Why Berlin? and other FAQs

Why Berlin?

It feels like I am applying to college again.  And anyone who has ever gone through that process knows what little desire they have to do it again.  My mother tells me that this happens throughout one’s life: when you have a baby or when you buy a house its all everyone asks about.  So I suppose I shouldn’t complain.  But it does get sort of tiresome.

This is no fault of the person asking why I am going to Germany, of course.  Its my own fault for not having written this explanation up sooner and putting it onto little cards to hand out and save myself some time.  But perhaps I had other things to do that afternoon.

The easy answer is that everyone I know who has been to Europe in the last five years or more has had nothing but great things to say about Berlin.  I thought anywhere with such rave reviews deserved a visit.

The long answer is that I have a historical and sociological interest in the country.  I majored in History in college, but I mostly studied American history for my degree.  One of my big interests was (and still is) the Vietnam War and the cultural manifestations thereof (I wrote several papers on Vietnam War films).  I was interested in how the Vietnam War affected the American psyche and how that affected Hollywood in 1986, when six Vietnam War films were released in part because it became trendy but in part as a reaction to Reagan’s reelection and immediate deployment of US forces to something like 17 countries – the most foreign involvement the US had had since Vietnam.

But back to how it changed the American psyche.  I was and am interested in the difference between the World War Two generation and the Vietnam War generation.  I have fought against my own generation’s war, but only with a small group of my peers.  I am interested in how generations react to war and the role and connection they feel to the conflict.  I started to wonder how the German World War Two generation would compare to the following generation, one raised under a “communist” government of repression and separation (when I say communist in quotes, I mean it.  The East German government and the entire Soviet Union for that matter were absolutely not socialist or communist but a wild, Stalinist abstraction of Marxist philosophy).  And as for my generation on the German side, I wondered how a parent or a teacher explained the fall of the Berlin Wall to a child.  I was six when the Wall fell (1989), and I can only imagine if I saw the consequences of such an innately political event in the grocery store and in my neighborhood and had to try to understand it at such a young age.

The other aspect of my interest in the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification is anthropological/sociological in nature.  I am interested in how cultures handled the fall of the Soviet Union.  I was particularly inspired by the drawings of Dan Perjovschi, a Romanian artist reacting to the transition from “socialism” to capitalism in Romania.  This led to a general interest in artistic and cultural reactions to the “reinstatement” of capitalism in the Eastern bloc.  I think Berlin is a good place to begin investigation of this movement (that may be too strong a word) because it is a microcosm of the two systems (real existing socialism/state capitalism – whatever you want to call it – and capitalism).  From what I have read, reunification was very difficult for East Germans, and I would like to get a sense of that process and how such attitudes have changed over time.

Why a blog?

One of the many tedious but necessary things I wanted to do while I was staying in Pasadena was clean out my email inbox (thrilling, I know).  I discovered a number of epic travel emails detailing friends’ amazing adventures around the world.  These emails had been sitting in my inbox for years, making me feel too guilty to delete (or, for those gmailers out there, even archive), but too tired to ever open them.  Mass emails are intimidating by their sheer size and I am not alone in my difficulty to find the time to read them.  I don’t want to place such emotional burden on anyone.

But it happens to the best of us. So that’s why I started a blog.  It takes the pressure off me and it sure takes the pressure off of you.  This blog is designed to be read by people I know.  If you really want to be plugged in, read every post and peruse every photo.  I know my parents will.  If you don’t have that kind of time, stop by every once in a while and say hi.  Mass emails won’t pile up in your inbox and you can get an idea of how my trip is going in bite-sized chunks.  Win win.



One comment

  1. Best travel FAQ I’ve ever seen.

    But I’ve got to admit my ignorance about the title — I vaguely recall hearing Hegel’s name and probably once crammed for an exam that included him, but that’s it. So what were the Hegel jokes? And why no more?


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