Thursday, 26 January 2017

Guten Tag!

I’m a secret sucker for national stereotypes. “Germans leave their towels on sunlounges.” “Germans eat sausages all the time.” “Germans love The Hoff.” I get it all the time. While helping her sort some chopped wood, an English woman living in the south of Spain once said to me “Germans are great at stapling wood. They are actually generally good with wood.” After contemplating secretly about changing my Twitter bio to ‘Good with wood’, I nodded slightly, saying “Well, some are, others ain’t.” while trying to figure out if her comment was a euphenism or just another innocent but slightly patronising national stereotype. Hopefully the later.

My favourite random British stereotype is ‘Brits are too embarrassed to get their kit off in public and would rather die than visiting a mixed sauna’ – which is of course not true. Well, at least not for a very small percentage of Brits.

In 1995 I was living in Berlin, had my band’s first record out and thought I'd be a minor rock star forever. 22 years later I live in Bristol UK, married with two kids and work in ‘Digital’. Between these two fix points something happened that I like to call The Crazy Ride: People were born, people died, money was earned and wasted, relationships blossomed, broke down and got rescued, tears, laughter, nervous breakdowns, playing basketball backstage with two Beastie Boys while Sonic Youth were watching, playing with their little daughter... epic failures and occasional success.. the life. You'll never really know. The future is unwritten. I wasted a lot of time in my life with the past or the future when I should have paid more attention to the present. We all know these things... but they are actually really hard to live by. If, when, why and what, how much have you got... should have could have would have... life is now. Life is here. And if you do the right [or wrong] thing now, it will change the presence and future forever.  

The last 20 years feel to me like maximal 5 years. And the last 5 years of having kids feel like 5 months. ‘Time’ is a very bendy concept, as is ‘home’. Home is where you can be yourself. Home is where you are being loved and accepted based on who you really are. Home is unpretentious. Home is not a country or any other physical place. Home is a state of mind. As is ‘identity’. I always felt like, as a German, I had some sort of ‘loser identity’. Starting and losing two world wars [not myself, but you know what I mean] is not a great achievement back catalogue to prance about. I always envied other countries like Sweden and Austria, who were highly complicit in past tragedies but then seemed to just crack on as if nothing really happened while Germany was being looked at like the naughty psychopath child that has been done unspeakable things and now has to spend the rest of its life on the naughty step. I always hated being German and I always hated looking back because everything that was great and nice to look back to was tarnished by the big brown elephant in the room.

It took me about 10 years of living in the UK to fully realise how backwards, conservative and anti-future this country can be. Shocking really. While Germany was slowly waking up and started looking forwards, the general vibe in the UK is to look backwards. Reassuring sentimentality. Have a cuppa and a biscuit, Antiques Roadshow is on in a minute.

Small town England is not swinging. It never really did. It might never will. And I always felt the same about Germany.

Of course there are exceptions, but it's easy to be fooled by my social media bubble. Most of my Brit friends are somehow progressive and at least occasionally interested in new things. They vote Labour or Green Party and most of them don't think that kids, foreigners and old people are a nuisance. They love to travel and learn about other people and their cultures. They don't need a constant Spitfire flyby to feel British and understand their place and meaning in the global village - but we seem to be a minority.

I hate generalisations. Nothing good ever comes from generalisations, but in socio/politics it’s almost impossible to think in a wider sense without generalising. Terrible, I know.
We now live in very complex societies that are largely undermined and driven by fear, paranoia and greed. Most of the media is not our friend. Shopping and consuming have largely replaced living and creating. Mobile internet access, our blessing and curse. Modern life is awesome and rubbish at the same time. You need to have your bullshit detector constantly on full power. I can only imagine what it must be like to be a teenager nowadays, finding your way in a world that has in theory everything on offer: All the music, all the ideas, all the truth and all the lies, but also creates massive pressure on everybody who doesn't fit in with the norm. Normcore is the new black while everybody is encouraged to “show their personality”. The UK is a society that celebrates “eccentricity”, but only if it’s rich people. Well, I don’t know many poor eccentrics. Most of them are called “bums”.

Both of my daughters are currently being introduced to UK state education. Church of England School. I'm equally excited and terrified by that. Their brains will somehow be washed and we have to make sure that their wild spirits won't get crushed by some empty-head bullies. It's hard to let a wild spirit roam free in a paranoid society. I know, I'm her dad and she sometimes does my head in.
I thought I'd mellow when older but whenever I look around, I see shit happening all the time and it drives me mad: Pathetic workmanship, bad design, crap service, lazy solutions, broken promises, feckless enrichment, quick solutions, short cuts and every piece of shit made out of thin plastic.. things that are easy to use and last for a lifetime seem to be suspicious in modern society.
Simplicity. Less choice. Craftsmanship. Empathy. Patience. Time. Love. I need nothing else from Santa.

I am 50 now and I spend lots of my energy on fighting the grumpy, frustrated English-speaking German bastard raging inside of me. To stay positive and strong and keep up with my exhausting but hilarious and awesome family. How did I even manage to live till half of a century? It shows that you can completely ignore most advice and still end up in the right place. I declare 2017 the year of metamorphosis. Change. Improvement. Evolution baby. Revolution of the self. If we want to change the world, we need to firstly change ourselves.

I am slowly finding out what I actually want and need. Very slowly. I am a crap learner; I mostly learn from mistakes. Looks like there's still a lot of mistakes to be made.

My name is Ingo Bousa. Hans Ingo Maria Bousa, to be correct. Since more than a decade I live and work mostly in England. I like it here. Well, let’s say for now ‘I used to liked it here’.