May 28, 2013
BERLIN - Alex has bright blue eyes that he keeps focused on the table when he talks.
This gives the 25-year-old six-foot man with an athletic build -- a social education student -- an endearing and misleading look of shyness. Because Alex (not his real name) is not really shy. In fact he’s a big hit with the ladies. So what’s he doing on this sunny afternoon sitting in a hotel bar being coached on how to pick up women?
Alex is training as a "pick-up artist,” and this is his second coaching session. If you somehow missed the TV series' like How I Met Your Mother and dubious best-sellers like The Game, and don’t know what a Pick-Up Artist is, here’s sociologist Leonie Viola Thone’s definition: "Pick-up artists are manipulative, female-hating womanizers. They follow an elaborate plan and use rehearsed tricks to get as many women as possible into bed with them," she writes in her Master’s thesis on the pick-up artist phenomenon.
The phenomenon, which originated in the U.S., has reached Germany where since 2005 journalist Neill Strauss's book The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists has been enjoying an ever-growing reputation as the bible for womanizers and wannabees. Strauss’s book has made the occupation socially acceptable – well, sort of.
The book declares womanizing as a new favorite sport for men in which women become objects to be rated on a scale from one to 10. As if doing this were not enough, it is larded with tips about how to give women the feeling they are on their way out, that you’re not really interested, that she’s less viable than she really is.
Sebastian, Florian and Aron from Berlin certainly don’t look like professional pick-up artists. They don’t sound like it either. Yet they are pros who in August 2012 founded their own company called Charisma Community to help all the men in Berlin who were going nowhere with women get proficient at meeting them. Alex is being coached by them, and in his second session he’s learning how to change a “situation” so that he can get a woman in the sack – because euphemisms aside, that is what it boils down to, isn’t it?
This angers the three coaches. "We’re not about hurting women, or seducing as many as possible," they maintain, adding that they are unimpressed with the sort of games and tricks described in The Game. "Women can smell rehearsed behavior; that is not the point of our coaching." They defend their work by saying that the aim is for women to feel good about themselves, and for both sexes to spend quality time in each other’s company. Sounds like a win-win.
Nevertheless – not only feminists would vehemently disagree with the trio. Comments on relevant Internet forums are talking a whole other language. This is where self-proclaimed pick-up artists share tricks and tips for getting women into bed asap.
And what the Berlin pick-up coaches claim also contradicts what Jan experiences day in, day out. The medical student from Freiburg is middling-attractive, but he’s a great conversationalist. He gives a woman the feeling he’s not only listening to her but understands her. Everything she says, no matter how banal, appears to interest him deeply. Yet Jan makes no bones about the fact that, to him, women are collector’s items – and sometimes not even. He actually lives The Game.
“It works with every woman”
One of his many targets is Sophia. She was Number 35. Jan knows that exactly because he keeps tabs on how many women he’s slept with. He sees women as numbers. He says Sophia was a number to him from the beginning. "I rated her 8.5, which means: ‘f*ckable,’” is the way he describes his first meeting with his fellow student.
How could an intelligent, savvy woman like Sophia fall for somebody like Jan, who should have set off all her alarm bells? Now 26, Sophia is somewhat cagey when asked this. "I knew there were a lot of women before me. But I really thought I might be the one.” The one to tame him. The one to whom he would remain faithful for the rest of his days.
"And that’s exactly what I led her to believe, it works with every woman,” says Jan. “It doesn’t matter how aware and confident a woman is, they all want the same thing – a committed relationship. And at some point they fall in love.”
This "Push and Pull Method" beloved of pick-up artists worked for Jan with Sophia. "One day he told me that I might be the mother of his children. The next day he told me I wasn’t what he was looking for,” is the way Sophia describes the way he used the push-and-pull technique on her. She had broken up with her former boyfriend to be with Jan. And now he was gone. He’d gotten what he wanted. Game Over.
Can you be happy if you keep changing partners? "No," says Sophia. She’s learned her lesson and wouldn’t fall for Jan today. "His addiction to having as many women as possible is in many ways like an illness,” she says. “He’s emotionally stunted and incapable of a proper relationship. He’s one of these men who probably has unresolved issues from childhood.”
One other professed recovering Don Juan agrees. "Many guys are part of the pick-up artist scene because they were badly hurt in a relationship with a woman, or have massive self-esteem issues,” he says.
The three Berlin pick-up artists agree: "Most men are lonely and want to get into a relationship,” they say. The coaches say that nearly all pick-up artists want just one thing: to finally meet The One. Security and, yes, love are what it’s really all about.
Anybody who takes a closer look at the German pick-up artists scene these days will notice one thing: the phenomenon is undergoing a sea change. The 2005 Game generation appears to have grown up and understood that numbers and rules and tricks actually don’t get you where you really want to go.
The best example of that is Munich-based former pick-up artists. "When I started, what I wanted was to get as many women as I could into bed. That’s changed. Now I want to understand women, work on my failed relationship with the woman I love, and learn how things really work between the sexes." Perhaps pick-up artists are a one-generation thing – a generation that couldn’t make up its mind, and didn’t want to commit. Not to a job, not to a life course – and certainly not to one woman.
In Berlin, Alex writes his ultimate goal down on a piece of paper and pushes it across the table towards the three coaches. It says: "I want to get to know women." Then looking down in that winning way of his, he says: "Actually I would be happy if I were finally to meet the right one."
Die Welt ("The World") is a German daily founded in Hamburg in 1946, and currently owned by the Axel Springer AG company, Europe's largest publishing house. Now based in Berlin, Die Welt is sold in more than 130 countries. A Sunday edition called Welt am Sonntag has been published since 1948.
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Local villagers in western India have been forced to live with a mining waste site on the edge of town. What happens when you wake up one day and the giant mound of industrial waste has imploded?
October 16, 2021
BADI — Last week, when the men and women from the Bharwad community in this small village in western India stepped out for their daily work to herd livestock, they were greeted with a strange sight.
The 20-meter-high small hill that had formed at the open-cast mining dumpsite had suddenly sunk. Unsure of the reason behind the sudden caving-in, they immediately informed other villagers. In no time, word had traveled far, even drawing the attention of environment specialists and activists from outside town.
This mining dumpsite situated less than 500 meters outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat has been a matter of serious concern ever since the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited began lignite mining work here in early 2017. The power plant is run by the Power Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited, which was previously known as the Bhavnagar Energy Company Ltd.
Vasudev Gohil, a 43-year-old resident of Badi village says that though the dumping site is technically situated outside the village, locals must pass the area on a daily basis.
"We are constantly on tenterhooks and looking for danger signs," he says. Indeed, their state of alert is how the sudden change in the shape of the dumpsite was noticed in the first place.
Can you trust environmental officials?
For someone visiting the place for the first time, the changes may not stand out. "But we have lived all our lives here, we know every little detail of this village. And when a 150-meter-long stretch cave-in by over 25-30 feet, the change can't be overlooked," Gohil adds.
This is not the first time that the dumpsite has worried local residents. Last November, a large part of the flattened part of the dumpsite had developed deep cracks and several flat areas had suddenly got elevated. While the officials had attributed this significant elevation to the high pressure of water in the upper strata of soil in the region, environment experts had pointed to seismic activities. The change is evident even today, nearly a year since it happened.
It could have sunk because of the rain.
After the recent incident, when the villagers raised an alarm and sent a written complaint to the regional Gujarat Pollution Control Board, an official visit to the site was arranged, along with the district administration and the mining department.
The regional pollution board officer Bhavnagar, A.G. Oza, insists the changes "aren't worrisome" and attributes it to the weather.
"The area received heavy rain this time. It is possible that the soil could have sunk in because of the rain," he tells The Wire. The Board, he says, along with the mining department, is now trying to assess if the caving-in had any impact on the ground surface.
"We visited the site as soon as a complaint was made. Samples have already been sent to the laboratory and we will have a clear idea only once the reports are made available," Oza adds.
Women from the Surkha village have to travel several kilometers to find potable water
A questionable claim
That the dumpsite had sunk in was noticeable for at least three days between October 1 and 3, but Rohit Prajapati of an environmental watchdog group Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, noted that it was not the first time.
"This is the third time in four years that something so strange is happening. It is a disaster in the making and the authorities ought to examine the root cause of the problem," Prajapati says, adding that the department has repeatedly failed to properly address the issue.
He also contests the GPCB's claim that excess rain could lead to something so drastic. "Then why was similar impact not seen on other dumping sites in the region? One cannot arrive at conclusions for geological changes without a deeper study of them," he says. "It can have deadly implications."
Living in pollution
The villagers have also accused the GPCB of overlooking their complaint of water pollution which has rendered a large part of the land, most importantly, the gauchar or grazing land, useless.
"In the absence of a wall or a barrier, the pollutant has freely mixed with the water bodies here and has slowly started polluting both our soil and water," complains 23- year-old Nikul Kantharia.
He says ever since the mining project took off in the region, he, like most other villagers has been forced to take his livestock farther away to graze. "Nothing grows on the grazing land anymore and the grass closer to the dumpsite makes our cattle ill," Kantharia claims.
The mining work should have been stopped long ago
Prajapati and Bharat Jambucha, a well-known environmental activist and proponent of organic farming from the region, both point to blatant violations of environmental laws in the execution of mining work, with at least 12 violations cited by local officials. "But nothing happened after that. Mining work has continued without any hassles," Jambucha says. Among some glaring violations include the absence of a boundary wall around the dumping site and proper disposal of mining effluents.
The mining work has also continued without a most basic requirement – effluent treatment plant and sewage treatment plant at the mining site, Prajapati points out. "The mining work should have been stopped long ago. And the company should have been levied a heavy fine. But no such thing happened," he adds.
In some villages, the groundwater level has depleted over the past few years and villagers attribute it to the mining project. Women from Surkha village travel several kilometers outside for potable water. "This is new. Until five years ago, we had some water in the village and did not have to lug water every day," says Shilaben Kantharia.
The mine has affected the landscape around the villages
Resisting lignite mining
The lignite mining project has a long history of resistance. Agricultural land, along with grazing land were acquired from the cluster of 12 adjoining villages in the coastal Ghogha taluka between 1994 and 1997. The locals estimate that villagers here lost anything between 40-100% of their land to the project. "We were paid a standard Rs 40,000 per bigha," Narendra, a local photographer, says.
The money, Narendra says, felt decent in 1994 but for those who had been dependent on this land, the years to come proved very challenging. "Several villagers have now taken a small patch of land in the neighboring villages on lease and are cultivating cotton and groundnut there," Narendra says.
They were dependent on others' land for work.
Bharat Jambucha says things get further complicated for the communities which were historically landless. "Most families belonging to the Dalit or other marginalized populations in the region never owned any land. They were dependent on others' land for work. Once villagers lost their land to the project, the landless were pushed out of the village," he adds. His organization, Prakrutik Kheti Juth, has been at the forefront, fighting for the rights of the villages affected in the lignite mining project.
In 2017, when the mining project finally took off, villagers from across 12 villages protested. The demonstration was disrupted after police used force and beat many protesters. More than 350 of them were booked for rioting.
The villagers, however, did not give up. Protests and hunger strikes have continued from time to time. A few villagers even sent a letter to the President of India threatening that they would commit suicide if the government did not return their land.
"We let them have our land for over 20 years," says Gohil.
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