Today In Fact, 20 June

World refugee day and International surfing day have both staked their claims to this day. A day in which English refugees from the University of Paris who made a home teaching and learning at Oxford, finally received their royal charter and were incorporated as a University in 1214. Oxford has never been known for its surfing but its rowing has made many a Cambridge graduate blue.

Today however I want to reflect on real politics not the sort of grand-standing, grasping politics we have become used to but the sort of politics that actually benefits the lives of ordinary people and promotes the common good.

I want to use this day to do this because today in 1991, as a direct consequence of the latest unification of Germany, its fourth attempt, the Capital was moved from Bonn to Berlin. Bonn had been, for 50 years since the end of the Second World War, the capital of the Federal Republic , West Germany to most of us, was in that most conservative and Catholic town in old Westphalia; Bonn.

Now Bonn is curious city. It has a lovely cathedral and of course it is where Beethoven grew-up and wrote his letters to his “immortal beloved” it’s also where perhaps the most interesting politician I have met lives and works.

Bernhard von Gruenberg, known to all as Felix is an anarchist. He has no respect for position or state. He was very young when the Second World war ended and spent much of his youth traveling from around the camps in Germany as that people recovered from the evil and destruction of war.

Felix settled in Bonn in the late 1960’s and started a local housing co-operative: “together for Justice”. Every Thursday evening since at least 1970, Felix has held a housing clinic in the old city hall. In 1970, Felix realized the utility of being elected to the regional state legislature and so joined Willie Brandt’s SDP whose greatest legacy to domestic life in Germany was to regulate rental housing.

This aging anarchist is a long-standing member of Germany’s main socialist party and has been repeatedly elected by the conservative citizens of Bonn because he attends to one of their most cherished local issues; housing.

I visited Felix in 2004 and went with him to his famous Thursday evening housing clinic. Hundreds of people queue for hours to be listened to by Felix who then dictates letters to address whatever issue the good citizens of Bonn are struggling with. Many refugees come and many Russians queue-up. He deals with them all.

He chose to live and work in Bonn partly because it was the capital of West Germany. As a result he knows just about every political figure from every party and has helped them find accommodation at one point or another.

Felix is a local legend. He is also national hero, a real politician and great soul. If politics was only what Felix did, it would be a calling of the highest value. If you want to be a politician, follow the von Gruenberg example. Choose a town or city, choose a burning and abiding social issue, organize around it and find strategy of effectively dealing with the issue on a mundane, day-to-day basis.

So while we may observe international surfing day and ,mark world refugee day and recall the official founding of Oxford. Today I want to mark as Felix-day.

– Posted by Douglas Racionzer (