from Ben Korbach
Amelie doesn’t want to be late. The 16-year-old strolls briskly through the Berlin suburbs and enjoys the warm sunrays on her skin. The scent of countless flowers, trees and bushes rises to her nose.
On the way she looks around in amazement as always: Here and there some old concrete and asphalt still flashes through, but most of it now glows in the colours of nature.
Since the city has ripped out the streets, nature has reestablished itself on the former carriageway. Since only cyclists and pedestrians are on the road here, life has changed completely. Wildflowers bloom everywhere, setting accents with their exotic colours.
The buildings here are the same as they were 100 years ago
However, they no longer look as grey as in the pictures of their grandmother. They fit in with the picture of nature. Gardens grow on them. Plants climb up the buildings, others hang down from above. Through the open windows you can see people going about their daily work. From one sounds pleasant piano music.
Amelie breathes deeply and consciously and enjoys the fresh, fragrant air in her lungs. She feels great; alive and as part of everything she sees, hears and smells. Smiling, she goes on and prepares herself inwardly for the little shock that hits her every time she enters her grandmother’s dormitory.
The building is already behind the next corner. It looks different. Without plants somehow cold and dead. She’ll never understand why anyone would want to live in it, but she knows it’s not about her.
Tense she enters the dormitory
The artificial room spray almost takes her breath away, as always, and the halogen lamps on the ceiling make the entrance hall seem somehow unnatural. But she knows, she gets used to it amazingly fast, in 5 minutes it will seem completely normal to her.
She doesn’t let on, runs smiling past the reception desk and greets Marie behind her. But she doesn’t see them at all, rummages around in piles of paper under stress and holds one of these phones to her ear. The good old days, as your grandma likes to say. Amelie didn’t understand what was good about it. Shaking her head, she walks on.
An ancient plasma TV on the wall shows a new program, an explanatory video. Probably for anyone who wonders why people still live here as they did 100 years ago.
“Welcome to the Millenial Senior Center,” a pleasant voice begins
“The only place in Germany where the attitude to life of 100 years ago has been preserved. As I am sure you know, our older citizens have struggled with the changes of recent years. Here they can enjoy the amenities of their old life. Arrange a consultation today for a place in our exclusive center. Hurry, places are scarce and in demand.”
Amelie walks on, the smile has given way to a thoughtful expression on her face. She has completely forgotten that at that time there were almost no pure explanatory videos. Everything was advertising; wanted to get you to buy. She imagines how exhausting it must have been. Arriving at her grandmother’s door, she lets the thought wander, puts on her most beautiful smile and knocks. She still refuses these old-fashioned bells.
The door opens and her grandmother stands before her beaming with joy. Without hesitation she hugs Amelie warmly and presses her firmly. “Oh – good, you’re here. We haven’t seen each other for ages,” she says and pulls Amelie into it. “Come sit on the sofa, have some cookies. I’ll get the tea.” She’s already disappeared into the kitchen.
Amelie sits down and looks around
Between the sofa and the glass table there is also a television hanging on the wall. A cooking show. The sound is kindly turned off. Her grandmother rushes back in and brings cups, teapot and sugar bowls on a tray.
“Oh, dear, so much has happened and I have so many questions for you,” she says and hectically pours the tea. “I know you don’t have much time and I don’t want to keep you long, but I’m so happy to see you.”
Amelie puts her hand on her grandma’s. “Grandma, it’s all right, I have the whole afternoon free and I’m looking forward to spending it with you. We don’t have to hurry.”
Her grandmother pauses for a moment, looks deep into Amelie’s eyes. “That’s fine,” she says. “But the whole afternoon… I’m meeting Gisela at 4:00. She was in England and wants to tell me about it
Amelie laughs heartily, her grandma gets in
In the end, it’s always her grandma who has appointments. Amelie often has the feeling that she lives either in the past or the future. She herself always tries to be completely in the here and now. But despite these differences, Amelie feels a deep sense of love for this hectic old woman. And she knows it’s the same the other way around.
“So,” she stops and sips her tea, “what did you want to talk to me about?”
“I recently saw a documentary about a village in the South. There is no electricity, water or sewage systems, television or internet. Nothing! And worst of all, thousands of young people are going on pilgrimage there, wanting to be a part of it.” Her grandma looks at her confused. “How can this be? Why do you young people voluntarily want to live so retrograde?”
Amelie had heard about this village and the trend
“I believe that more and more people want to live in and with nature. They want time to focus on what’s important to them.”
“But what is important to them? And how are they going to enjoy it when they’re slaving in the fields?”
“Maybe that’s exactly what it is: physical work in nature, creating something meaningful. It’s not really grafting anymore. For the hardest jobs, I believe they use modern machinery.”
“Uh-huh,” says her grandmother uncomprehendingly. “And how do they make money? They need that to be able to afford things and to provide for their old age.”
“It is no longer the case today that you trade time for money to buy things that only make you happy for a short time. People use their time now to do what makes them happy. This vision was the impetus for our society today, after we had almost ruined the whole planet by the consumer society
Amelie deliberately says “we”
She only knows this old social system from books. But she does not want to sound reproachful.
“And on the subject of old-age provision: people form such a close community that no one has to worry about becoming impoverished if you can no longer be productive
“It sounds like a cult to me. Think about it: Who would voluntarily give up the comfort that my generation has built for you? I believe that people are being manipulated to get involved. Like brainwashing. Very dangerous!”
“You mean, like when they used to advertise everywhere?”
“No, you cannot compare. That commercial was good for something. It made people buy something and thus boosted the economy.”
“Well, we haven’t had advertising for a long time. And I am not familiar with the term ‘boosting the economy’. But I’d say I’m doing really well. Or how do you feel?”
“Oh, dear, I don’t know. On the one hand, I can already see how well you are doing and how happy you are. On the other hand, I don’t understand all this. For example, why aren’t you working properly? You’re wasting your potential, honey, that’s what I keep telling you.”
“But, Grandma, I’m working. Just not Monday to Friday, morning to evening, like you did then. I choose the things that I enjoy or that fulfill me, and then I do them.”
“But work isn’t always fun. And that’s what you young people don’t understand. You can’t build an entire country on fun. Someone has to clean the toilets.”
“Yes, you’re right, that’s what’s being done. In the cities robots do it and in the small towns people still do it. They’re highly regarded for it too.”
“There you see it! Because you make everything so easy for yourselves, soon the toilet cleaners will rule you.”
“And what would be so bad about that?”
Her grandmother shakes her head desperately and looks at Amelie sadly. “My child, please listen to your old granny: Life is not easy and you can’t always pick out the raisins. And everyone here, including Marie from the reception by the way, is very worried that you are running down the whole country. Please think again carefully about what you are doing.”
“And here we both disagree. I believe that life is simple when you listen to yourself, your fellow human beings and nature. Because in the end we are all in the same boat, or rather in the same kitchen. And if we all pull together, we can also decide for ourselves how many raisins we put in the cake.”