Last night “after work” at 3am I cycled home from Berlin-Mitte to Berlin-Friedrichshain. A nice cycle, first through a hip bar area full of new wealth, along the old shiny TV tower right through the heart of the former capital of the GDR with all its concrete monuments that people live or work in. Currently Alexanderplatz, the eastern centre, is a tacky Christmas market — which of course will close before Christmas. I go on for a few kilometers always straight on wide streets, bicycle paths and across huge intersections deep into my kiez (Berlinish for neighbourhood). Even at this hour of the night the city does not sleep, taxis rush by, some people walk their dogs, lost men walk around.
Also creeps come out. About half the way, on a wider footpath with the bicycle path on it a group of three young people in their latest urban wear comes my way. I accelerate a little, the dynamo whines some more. One of the guy walks near the bicycle path as I approach, and as I pass him he throws what I believe was an empty can at me, misses and shouts something like “You rat!” — I utter a quick deep “Hey!” — Apparently enough provocation for them to shout more nasty things as I quickly cycle on, crossing a red light. When looking back after a few seconds I see that they must have run after me for a bit and now are still standing looking after me. Wow, ticking time bombs out on the streets at night! What makes them so angry? I was just a random person passing by on a bike. I walk through dark parks at night in Bucharest, and I feel safer. At least there I would know what a person getting in my way wants from me, and I could just empty my pockets. I mean, my three friends just seemed bored and deeply frustrated, looking for some excitement. What went wrong?
I can only hope that people would have helped me in any way if those weirdos really would have wanted to attack me. So, if you see a scene like this some time, somewhere, please at least intervene and ask what’s going on and if everyone is OK, call help if needed. Never ever just look away. It never happened to me so far, but I know this is common in big cities. If social fabric is knit tightly though and even unknown people relate to each other we all gain quality of live, can let go of fears and focus on things that are important to us.
Earlier that night I went to Siggi and Jason’s talk about their No G8 Japan 2008 mobilisation tour through East Asia, learned a lot about Japanese activism and had some nice spicy Wasabi rice crackers. 🙂