If this is a man, November 21st, 2015

I saw this video one day ago on Twitter. It allegedly shows a Greek coast guard trying to sink a refugee boat. I didn’t share it because I thought it could not possibly be real. No human being could do that to another person. No one could be such a dark, heartless soul. I had naturally heard of it ever since this summer, but I never really believed it.

And then, as often these days, I just kept on thinking about Primo Levi’s „Es ist geschehen, und folglich kann es wieder geschehen.” (“It has happened, and it can happen again in the future”). And I saw sheer darkness, sheer inhumanity, again. How can we still close our eyes to that abjectness? Will we also say “we didn’t know?” in ten years from now?

Ever since August, I keep asking my new friends how they were treated on their way to Europe. I grew up thinking the Mediterranean was a sanctuary: the house of long lost treasures and civilizations, lost planes and ships, holding wonderful mysteries and home to dolphins. A place of sun and warmth, a place of sand and holidays. Now I see it as the dreadful cemetery of thousands of human beings who shouldn’t have died there. I remember this woman who arrived in Berlin with her three kids, who was a living dead, because as on board her inflatable boat she shared with dozens of other refugees, she saw a man throwing her four-months old baby at sea. I remember all the faces of people telling me they departed with more people than they arrived with. I see the sea as the silent killer Europe have let it become. I hope to never set foot in it again. Then I muse and remember I used to be a decent swimmer. Maybe I should plan Greek “holidays” sometime soon.

Obviously I never bring up the subject, but little by little, as they open up, most of the people I meet evoke the subject. The most fortunate managed the trip by speed boat, the others on inflatable boats we all saw on TV and Internet. I try to keep hope by knowing from their stories that Greek people do their utmost to welcome – and save – as many people as possible. Never did I hear a negative story about the people there. Only about officials.

Then, this very video emerges, and shatters all hopes for a better world in that very moment. But what can save this world is our resilience to its darkness, so I try to rely very hard on any comforting thought, and hold on Stefan Zweig’s World of Yesterday‘s words: “Even from the abyss of horror in which we try to feel our way today, half-blind, our hearts distraught and shattered, I look up again and again to the ancient constellations that shone on my childhood, comforting myself with the inherited confidence that, some day, this relapse will appear only an interval in the eternal rhythm of progress onward and upward.”


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