City of Contradictions

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Living in Dresden at these times is like sitting in a big washing machine that runs continuously but rapidly switches programs by random. It changes from warm clear water during the rinse cycle to a cold dirty broth at once. A gently swing is followed from the cycling spin. Here you feel cozy in softened water – next moment you get an ice-cold flush. The city simmers and vibrates and seems to tear apart.

Pegida Demonstration in Dresden
taken from, uploaded by PanchoS under CC BY SA 2.0 licence

As PEGIDA starts to disgrace Dresden people became more openly radical (in sense of more grounded, closer to the roots). You can see it not only between the ones standing opposed on the street every monday or between different ‚communities in mind‘ in terms of humanity, tolerance and sense of responsibility. These effects are also in business, politics and administration as well as in the ‚transition scene‘. Which leads to this washing machine …

Last autumn the deselected city council pushed decisions in favor of controversal building projects. As a result Freiraum-Elbtal, a cultural and social open space area, was evicted. Artists and artisans who revitalised this area over years were forced to move. Right in the minute of eviction, bulldozers destroyed buildings and made this area unusable. Studios, workshops, free accessible spaces – a vital cultural cell has gone lost. Now, due to some restrictions the new city council made to the builders, they announce to close and remove a part of the famous Elberadweg (Elbe cycling trail) right in the middle of Dresden which is passing their ground. Cold and dirty, isn’t it?

The city council decided to keep away all car traffic from the very centered Augustusbrücke. Feels good! But on Königsbrücker Straße a fight is ongoing either to make a city-freeway or a smaller version that still allows a livable surrounding. The International Gardens, one of Dresdens oldest community garden projects has to move out of it area because of parking spaces due to a legal regulation. It is intended by the administration to find a new area. We will see.

By now the community garden network (Gartennetzwerk Dresden) has 18 gardens listed. The Umundu-Festival counted over 6000 visitors last year. And this year started already with a series of pre-festival events. As an outcome of the network meeting, reported by Gregor in a previous post, the planning activities for the G7 finance ministers meeting are going on. The „Elbtaler“ is going to release its banknotes right around the meeting-days and bring this regional currency from virtual to real world. New initiatives with fresh ideas arise like ‚Stories of Change‚ and start working together. It’s great to see how these people bring together motivation, ideas and ressources. It feels warm and gentle to see them cooperating towards a sustainable and responsible transition.

Then you cross the river and you are in the middle of shopping insanity. Dresden offers 3 times more shopping space than the german average – and is still building new. Stay here till monday and you will witness a particularly bad spectacle. Thousands of sad and frustrated people come together to openly celebrate ignorance and intolerance. And they grow again, encouraged by high-level politicians who take PEGIDA into account. During the first wave of PEGIDA a broad movement started to act against this attitude. Different new and already established alliances organised big and small concerts, uncountable talks, lectures or dialogues, art events, support networks and protest actions. By now they are fragmented and work more against than with each other.

We have a vigorous, motivated and cooperative transition community trying to make a better future out of nothing. And we have strong powers backwards to darker times. We have a transition-friendly city council but old burtons and a strong business-lobby. And we have a lot of people who don’t want to see the urgency for change. They will keep everything the way it is while trying to feather the own nest. How we are bridging these gaps and fostering a common consciousness is one of our biggest quests. To master this quest may not stop the washing machine but it might bring it back to the regular sequenz. Hopefully the ARTS research can provide us some hints and answers.

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