Living Online Is Not Quite Living

Handling daily tasks like shopping online instead of going out is as convenient as it is contrary to the real, and potentially agreeable process called 'living.'

'The notion of never leaving home and living off deliveries is a trap too'
"The notion of never leaving home and living off deliveries is a trap too"
Héctor Abad Faciolince


BOGOTÁ — I recently overheard a conversation between two women, a 94 year old and an 86 year old. The younger one complained that ripe bananas were not as good as they used to be. Never quite ripe enough, she said, nor the right size. The older woman disagreed: They were just as good if not better. The young one said, "I don't know, whatever I say they keep sending me awful bananas." Why, the older one asked, did she not pick them herself at the market? The younger lady cited her hip. "I only leave the house when my daughters take me out," she says. The older woman suggested a walker, adding, "The shopping trolley is the best walker on the market. I even bought one to move around the house and I take it everywhere." She had in fact arrived with a trolley in which she kept items including a jersey, a book, her handbag and, well, some bananas.

The modern world gives us everything already chewed, cooked, even half-digested.

Telemarketing, Rappi deliveries, Amazon-type stores, and drones that may soon deliver our pizzas and books are incredibly convenient. But the notion of never leaving home and living off deliveries is a trap too. Meetings through Zoom and Skype, WhatsApp groups, virtual libraries, music on Spotify, watching films on Netflix, opera at home and a myriad other tricks of modernity will make life easier, but at the same time they will also distance us from life. I mean real, vibrant life. We mammals have a bad tendency to become sedentary: We move when hungry or if we want to mate. If food were brought to your bed and sex were on screen, we might never leave the room, like fattened, castrated cats.

Many years ago I went to Mendoza in Argentina, looking for a poem. There I saw a greengrocer talking to one of his customers. She said he had moved further from her home but she liked his vegetables, and asked why he didn't do delivery (as Argentines like to say, in English). The grocer said, "Madam, I'm here to tempt you, not to meet your needs." That is precisely the good thing about visiting a bookshop rather than buying books on Amazon: we may buy not just what we were looking for (moved to do so in any case by advertising) but also some other seductive item we had no idea existed.

Uber Eats for the uber lazy? — Photo: Robert Anasch

The modern world gives us everything already chewed, cooked, even half-digested. Spanish film director Fernando Trueba recently told me about the sound production of a disc he once recorded. The sound technician had done an impeccable job, removing all stuttering, little noises and tiny imperfections that could be heard during singing by the Cuban Bebo Valdés. The result was perfect, but lifeless. He had to ask the mixer to be less strict and leave a recording that exuded humanity.

We might never leave the room, like fattened, castrated cats.

That is what we need now when we no longer attend concerts, but hear everything perfectly mixed at home. No more improvisations, mistakes or a change of rhythm for a sudden emotion or sentimental need to emphasize. It is like the video assistant referee in soccer, which eliminates something important (for me at least) — the abomination at the referee's mistakes and enemy's cunning. Soccer is better when it emulates life, which is imperfect and unfair.

Which is what I meant to say here: You won't see it unless you go see it. If we become used to doing everything at home, immobile and online, then we shall lose a good half, if not a great deal more, of life. All those books we did not know we wanted to read, the paintings that look different to their pictures, the matches, concerts, real flavors, temptations and the good bananas ... It's that simple, and sad.

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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