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Poor Despite Work
by freitag.de and other German journals
Email: marc1seed (nospam) yahoo.com
10 Dec 2019
Vancouver B.C. has 26 community centers that give an identity to working and nonworking persons. Three hours of computer use, libraries, gyms, theaters, game rooms and $4 casserole dinners are among the many amenities. The economy should be a part of a greater whole or oikos that doesn't crush self-determination and creativity.
POOR DESPITE WORK
Study on social justice
The job market is going uphill. According to a study, the risk of poverty has nevertheless risen. Where does Germany stand in an international comparison?
Woman in a coat looking for bottles in a garbage can in the park
[This article published in Taz December 5, 2019, is translated from the German on the Internet, www.taz.de.]
Visible poverty: bottle collector in the park Photo:
GÜTERSLOH DPA | A good ten years after the beginning of the global financial crisis in 2008, a study shows that the labor markets in many industrialized countries have recovered significantly. However, as a study by the Bertelsmann foundation found in 41 EU and OECD countries, this has hardly any impact on poverty rates. In 25 countries, the risk of poverty is stagnating or has even increased by 2018. The Social Justice Index published in Gütersloh on Thursday states that children are more often affected than older people. In the ranking of social justice and opportunities for participation, Germany ranks tenth.
This quite good ranking of Germany - ahead of Great Britain (11th place) and France (15th place) - is based on the "continuing success curve in the labor market". With a rate of 6.2 percent, youth unemployment is among the lowest in the world. The employment rate climbed from 73.5 to 75.9 percent between 2013 and 2018. Paradoxically, however, the risk of poverty increased from 9.4 to 9.8 percent. And unlike in many other countries, older people over the age of 65 in Germany are more at risk of poverty - about one in ten - than children and young people up to the age of 18 (7.6 percent).
For the study, efforts to avoid poverty, employment/labor market, fair educational opportunities, generational justice, health, and anti-discrimination policies were evaluated in a total of six categories. The Nordic countries of Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden are among the top countries for the Foundation. The USA, with 36th place, is at the bottom of the league, with Turkey and Mexico the worst performers.
The mismatch between labor market development and poverty data in the industrialized countries is striking, the analysis emphasizes. Factors could be an increase in fixed-term and (involuntary) part-time jobs, or a larger proportion of people employed in the low-wage sector.
Climate protection too timid
The unemployment rate of all 41 countries averaged 5.3 percent in 2018. This was the first time that the unemployment rate was slightly lower than before the outbreak of the financial crisis in 2008. The Czech Republic was in the lead with an unemployment rate of 2.3 percent. In Greece, despite the progress made, one in five still had no job. People in Israel (17.9 percent) and in the USA (17.8 percent) are most affected by poverty.
The "gap between young and old" in numerous countries of the European Union and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is a cause of concern for the authors of the study. In 27 countries, adolescents are more at risk of poverty than older people. Moreover, poverty among the elderly remains a widespread problem.
The study also complains that climate policy is too timid. Germany, too, has no exemplary role to play; in 2018 it will only be ranked 24th for the use of renewable energies, despite the expansion. Concerning greenhouse gas emissions, Germany is lagging quite a bit behind at eleven tons per capita - and thus 30th place. In some fields, such as the fight against poverty and justice between the generations, many states have to serve detention, warned Foundation Chairman Aart De Geus.
EVO MORALES – "I WILL BE BACK"
[This article published on November 28, 2019, is translated from the German on www.freitag.de.]
Evo Morales, elected Bolivia's first indigenous president in 2006, flees to Mexico on 11 November, whose government has explicitly offered him asylum. This happens three weeks after a presidential vote in which Morales claims to have won. The result is accusations of fraud and outraged protests. They culminate in the army chief asking him to resign. One day after Morales has gone into exile, right-wing senator Jeanine Áñez has herself sworn in as interim president. At least 32 people have died, most of them reportedly in attacks by the armed forces on protest marches forming on the streets in support of Morales. There are enough signs of social and ethnic tensions, including attacks between predominantly poor indigenous demonstrators and wealthier onlookers.
Bolivia's new interior minister Arturo Murillo has now promised to put the ex-president in prison for the rest of his life. This is the only way to punish Morales for inciting people to revolt against the government, which in his opinion amounts to terrorist behavior.
In an interview with his new temporary home in Mexico City, Morales blames the old elite - "racist and vengeful" - for such an absurd accusation. They provoked Bolivia's crisis and staged a coup against him with the help of the USA, which he calls the "Empire in the North". And in the interview, he suggests that he now sees his priority as helping to "replace the de facto government" by urging it to hold new elections. "They say no to Evo, and I say all right, no problem."
The Bolivian parliament - dominated by Morales' Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) - has passed a law that will pave the way for new elections within a few weeks and forbid it to take part in this vote. Áñez signed the law on 24 November and put it into effect.
Morales admits that some of his reasons for not standing again for the 22 January vote are that the demands for his return are becoming weaker. Also, he wanted to prevent the inner test from becoming a major ethnic conflict or even a civil war. "That's what I'm afraid of. That is what we must avoid, so I will not run for the office. In the name of peace, sacrifices must be made and I sacrifice my candidacy, although I have every right to stand again.
Talks between leaders of the Pro-Morales protests and the interim government have led to Jeanine Áñez's explicit promise to withdraw the army if, in return, roadblocks that have led to fuel and food shortages in several major cities are lifted, "They will not renounce their resistance to the coup d'état," said Morales, who lives in a Mexican army base and is always accompanied by civilian soldiers wherever he goes. "But of course, after two weeks of constant struggle and so many deaths, people are getting tired. Some resign."
What does the long-standing icon of the Latin American left think about the fact that they want to be prosecuted for "incitement and terrorism"? Morales points out that his extraordinary career was repeatedly paved with such "invented accusations". This didn't put him off in the past, and it certainly doesn't at the moment.
"I am the feminist"
Evo Morales comes from an impoverished family of Lama shepherds from the Bolivian highlands. They moved decades ago to the fertile province of Chapare, where their ancestors switched to the cultivation of coca plants, a traditional Bolivian crop used by locals as a mild stimulant and by drug producers to produce cocaine.. In the 1980s and 1990s, Morales became a leading figure in the resistance to various actions, including military ones, to destroy coca plantations carried out under pressure from the USA. He gained profile nationwide when he was elected to Congress in 1997 and illegally banned from it in 2002. He subsequently became the leader of a social uprising that forced the resignation of President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada the following year. "Fight, fight, fight, that's where I come from," Morales says with obvious pride - and a touch of nostalgia.
In the elections on December 18, 2005, he was then formally flushed to the government with a landslide-like victory (54 percent in the first round) and easily won a second term in 2009 and a third in 2014. Morales' governments brought stability to one of the most politically unstable countries of the subcontinent, characterized by radical workers, self-confident peasant movements and an overwhelming number of military coups. From 2006, things also changed fundamentally because the indigenous majority was placed at the center of politics and government action and the economy was boosted with state investment.
But the longer he held on to his presidential mandate, the less support he received for Morales. Even former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva last week called it a "mistake" for Morales to want to run for a fourth term. Asked about this, Morales does not agree. "I did not urge to reapply." He had to insist on that. "It was our popular struggle organizations that asked me to run for office. Did he regret not having rejected them? "I have nothing to regret because we won the first round," is the answer. Once again Morales rejects the allegations of fraud supported by the Organization of American States (OAS). "I have fulfilled the mandate of the people, but these reactionaries cannot bear to have an indigenous man running with the support of the workers. This is a class struggle, a struggle that has been going on for a very long time".
Morales reacts similarly rigorously to activists who claim that he is deliberately fomenting a macho polarization in politics. "I am the feminist," he says, pointing out that the participation of women in the state under his responsibility has jumped. And in any case, if he thinks about his policies at the distance that exile forces him to, "the only mistake he can think of is the abolition of petrol subsidies in 2010."
This is also part of a lifelong political experience that he wants to put at the service of his country, which is why he also strives to return to Bolivia as quickly as possible. For this very reason, he urged his party to pass a law that would protect him from political persecution. "Time flies and I sincerely hope to be back by the end of the year." Admittedly, without any ambition to run for office. Morales is convinced that there will still be enough for him to do, starting with helping his party if it is looking for a candidate to replace him. "This is not easy. I would also like to say that I had planned to take my hat after another five years in office. But now, after all, they've done to me, I may run again later."
Jo Tuckman works as a freelance correspondent in Mexico. She was previously a reporter in the Iberia office of major international news agencies.
LEARNING, NOT TESTING
By Katharina Schmitz
[This article published in November 2019 is translated from the German on the Internet, www.freitag.de.]
What makes things wrong
PISA study Instead of testing children, it would be better to subject the reform pedagogical learning concepts of recent years to a thorough revision.
Katharina Schmitz 14
What makes things wrong
Something's falling under the table.
In the Pisa test, there is a "construction error", as in the tower of the same name. Maybe even several. You know it, but it doesn't help. The country is now back in a state of excitement because pupils in Germany are doing about as badly as they did in 2015. In the OECD's international comparative study in the three fields of reading literacy, mathematics and the natural sciences examined, Germany is once again only somewhere in the middle of the ranking list. It is ahead of Slovenia but behind Norway and Australia. But please don't nail it down, because the author doesn't take the test seriously.
The international comparison of 15-year-old students is simply fundamentally wrong. Why doesn't anyone understand that? Every child understands that. The assertion that the Pisa test could allow conclusions to be drawn about the - uh - educational landscape persists stubbornly. At best, it is correct to say that the learning culture in the traditionally leading countries is quite different from the learning culture in Europe, for example. The differences should be emphasized! Banally true:
The education system in China is different from schools in Germany. It is also clear that the growing proportion of pupils with a migrant background is a cause of poor reading skills among children, for example. This also urgently needs to be analyzed, but why do we need an international comparative study? We cannot even compare each other in Germany, the situation in the individual federal states, regions and even cities is so different.
The students should be top in the so-called "reading strategies". One should not be mistaken, because this competence is truly no compliment. Here, children have learned to identify "important passages" in a clear text using text markers and to enter some information in tables. Above all, they learn to distinguish between facts and opinions. What is more stupid is that children have already developed reading strategies before they have even been confronted with more complex knowledge. There is also a lack of reading comprehension, which is no wonder when you only learn to distinguish facts from opinions in class. No wonder: Even in primary school, the children are already struggling from learning assessment to learning assessment. Where is the time for lessons?
What makes things worse. Germany traditionally takes the test very seriously (yes, boss!), not only high school pupils but also comprehensive pupils, secondary school pupils and secondary school pupils take part. 5500 pupils from 220 schools take part here, they are chosen at random. But the competition seems to cheat. It is rumored that some pupils in other countries of the 79 participating countries are encouraged to stay away from the school on Test Day. That is so mean!
The result of the test, in his words: "The promotion of weaker pupils and the broad promotion of all young people is still a central task that requires targeted attention". Oh so. It is always the same conclusion. What does promotion mean in concrete terms? Instead of testing children, it would help to subject the reform pedagogical learning concepts of recent years to a thorough revision. My suspicion: Not all concepts are suitable for dealing competently with plural and heterogeneous student body. Such pupils often do not lack self-competence, social competence, and methodological competence. Nor does it lack media competence. That is laudable. But something falls by the wayside, for example writing dictations or: professional competence.
Climate Movements. On Frustration and Hope
By Sarah Kohler
[This article published in November 2019 is translated from the German on the Internet, www.freitag.de.]
Climate movement Students organized a climate strike week at over 80 universities. But a few activists* face many disinterested people.
What is the future of the climate movement? This question is pressing, it has been pressing for some time and can no longer be ignored. While on 20 September more than 1.4 million people were on Germany's roads, more than 4 million people went on strike worldwide and the media public was bigger than it had been for a long time, the Grand Coalition has at the same time adopted a climate package with which Germany will miss the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement and thus the 1.5 degrees target not only in 2020 but also in 2030.
One year of Fridays For Future, one year of strikes every Friday throughout Germany, one year of boycotting schools and investing with teachers and politicians were not enough to at least anchor the self-imposed obligations in political action. To at least take fundamental steps towards solving the climate crisis, a crisis that has arisen from inaction, ignorance, postponement, and conflicts of interest of powerful people and is now more present than it has been for a long time.
But to bury one's head in the sand in frustration was not an option. Climate change doesn't wait, it doesn't wait for politicians*women who have reason and the will to survive above the fear of the AfD, who have people above money and who have arrived at fundamental scientific facts. Climate change leaves us no time. And that's why other means had to be found, other forms of protest, other groups of activists, and above all, more.
Students For Future go on climate strike
The students, who have long been a latent part of the movement, have heard the call. And they organize themselves. Universities function differently from schools, because in contrast to pupils* there is (usually) no obligation to attend, students are (usually) not there on Fridays anyway - and students have more time, space and opportunities to organize and get involved. Especially because they sit at the sources of knowledge and the production of new concepts of social coexistence with the universities, they are so important. It is important to know how things can continue and where we want to go.
And that is how they did it. They had networked throughout Germany and set up a major campaign. The Students For Future have called for a university strike - and the Scientists For Future have joined in. Because they have been saying for a long time that something has to change, something has to change in the way we live and work and decide how we do politics and what we push forward there. And it was precisely for this that a big sign had to be given.
The students organized themselves in over 80 universities and set up a "Public Climate School" for the week from 25 to 29 November. They took the time and space to talk to experts from a wide range of subject areas and tasks about the climate crisis and climate change. They invited people and managed to open the universities to society, to trade unionists*, to pupils*, parents, grandparents, politicians*, civil servants*, activists,* of all kinds.
For all those who want to save the planet from extinction. A lot was learned, exchanged and discussed together, how things can continue now, with the climate movement. With the experience of the most diverse actors* and the knowledge of the most diverse experts*, it is hoped that solutions, or at least the next steps, could be found. From topics such as biodiversity and energy system transformation to trade union struggles and criticism of capitalism, everything was thrown up, thrown together and tried to think along.
It is a human task, damn it!
But not by everyone. After well-attended lectures on the Hambach Forest, workshops were also held with IG Metall with only seven participants; before dress swap parties with hundreds of clothes lovers, the pupils* of the Fridays For Future local group were left almost alone. In addition to big discussions and desperate struggles for effective steps and possible solutions, the group also had a lot of fun. . Did people sit at half-finished presentations, Spanish homework to be done, upcoming text reviews or rather watched football.
And that's okay, of course. People have their reasons, this and not that, to be here and not there. The question, however, is why so many. What structures have we created in which people can be indifferent to the end of the world? What understanding of politics has prevailed, in which people let "those up there" do it and believe that this will make it better? And how can that change?
Perhaps it is great despair. Desperation that we better not allow, desperation and helplessness in the face of the circumstances and the task of mankind that we face. It is not that sustainability does not interest anyone. Plastic-free cosmetics and unpackaged food shopping are booming. People like to live sustainably, they become vegetarians* and vegans*, they buy regionally and seasonally, they ride bicycles and buses.
But that is not enough. We need a rethink and a change, and we need it now. A change that will change our society more profoundly than plastic-free shopping, a change that questions work and energy production, transport and mobility and our economic system more fundamentally. This change sounds exhausting. But that is where we have to go, and that is where we have to take all the helpless people with us. Anyone who buys plastic-free is already thinking - let us make sure that they get even bigger.
The mood of optimism in the movement
The climate (strike) week has nevertheless already taken the first step in this direction. In Leipzig, 2000 people attended the plenary meeting, in Jena 1000. In Siegen, lecture halls were occupied, in Berlin also. The Tagesschau and many large media reported on it, people came locally into the discussion and in exchange.
And many important actors came together. Trade unions and trade union youth met students, pupils* of the Climate Movement met university lecturers, local groups contributed their resources and concerns, as did activists* of large organizations their expertise. People who were already doing and who sometimes had the feeling of fighting alone in a wide field found solidarity and support - and motivation to continue.
The students have continued what has long been necessary: to bring together central actors, to sit down at the pivotal points of political decisions and social movements, and to expand knowledge. Now that has been steered in a new direction, it must still bear fruit. Together against indifference in politics and society.
THE SECRET OF THE ZERO DEFICIT
By Mark Scheritz
The goal of a balanced state budget paralyzes politics. There is no economic justification at all for this.
[This article published on December 5, 2019, is translated from the German on the Internet, www.freitag.de,[
Now I'll tell you a secret: The zero deficit came into the world by chance. Your political father wasn't proud of his baby at all. Wolfgang Schäuble was delighted when he was able to present a balanced budget for the first time in half a century in 2014. But that wasn't planned, it turned out because tax revenues had risen sharply. In reality, the zero deficit was not important to him. I can testify, I was there. When Schäuble's employees stood up in the form of a huge zero when he left the office and handed him a photo of the action, he found it only half as funny.
The casualness of their introduction contrasts with the political significance of the zero deficit today. The CDU/CSU wants to stick to it at all costs, and the new top SPD duo wants to say goodbye to it at all costs. What's going on?
In any case, it's not about economics. There are many topics in economics that you can argue about for a long time: Are higher wages good, because if people earn more, they can also spend more money? Or are they bad because they increase labor costs for companies? Are low-interest rates good because they make it easier for companies to obtain loans? Or are they bad because savers then have to forego interest income?
Experts are also discussing how high the national debt should be in a modern industrialized country. But there is no sensible economic argument for the zero deficit - in other words for balancing the national budget every year. Zero. Nada. Zilch. A state defines itself by its tasks. Loans are a means of financing these tasks. Just like tax revenues.
Which part of the expenditure should be financed by borrowing and which by tax revenues depends on many factors: the level of interest, for example. The general economic situation. Or whether a government investment is more likely to benefit present or future generations. But no serious economist would recommend that a government forgo credit forever. Why should they?
It's not the black zero that counts, but its symbolic significance
The black zero is rather an example of how political discourses can take on a life of their own. For the Union, it is the "last intact conservative core position", as the political scientist Thomas Biebricher put it. Budget discipline is being redefined as a moral question; one can adhere to it in a world in which everything has floundered. The CDU's party headquarters recently tweeted that one stands by the "fetish" of a balanced budget. Fetishism is the belief that certain objects have supernatural powers. It is not the object itself (the black zero) that counts, but its symbolic meaning (morality).
The black zero is also a symbol of the SPD. It is intended to refute the old accusation that social democrats cannot handle money. Like his predecessor Wolfgang Schäuble, Olaf Scholz is no more a fervent supporter of the black zero. Scholz even avoids the term. He knows that there is no economic basis for a permanently balanced state budget. But Scholz believes that it would be politically disadvantageous for him if he publicly renounced the black zero. And because there is enough money anyway at the moment, he preferred not to put the issue on the agenda. The defeat in the struggle for party chairmanship has shown, however, that this calculation has not worked out, at least within the party.
As a result, the country is now following a rule that nobody actually wanted, for which there is no substantive justification, but which cannot so easily be abolished either, because that would be accompanied by a political loss of face. It is time to put an end to this unworthy spectacle. The challenges are great enough, they do not have to be made even greater by pointless political guidelines. I'm pretty sure, by the way, that Wolfgang Schäuble sees this in a very similar way, even if he doesn't say it (yet).
"IT'S NOT POSSIBLE" – SUBCULTURE INSTEAD OF HIGH CULTURE
[This article published in November 2019 is translated from the German on the Internet, www.freitag.de.]
It's not possible!
The more wacky, the better - three brothers from Munich give the city a new side. Subculture instead of high culture. Solar energy instead of diesel. Chaos instead of a business plan. And it works.
Text: Hannes M. Kneissler
- Quite a crazy idea: to put a 144-ton excursion steamer from the Ammersee in the middle of Munich on a disused railway bridge and convert it into an event location. Every reasonable person would keep their hands off the project. Too complicated. Too expensive. Too risky. And how do you even get the monster into town?
Stupid question! You simply cut the almost 40 meter longship into two parts, pack it on heavy transporters, close roads, erect traffic light masts, hire structural engineers, obtain permits, organise a special crane, lift the parts onto the bridge, weld them back together, build a restaurant into the ship and a discotheque into the engine room. And that's it!
At least that's what Daniel Hahn does, who now owns the "Alte Utting". "Just dare," he says, "and it'll work out." The party ship has been open daily since 26 July 2018. 30,000 guests were already there, at least. Nobody knows exactly, but nobody is particularly interested. The main thing is that things work out. And when Daniel Hahn has a finger in the pie, things usually work out.
He is 29 years old and a culture entrepreneur, more precisely: a subculture entrepreneur. A species that is extremely rare in Munich. The Bavarian capital is high culture: Kammerspiele, Staatsoper, Pinakotheken, Symphonieorchester. Everywhere it glitters and sparkles.
Nothing for the chic set: the party ship "Alte Utting" (above) and the event location "Bahnwärter Thiel". Projects of the three brothers that make Munich a bit cooler
Then you come to Hahn's main venue, the "Bahnwärter Thiel", a techno club and alternative cultural center on the former cattle station of the central slaughterhouse. Once, cattle and pigs slithered over sloping concrete slabs from the railway wagons towards the bolt-firing equipment. Now there are dozens of graffiti-sprayed ocean containers around an event pavilion, an old subway car and a construction crane with a disco ball.
Hahn opens the padlock on the steel gate. He is wearing an old pink sweatshirt and sneakers. A few gamelike benches stand around. The pavilion smells of cold smoke, mothballs and piss. In a flower pot, there is a plastic rose between cigarette butts. This is not fancy.
Daniel's brother Julian Hahn, 27, is already there. He carries his racing bike over his shoulder, the rubble around the track keeper Thiel is not good for the narrow tires. His company Gans Kreativ owns the alternative coffee house "Gans am Wasser" in Westpark, and he is also currently converting a flower kiosk in the Giesing district into a cultural center with a pizza oven and a gallery in the trees. You can already visit it online, under the keyword Gans Woanders.
The youngest brother Laurin Hahn, 25, has no time at the moment. He is developing an electric car that will run on solar energy and wants to become the German Tesla with his company Sono Motors. Starting in the middle of next year, up to 200 of his Sion models from Nevs (National Electric Vehicles of Sweden) will be assembled daily in the former Saab factory in Trollhättan, Sweden, and delivered to more than 10,000 pre-orderers. There is still a lot to be done, as there are only two prototypes of the vehicle so far.
Three brothers, one thought: they want to make the world better and more colorful. With rave parties, art, vegan food, and battery-powered cars. All quite alternative, crazy and likable. In the Munich society the three enjoy a kind of puppy protection because they can look so faithfully and are different, but not dangerous.
Julian's projects: the Sion model (a prototype from 2017) by Sono Motors and the café "Gans am Wasser" (below)
The influence of the big brother
They already started during their time at the Waldorf School. Daniel worked in the alternative "Pathos Theater", built stage sets, played supporting roles, ran the bar and finally made his events: Techno parties with cool scenery and fat basses. "That went incredibly well," says Sophie Wiedemann, 33, the theatre's current managing director, "and finally it blew up the format, the rooms didn't give it up anymore, the city became nervous. Daniel had to get out.
Together with his brothers, he founded the Wannda e. V. association in 2012. (from: "If not now, when then"), bought a tent from Circus Galliano and set it up on wasteland somewhere in the city. And like everything Daniel touches, it went like clockwork.
Julian says: "Oh man, Daniel, everything he did was so important. That was so annoying." He wanted to become a doctor and had already started as a paramedic to bridge the waiting time for the study place. Then he took care of the fairytale bazaar in the Wannda tent, sold fries at night with a buddy whom he knew from kindergarten, in front of the railway attendant Thiel, and before he knew it, he was also an event entrepreneur. "Yes, Daniel," says Julian, "he can be quite convincing."
Tips for Founders of Daniel Hahn:1. Find out what's on your mind - and get involved.
2 Expect setbacks and learn from them.
3. go to your limits.
"FLORIDA. WHEN THE HURRICANE BREAKS OVER PARADISE"
The American writer Lauren Groff writes in her volume "Florida" about the fragile life of her heroines of today.
A review by Eva Behrendt
[This article on Florida, climate change and apocalyptic thinking published on November 27, 2019, is translated from the German on the Internet, www.freitag.de.]
"A muggy, dense thicket. A garden of Eden of danger", was how the American natural scientist William Bartram described Florida in 1774, hanging out of every map of the United States like a panting tongue. Two and a half centuries of taming, repressing and exploiting this paradise have only made the contradictions of the sunshine state sharper: Colonized and developed to the extreme corner of the Keys, dominated by tourism and real estate, but also threatened by man-made climate change. By 2050 at the latest, Miami Beach should be underwater, rising sea levels are salinating freshwater reservoirs, and increasingly violent hurricanes are plowing the coasts. The writer Lauren Groff describes this Florida of fear and heat in her collection of short stories of the same name.
Lauren Groff, born in 1978 in the cooler state of New York, lives in the university city of Gainesville. About a third of the carefully arranged stories seem to have an autobiographical basis, as does the first and last narrative. The first-person narrator, like Groff, the married mother of two sons, takes us on her evening jogging tours through her gentrifying neighborhood to start with ghosts and vacancies. She watches as the blacks move away, the homeless disappear, old cracker houses collapse. Above all, she escapes her panic: "During the day, when my sons are at school, I devour like a possessed person everything about the catastrophes of the world, the glaciers that die like living creatures, the Great Pacific Waste Stain and the hundredfold, unrecorded extinction of species (...). Filled with irrepressible sorrow, I read as if reading this sorrow could somehow stuff their throat instead of firing their greed, for that is exactly what happens."
This climate grief is so clearly formulated only here and in the last story Yport, which at the same time is a declaration of love to Groff's sons. And yet it runs like a basso continuo through almost all the stories that conjure up catastrophes and try to ban them. The story of two girls, four and seven, who are first left behind on a lonely island by their precarious mother and her lover, and then by their acquaintances, who in turn hastily flee, when a storm sets in, becomes oppressive. So far the mother and the girls have moved restlessly from place to place, and from the girls' perspective, which is completely focused on the present and Groff nestles up to, it sounds almost even sadder than it feels: Much worse than their own abandonment, they find that the acquaintances have left their dog behind. Inevitably, the children on the edge of the island's jungle become survivors who, despite roaring heat, thunderstorms and empty stomachs, hold their ground until rescue finally arrives.
Lauren Groff is ruthlessly spelling out the worst cases anew, letting a freshly divorced woman drink wine and defy a hurricane spreading like a "bruise", or a sex-adventure American woman trembling through a Brazilian storm night - not all stories are set in Florida - in the dubious protection of a poor shopkeeper. And yet she hesitates at the last moment, defending her protagonists who have been handed over to the whipped-up forces of nature shortly after the near-death experience. In this, she resembles the "un-motherly" mothers, who are often torn apart in their stories by the desire to pull themselves out of their everyday lives but then all the more militantly stand up for their children. And vice versa, when two boys in Die Mitternachtszone take care of their severely injured mother in the wilderness hut surrounded by mountain lions without outside help.
In her highly acclaimed last novel Licht und Zorn, Lauren Groff described an academic marriage first from a male perspective and then from a female perspective, sharply outlining the consequences, which can entail privileges as well as her absence. In the eleven Florida stories, the female perspective dominates, but Groff also keeps a close eye on their very different social embedding. Most offensively in above and below, where a young literary scholar, still highly indebted through her studies, drifts into homelessness after losing her apartment. With a mixture of shame and defiance, she makes her way along Florida's coastline, meeting brave cleaners, foolhardy single parents and freaky communards. At first proud of their pounds tumbling and sunburned skin, they suddenly turn into signs of poverty.
"What seemed solidly built was so fragile in the face of time, for time, more animal than man, was indifferent. She doesn't care if you fell out of her or not. She also went on without one. She didn't see you; she had always been blind to man and everything he does to stop her, to classify, to clean, to structure and to sort" - so they say in the midnight zone in which the wounded narrator detaches herself from her body at night and strolls through the thicket in front of the hut as pure imagination.
Again and again, Lauren Groff drives her protagonists into the experience of their fragility, whether neurotic-privileged or existential. A constant restlessness permeates her language (sensitively translated by Stefanie Jacobs), which sometimes abruptly switches between brittle protocol and lavish images, and in which poisonous snakes, stormy nights and holes in the earth also spread in the inner worlds of human beings. Where lies consolation: For those who expose themselves to nature, to life in all its manifestations and thus to death, who are prepared to see themselves as part of these cycles and not as superior to them, may lose fear.
Lauren Groff: Florida. Stories; from the English by Stefanie Jacobs; Hanser Berlin at Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich 2019; 320 p., 22,- €, as e-book 16,99 €