we celebrated new year (Sylvester in Deutsch) at home, dinner with a friend, then walked to nearby donnersbergerbrucke to experience a bit of the fireworks. there isn't an official display, instead everyone buys as many fireworks as they can afford and joins in a chaotic mass letting-off between about 11.30pm and 1am or later. the noise is deafening - i'm fortunate enough to have never been in a war situation, but i imagine it must sound something like that. and there was so much smoke on the bridge that much of the nice part of fireworks was diluted. after an hour or so, i'd had enough and we headed home. once again i was disgusted by how much rubbish people leave in the street after new year's; it seems almost compulsory - for 364 days of the year germans are very tidy, law-abiding people, then on this one night they go nuts with fireworks and leave the streets strewn with rubbish.
but we are now nearly 2 weeks into the new year: the snow has melted and the rubbish has been either cleaned up or ground into the dirt. life is kind of normal again. i say kind of, because last week's violence in france has sent the media into a spin, and whipped up the country's intolerant racists into a frenzy. marches and counter-marches are happening around germany; thankfully the counter-marches (against the racists, xenophobic bigots) are considerably larger. the intense response by the media to the killings in paris isn't surprising, when it is their colleagues who have been targeted and their role that is threatened. and yes, what happened is undoubtedly terrible and tragic; yet at the same time, the boko harem masscre in nigeria, which has killed at least 10 times as many people, is barely mentioned in the mainstream media. and we did not see the same response to the killings in norway a couple of years ago - i suppose because that was an attack from the inside; a white man speaking the same language, not a dark-skinned foreigner. i read an interesting article that says that only 2% of all the terrorist attacks in europe during the last 5 years have been "religiously motivated"; and this amusing commentary which reflects on how lucky some of us are to live in societies based on western values, "because in countries like America you can’t imagine a lunatic ever going berserk with a gun in a public place."
there was also a good item on uk channel 4 news with contemporary thought professor will self and writer and cartoonist martin rowson, discussing the notion of free speech as an absolute right, and how people seem to have forgotten that rights come with responsibilities. indeed.
and let us not forget that it was the french government who committed the only act of international state terrorism in new zealand (apart from colonisation, which pretty much amounts to a form of terrorism) when they bombed the rainbow warrior back in 1985. they did this to stop greenpeace's protests against nuclear testing in the pacific, to deny the right of free speech and action. it seems that the french believe in free speech for themselves but not necessarily for others.