Gisberta

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Again and again Elisha finds himself confronted by Alex, Timo, Sascha, and Mika – all 14-year-olds living in the boys’ orphanage with him. Their worlds ought to be similar and yet they are completely different. While Elisha builds tiny obstacle courses for ants in the woods, the other boys spend their days watching porn, absorbed in their emerging sexual fantasies.

When the attractive 31-year-old Gisberta is newly employed at the orphanage, she quickly becomes the object of their desires and the boys try to approach her with clumsily aggressive adolescent behavior. Elisha, however, actually gets to know Gisberta.

Alex, who has his eyes everywhere, discovers the two laughing in the kitchen. His erupting jealousy drives the group to continuously humiliate Elisha in any way possible, but this just brings Elisha closer to Gisberta, and a tender friendship develops between them.

But one day the sexual fantasies of the other boys take a turn to brutal reality.

Welcome to the Future, Germany

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German chancellor Angela Merkel barely ever misses an opportunity to highlight Germany’s exemplary function when it comes to social values and tolerance–often conveniently ignoring that other European countries are frequently ahead in ensuring that laws are passed to curb discrimination of women, minorities and other groups too often left behind.

This is not to say that everything is bad in the EU’s largest member state. Germany did, for example, take in the second largest amount of war refugees per capita after Sweden. But in other areas Germany is still a rather slow-moving creature:

For more than a decade now conservative  powers in the country voiced their concern about the prospect of marriage equality and the right for same-sex couples to adopt children. The arguments mostly being the same fear mongering that you’ll find all over the world as soon as these subjects are brought up.

From gay marriage leading to bestiality to gay couples not being able to provide a stable family for kids (while 40% of straight marriages in Germany getting divorced doesn’t seem to be an issue).

Meanwhile it would be as easy as just taking a look at Germany’s neighbours to figure out that society did not dissolve into an anarchistic mess after gay marriage was legalised nor are children being eaten alive by the loving same-sex couples who were allowed to adopt them. The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, France and many other countries are doing just fine despite achieving marriage equality in some cases over a decade ago.

But things are finally getting in motion it seems. With general elections happening in less than three months campaigns are in full swing and within the last few days something interesting transpired.

German politics usually go like this: Merkel’s party, The Christian Democrats (CDU) win the elections and the only question after is which other party gets to join them in a coalition to form the government. Currently three parties are likely candidates to partner up with the CDU: The Social Democrats (SPD), the Green Party (Grüne) and the Liberals (FDP).

All three of these parties recently announced that they will not be available for a coalition unless marriage equality will be part of the new government’s program thereby forcing Merkel and her party to give up their longstanding resistance against same-sex marriage unless they want to look like damn fools after the elections.

So while Merkel is reaping much praise right now for turning around on the issue, she basically did what she always does: Waiting for the very last, opportune moment to change her mind when party politics demand it.

Better late than never; better with the bitter aftertaste of political opportunism than not at all. Germany is arriving in the future and that’s a good thing.

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The Center of the World

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When I was about 14 I carried a book with me everywhere for months because I just couldn’t let go of the protagonist. It must have been the first time that I really fell in love with a book. Welcome to The Center of the World… 

A coming of age story set in a remote mountain range in Germany; Author Andreas Steinhöfel weaves the elegant tale of a seventeen-year-old boy named Phil. Although the novel does deal with Phils sexuality, it primarily illustrates his tumultuous relationship with his unconventional mother, Glass, and reclusive twin sister, Dianne.

The family occupies a large estate, called Visible, on the outskirts of a socially repressive and ultra-conservative town. The town not only discriminates against Glass because of her promiscuous nature, but they transfer their criticisms to her two children. Therefore, throughout Phil’s childhood, he feels ostracised despite his mothers advice to ignore the harshness of the “Little People,” the people who inhabit the town.

Phil does discover refuge in the form of a young and vivacious girl named Kat who becomes his one and only ally. However, despite Phils seeming acceptance of his sexuality, he does not believe that his family or his friends would approve of his relationship with charming and attractive runner Nicholas who becomes his first boyfriend.

The novel is written in a first-person narrative with intermittent flashbacks that describe the roots of Phil’s personality. Steinhöfel’s greatest accomplishment is that he portrays homosexual relationships as the equivalent of heterosexual relationships. By demonstrating that the journey towards self-discovery of a young gay man is the same as that of a young straight man, Steinhöfel shows that discriminatory views on homosexuality are completely unfounded. In addition to vividly depicting Visible’s breath taking surroundings, his crisp and graceful prose provides insight into Phil’s complex thoughts and emotions.

Satisfying the reader with Phil’s self-discovery, the author does an excellent job of balancing the scales between satisfaction and misery, having and longing. By the end of the novel, one aches with a confused combination of happiness and grief. Steinhöfel and his novel deserve every word of praise.

English ISBN: 0440229324 | German ISBN 3551353158
English Version at Amazon | German Version at Amazon


A film based on the novel was released in 2016 in both German and English. I haven’t seen it yet and therefore can’t tell you if it does the book justice.  I have my doubts after watching the trailer which you can find below (and the actors being too old, as always, is only the most obvious of my many little complaints) but then again, I’m as biased as it gets so if the story sounds interesting to you at all, do give it a shot; or, if you already did, let us know in the comments how you liked it.

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Center of My World (Original Title: Die Mitte der Welt)
Release: 2016, Germany | IMDb | Facebook | Website

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Golden

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“In the wake of the tragedy in Orlando a friend asked me to put my short film Golden online so she can share it with some friends. If it can spread just a tiny bit of love in these devastating times, the film fulfilled its purpose. Wherever you are and not matter how tough times are right now: You are never alone. You have a place in life and together we gonna make sure it’s a safe one.” — Kai Stänicke, director

Thanks everyone who submitted this

Western Tolerance?

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When Westerners talk about the differences between them and people  from other countries some topics seem to come up almost always. The tolerance of the Western world for example  is something we just love to brag about. But how tolerant are we really? The Get Data blog took a look at the numbers from an American perspective.

Where does the American Public Stand on Racism?

The World Values Survey is an association of social scientists from around the world that gather data on human values, political and social life, as well as a host of other social statistics.  Using the WVS data, we’ll present a brief analysis of tolerance, racism and xenophobia in the Western world.

The below figure shows the number of respondents by country that affirm the following positions. All questions began with, ‘Would not like to have as neighbours:’ and ends with the y-axis category.  For example the first survey question was, ‘Would not like to have as neighbours: Different Race’ and 5.6% of American affirmed with this statement.

tolerance01

Even within the Western world huge differences between neighbouring countries can be observed. While only 3.5% of the respondents from Sweden had a negative view on immigrants, 21.5% of Germans did.

Tolerance towards Homosexuality in the US

As we can see in the below figures, which again uses WVS data, the United States ranks among the most tolerant countries towards homosexuality.   Still, more than 24%, almost a quarter, of Americans believe homosexuality is never justifiable and only 21.5% believe homosexuality is always justifiable with similarly low numbers found in countries like Germany compared to 60% of Swedes.

 

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