The Language of the Resistance

In the German language, the friendly suggestion “Be Happy” has one set of forms for animals, children, intimate friends and family members, and another for elders, strangers, acquaintances and officials. During the DDR period, the period of communism in East Germany, the state considered everyone to be intimate, comrades all, and consistently used the familiar form. As a consequence, resistance to the state was expressed in the formal verb form. So, now, a quarter century later what do we have in Dresden? The state-sanctioned familiar form, in good old communist red, to “Be Happy!” It is coupled with a cannabis leaf, to suggest that happiness is the new opium of the masses.

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And it all seems so innocent! Why, look at the “Spread Love” slogan beside it, next to the shadow of some ripped-off ivy, which was crawling up the stone and starting to eat it away, and, like graffiti, which really does want to eat away at the edifices of the city, was removed, likely by state officials.  The sly old resistance that survived the communist period by hiding behind sham silliness lives on. This is strength.

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