Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Berlin Memory

About two years after the wall had come down I remember visiting Berlin. I had breakfast with a Dutch traveller from my hostel then together we walked to the old East Berlin side of the city. We crossed the former ‘no man’s land’ then sat down on a bench to rest.

“Communism couldn’t last but it wasn’t all bad was it? And they did some good things didn’t they?” my companion mused. It sounded reasonable at the time so I agreed without quite knowing why. Then she asked:

“So what were some of the good things the Communists did in Australia?”

I advised her to ask the experts but she only wanted to know what ‘ordinary’ Australians thought.

After an embarrassed silence I had a Eureka moment and explained that Australian Communists were among the first to support Aboriginal rights. My newfound connoisseurship was soon deflated when she prompted in amazement:

“Yes of course! But wasn’t there anything ELSE...???”.

Feeling as if the glare of every searchlight on Death Strip would expose my ignorance I feigned the excuse of not having drunk enough coffee. A while later we fell about laughing after stumbling across a larger than life public statue of Lenin, Marx and Engels – totally taboo in our countries. She dared me to clamber up the pedestal and pose with them while she took a photo. So I hammed it up with one arm around Lenin and the other punching the air. A bemused German stopped to comment:

“Ah, so I see here we have the last Communist.”
Finally I was an expert.

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