Dear Plotkisty,

it is told of an engine driver who in all his lifetime kept his train running to the point where the parallel rails meet. Day by day in front oft him he saw them melting in front of his own eyes at the horizon. No matter how much he would feed his engine and no matter how fast he made the old train run, he never got closer to the point where the parallels meet. But still he never gave up driving towards this point. Even after all the passengers had left the train, giving up their hopes to reach the place where the parallels unite, the engine driver would go on drive.

As mathematics teach us, by definition parallels meet each other. That’s why, talking of parallels, parallel societies, parallel universes, parallel worlds, we usually refer to this very fact, using the terms to describe worlds which, like the rails, run in the same direction without ever coming together. So far, so bad. Some see in it the end of the multicultural vision. Maybe reasonaably so. The world championship in "parallel worlding" is over. The big wall throughout Europe is banished from the play ground and we have to realize that today’s wall runs through everybody’s front garden.

But, as the post modern reader will conclude, where is the problem? Our tolerance allows us to accept everybody’s parallel world. The possibility of parallelity is after all just another variation of freedom. We are parallel – in terms of being our similarity – in the soda pop we drink, in the movies we watch and in the sport shoes we buy. And we are parallel – in terms of being divided – in the way we live, we believe, we exist.

What after all is so bad in excepting that everybody is different, that communicating (if it is not virtual) is very complicated and that it is easier to let everybody stay in his own world? Closing doors is easyier, than opening them. Contact on the surface, but no detailed interaction: that means no conflicts – that means peace. "Tolerance" is the word of the day. Yes, we are tolerant, because we want no trouble. In the end the praise of the parallel worlds means nothing more than: w e d o n ‘t c a r e.

The danger in this kind of thinking seem obvious. On our international editorial board meeting in Berlin we took interviews of people on their views on "parallel worlds" – the reactions divert a lot, they run on the bottom line through the whole magazine. one interviewee pointed out the great danger in worlds that stay parallel because parallel means: "no contact, no voltage, no current."

Plotki wants the voltage and Plotki wants the current. That’s why we took a closer look at the small worlds that hardly ever interact. We tried to examine their nature keeping the engine driver in mind and in an effort to overcome the borders within the society we live in. Where are these borders, why are they there, how are they constructed and who is the Other?: What are these Americans doing in Prague? What happens in a polish "bar mleczny"? How parallelety adresses the life of Roma in the Tchech Republic? Or what is our position towards Prostitution? Sometimes it works. One can learn more about the polish sausage seller on the parking lot in west Germany. Sometimes it doesn’t. And a Vietnamese cigarette seller in front of the supermarket remains just a Vietnamese cigarette seller in front of the supermarket.

So, you engine drivers out there keep on running your trains. Even if you never reach the point where parallel rails meet, there is a lot to see on the way. Come and join the world of Plotki and keep your eyes and ears open for any RUMOURS around the bloc.

Robert Thalheim, April 2001

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