Saturday, February 17, 2007

Köln Karnival

This weekend I went to Cologne for Karnival, the annual letting-loose celebration in which thousands of people dress up in costume, get drunk, and march through the streets (beginning on the first day of Lent, a religious connection apparently of little remaining significance, and culminating on "Rosenmontag" in mid Feb.). Remarkable about this celebration is how many people participate, including many of the older generation, whom one would not expect to dress as clowns and push a baby carriage full of beer and a boom box through the streets.

I spend much of my time with the 14 year old sister of my host (a girl who I met as a fellow Waldorf graduate through Facebook). The eighth-grader reminded me of the time in school when socializing is everything, so much so that all activities in school or discussions beyond it all come back to that one issue or feed the development and discovery of one's identity. I was initially surprised to meet such a progressive young person, only to see that her zest for progressive issues in politics was more of a naive ploy for attention and the undigested reflection of a rhetoric fed her by her parents (figures she attributed to these very beliefs). One can hardly lay blame for trying to find one's self and one's friends by latching onto issues popular in the lovable liberal media and proclaiming them one's own... but at what point do we separate ourselves from this petty vie for attention and truly act on convictions which are based on internalized morals?

What disturbed me about our conversation had to do with my own vain and uninformed arguments which I realized only stood above hers in there college-educated eloquence and not with a particular refinement, conviction, or resolve. I can't stand talking in circles around social issues when it becomes--as it often does--a kind of masturbatory oneupmanship in "goodness" that resembles a kind of secular replacement for Christian good deeds. Talk is cheap... I would rather cut my political conversations short until I stand firmly behind a issue for which I am also making tangible contributions than speak hypocritically of what I believe in--beliefs need be firmly backed with actions (a belief I have in many respects yet to support in my own life). In short, it was odd being confronted in a social context with someone of this age group. It reminded me of my youngest brother, from whom I have drifted somewhat in recent years. It made me realize again that he (and the the girl from Detroit, in Cologne) is not at the same stage of mental development and does not have the experience to think of the world the way I and older people can. [no doubt I will also look back at myself at 22 with the same sage condescension and wonder how I could have been so vain about other things].

4 Comments:

Blogger The One With Many Names said...

Hi Andrew! It's been a while since I checked in on your blog. I just went through my old blog from my time studying in England, and it reminded me to stop by yours. And then your Karnival experience reminded me of my own encounter with the British form of celebrating Shrove Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras: they make these thin crepe-like pancakes and eat them with lemon and sugar. I was invited to a pancake party, and brought some jam, thinking this might go well with the crepe things as well. They all smiled politely, then looked at each other like "What the heck is with this crazy American?" and went back to their lemon and sugar. Ah, well, so much for cultural exchange... :-)

Anyway, I wanted to say I am still thinking of you over there in Germany, and glad you seem to be finding many ways to have fun and experience life in various parts of Europe. I also greatly appreciated some of your more introspective/philosophical musings, on international lack of understandings, socialist theatre tendencies, political opinions, and developmental stages.

I'm off to watch one of Mary Ann's rehearsals tomorrow--she's directing Arabian Nights for festival. Should be fun, and maybe just a little bit like old times in Echoes rehearsals, except of course it won't be at all the same without you, Christa, and Christian.

I hope all continues to go well for you.

Elizabeth

12:09 AM  
Blogger Tohmkatte said...

Sometimes I forget what it was like at that age. I guess it has to do with what you've experienced so far in life. I remember having some sort of "revelation" that being popular wasn't what life was all about. Thankfully, I realized this BEFORE high school.

As far as political convictions, I've always found that using historical context for justification of your stance is the most useful. Even if you don't have any "life experience" dealing with the horrors of war, poverty, etc., it is still just as legit to define your personal convictions based on history or scientific data. And any age group can do this. Just look at high school debate teams:)

11:10 AM  
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