Over the weekend, I ran into a couple of old friends, and among the info I picked up was a rumor that the plug was about to be pulled on Radio Multikulti, Berlin's absolutely unique radio station. Further research turned up an article confirming this.
Now, I'm in a bad position to defend Radio Multikulti for a number of reasons. First, I never listen to it. I never listen to any radio unless I'm driving. I've got too many CDs, and too little time. But that's neither here nor there.
Another factor is that I'm always uncomfortable with German multiculturalism as it's officially expressed. I've touched on this before some years back. And, for all the good work it does giving foreign residents of Berlin a touchstone, Radio Multikulti also fuels that syndrome.
A third, personal, factor is that when I moved here, one of my employers was a Big Honcho in the local world music scene who went on to become even bigger when he joined the staff of the brand-new Radio Multikulti. This guy was a piece of work: he was the first West German I'd ever met who hated Americans. There were three of us on the job, and he stiffed us -- and just us -- our last month's salary. Just because. I asked him one day where this bizarre animus came from, and he told me "It's because you destroyed a civilization. You did absolutely nothing to stop the Vietnam War, and this meant the destruction of Vietnamese culture, a very old culture." In this particular year, when the media is making so much noise about the events of 1968, the idea that Americans, especially young Americans, one of whom I was at the time, did "absolutely nothing" about the war in Vietnam, may seem a bit odd. But he believed it, he really believed it.
So I can't say I'm the biggest booster of Radio Multikulti, but I can say that this turn of events is both sad and unsurprising. Sad because this station, in both its avowed mission and its execution, is unique in the world, as far as I know. A radio station that both attempts to help immigrants integrate into an alien society (well, exotic immigrants, anyway; we Euro/American types are on our own), while seducing the locals into acceptance by playing them "world music," pop music from foreign climes (except, again, Euro/American styles, but I don't have any complaint against that: there's enough of most of that around), is, at least on paper, a good idea. And, since it's run by human beings, and, thus, imperfect, what actually comes out of the speakers has been pretty good every time I've heard it.
More to the point, pulling the plug on yet another unique, interesting, popular cultural manifestation in Berlin not only deprives Berliners of yet another of the things which ameliorate life here, it also proves that the people who make cultural policy here are totally unconcerned with Berlin's hip! edgy! image -- which is attracting who knows how much money to this city -- and only interested in supporting the most mainstream, culturally conservative institutions. Since another villain here seems to be ARD, the central public radio-television network of Germany, I'd say this de-funding also brings up questions of just how welcome immigrants -- particularly ones outside the Euro/American ambit -- actually are, not just in Berlin, but in Germany generally. Funny how that question keeps popping up.
Anyway, I'm glad to be leaving. At the rate this city is self-destructing, I can see myself coming back to visit friends in a couple of years and realizing there's nothing to see or do here while those friends are at work and I have free time. Berlin will have committed cultural suicide and become as fascinating as Bochum. Well, almost as fascinating.