Soup, Politics and Egoism

Last night’s city parliament session – Berner Stadrat – held a fine display of political discourse that left me multitasking on several fronts: I listened to the debate, downloaded a few apps to the iPhone and tried them out, read in Andrew Feenberg’s “Questioning Technology” and on occasions I voted or exchanged commentary with my seat neighbours Pascal on the left and Bernhard on the right besides beaming up some incomprehensible status updates to Facebook and corrupting Pascal’s innocence by placing an Apple device in his hands and letting him take a snapshot of the colleagues on the left block wearing the orange partner look . We are in the last leg of the electoral campaign and the debates at the Rathaus reflect exactly that. Voting is on November 30th.

Last night there were two debates that were worthwhile listening to. There was the one about the fate of the city’s electrical company and the the other about the city’s quality of life report that was published recently. We, our party and other liberals, were defeated in our motion to have something sustainable done with this city’s utility, and we did no better on the report. Criticism is seldom welcome. The arguments were interesting and full of ideology on either side. Still I think that one needs to act towards sustainability by finding an optimal solution that involves sound economics, satisfying social needs and respecting the environment that nourishes us all. The greens and socialists seem to either not know how to think in economic terms or otherwise believe in miracles of some kind. Given the recent financial crisis that has hit the globe, it is understandable that anybody would be suspicious of any argument based on economics. I think that that is very short sighted. Surely our economic models fail and when they fail it is not a pretty sight, but they have also created tremendous wealth from which all segments of society benefit.

I am also running for re-election but I made what was to me an obvious choice to not campaign actively. For all my love for politics, local politics is an issue that I am still shy about and that has more to do with me than with how this city is run. The political process is one that is long winded, yet on occasions it requires extremely fast reactions and I often feel that I am indeed much more interested in philosophical discourse than I am in political discourse. Must however confess that my fascination with the parliamentary procedure and the associated inner circles of influence and power struggle has not diminished in any way. The weekly Thursday evening parliament sessions are to me still the most relaxing part of my week, however I am challenged by the slow pace of the process. Again, this has to do with me, I am of the ambitious and impatient kind and I like to see change happen even when it challenges the living daylights out of me.

So, what is with the soup? Our party’s campaign gurus came up with the idea of distributing instant soup to the local citizens in order to warm them up to the idea of casting a vote in our favour. Cute!


It is the last day of this Autumn’s Bernese school vacation, and of the city parliament’s recess. On November 30th there are city wide elections, and it could be that I am re-elected or it could be that I am not re-elected. I am not the campaign animal, and life is more than usual busy around here.

Last night I told Ivo at the Dojo that today I was not showing up today for the usual Friday night training which he leads, and that I was elsewhere. Given that the conversation took place in German, the word that I used was “fremdgehen” to express that I was breaking the routine. Am I being unfaithful tonight? Hardly. Am I cheating on my partner? Cheating, no! Not working out with one of my most regular Aikido partners, yes! I have been training with Ivo on a regular basis for many years.

Yesterday in a private rant over email to a friend I asked myself what was it that I am doing in this town given that my closest and dear friends are all elsewhere from Zurich and Zug through Tokyo, Paris, Rome and the family is scattered through Oman, Los Angeles and a few other corners of this world. In the moment of recalling how far my friends are, I forgot that one of my strongest ties to Berne is the Dojo. Come to think of it, my relationship to the Dojo intensified when a few years ago I made some plans about leaving it. The reasoning then was that if I was going to leave, then I wanted to take with me as much Aikido as possible. What I did not take into account then was how very slow my body is in learning this thing called Aikido. No regrets here, but… I just did not have a clue.

The word priority has been on my mind for a while now. Once, long ago, I was accused of not knowing how to set priorities right. After years of resistance to that idea, I must confess that that is true indeed. Given who accused me of such crime, this one makes for a whole story in itself. Suffice to say that that person actually stood under official protection of the government and drove around in a bullet proof car. Needless to say that I avoided riding in that car. Those are the glamour points of that personality, then there is all the other stuff about being human and extremely vulnerable beyond what a bullet proof car can protect against, and that is what makes for a great story. It is a story that I may never write.

The whole bit of being unfaithful, in which ever context you may choose, just does not compute with me. I think that it is impossible to go against one’s nature, priorities here or there. When it comes to people there are no priorities, and when it comes to work and activity, there is something called choice. Priority? Is that not just another word for choice. Choice is a bit more binary, and frankly I can not deal with anything beyond binary. Confession: I have been spending way too much time with the work of a man named John Baez, and I am starting to feel like a bit of an idiot since I tend to get lost in the beauty of his fiction. But I always get lost in the beauty of fiction, be it the one from Christoph Geiser, be it the one from John Baez!

I have also been spending a fair amount of time in research libraries and databases. I have been writing and writing, and for the most part I do not recognise myself. Something about this year being about death is coming through in my life. Some part of me has died, and that is not a bad thing. Recently somebody told me that having suddenly lost the life’s partner was like walking around with a part of the self missing. I was stunned by the words. I know that feeling. I have walked around like that for over forty years, and it is that part of me that I have let go, the missing part. The missing part is dead.

Fremdgehen. Yes! I am walking around unburdened by what was missing. I love change, truly do. And to think that the adventure just begun is truly intoxicating!