„You can’t live life constantly being pulled in directions that aren’t your choices.“ (Zach Condon)
Beirut’s „Elephant Gun“ is one of many songs that has been a constant companion on my travels. It deals with leaving a familiar surrounding, the urge to go somewhere. Anywhere. The odd mix between the abundance and the discomfort of loneliness is emphasized by Zach Condon’s dark voice. Especially the tones of the trumpet sway heavily throughout the song. They appear like an elephant who moves idly and majestic through the world. In addition to it the alternation between the melancholic trumpet and the lightness of the ukulele underline the feeling of being torn between wanderlust and longing for a home. „Elephant Gun“ tells the story of someone, who finds himself in a place where he doesn’t belong. Someone who is constantly looking for his place in this world.
At the beginning of 2016, I shared an apartment with Yohannes. He flew from Eritrea about two years ago, and has lived in Germany since.
Immediately the song „Elephant Gun“ reappeared on my mind: If I was young, I’d flee this town, I’d bury my dreams underground…
Yohannes is set in a „typical German“ Christmas sequence. He is surrounded by LPs of German singers from the 60’s/70’s, a plate with Christmas sweets and boilermaker, neatly arranged on a tile table standing in front of a couch with a crocheted cover.
The idea of knitting an „Ugly Christmas Sweater Vest“ out of this song came in mind after the debate on integration and whether Islam is a part of the German Leitkultur has become (yet again) controversial. In this scenario the Christmas Sweater is used as a critical metaphor to underline what we see as what is „Christian“. Therefore it’s an allusion to the shallowness of politics on integration. It caricatures, how clothing is used to create an artificial „war of cultures“.
During the debate on integration people often refer to the „German Leitkultur“ and how important it is for refugees to adjust. Often seems as if this „Leitkultur“ is imposed on the refugees – much like back when grandma forced us to wear an „Ugly Christmas Sweater“. Whereas in fact we should start discussing what „German Leitkultur“ even means. Isn’t our „guideline“ rather simply the constitution and Germany simply multi-cultural?
Our society consists of pluralism and variety – and this is what should be encouraged. It seems as if the new swing to the right has made us take a big step back and has put our free constitutional order at risk. Culture starts where politics fail.
All in all the series „Integrated“ tells the story of a lost young man searching for himself and his place in this world. It critically puts up a mirror and questions whether what we think of „successful integration“ isn’t really shallow nonsense. It caricatures the ridiculousness of a „German Leitkultur“ and questions whether it wouldn’t be more important to stop fearing „the others“ and making encounters without prejudices. He is like us, we are like him.
One often forgets that there are millions of single destinies, that have left their homes and dreams behind: „All that is left is all I hide.“
„Let the seasons begin!“
Elephant Gun is a rifle wich has been used in the 19th century during the european colonialisation in Africa for big-game hunting. During WWI the German company Mauser has refined this rifle fort he purpose of break British tanks (Tankgewehr M1918). The weight of the rifle forced two people to carry it out. During WW2 Finland used it as an anti-Tank rifle on European ground and it served England and Italy during their fight on East African ground (e.g. today’s Eritrea).
Eritrea is mostly russian- orthodox.
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