerous. I could still recreate some valuable and solid links in the free world, but I will ever miss that environment where I was born. Places and people of my past are fading away, lost beyond the iron curtain. If I will acquire any new friend in this world, they will be different. The old ones are now hard to rescue.
Unless crashing against the iceberg won't save some men from the crew, enough material to build a new boat, reach a safe harbour and assemble a whole fleet. I will still be solitary in command, but, if I will be summon enough authority, I could still hope to overthrow the authorities who have casted me away. It is like the final act of an opera, where the hero reveals not to have died, to have survived the vagary of fortune and eventually obtains the crown back.
Provided that the hero is a destituted prince.
I am just a follower of Adam Smith, looking for some mate of a similar mindset, ready to fight back and recover a paradise lost.
It is during one night spent out looking for girls and wasting money on cheap beers, that I have met one of the most extraordinary creature who has so far populated my adventure. She appeared to me like the queen of the night, suddenly. A log left along the Isar after the great flood was covering her from my sight, when, humming a XVII century melody. "Come unto these yellow sands", she was telling me. I gave her my hands, to provide an hold and allow the young lady to show herself in her whole figure.
I was getting home, after having spoiled my time. I would have procrastinated once more the most important tasks I had on the agenda. Including further working on my last novel. Yet experiences, the oddest as well the most common ones, are the true inspiration for my blank pages. This one has been essential to the development of my story.
As the lady came out, I immediately approached her and tried to speak. I was aware that it would have scarcely be possible even the slightest reply. Against the most optimistic expectations she smiled to me, looked around and proposed to share a dessert at her own place. It was so early in the morning, or late in the night, that it implied some practice quite common at Versailles. Where the most dissolute aristocracy had been able to come to light amongst the ruinous effects of a socialist economy.
I followed her and we were neighbours. I laughed, I had never noticed her before. It was quite common in a city where most of the people respect each other privacy. Apart few ones. Her name was Nadja. I got for my apartment, to brew a liter of americano and fill it in a thermos. She waited downstairs with the cake and few other items for a quick picnic on a large lawn along the river, just 50 yards far from us. While the water was boiling, I had a really essential shower and recovered some energy. At least that required to be awake for a couple of hours more.
She was beautiful, pale, dark hair, deep eyes, a regular face slightly oval, slim and long hands. She came from Fribourg, a not so small, thriving city, mainly working on the local University and some industry born as a direct spin-off of some successful and pragmatic research team.
A good quality of life, compared to the harsh and greedy underground of Munich. My new acquaintance had to flee the peaceful atmosphere of the academic centre, systematically persecuted for her own not aligned ideas. Freedom of speech was one of the few privileges not conceded to the cultural elite in the town. Perhaps not even of thought, if the subjects of such a confined dictatorship were sensible enough to censor their own same intimate feelings. Environmentalists and socialists had taken over since a long time there. Nobody else could dare to be admitted to the Gotha of the local society.
It is still possible to subscribe to the fencing club, obtain some regular lessons, but to a private tea party during the week end is totally inconceivable to meet any conservative or not aligned thinker. Only the entrance to disco clubs is restricted just for mere security reasons. As the followers of Savonarola, greens and liberals would actually prefer to close such places, accused of sexism and deliberate emission of CO2. If they only had not to cope with the conservative majority of Germans, such Paladins of human rights would nicely extend the Tanzverbot to all the days on the Calendar.
I had acquired a new friend, with whom I shared a cup of hot black coffee on the riverside of the Isar and exchanged some extra good words about the positive effects of a free market society. She also explained me that the Tanzverbot is a ban on dancing parties, scrupulously observed in Roman Catholic majority areas in the whole of Germany. I was feeling als ob the DDR had annexed the Federal Republic of the West.
We gather close to the city centre. A friend of mine and I are looking for some seductive glance from young ladies. Especially those who have just ended the University and are looking for a first job, even part time. They are perhaps going on with a Master, or also collecting some extra money to be put together with the limited income of a Ph.D.
The square is quite dark, but I am feeling well protected. The local police has not already been infiltrated by the influence of a political lobby and marauders, whatever could be the social disease they are affected of, are treated as puny criminals. Only some relative advancement in basic civil rights would save them from the gaol, since a simple and straightforward thought is a definite prerogative of this part of the world. Reasoning according to the logic and with the feedback of the five senses. The constable does not read Marx and even the common people is quite ignorant of any rhetorical exercise on moral, punishment and prejudices.
The friend is a Briton, and would enjoy a good ale accompanied by a pretty view. There are quite a lot of places, all around an area, that could satisfy his demands, but two are especially apt to guarantee the highest level of satisfaction. In both of the cases the name is not so important to remember, nobody knows it. Just a black label and a couple of lights, some neon lamps, couches and chairs, tables covered by empty bottles of Schweppes, few posters and memorabilia from the 1980s. My favourite one preserves the original case of a Pacman, survived from the rust of an arcade. Only the electronic is missing or that machine alone could have easily collected as much money as the ripe breast of a young and smiling waitress. It is perhaps expected to be loaded with some survived D-Mark coins.
I am waiting for a long time to develop some brilliant idea. The most authentic advantage of capitalism is the value given to risk and imagination, at best to the whole couple. The evening should be however devoted to purposeless targets, something it's affordable just in a thriving economy or under desperate circumstances. I move the attention of that friend of mine on three nice and young gals, in a corner of a dark bar. He is a former RAF flying officer and understand the hint of a squadron leader. We will be soon upon them. Perhaps they would escape, with some boring conversation that will leave us to stare astonished at the wall. It is enough to say nothing more than, "Ah, yes... got to go".
The human nature could still be on our side and we have not already got even the slightest plan. It's like to open a startup with almost no money, no customers and not even a clear business plan. Those kind of companies that could survive just with the sustain of university budget and friendships in the right places. Quite common on the other side of the borders, ruled by socialist economy.
The time is over, the barkeeper should dislodge us before we have even tried any sort of initiative. The three are still chatting on the couch and seem completely uninterested by the company of a man. We are not even so strongly interested by the attraction of the opposite sex. The illusion of a fast career, some business plan portrayed as the silver bullet that will soon land on the Tech DAX are just enough to boost our eneergies and relieve us from the boring existence of a clerk.
Environmentalism is a science, or a religion, or both of them. As much as marxism has been for more than a century and Scientology claims to be. Adepts of environmentalisms, as well as of Scientology, are quite common and well entrenched on the side of the Isar that I have chosen for my encampments. They have however successfully managed to cross the river and infiltrate the most conservative areas, quite well scattered all around the city. Their party is not overwhelming, but its supporters are so self determined, believing of being anointed of the supreme mission to provide the planet full redemption, before anybody else could provoke a unrecoverable damage. They scarcely conceive the chance to be even indirectly involved with some of the most catastrophic choices, are supported by the politics of the liberals and still envisage a sort of absolute state under their own guidance.
In the long waiting time, since the ignorant mob makes hard to conform their lives to the green directives, they are doing their best to disseminate wih unuseful hurdles the existence of the common man. If there is scarcity of buildings and apartments, the simple guy, who does not understand the supreme sacrifice, is going to face unwanted sacrifices for the better of the primates and any other endangered species. Such a contemporary Everyman has to pay the rent of a small room with half of his monthly wage, since the greenish leaders have forbidden to dig on the fresh grass and erect new block of flats. If those scarce areas, who have survived the ecologist bane, are valuable enough to allow the construction of a high standard, if not luxurious, building, those greenish activists start by collecting signatures against the free usage of private property. It is also be understood that any apartment provided with a large bathroom, should be deemed an extraordinary extravagance under the green judgement. At least those survivors of the hippy movement discourage the usage of more than three showers a week. Probably also the combination of a regular sport activity and a civilized social life.
I have coped with several of them, during my previous life on the eastern side of the Berlin Wall, but here, in the free world, where ideas could be expressed with a reasonable openness, they have developed a much stronger attitude. They have been contrasted for years, both by the German pragmatism, both by the impelling needs of the Cold War. The Greens have been sided with the Eastern Block, at least nominally, and they had to fight hard to survive, not to reveal their red side, but to slightly and careful infiltrate the minds of men. They partially succeeded, they also changed their strategy in order to better satisfy the needs of someone who, although an idealist, still wants to see a result.
I am now entrenched behind the nuclear power, the atomic energy so widely debated. It seems like an empty discussion, just to find an argument in order to accelerate the fight and smash the enemy. They use human shields like in the Middle East. They put in front of you the bodies children, the effects of a catastrophic accident, they prospect the most terrible events all around the place where you were born, or where you live, or you are feeling attached to. If you do not surrender, their enemy is depicted as one of the most cynical creature, to be reproached as a stupid schoolboy. Described as the most greedy creature, the victim of their own hate is publicly humiliated and, deprived of the support of even the closest friends, definitely knocked out. Against such a prodigy of XXI century rhetoric, far better developed than the childish slogans of the soviet propaganda, you have just got to stand fast, ignore the criticism and wait. Sometimes they will even excuse themselves, for having resolved to far too harshes expression. It is however essential to pay attention to any move, and not to surrender to the stress. Or you will find yourself fleeing away from the same ideas that should be defended as the sole principle of freedom, enlightenment and capitalism.
He had experienced my fears and understood my feelings, he had lived my obsessions much more than I had done so far. He is a colleague of mine and comes from Erfurt, from the former so called DDR.
It is now just a videogame, one of the funniest one, the Disco Dance Revolution. Also quite outdated, almost as much as the Deutsche Demokratik Republik, or even more, given the fast development of the digital entertainment. The German Democratic Republic was however not even remotely comparable to a form of leisure.
Generals and politicians assembled for decades, on a huge board, the fate of 16 million menschen. Those unfortunate human beings found sometimes that even the tiniest details of their own private life had already been decided by the Party.
A Renaissance theologian would have started a debate about the effect and consequences of the free will of a citizen within the frame of a similar Democratic institution. What would have been his own merits? Provided that he could have dared to proclaim himself safe outside the supervision of the communist clergy. They had no clerics, they did not even need them, but just subservient bureaucrats who carefully followed policies and directives set by the leaders of the Party.
That guy is quite a funny one, not really elegant, not a schickimicki one, some sort of fashionable upstart quite common among the Munich finance underworld. Keeping the videogame quotations, he is apparently anonymous as most of the basic characters out of the Sims or any other simulation. Yet he is real and is not paid with Lynden Dollars. He conceals quite well his personality along a well developed sense of humour. Sometimes caustic, as Germans are, but far better developed than the jokes about a brown bear killed because of the colour of his skin.
I have never fully appreciated whether he is really helpful to my position or is just cunningly looking for allies, but he has proved so far to be one of my most reliable supporters. By having survived the inquiries of the police more than once, most of the time for nothing more serious than an effective witz heard by the wrong hears, he has become quite a tricky opponent of the project management. Despite many attempts, nobody has already been able to make him guilty for something he has done or not done. He is simply spotless when summoned to the judgement of the internal bureaucracy.
How well adapted to the structure of a modern financial institution is the a survivor of a communist society, sounds like a strange paradox. My colleague from Erfurt seldom expresses a political opinion, but I have so far understood that, being a social democrat, he does not like the red flag of the soviet revolution nor the stars and stripes from Wall Street. He does not however enjoy to intermingle with the life of others, that is highly appreciable on the workplace, and I have never tried to argue about his thoughts.
I reach the office quite early, as usual Germans do. The schedule is quite flexible and even full time employees enjoy some freedom that is seldom allowed to freelancers in other countries.
Like that I have just left behind me, where scarce consideration exists for those who do not work under the protection of some labour union. Qualified personnel is on the contrary regarded with the rank of the best professionals and entitled of the same privileges.
Nevertheless the dark side that each nordic population share, that sense of common responsibility that sometimes tends to socialism, and even worse, compels most of my new colleagues to regularly start at 8 o'clock in the morning and leave at 16:30 after a brief and well ordered lunchbreak. To ignore such not written rules would be felt as an outrage, quite as much as an apostasy in the most conservative islamic areas. According to the law I am a well protected worker, entitled to a certain amount of privileges that should save me from being exploited, abused, humiliated, harassed and eventually enslaved. According to the management I am a sort of permanent freelancer, who deserves some flexibility with time and duties.
According to a consistent minority of colleagues I am a fordist chain line worker, who should fully cooperate with his own comrades. At least according to what I perceive.
After a while, perhaps a first screening to understand whether my ideas or behaviour would not make me a socially dangerous individual, I am invited, at regular time, to join a cup of tea around the coffee machine. The tee comes from home and I am sincerely appreciate whether it comes from some fair trade network, while the company provides the hot water. Given the peak reached by energy prices it would be welcome if my rent wouldn't include the whole
maintenance costs of the apartment. The brief conversation is also conducted with astonishing order. The tone is politically correct, as well as the subjects, although, differently from the atmosphere of a totalitarian regime, unaligned thoughts are fully tolerated. I just have got to pay
attention not to upset such well conforming minds. I have also developed the idea that full time employees, independently from role, incomes, education, cultural background and ethnicity, share the same tendency to standard believes based on minimization of risk, demand of social and mutual protection, refusal if not hatred of luxuries. Also ambition should be carefully concealed under some hypocritical mask of modesty and humility.
Like members of the clergy, obeying the holy writings, worshipping the Pope and assuming to be somehow enlightened, the social democratic workforce enjoys the advantages of the capitalist world, whose true inconveniences are left to the C-Rooms and the small and medium size business owners. Permanents have entrenched herself on a well protected socialist island surrounded by the unharnessed waves of the free market.
I still enjoy freedom, since a general respect of privacy and self determination, coming from the official intentions of the Republic, allows me to maintain and cultivate my opinions, perhaps even to share them under a really loose control by the public opinion.
When I wake up I usually roll peacefully in my bed. I seldom had such sweet dreams before, for so many nights in a row. It’s like to qualify first for the Grand Prix, week after week, being praised like a champion and indeed mathematically winning the world title. Perhaps the cover is quite smelly since, in the capitalist world, you have got to do it everything by yourself. Mothers and girlfriends, even if they were present, wouldn’t take care of your domestic inconveniences. They have got their own life and goals, and if they still like to share with you a considerable amount of the day, it’s just to do something interesting together. Not to serve. Nobody serves here, everybody are simply paid for what they do and if they need more money have just to find out a way to obtain it. Still abiding to the law. I am not already so skilled with that task, therefore I can’t afford the intervention of an housekeeper and I have got to be ingenious to manage my domestic duties without wasting too much time either. However, although my bed is not provided of fresh and well ironed sheets on daily basis, I enjoy the privilege of wonderful onirical visions.
I follow the borders of the wall, lines are so clear and well defined. The geometric shapes that since centuries create buildings and mansions represent so well the logical mind of the man. Together with the fantasies from the night and the brightness of the day early in the morning, when it better works for most of human beings, is it possible to forge the most beautiful artifacts just assembling few simple bricks. It is like a Lego game, and we have been living such a reality since the dawn of civilization. No wonder that even movie and videogame industry are exploiting those small pieces so wisely.
On the walls are also hanging my investments. Sketches on paper whose value is even higher, but less inconsistent, than the certificates I have got to buy from my personal home banker in order to safeguard my future. Close friends relatives are not those kind of people you can’t count anymore on. I have also abandoned, burning all the bridges behind me, the few small pillars of social security I could have relied to under the uttermost circumstances. My choice does not admit any compromise and I have to resolve for a well defined cut with any kind of advantage I previously profited from.
There is no ethical issue by profiting from art handling and trading. As every product of intellectual capital deserves to be put on the market. The production process of an artwork is also one extremely convenient if the cost of raw materials and energy employed in proportion to the worth of the output are taking in account. Moreover only a considerate mind of a careful and methodical investor is able to exploit at the best the result of the chaotic efforts of an artist, thus masterly combining different and opposing skills for the improvement of the conjunctural economy.
Also time is money, and I could afford to spend half an hour lingering on such non sense, providing a proper budget to quit the daily life and enjoy an illogical diversion to well ordered thoughts and duties. With a huge difference from those artists who had to take refuge to an imaginary world as the only feasible solution to escape horrors and misery, since I have never dreamt for a better situation than my current one. It is just a natural need to continuously look from something different than what stands around. It’s a dynamic though, as the russian mountains of the stock exchange charts.
I suddenly stand up and move in the direction of the next door, aiming for home. A slim and tall man, who has followed the conference leaning against the wall, without speaking, raising a question or any other reaction, seems to follow me. Marching at the double quick he soon reaches my shadow and flanks me. I avoid his sight, but he seems to be friendly and willing of couple of good words. Still, I do not thrust him, believing he's one of those lurkers who are just trying to find a job.
"Hi", he says firmly, without hesitation. I wait to reply, till I express a warm "Hi, mate!". I feel I have shown too much of my cautiousness and, to avoid any misunderstanding, I find myself compelled to add an even less natural "Nice evening, ain't it?". He nodded, as if I had successfully repelled him. I could have committed an enormous mistake, those you are sooner or later going to regret and make you realize how stupid you are. "Where do you come from, mate?", I insist. The roles are now changed and I should find a way to captivate that stranger. "I'm from Spain", he replies quickly, as if he were intentioned to drop the conversation, "I'm on my way to make my fortune here". I do not understand his tone. It sounds sarcastic and now I should judge him as the mental sanity of the Abbé Faria by the awkward inhabitants of the Chateau d'If. Will I fail as the jailers did or will I become as much rich as Monte-Cristo did? That Spaniard is anyway free from any chain and will hardly share with me even the smallest amount of his fortune. Unless he does not need someone to partage his startup with.
It's time to introduce each other and going to the point. What is he expecting? Am I worrying too much? Indeed he turns out to be a software developer who moved to Germany because of a love story and some desire for an international career. He comes from Barcelona and it for him uneasy to maintain too close connections with his family or the place where he was born. The daily sight of the see has bred his keen tendency to exploration. As much as he has always enjoyed what stays behind the movement of the sprites on an old videogame. He started to work on the maintenance of some arcade machines and ended up with a degree in Electronic Engineering and some years of experience in unstable IT consultancy.
When the company he was working for suddenly declared bankruptcy, during the peak of the real estate bubble, he quickly moved to Munich with a German graphic designer he had started to date in Mallorca. She provided some income to the family, and, in the student apartment they have managed to rent by enrolling to a Ph.D. program, he started to exploit his free time by focusing on a simple business plan and the development of the software infrastructure to support it. Quite busy and enjoying the beautiful frame of the bavarian trees and walkways, he has managed to survive until his ideas have not provided him some revenues. Enough to establish a company, increase once more the revenues, reinvest his capital, further enrich his business plan and eventually start to hire the first employees.
He has found so far few obstacles, apart of some paradoxical need for a lawyer due the monstrous complexity of the German law. Yet nothing is intended, under the benign hand of a liberal government, to put some hurdles to individual initiative. Nor the cultural environment look at any entrepreneur as an enemy of the people to be shot on the place in the name of the socialist revolution. Far away from the symbolism of Guernica and the remembrance of the Civil War, he is now quite well settled among an highly productive economy on the verge of technical changement.
I share with him my story and my hope for the future. At least I am feeling much more relaxed, as if I had been detained in prison for some crime I have never committed and just fully discharged of any guilt. We have reached the U-Bahn. I live nearby, the Spaniard has still got half an hour before getting home and he shouldn't miss the last train. He leaves me with his business card. Just in case I want involve him with any start up I intend to ground, change my job or simply to have a nice chat.
I wake up at 6 o'clock. I have not already left the habit to reserve the most precious hour of the day, before getting ready to go to work, to my favourite activities. Reading a book, newspapers, sometimes also playing the piano. With an headset, to respect the right of my neighbour to disdain my performance. It's the way to preserve my personal integrity against a system that has so far tried to drain my individual initiative with any available trick. I am not living that horrible utopia anymore, but it has cut my soul so deep that it is hard to drop my old habits.
I am master of my own time here, even if chained to a permanent contract. That kind of security that I still despise, but I cannot afford to avoid, because it is required by the capitalist land I have moved to. No credit card, no apartment available for rent, unless you don't show the evidence of some financial stability. Having being dispossessed of everything, by the regime on the other side of the Alps, I have no other possession than a contract that links me, as a common employee, to the loyalty of the company I am serving.
No far from a peasant in the feudal system, I have bartered freedom for a warm shelter and a loaf of hot bread. In the modern and efficient free market economy, I am saving enough to be able to enjoy hobbies and a decent amount of time. That's not so bad, I could easily survive. Just to pay attention not to be lured by the too tangible advantages of a quiet life without any further ambition. Loyalty to the fiefdom, and to my warlord are essential, but I fully doubt of myself. I am much more prone to the rejected role of a ronin, a masterless samurai. Or a freelancer. But the time is not already ripe and I have got to refuse the sweet pleasure of a marshmallow if I want to taste a piece of a luxurious cake.
I take the tube, the bus, travel with the mass transits made available by the municipalities. A self sustaining network that does not ignore the rules of nature. It is carefully regulated to obtain the right balance between a minimized waiting time, an 24/7 service, the amount of paying passengers, price of the tickets, maintenance and operating cost. Not everybody accept it. Most believe that they are wasting too much time outside the wagons, during cold winter nights and warm summer evenings. Time is money, they cannot save time, i.e. money, unless they are not disposed to pay for that. As usual any money counts, and both sides are contending for the most convenient solution.
I enter the office, the company is not saving money on me. I am regarded as a professional, the working class does not exist anymore. It has expired long time ago, with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Valuable paintings are hanging from the walls. Nobody protests private handling and trading of human creations. They are a valuable solution where to convey the enormous profits of local companies. Socialists would never understand, although they claim such an analytical genius when history is concerned, that market and money are the true requirements for artists to thrive. As well for scientists and any intellectual mind. Also for the eremites in the desert. The so well reknown byzantine monastic tradition would have never existed without the corrupted luxuries of the Constantines' court.
I quit the office, at the established time. A clear contract has been signed between me and my liege. I am paid for a defined amount of time, and every second of my life it is just mine, unless I am not properly paid for. As well I have not stolen him an instant, among those he has retributed me. Private property is well respected.
I am leaving the office for half an hour of fresh air. As someone condemned to a long imprisonment, charged of a terrible crime. My exile is however sweet, as the water of the Promised Land, and from my office windows I enjoy the view of a beautiful park. Among the trees, the sound of the wind so nicely accompanies the singing of the magpies. Even without paying proper attention, squirrels are easily spotted, playing among the woods and dogs are quietly running around without making any nuisance to the happy folk.
The Englischen Garten, in the very heart of the city, divide a reasonable part of Munich in two halves, each of them enjoyable, especially during the last weeks of the springtime till the beginning of the autumn. The most prominent companies have found their own headquarters all around the park, whose access is provided as a well appreciated benefit by a significant part of their employees. At least those who appreciate green areas. Quite a significant percentage just ignore it and prefer a quick lunch in the canteen for an affordable price. To these lot belongs the significant minority accustomed to the greyish monotony of suburban areas developed by snobbish architects so well dedicated to socialist theories.
On daily basis I enjoy a comfortable walk under the trees, following the small artificial streams and creeks. Dogs are joyfully taking their bath, alongside human being. Some points are even crossed by horseback police, whose officers should consider most of their duty as true pleasure. Children use to play ball, seldom unattended, alongside young and healthy mothers. Some of the latter pull the stroller while jogging. Up to six kids are put in the same one to be brought around as if they were little lords on a carriage. They are so curious about the world they are starting to explore. If the statistics are correct, they could expect to have even more than a century to go on with their observations. Perhaps even with a budget generous enough to carry them to the remotest area of the planet.
Such a sight inspires optimism towards a growing economy and graphs tending to the top, reaching figures unforeseeable just a couple of decades ago. Excluding those paradoxical ones so often published on the Pravda or inside the books about soviet block countries. Especially when translated to English or any other language in use among NATO members and the intended reader was a casual visitor from the West. It seems that capitalism has materialized the illusions predicted by enemy propaganda. At least I hope so. The mix of mathematical models and complex data sourcing is beyond any reasonable proof available to a human being. Those information should be thrusted on the basis of some tangible feedbacks.
I thrust the US Government Commission, NATO reports, the CIA World Factbook and German Newspapers, just some of them, on the basis of the prosperity I am enjoying during my daylife and some logical reasoning. I assume that my knowledge is quite correct, because the system I have adopted works so well and I am feeling at ease.
Thinking at the lifestyle I have left behind me, there are seldom any complains. I will have to start from the scratch the project of a new established life, but no alternatives are available in the short term horizon. During the last days of democracy of my home country, before the Prime Minister had resigned and the Party took over the power, the opposition has been cornered and smashed into pieces. Brainwashing has followed. Just the necessary time to infiltrate men loyal to the new regime with key positions among the financial, cultural and military institutions. Some of my fellows have been already awaken, others will be soon shaken by the illusion they were living. It will be too late. I am far away, even their voices cannot reach me anymore.
I have just ordered a drink in a fancy bar in Munich, on the other side of the Iron Curtain, far away from the exhibitions on the positive contribution of the Communist Party to the democratic development of my former homeland. People are discussing all around me. Happy workers drugged by social security provided by a powerful state and a stable economy. I am quite puzzled that I still do not find myself comfortable. I will have to get acquainted to the local culture. Yet any link to the regime I have so closely managed to escape still gives me the chill and strengthens my will to fire back. Some days, somewhere, I will fire back.
It is an oath I have taken before fleeing my country, a promise never made to the only one who has ever loved me and suddenly disappeared behind the Iron Curtain. I still feeling some hatred, but in absence of a colleague spying on you, or friends who forcefully support the lynching of the latest elected scapegoat, on the ground of a message twitted by the reborn Symbionese Liberation Army, my life is acquiring different priorities. My spirit is going to forget everything about that.
I would have let the remembrance of a forced low income fade away as a nightmare. The waiter reaches my table carefully serving a small bottle of tonic and a glass half filled with gin. I took the coaster in my hands, turned it around and discovered that the liquor was labelled with the portrait of Che Guevara. Almost astonished, I realized that the war is not over, I am just playing it from a well trenched position
A greater game was indeed progressing outside the borders of the Democratic Republic. After a couple of generations the cleavage with the Free World would have been so evident that even those few opposers survived would have scarcely survived a successful attempt of escape. If not with that abhorred State or charity support that every independent spirit wouldn't ever ask for.
Since professionality and specific skills were highly valued, much more than social intellgence or socialist faith, the letter being on the contrary be laughable lines on any CV, a proper training turned out to be essential in an high competitive market. The mob had therefore quite a large chance to access the market, even with the role of a strong competitor. Nevertheless time-management, a well scheduled week and a foresighting career development program were essential to reach the top level consultancy. Otherwise even the most ambitious would have left to be a pawn among many others. Many meant millions, in the global market.
Frontiers, like within the pre-WWI Empires, didn't mean anything more that a place where to play with time zones, for the management, and tax and customs for accountancy. Our hero just made a step out the door and he discovered himself to have accessed a brand new universe, made of a peculiar caste systems that, like levels of a videogame, allowed professionals to evaluate the effectiveness of their achievements.
Geography didn't really matter. There were black-holes, whose actractive mass was constituted by the budget available and the number of starting projects. Just a check on the web would have given the idea where to move next, where with a four months contract, after taxes, a focused professional could maximed his or her income. Corporations, nor the State, had any power anymore, if not for some not-written rules about finishing what you've began. Digital parchments recollecting the code of honour of bands of knights during the early middle ages. Before the Autumn of that era, when Kings and Crowns subdued free cities and proud vassals to the power of an absolute authority. That very same system that XIX century science reconducted to marxist theories.
On the business section of the North Korea official internet site could be read "As opposed to other Asian countries, worker's will not abandon their positions for higher salaries once they are trained." That rule didn't apply in the free world the engineer had entered leaving the Democratic Republic.
Recovering a morale stormed by uncontrollable and adverse events is the hardest task members of humankind could accomplish. Injuries of a life spent under the influence of a witless potentate are the most nefandous effects of tyranny, since they endure long after the aforementioned ruler has been put aside whether by an insurrection, a catastrophic outcome of a conflict or the personal ambition of a no less vacuous leader. Although focused on the objective, as the HR would have recommended to write on the résumé, the engineer found himself affected by the Italian way to olocracy as soon he found himself exposed to the most genuine globalized thought of his recently acquired colleagues.
Frantic to improve his unsustainable situation, caught by a daily rhythm that few would have maintained for more than few weeks, unless desperate, the engineer had resolved to face the risk of an exhaustion instead of surrender. A better and more efficient strategy would have been perhaps attainable, if not advisable, but a brilliant brain is often reached by an unmanageable blood flow. Alas he moved on without realizing his most frequent, if not persistent, mistakes, like a daring white partisan pursuing a routed unit of Trotsky's bolsheviks.
On the contrary he could feel to have shared the destiny of many successful cavalry brigades who never spared their mounts to enact a magnificent piece of soldiery to be accounted for by amateur historians. Like Lenin in 1917, he didn't need to linger on philosophical considerations, but on action instead. How could he manage to keep his focus on the Indian job and still pretend to efficiently work on the Italian one? A decrease of productivity would have been perhaps appreciated by most of his colleagues, or comrades.
The biologist spent at least half of her time by consulting old Soviet University books on the web, chatting with her friends, keeping in touch with the family. So did many others, with the exception that didn't pay attention to Stalinist scientists biographies and achievements. They just contributed to the building of the Socialist Nation by making redundant the boisterous claims of the Party leaders. Sometimes they shared links and copies of magazines whose first reading gave the cumbersome idea of an artificial scaffolding of the Eastern block economy. Had their mind be more flexible, or had they minimally taken consideration of the principles of etymology, they could have appreciated the daily contributions of Fidel Castro on Granma.
He started optimizing his own time on the pc, scrupulously following the never attended rule, if not by Labour Unions representatives, of a short break every hour. He also had to plan how to exploit that short-break spent avoiding the light of the screen and discovered that if dedicated to micro-manage the forthcoming small tasks he was assigned to, or evaluating the consequences of his own interventions, he could significantly improve his performances. Nevertheless he didn't have to forget that the great game had to take place overnight.
The bright rays of the sun entered the open space in that early morning. The engineer hardly realized to have successfully digged an hole under the wall of the KZ chosen for him by the HR. Recent events had upset him so much that he had to conquer back the solicitousness that allowed him to becam an Indian on the prairies of the Democratic Republic. Beleaguered in his own box by toutings of the Labour Unions, the official ones, those who had their roots in the Party, he had to restore his forces for the last chevauchée. An act of braveness that could have gained him definitive freedom.
A different and artificial light was the aim of the hero, who tried to escape the boundaries of a Socialist Paradise. Such were the very same neons in West Berlin, that appearead so sweet to the DDR buergers entrapped by stampels and egalitarian burocracy. Some of them became so ingenious that they could patent the very same instruments adopted on the flight and sell them at the best bid in the free market they now lived. The engineer didn't posses so effective skills to produce, or even conceive, a new device. The sort of prison he was confined to didn't offer the chance, to a troubled mind, to acquire a pragmatic knowledge. On the contrary the nature provided him a brain apt to analyze the world he was surrounded by and write, with the painful blood of his own memories, a valuable account to be shared with many other lucky expatriates.
Politically speaking, he was still living in the East, while the more proper geographical East lied still miles away. Paying attention to avoid the indiscreet glances of the comrades was essential. Among them more than one confident was scrupoulously serving the Party, often outrageously manifestly. They would have willingly dropped a dime on him with the hope to get a promotion within the ranks of the local Stasi. The most evident victim of their close surveillaince was seating before the engineer.
A wrenched woman, in no better condition than the fantastical creature that sometimes could be spotted in the Socialist cinema, reenacting the witches of a Shakespeare drama. A former biologist, still convinced that the Red Revolution would have soon brought justice to the suffering of the working class, she didn't object the punishment to have assisted for so many years a prominent conservative scientist at the University. Actually, the Committee, summoned up by the most authoritative gossip of the co-workers, just assigned her some low level jobs, assuming that no matter how long she previously worked, yet her experience valued nothing. Having achieved a degree in a top level academy, she was on the contrary enough to be countered among the socially priviledged that the incoming Regime was promising to fight.
He would have written the story of such a creature, had he not to more carefully work on his own plan. The humble shelter he had built to reduce his workload would have resulted essential, since for a while he should have sustained the strict schedule of an intensive double life. At least while erecting a solid career based on evidence in his virtual exhistence of an Asian computer whizard. Nevertheless he required to rest, like had he just touched the right bank of the Donau and walked across miles of the harsh Yugoslavian forests and woods, up to the frontiers of Italy. His brain was drained, feeling the hangover for his success and the fear of the army of Alexander when they reached the Indus.
Although image manipulation, with the help of an open source tool easily available from the web, as well as the design of a virtual professional profile resulted to be quite trivial, harder was to create a network of presumed colleagues whose identities were linked to a living human being in the physical world. Actually, the Indian avatar the engineer created did correspond to his bones and flesh. To his brain as well, since it could have turned out to be imprudent to boast skills not really possessed. A concept many entrepreneurs of virtual facilities should have been aware of, since they never pose on too inquisitorial positions.
The engineer had to collect a large database of e-mail addresses, of which a professional spammer could have proved envy, before obtaining some valuable reply. The first responses argued on the lack of specific skills, that could indeed reflect the nature of the ICT training on the job. That wasn't so unusual listening to technicians expressing the very same worship and fear towards Fortune usually attributed to sailors. You could find by shear dumb luck a job that could have provided you an invaluable experience, as well be condemned to be employed on low profile tasks for the whole of your career. The engineer didn't thrust the Fortune at all, he didn't like to abandon himself to the favor of a woman, either a Lady or a Goddess. The Greek fishing industry, and the economy of the whole Mediterranean area, didn't seem to obtain benefits from the traditional fatalistic approach of the local population. Britons did certainly better, and never surrendered.
On a day, a wonderful day for an auto-da-fé, when most of his colleagues would have burnt the engineer on the flames of the red revolution, the first reply appeared in the mail box. They did excuse for the delay, having left with the doubt of a negative feed back an high-potential profile. They simply had a long decision process, much longer than the average. They just asked for a phone interview, provided that the candidate had a valid phone number he could contacted to. Some junior Indian professionals didn't indeed rely on large familiar incomes and had when possible to cut the budget for technological not so useful gadgets.
Obtaining an Indian number wasn't so hard. Neither was to feign an Asia voice on the phone. Much harder was to convince an expert interviewer, trained by experience to spot a wannabe w ho tends to overestimate his achievements or a simple fool who oversells his skills. On the other part of the cable, although they were communicating through mobile phones who didn't require a physical line anymore, was talking a brilliant businessman. He was perhaps unaware of the last theories of psychoanalysis, as well as of the state of art of computer science, but he could distinguish between the demeanor of a cultivated gentleman and the boasting of an illiterate. Such qualities, despised by a Democratic Republic whose leaders were studying Russian to read the works of Karl Marx, were still appreciated in the emerging countries.
The engineer scored a partial victory when he obtained the contract. Yet he should have soon discovered that, quitting a world where skills are low and social dynamics could help to hide professional lack of competence, he would have necessary faced the harsh judgment of well paid, trained and praised technicians. If a couple of book on the desk would have been enough to sustain an incontrovertible professional superiority on undergraduates, he had to face Ph. Ds and post docs with the eagerness to learn and experiment of a teenager in a chem lab.
Day and night the engineer had to work on his new identity. Italy was still, at least nominally, a European nation, he had no reason to behave like the subject of an African regime. Yet, if he had to find a job, he couldn't boast his EU citizenship. Employee who could have required too high wages had scarce chance to obtain a job on the on-line market. You could work at home from Lahore as from Milan, but with 300 Euro you could afford the life of a Maharaja in the suburbs of any Indian city. Provided you had no need for imported European goods. The price were nonetheless increasing when professional job was required, and indeed the Indian market was creating an army of well bred and paid experts. Italy was falling behind the developing world.
The first contacts recorded a complete defeat. Nobody wanted to thrust a technician who couldn't provide references. But how could references be collected for a fake identity? Perhaps the very same references could have supported the opening of a bank account, perhaps abroad, that could help the engineer to survive the unbeatable bureaucracy of that kind of Democratic Republic. The police could have certainly closed the controls on already rich entrepreneurs, but who could have cared of an outcast living on the terrace of the company for which he was to presume to work. Yet, ethics was involved as well. But why should the engineer take care to contribute to the institutions that were so violently suppressing his hope for a brilliant career.
It resulted quite easy to acquire the picture of an unknown subject of the Pakistani Republic and merge the traits of his dark complexion with the eyes and lips of our eccentric hero. Since he was to be sure that in successful circumstances no unexpected hindrance should deprive him of the treasure he could have accumulated in some clandestine vault of a fiscal paradise. Any software could have proved his true identity through iris recognition. They could indeed have used it in the company downstairs, to track employees presence in the buildings. Some privacy issues had been risen. Fingerprints were quite easy to be unequivocally linked to the effective owner. Moreover nobody could forget his eyes and fingerprints at home, as they usually did with an ID card. Nobody thought about a simple RFID device that could be installed in any object of daily usage and whose presence could have been detected without the usual inconvenience to extract the card from the wallet, and the wallet from the jeans, the jacket or the bag.
The engineer was not in the habit to break the law, and didn't find that the inconveniences produced by the outrageous conditions he could be implied with could provide him some excuse to misbehave. Social networks on the web were a powerful instrument to forge the profile of a brand new software engineer, living in the suburban area of Chennai, having graduated at the local University, that shares anyway quite an high reputation, and looking for a placement. He could also give some hints that he was already working daytime for an established software house, but that was indeed the truth and many employers seeking for underpaid professionals would have certainly appreciated such a condition.
Spurred by the initial success, he acquired the braveness to join a professional network, with some evidence of his own past career. He had to mix facts and information, making his poor working experience compatible with the one of a country than on expertise has made a vital bet for the future. On the contrary, the Italian regime, not already established, but ready to take the power, had erected his power on the principle that everybody is equal. Therefore making a distinction based on culture and skills acquired with a formal training would have resulted into a severe discrimination. According to the etiquette of the Democratic Republic. Perhaps they really believed that academical level education for technician didn't matter and most of the chief members of the Party were quite relieved by the scores of high, but expensive, profiles fleeing abroad.
I approached that decisive night, when I definitely decided to settle on the roof of what sooner or later would have become my former company, with the most pro-active spirit that any consultant should ever been capable of. Just few hours were in front of me before the closing time of most of the superstores where something cheap and durable could have been tracked.
The life of an intellectual could be quite expensive, but not certainly for the common objects coveted by the everyday man. A tent, a couple of camp lights, rechargeable with the plugs of the open space, spare batteries and any kind of accumulator. Some sealed boxes, ready to stand the fiercest storm. Some pillows and a bench, to sleep upon. That was enough to survive. Yet, the intelligence of that original operational headquarters resided in a small bag, that contained a four portable hard disks. One terabyte each, since it was not enough to store each information a couple of times in order to be mathematically sure to preserve it for posterity.
The pictures of the old house, of the whole families, of holidays and expeditions abroad, books, movies, newspapers and songs. Everything was stored in those small parallelepipeds. I just couldn't rely on the melody of the piano, I used to play during the Christmas holidays, since it could have been easily noticed and hardly covered by the small tent I built. A violin was apter, especially if an electronic one, whose sound I could have listened to with a couple of headset. Microwave ovens were still compact, and affordable, during those days, as well as a little fridge, where to store some provisions even for some long period under cover.
I would have experimented not so few incongruent situations, especially when my working conditions were to be accounted. Sleeping night time over the place where I felt to be almost enslaved, condemned to trivial tasks, not less than the criminals convicted to the forced labour in Siberia. Dreaming, and putting my dreams to the reality, in the very same area that originally constituted a severe hindrance to the development of my career. I actually felt angrier and angrier and that absurd rebellion to the rules of the human Civilization, as if nomadic behaviour should be considered the most asocial and dangerous instinct a good subject and citizen should ever be ashamed of, was just the final consequence of my denial to recognize the whole Democratic Republic to be legitimate.
As the time went by the world became to welcome petty employees all around me. Most of the chatting about the last TV shows wired the previous evening. Others just striving for a cup of coffee, their breakfast, Italians are so proud of. I was quite annoyed of their presence, although most of them never harmed me. Sometimes I could consider myself quite lucky. Really few bothered me because I didn't care about them. Yet, those were really disturbing, as much as an horror show on Friday nights.
In front of me, minor characters were performing a quite peculiar Inszenierung. I wondered if it weren't the DEFA to have hired the artists. Two boys with lather jacket, a white t-shirt and jeans were arguing among themselves. They started quite gently, leise would be the more proper German adjective, I didn't either notice about their discussion. Suddenly I began to understand "social", "social class". It seemed the usual official speech against anyone whose earning are above the average. It wasn't. One of the technicians accused the other to come from a different social class, they won't ever be on the same level. It was the supposed inferior who was so angry. The other replied with the tones and behavior of a XIX century manual worker indeed.
I came back to my job, the one that I should have ended with the week. I spotted the red head of the biologist. She was really worried about her position, constantly hindered by the hostility of someone who could take decisions. Sometimes she felt sick. Nevertheless I never understood her career, how could she have landed among software engineers, or supposed so, if she had a good record with her research projects. She stared at her screen, as I did with mine while speculating about the future of my career, as if recognizing that her career, as well as mine, without further developments, had achieved a dead end.
An impressing stout man, seated close to her, was covering with his royal figure the view to his own browser. I sometimes dropped my sight on the work of the other's, discovering that most of the time they were looking at the time passing around them, without an effective contribution to the history of the world. There was no better way to insult the holy spark that lies in every man, than squandering the modest means of a not talented brain. I've seen him reading philosophy, from time to time, during the breaks, but never understood if he achieved a concrete goal in his no more so brief life.
The managers of the company were the most active, stepping in and out all the time, calling mates from other departments and fellows from the partners. They spent their whole life to build their own career, ending up to lead a bunch of gamblers and miserables, selling outdated products to someone who, without respect for his own age, decided to be unable to learn anything new in his own life and wanted to secure a quiet decade before the retirement confiding to the inalterableness of industrial processes consolidated at the time of the Wende.
On my behalf, I replied to a dear friend, who suggested me to take a leave a go to Berlin for a couple of days, for the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall. I gave a glimpse all around me and concluded that I still had to cross the Check Point Charlie. In Italy the celebration for the 40th years of the DDR were going on without disturbances.
Most of the ICT companies rely on workers hired by agencies that, according to the professional gossip, are causing too many redundancies and quite an unsustainable raise of industrial costs per unit. The practice was born in the UK, were the salaries and the skills are quite high, later imported, in the late 1970s, to Italy, where the chaotic way of life contributed to generate a web of fake consulting company who sell and resell the so called consultants. I've heard of someone employed by A, resold to B, who resold him to C, to work with D. Who subcontracted a project from a main company. Hardly imagine how much could have been the final cost of such an employee, perhaps much more than a manager. He nevertheless couldn't afford to sustain a family, since he already had to support the useless life of a score of intermediaries.
The high cost of such a system and the comparatively high skills available in former Commonwealth countries, where London did really fulfill the fate of Rome, spreading the Civilization into the most remote lands, spurred the adoption of off-shore consulting. A term usually adopted to describe the really high paid technicians on oil rigs in the North Sea, now paradoxically applied to 300 US$ Indian and Nigerian software engineers. Nevertheless it's rare that skilled professional moves in a restricted area and it's not so awkward that a New Delhi DBA could earn as much, if not more, than his French brother. Yet, the idea to obtain even a small gain is luring most of the ICT company to look for new perspectives in such remote lands redeemed by the influence of colonialism.
Certainly knowledge and effective skills are the minerals such entrepreneurs are looking for. The very same resources that the red regime of the Italian Democratic Republic denies and contribute, day by day, to annihilate. How could a software engineer become a respectable professional if he's
supervised by someone who can hardly read and write, appoint him to duties that even a illiterate could fulfill, and, if attempts to maintain his competence studying during the free time, has got to do it undercover? That's the effect of holocracies and the world I was escaping from. Indeed, thanks to the bad reputation acquired by many fellows.
On the contrary, much more advanced countries, with some aristocratic heritage, could provide both high certified employees, well motivated since adequately paid, for an industrial cost that could guarantee a cut of costs up to 40%. Without mentioning an appreciable increment of the quality. Most of the times virtual companies, set in a skyscraper of Chennai or New Delhi. Just a small office for the CEO or, better to say, the owner of the idea. Contributors are statistically distributed all around the country. Some of them actually working for home. The employers have never seen their face, and their work is judged by achievements. No personal relationship is involved, just the skills. I should be reachable by a valid e-mail address. No real proofs of my own identity are required, if I want to start from basics tasks.
The gentle light of the morning penetrated the blinders to hit the screens of the few desktops left in the office. Nobody was there and I could enjoy my loneliness. Perhaps the secretary had already entered, and sit at her own place staring at the wall, with a well set smile ready to welcome anyone could have approached the entrance. Ready to sign on her pc date and time as well, in case an intruder should linger too much looking around for some valuable piece to pick without consent.
On the contrary, in the open space where I sat, the only human being was focused on a quite far world time, apt to work overnight, from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. Eight hours, not nine, since without supervision, no social lunch break is required. Indeed the party time for many dandies, from the Campari to the late night last dance. New Zealand could provide the best solution, if these were my requirements. Quite an advanced country, no fear of devalued currency, although the Euro seemed to be quite strong during those days, an open society full of opportunities.
Indeed, I felt like a pioneer, ready to sail to an unknown land to exploit the treasures of the local nature and the kindness of natives. A beautiful green, surrounded by hills, mountains covered by the snow, a swimming pool, the water blue like the sky above, in the middle. That's the hearth of the ICT park promised by the web sites. I could have been lured by the idea to move there, but my mind had already been affected by the idea to humiliate myself living under a clandestine recovery on the terrace. My way to despise the Italian industry and put a mark on the condition of professionals. People that in other places and times should have highly regarded, but were instead constantly bullied in that incoming holocracy.
Yet, I should work off-shore, from the home-office or, according to my plans, under a Plexiglas roof at the moonlight. Or what about some rechargeable solar light cell, stealing the energy for my enterprise from the red sun of the Italienische Demokratische Republik? I still had a lot of work to do, my ideas were still full with contradictions. Just the day before I expected to operate from the inside of the office, but if I really wanted to impose a western style economy, how could I behave like a boy from a South-American shanty town? On my opinion Robin Hood was just a commie, and I was ready to fight the commies.
My thoughts were becoming to chaotic, I had to keep quiet and focused on my target. Like a professional analyst I had to collect the requirements at first and type on the Google bar: "What should I do to work off-shore?".
It was so quiet out there. Apparently no noise was produced in the hearth or the metropolis, during the night, when just few workers were active and most of the students spent the money provided by the family. Most of them pledged for a State support to their own expenses, but socialist regimes hardly pay for free drinks. That's much more the style of a decadent and edonistic Monarchy, celebrating her last days before collapsing.
I was so tired that I fell after a while, completely unconscious. No wardens were expected to come to wake me up. I had not already been captured by the MfS squads and sleep privation didn't concern me. I had no overnight interrogation either, and if my consciousness didn't torment me with the fear of professional failure, I could have enjoyed the night as a tourist in a village on the Red Sea. A prize for the Bauern und Arbeteirn of our sogenannte DDR. Actually, no more ehemalige, since the reconstruction was proceeding quite fast paced. While I was looking for a way out, the press and the leftist had already created an effective team to begin with the annihilation of the bourgeois rights.
I dreamt of a village in Egypt, similar of a huge complex of barracks. Out of an impressive stone in the middle of the main place, was carved the austere face of Nasser, that evidently was not satisfied enough to lead the Arabs towards an Islamic and Marxist paradise and required some European to enhance his portrait on history books. I was alone, all around my just carriages and heavy tanks, ready to fight for the Revolution. I had no energy left, as if I had alone powered the train that enabled Lenin to come back to Russia in 1917. Or as if I had alone repelled the U.S. attempt at the Bay of Pigs. A modern adaptation of the Hercules' tires, that could have awarded the Greek hero with a massive amount of USSR medals and a sort of immortality on text books for the FDJ. "Bau auf, bau auf, frei Deutsche Jugend bau auf", sang some handsome boys and girls, dancing around me, dressed in light blue bathsuites. It should have been the jingle of the village, composed by some creative branch of the travel agency that sent me there. I politely declined the invitation to join and found a place where to comfortably sleep under the assuring protection of Nasser.
The nicer, more romantic and less oppressive tweet of the birds woke me up quite early in the morning. I'm usually tired after such chaotic nights, when dreams, and thoughts and blood pressure mingle together to provide a form of inspiration proper of a beatnik. Ironically I'm reputed to be the most ordinary, conservative, if not reactionary human being survived on the earth, quite an enthusiastic read of Adam Smith and de Tocqueville. And a sever critic of Penn, whose writings sometimes smell of socialism. Well, I was relaxed and excited, ready to get back to my workplace.
I had just to find a way out. Too many cats require the fire brigade to leave the trees they have so magnificently climbed. A window was open on the terrace, offering me an elegant passage to the second floor and, reducing the risk to be spotted by some early accountant, I gained the stairs and went to take place in front of my laptop. I forgot my usual breakfast. I could have bought something at the supermarket, but I was so high on my wicked plans that I didn't care. It was just 8:00 a.m. and I had enough time to start a brief intelligence work on the web. Looking for the next adobe of the magnificent career I was building on the falling debris of the Italian civilization.
I entered the supermaket and looked around me. I was quite unnoticeable among the mass. I collected some provisions,
mainly edibles that don't require cooking, fruits and vegetables off the shelves. Some sushi as well, provided that
I had not direct access to a fridge. Not at home, of course, but at the headquarters of my company. Where I planned
to relocate waiting for a call from abroad. I could have cut such a time consuming activity, jeopardized and
tyrannized by the arbitary decisions of the Labor Unions that gathered the railroad workers under the Red Flag of the
Revolution. Or, more properly, that made them active members of the Red Army, the strongest pillar of the socialist regime
I felt to live in.
I didn't reach home that evening, I just enjoyed my meal under the trees of the park. A suburban green area, unnoticed
as well by most of the white collars of the nearby buildings. They preferred the dark and gloomy view of the 1960s State architecture,
they got accostumed to during their youth. Usually enrolled to State schools, where they had to learn to mimetize themselves with the grey
walls of those kind of Institutions. I dropped my waste in the garbage, wandering around that desert and lush island in the middle of the
megalopolis. I felt alone, quite powerless if anyone would have seized my body, robbing me of the wallet, the credit card, the identity card.
I was holding an old book I was reading on the train. I stopped close to a street lamp. Priests collecting charity from central Africa often
reports of students from the street of Nairobi or Ouagadougou studying overnight, thanks to the public light. It inspired me, I
wanted to do the same. I felt the need to annihilate myself. I started and read on the remaining page of that book. I took a deep
breath and abandoned myself to intellectual fantasies.
As the time went by, I started to forget my body lying on the grass. I was sleepy and couldn't follow the thought of the author anymore.
I dreamt of a huge and ominous battle between ghosts and unnatural creatures. I couldn't follow my thoughts either, I was just perturbed
by the fight of the will and the pressure from the outside. I woke up at midnight. It was cold, I had to find a shelter. I approached the office.
From the outside all the lights seemed to be off. The main entrance was unfortunately close. I certainly couldn't force it. The burglar alarm
was on and I had no key either. Nevertheless I was somehow compelled to make a choice of the whereabouts of my abode for the next
weeks and the buro where I wasted my time and creativity was the most eligible candidate. I knew the place, I knew the surrounding, I had
somehow free access and could claim to have lost conscioussness if someone would have questioned about my body lying on my desk as if it
were a sleeping bed.
A key, a key was essential to acquire a new home. What else could be done meanwhile? The building was quite awkwardly shaped by a wanna-be world class architect who just played chinese with a Le Corbusier-like fake experimental structure. Slanting enough, performing an x-shear on the standard cubicle, to make the frames reachable enough to be easily climbed even by a not professional intruder.
Even the skills of a lazy burglar had indeed to cope with some amateurish bravado. I looked for a small tree, or a big bush. Some piece ofdecorative gardening that little had in common with the harmonious elegance of the giardini all'italiana of the Renaissance mansions. I wonderedwhich kind of studies could have really conducted the gardener. Perhaps a drop-out of the engineering corral as well. I put the but in the left pocket of my jacket and started to grab any protrusion of that so bad shaped face. I felt me light, quite boosting of acting like a superhero from the comics. I never thought it could had been so light. Just hoped to find a way to come back, if I couldn't work myself an hole through the windows.
I had no diamond nor any other kind of apparels made so well known by 1960s series. My target was a cosy terrace. A cosy recover over the dullness of my daytime job. I shouldn't lose my book either. I would have otherwise lost the fight against my colleagues and the company management. Their non sense reading denial that was so close to the punishment inflicted to political prisoners by the DDR MfS officiers.
At least I got it, I reached a terrace. There's actually another one, much higher than that, where smokers usually gather during coffee-breaks. But
my new headquarters had to be invisible, like a bunker in the jungle against the American army in Vietnam. A pillar of the urban warfare for
Weltlichen Frieden und Freundschaft. Quite luckily the architect conceived a small roof on that terrace. As if he had imagined that someone should have slept there. It was also nicely repaired from the sight of any pedestrian who could have otherwise spotted me walking along the street. Quite
a chance to make myself expert with some DIY activity, and make reasonable the nerdish suggestion so proudly reported on the central pages of the Wired magazine.
The day after the meeting I'm welcome into the office, by the gloomy light of the lamps. Quite a large open space, in which 60 people have got to work together, side by side, in no more than 2 square meters. The very same feeling of closureness should have been felt by the captives held in Sachsenhausen. Less hyperbolic would be the comparison of the several kind of prisoners who had to intermingle their lives and fates with others, who could have seated on the opposite bench of the political tribune.
Beside me a philosopher, or someone with a M. Phil., who hasn't been able to find an Engels who could pay for his vagaries and had find a job. The less professional available being in Italy the ICT, where people with every kind of human experiences converge. In front of me another of those petty accountants who are destroying the business. Actually, he's just attended a professional high-school. He comes from Sicily and had to work in the fields, as a slave of the local Mafia, consenting to receive his week off the books in order to receive the unemployment benefit. His way to serfdom brought him to Northern Italy, underpaid by consulting agencies who have sold him twice - or subconctracted him - before reaching his final destination. He sits in front of me. He's quite welcome by the management of the company, an helpful instruments to cut the pay of other consultants. Since he's seen as a consultant on the same level as me, and many other professionals with formal education. He's not a genius although, it's just the ICT industry to suffer a genuine crisis of knowledge and skills.
The place on my left is being vacant for three weeks, after a fellow chartered engineer resigned and decided to open a florist shop. Professionals, in an environment who doesn't praise professionality, ends up to conform themselves and look for a place where they could be deemed invaders from the outside. As well as the petty accountant and the wannabe philopher he has found in his own dominion.
That's perhaps amusing, unfortunately apter to inspire a playwrighter than an engineer. Or I could follow the Italian way of professionalism and exploit my unproper training with software to write comedies instead of Java code. I'll certainly find a publisher, perhaps a liberal one, greedy to make money out of the misery of the Nation. That could nevertheless quite an idea,
to try and give a twist to my career. If as a single-customer professional, I can't find my satisfaction, why shouldn't I adventure myself in a foreign land?
I was fogetting a much more dramatic character. A small and gentle lady in her late fifties. Her curly hairs, her broken nose, her shabby demeanor and her out-fashioned second hand clothes makes her quite unnoticeable. She's a biologist, she worked a long time in dusty labs for several farmaceutical companies. She had to quit her job, nobody knows how, when and why, but she's quite depressed and spends most of the time googling for Lysenko and the names of the other scientists whose reputation has been obscured by the fall of the Soviet Union. She has discovered a way to explains the effects of genetics avoiding the use of such an unsocialist concept as heredity. She works with the picture of Gagarin on her Windows desktop, that sometimes change with a young Nelson Mandela and a smiling J. F. Kennedy before the shooting.
I receive a phone call from the other side of the city. That's one of the public employee, whose conversation I've enjoyed 24 hours ago. We have got to work together. We could have relied on Skype, a platform to share the visualization of our Desktop, any kind of application to enhance the cooperation between distant teams. Much easier solutions would be available thanks to any free and open software solution, available on-line, donwloadable and installable in just few seconds. That brief step would imply quite a revolution within the company organization. Especially the one of the customer, who can't hardly understand the evolution of petty clerks to the rank of professionals. They'd prefer to have standardized workers, wearing blue jeans and blue t-shirts. A whole village of smurfs, conceived according the Marxist doctrine.
On the contrary I've found myself quite comfortable with e-technologies. I started to buy books on-line, more than a decade ago. Now that my eyes have acquired the habit to read from the screen as if it were paper, a rare quality for someone grown up when Causescu and Honecker were still considered to be valuable guests by the Italian diplomacy, I skipped to e-books. I'm also relying on e-learning. Why don't I go off shore and work through my terminal? I should just shift my time zone some sectors to the East, or to the West, according the opportunities offered by the market.
A purposeless meeting is the one I'm going to face, or at least what I'm expecting of it. Meetings and committee are the best subject for financial humorist, even in the Anglo-Saxon world. Quite a lot of jokes were coined during the Honecker's rule. XXI century Italy is not so far, radios praise as the greatest conquest the fight of the workers to obtain Labor Union boards in each of the business unit of the local industry. An outstanding advancement at the very same time when the U.S. landed their men on the moon and even the Soviets boasted of less bureaucratic achievements. Being the workers promoted to the rank of accountants, and holding the accountants the core decisions of the ICT industry, that's a mix of a Workers' Party summoning and a dull party of the bank clerks professional association what I'm going to face. I could enjoy the performance, since my part will be a walk on and the feasible options has already been selected somewhere else. Perhaps by another committee.
I enter the hall of the building. The meeting is held by the customer, whose so called manager could encounter some difficulties to obtain the permission to exit the structure during working time. As if they were themselves prisoners of their own system. Actually, the customer is a state company, as many of the main customer of the Italian ICT companies. I won't quote their names, since it would only help some bored lawyer to bring me to the bar a make a meager business with the few bucks they could extort me. Everybody knows that, but few realize that most professional are more likely public employee without an official recognition. They nevertheless inconsciously behave as if they were. They prefer long term contracts to brief one, they avoid risks as much as possible. New technologies and decisions that could endanger the status quo are therefore forbidden, according to a not written professional ethic.
I prefer to avoid the elevator. There are so many, a lot of people waiting outside. Old functionaries in suit, younger in jeans. Some young in suit with a younger fellow in jeans and t-shirt. The last couple should certainly be a sub-contractor and the marketer who, thanks to his acquaintance with the human resource manager, or the provisioning office, enjoys the privilege to decide whom to hire and at which condition. Skills are not so essential, speaking the same dialect or supporting the same football team much more. I hate football, I don't speak dialect, I'm a snob and I've got to fight harder. The elevator would take too long to get the hall. I'm late, but they don't care. I prefer to take some exercise and walk up the stairs.
I enter the room. They are waiting around the table. Some other consultants are focused on their works. Most of them are staring at Facebook, without a precise thought, others are chatting with mates and colleagues. They are quite caustic about other fellows who are not enjoining the same conversation. They'll meet the deadline, since their Gantt charts has been set according their standard production level. And their standard production level includes the time wasted with useless social activities. There's no privacy at all about the content of the meeting. They have just got to decide on which part of the project I'm going to be involved and at what price for the customer. The project manager is indeed a marketer, quite expert, enough to maintain a good relationship with his counterpart and obtain 50.000 Euros out of a product that, if designed and developed by a team of Britons or Americans, could cost a quarter of the price. It's like to produce pieces of forniture with the methodologies of a XIX century artisan. Moreover not so talented. It would require twice the time and the price. That's what they are buying, what we're selling and what I'm producing.
I've already been briefed. I won't have to intervene. Everything has already been decided. Alas the customer wants me to share my opinion. The project manager is skillful enough to summon a new argument, as a magic creature from a medieval book of spells. I won't have got to express my opinion. According to the company policy, I'm safe. I don't care. I'm looking for a way to escape, certainly I've got to look abroad.
The deadline is approaching. That's the deadline of the project, lead by a bunch of managers whose number is by far higher than the technicians involved. That's the deadline for the last of the assignments I'm supposed to submit to my tutor if I want to pass the exam. That's also the time to shut down the PC and take the train to get home. Business Administration seems to concern me much more than technical details. I've got to carefully plan my time, or I won't ever be able to obtain valuable results.
Yet, the company environment doesn't help me. It otherwise constitutes a severe hindrance, if I can't share my schedules. It seems that many shares my very same troubles, but suspicion avoids us to communicate.
That's like in Hohenschoenhausen, the infamous prison in East-Berlin, where the Stasi proved the highest qualities of the DDR. You wouldn't expect to stay alone in your cellar, sometimes you could receive the visit of a friend. Actually someone you've never met before, but that stated that he was your friend. You could believe it, perhaps you wished it, and you could indirectly confess your guilty to a KGB officer under cover. If you were unexperienced, or extenuated enough, you could also reveal the names of true friends and condemn your sweetheart to a miserable existence.
But that's the XXI century, I'm officially enabled to travel without a passport, at least for the 15 miles to get home, and the train is waiting for me. ù
Indeed if the railways were more efficient I could gain up to an hour a day, that I could spend on my studies. Alas, the white hand of the Democratic Republic doesn't provide a proper punishment for the officers who work the railways. They are members of the Party, or at least most of them. If not, they entered the Labor Union in their youth and they now build together the future of the country. Forgetting they whom they are serving for.
If I can't meet the deadlines, I'll have to reconsider my career. Or my escape plans. I've got to cut the costs, and my money is time. I've got to better organize my existence, until my Will won't be strong enough to shape my whereabouts. If I'm not talking like a member of the SED, certainly I'm wondering if I'm not unwillingly quoting a masterpiece of the NSDAP Propaganda.
Let's abridge my thoughts and problems. Deadlines related to the job, the underpaid and quite trivial one. Deadlines related to continuous learning, my only solution to flee. Time-consuming transportations (due to the inefficient management of the State). If I could cut the last figure, I could perhaps save enough mythical Man-Hours for all my tasks on my personal Gantt chart. I've got to relocate, or find a feasible solution. Yet, I've also got to find a better job, if any are available.
I've got to postpone the solution, since it can't be briefly deployed and implemented. Let's move on and try to do my own best under the present conditions, although not satisfying. Let's take the train, let's go home and study to midnight. Let's assume to have got a not paid hour (with end of the year bonuses either) to donate to my company, and get ready for the meeting that will take place tomorrow. I've not already met all the members of the commission, but several officers, in Hohenschoenhausen, also met to prosecute and interrogate the captives. Let's wait for tomorrow.
I've got to type as fast as possible, avoiding that someone could spot me. I'm not working on the main project I'm assigned to, I'm not reading the documentation of the new one either. I'm just collecting some information for the next course I'm going to attend. Actually an on-line course, some professional training nobody should be aware of. I'm going to attend it overnight, stealing sleeping hours from my dreams. It's quite a paradox. Since that's my fight to defend my dream. My dreams in the real world that too many all around me want to steal. I'm a software engineer, working for a consulting company. I'm not enabled to meet the management. Technicians are deemed to belong to the mass of workers. It's quite a widespread concept. The last issue of the Harvard Business Review presented a case study where the developers of a fictitious video-game mogul, war games perhaps, go on strike as XIX century textile workers. In Italy is much worse. The enemy are the colleagues. Most of them entered the University several years ago. They never graduated because they had to spend most of their free time working, a couple of evening a week, serving at the tables on Fridays and Saturdays. The very same place they used to attend during the remaining of the week, socializing and arguing about the future and climate change. They had to. Theirs were working families, they said, they couldn't enjoy the privileges of the upper class. Their income couldn't cope with the cost of the classes they never took part to. I reached the degree, I'm the enemy. Just like after the Red Revolution. Some of them didn't attend the University either, they started to work. Now they want to share their years of experience, busy with trivial problems, with my theoritical studies and exercises. My degree doesn't value a brass farthing, they say. Yet, they are smarter, they add, since they accomplish my same tasks without an academic background. I don't have got to linger on books any more, they are my wardens. Luckily I'm a professional, or I'm supposed to be, a free lancer according to the Italian law. They can't track me on vacation, they can't ask me a sick note if I call in the morning and don't come. I've caught the flu, the influenza as a proper Briton would say. I'm taking a professional certification instead, they shouldn't be aware of. I could claim it just on my next project for another company. That's the world I live in and I want to change. How will my story take shape, you could read in the next chapters of what will be "A biography in the future of a polymath software developer", or "Escape from the XXI century DDR". You'll read how I'll manage to survive my daily fight against my colleagues, avoid the control of the supervisors and start an outstanding career abroad. Or, more properly, off-shore. You'll also learn my come back in Italy after the Wende (that will take place around the year 2040. I usually don't write a too accurate plot) and my involvement with the reconstruction of the country.