light is life So it is in the creation story. Light provides orientation and security. Light produces images. It was a strong sign when the Brandenburg Gate shone in blue and yellow on May 9th. The illumination of the symbol of freedom in the colors of Ukraine emphasizes that Germany and the EU are on the side of the nation that is being subjected to a brutal war of aggression by Russia.
But now the Berlin Senate is sending a completely different message. In the capital, landmarks are no longer illuminated at night. We are experiencing a serious crisis, Putin is threatening to stop gas deliveries, the public sector must set an example for the population and make visible savings, explained the Green Senator for the Environment, Bettina Jarasch. Bellevue Palace, the seat of the Federal President, limited the outside light to what was necessary weeks ago.
Lights are synonymous with the big city. Bright Lights, Big City was the name of a hedonistic, lavish 1980s New York novel. When the lights go out in a metropolis like Berlin, it has a high symbolic value. 200 public buildings are affected by the derangement. The train tower at Potsdamer Platz also remains dark. The question is: What do you achieve by switching off the headlights on the Victory Column, on the Red Town Hall, on the Memorial Church? Just as the spectrum of light breaks down into different wavelengths, conflicting perspectives come together here. You can see it either way. Blackout – that sounds like a bomb alert. Everyday life for the people in Ukraine. It doesn’t help you if the Berlin Cathedral is twilight. But how does it affect the warlords in the Kremlin that Germany’s capital is becoming dark? Like a moral surrender? Putin’s energy blackmail threatens our social fabric. German consumers will soon see how serious the situation is from their astronomical gas bills. Industry is no less afraid of skyrocketing prices. Production cutbacks, looming recession: a few dark buildings are a negligible annoyance. And a necessary appeal to economy and sustainability.
But something is wrong with this politics of symbols. First of all, the savings in the Berlin darkroom are very modest. The “Festival of Lights” in October has not yet been decided. The city-wide light show attracts tourists and consumes electricity. This year, the private organizers are enthusiastic about the huge light shows that will promote a “healthy home planet with a life full of diversity”. That hits the soul. Although artificial light also pollutes the atmosphere and endangers nature, similar to urban noise, light research is an important field of science. But the dark season lives up to its name here – long and depressing. The songwriters Pannach once sang “Berlin, your winter is no fun”.