Geschrieben am 1. März 2021 von für Crimemag, CrimeMag März 2021

Georg Seeßlen: Letter to a friend far away

Identity sucks!

Dear friend,

this letter is written again in my favorite limited and error-filled English, in „my own write“, as John Lennon put it. This kind of „broken English“ is the modern lingua franca, so we are told. But as a matter of fact, there are places in the world, where this lingua franca does not help you very much, for instance, when it comes to getting lost in a big Chinese city… The only thing that helps here is friendly people. You find them nearly everywhere, if you got lucky, that is.

All my travel-experiences tell me, that wherever you go, wherever you sit down, there you will find assholes, ordinary people who mind their own business, and friendly persons. Maybe that there are systems, institutions, life styles and ideologies that favor the assholes and suppress friendly persons. But I still believe in the universal power of friendly persons. Such as you and humble old me, I presume. 

How I long for talking to you in person, for hugging you, for strolling through the city together, stopping over for a drink or two and watching people and time go by as we used to do. But there is this fucking extermination angel called Covid. So we are locked down not only in our apartments but also in our own thoughts.

When I was in my twenties, I lived in the so called alternative society. In a house I shared with black, brown and beige persons, played in a band of „multicolored“ members, discussed not only the work of Marx, Freud and Guevarra, but also that of James Baldwin, Frantz Fanon and Malcolm X. Not that we were color blind, we couldn’t deny racism around us. But in our bubble there was only the utopian model of a world were words like race, gender and class would have no meaning of value and structure at all. Little did we know. 

The bubble burst, and it was the fault of stupid economy. One made it in big business, the other settled down as petit bourgeois, the third searched for luck and wisdom elsewhere, because our land was too narrow. Others stuck to a Seminole dream and Creole culture. But things changed. Boy, how they changed. 

When you will visit us (how happy we would be!), we will have limits to our strolling and taking a drink or two. There are streets, pubs, regions better not to go. As you know I’m not a big fighter, and there will be no one to protect us. I would not trust the police either. I’m really, really ashamed of this society I have to call my own, wether I’m the more nomadic type or not. Ashamed of verbal, structural, violent or masked racism, ashamed of politicians, of neighbors, of media. That does not mean you couldn’t find friendly persons here, not at all. But also for them things are different today.

The old racism refused to vanish, a new racism emerged, and then, after all, we developed another view of social structures and history. Even our own behavior, our own attitudes got big question marks. Was it correct to have fun together instead of being conscious? Was it appropriation, when we played a little „kozmik Blues“ together? And what about the crows in the Disney-flic „Dumbo“? As a movie buff I’m sure you remember the scene. When I saw it for the first time as a kid, I thought they were really cool. The only cool guys in a fershluggener morality play whith that fucking preaching mouse in the flying elephant’s ear. And what about Jim in „Huckleberry Finn“? Man, this guy was an imaginary friend of mine! Without him, Huck (me) would never make it. Tell you what (my personal impression, of course): Identity kills ambiguity. Do we really want to live in a world without ambiguity? I dunno. 

Maybe there is no such thing as an alternative society. Maybe we are not able to overcome past worlds just by dreaming a new one. A new bubble of anti-racism emerged, mainly on campus, telling us, that we had to be instead of color-blind color-conscious. Cultural identity became the new passepartout. I agree that racism has strong roots in words, in narratives, in pictures. And I agree that freedom of speech ends at disrespect, devaluation or denunciation. Also I’m aware of the crimes of old and new colonialism. But I certainly do not agree that cultural segregation, the fetish of identity and an everlasting fear in communication will lead us to a better way of living together. Frankly, as long as people are drowning, starving, freezing, kept in camps like mistreated animals, forced to slave-like work, hunted and violated, I don’t give a damn wether a white woman is allowed to wear African clothes, or if we have to take „Pippi Longstocking“ out of our children’s libraries.

Sometimes I feel like yelling at that new bubble of anti-racism: Identity is bullshit. I want my seminole, creole and love-peace-and-happiness-dream back! Theo Adorno once stated, that „identity will only be possible by exact negation of every aspect of social processes“. See? We desocialise ourselves by this eager search for identity. Maybe that stems from the false duality of assimilation and segregation. There is a fear, and there is a desire of otherness. How far away from a non-racist society we are, like Martin Luther King dreamt of. Because there is no such thing as society anymore? Even no „alternative society“? Sometimes I tend to consider „identity“ as a wet dream of neoliberalism. Instead of being imprisoned we imprison ourselves. Instead of being branded, we brand ourselves. Instead of being segregated, we segregate ourselves. 

But then I come to think of it. Who am I to judge what’s right and what’s wrong? I am white, male, heterosexual, middle class, old. Am I „identified“ by that? Everything I hoped it wouldn’t matter very much (especially the last). But of course, I never experienced being called by N-words, let alone thrown bananas at me and welcomed by „ape sounds“. I did not work in slave like circumstances on tomato fields, I was no object of racial profiling. So I can’t pretend to know what it is like to be black. Never.

We ceased looking forward into a childishly naive depicted future and turned to looking backwards.  We recognized, that we were not only living in a society, in which racism existed, but in a society that is grounded on racism. And that a history of abuse and violence could not be made unwritten by making music together or preparing meals together. There is no real life in the bubble of identity. But outside you can get pretty lonely these days. 

Strange thoughts for a time when you can’t even go for a walk, see your friends, attend meetings, aren’t they? In short: a time of isolation and loneliness. I wonder where your thoughts are wandering at the moment and what your experiences are these days. Desperately looking forward to meet you in the real world. Ten days after Corona. Or make it eleven, in case of a delay. 

Take care!


His essays here at CulturMag.