“Love Rules”

Perhaps a solution to the Italo-German tiff that has been the subject of recent €S entries was there all along, in Bundeskanzler Schröder’s very backyard – if he could have only thought of it in time. But it’s too late now: the Love Parade, that yearly festival in honor of techno-music and “Love” generally held in Berlin’s Tiergarten kicked off on schedule yesterday despite past threats to its very existence from the Berlin municipal authorities. An emergency (federal German) government allocation for flying Italian opinion-leaders up to the German capital to take part might have worked wonders for relations between the two countries. As the on-line photographs accompanying German press coverage make clear, instead of “blonde beasts” they would have encountered quite a few “blonde beauties,” ready to party (or, indeed, even “blond breasts”), with no other thought than to “invade” their own city park, and to a techno beat.

This year’s festivities were held under the motto (in English) “Love Rules,” and attracted 500,000 visitors to the Tiergarten and the adjoining Siegessaüle – that’s the “Victory Column” which commemorates the Germany victory in the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian War that led directly to German Unification in the “Second Reich” under Kaiser Wilhelm I. (You’re right: that sort of thing would seem to have very little to do properly with a “Love Parade” – the German invasion of Burgundy in 1870 was certainly no “Love Parade” – and throughout the day access to the Siegessäule was barricaded off to the public.) It all happened in the very shadow of Berlin’s famous Brandenburg Gate, where you might recall that the Wall used to pass by. On the Grosser Stern (the “Big Star,” or the big traffic-circle surounding the Siegessäule) and on the adjoining “Street of the 17th of June” (see this EuroSavant entry for the significance of that day in Germany history) they danced for nine-and-a-half hours, mostly in various showy costumes, to techno music blaring from around 30 “Love-trucks.” Then, when Northern Europe’s late summer darkness finally descended, most went off to resume their partying in one of Berlin’s many discos.

Sorry, this is not the sort of happening that you are likely to read about in the FT Deutschland or even in Die Zeit. But the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung was glad to cover it; and its staff photographers were there to cover the uncovering going on. According to that newspaper, that half-million attendance figure represents a further decrease from the one-and-a-half million party-goers which the event attracted at the end of the 90s. As with most things of this sort, it fell victim to the very sort of success embodied in that 1,5 million attendance figure. Trash, drug use, public intoxication, widespread discharge of human wastes, and wounded victims and even occasional fatalities: it was getting to be too much even for the most devoted techno-enthusiast. Putting up with all of that, and surviving all those hours of manic dancing, for most demands a little external, chemical assistance – which then tends to only make matters worse. What was really getting the vast majority of the inhabitants of Berlin upset was the wholesale trashing of the Tiergarten that each year’s Love Parade seemed fated to produce; the event now survives from year to year in the face of attempts by some in the Berlin municipal government to simply deny its application for a permit, or else to move it to some other date, or some other less-suitable location, so as to spoil the event and broadcast the message to those who come to attend from far and wide that perhaps they shouldn’t bother.

Ironically, given the Parade’s site not far from where the Berlin Wall once stood, according to the Berliner Morgenpost this year’s main innovation was the installation of a heavy-duty fence on either side of the Avenue of the 17th of June, and beyond, to save the Tiergarten from the sort of devastation from ravers that it had been subject to in years past. And, according to the police (reported by the Morgenpost in an accompanying article), it worked: “We had only a few violations of the anti-narcotics law, and hardly any black market activities [i.e. in alcohol, another threat the fence was erected to counter],” said Berlin police spokesman Marco Drosda.

Indeed, according to Herr Drosda’s female colleague at the Berlin police department (reported in that FAZ article), “everything was extremely peaceful this year.” The amount of trash that needed to be cleaned up afterwards was down; and, although alcohol seemed to be gaining favor as a narcotic over drugs – despite the Fence shutting out the wildcat suppliers – the number of patients which the Red Cross-equivalent (the “Maltese,” i.e. a first-aid service that operates under the Maltese Cross, composed in large part out of German males performing their national service there rather than in the armed forces) was called upon to treat was also significantly down from 2002 – although two attendees were seriously wounded from falls, with one still in critical condition as the newspapers went to press.

It further seems that serious German commentary is not out-of-place even when referring to such as an event as this. Writing in Der Tagesspiegel (another Berlin-based newspaper), Matthias Oloew asserts that the Love Parade has now overcome the serious crisis it once faced: it’s now no longer a matter of “Whether,” since Berlin as a whole now seems to recognize the value of the event to the city. Instead, Oloew writes, it’s now a question of “How”: How to keep the event going strong. He basically accuses the organizers of a conservatism that could very well have the Love Parade wither away nonetheless in the near future when everyone gets tired of the sameness, year after year. After all, he points out, the big innovation this year was the Fence – and that hardly came from the organizers, but rather from the authorities. The first thing to change is the music; techno alone now is not enough. The task now for the organizers is to start with that change, add others (presumably out of the “drawers and drawers of new ideas” that they claim to have at their disposal), and so keep the Love Parade fresh and vital for all into the future.

Needless to say, the organizers have already promised a Love Parade for 2004 – same Love-time, same Love-place.

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