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Social justice would consist in the balance between freedom and law, between rights and the duties which would affect what individuals got in the way of increased values and rights they also rendered back in the way of increased service to society. I suppose, in a general way, anyone who admitted there was any ethics to the question at all would have to admit that it would have to be found in some such equation between benefits received from society and benefits conferred to society. (John Dewey, Lectures on Ethics, 1900 – 1901)

Some Australian visitor to Berlin has mentioned that during a week’s stay in the German capital he hasn’t seen a cop. The only officer he managed to find was a parking inspector. From the article appeared in Culture column of Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster, the reader may learn that there is not many police or surveillance cameras in Berlin compared to other major cities. According to the article, England has some 4.2 million surveillance cameras – equating to one for every 14 people – and most can be found in London, while in Berlin such cameras barely exist, and not because the government can’t afford them. It seems that the locals do what they want – within limits, of course – practicing a strange sort of self-governance.

People freely drink alcohol on the streets and in the subway, successfully carry on “illegal” parties in public parks, get nude in said parks, smoke dope wherever they like, sell food and drink without a license, or open unauthorized bars in their apartments, seemingly with the tacit acceptance of the law.

Someone may be dismayed by all this liberty. It’s as if the people can be trusted.

A quiet read in the sun By canonsnapper | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

A quiet read in the sun By canonsnapper | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Source: Berliners play by their own rules | Culture column | Deutsche Welle

Image: A quiet read in the sun | Flickr – Photo Sharing! (under Creative Commons license)

P.S. One Flickr member commented on the photo: “… Can someone sunbathe stark naked in Berlin? In what seems to be a public park? Without getting arrested? This is extraordinary…” Another answered: “This is BERLIN!

On January 28, 2011 the popular Russian internet newspaper Pravda.Ru which pretends to be a kind of successor to the Communist newspaper Pravda (closed in 1991) published an article “Pedantic Germans: Naked and funny” in which the history of nudist movement is considered in brief.

From the article the reader can learn that:

  • the word “nudism” normally causes embarrassed smiles.
  • the lack of clothing is the brightest characteristic of an ardent nudist.
  • nudism is based on the entire philosophy.
  • nudism emerged in Germany between the two world wars. The first public manifestation of naturism disappointed the onlookers.
  • the first naturists considered themselves no less than revolutionary vanguard of militant proletariat. In the 1920s the followers of naturism or nudism were inspired by then trendy ideas of social democracy and communism. (To win against the sleek bourgeois consuming foods rich in vitamins and leading a healthy lifestyle, the working men had to strengthen their body and spirit. Down from the stuffy plants and factories and into the wild!)
  • nude men and women immediately became a tourist attraction in the German capital for local and visiting philistines.
  • socialist ideals gave to mankind not only naturism, but also morning exercises.

The author of the article gives an example of a comic situation related to nudist movement.

On the day of Holy Trinity in 1929, nudists from Saxony scheduled an event similar to the contemporary flash mob in the district of Zwickau-Planica. People learned about the upcoming “show” from the newspapers, which resulted in a steady flow of onlookers, including those from neighboring regions. On Sunday morning, on a large religious holiday, instead of serving in the temples, crowds hurried to look at nudists. However, instead of lewd scenes, their saw the following picture: on a grassy lawn, there were approximately forty to fifty people who have carefully folded their clothes, and were doing pushups, squats and other exercises. There was a crowd of a few thousand people waiting for some kind of orgy and somewhat disappointed with its absence. Sometime later the police showed up and asked the crown to disperse.

Source: Pedantic Germans: Naked and funny – English pravda.ru (the quotes are from the English version of the Internet newspaper)

at the grunewaldsee by running_dog | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

at the grunewaldsee by running_dog | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Image: at the grunewaldsee by running_dog | Flickr – Photo Sharing! (available under a Creative Commons License)

Is there anything common between naturism and thermodynamics? Maren Möhring, the author of Working Out the Body’s Boundaries: Physiological, Aesthetic, and Psychic Dimensions of the Skin in German Nudism, 1890-1930 (in Body parts: critical explorations in corporeality, edited by Christopher E. Forth, Ivan Crozier, p. 229-246), argues in favor of the existence of close links between naturism (at least, German naturism) and what she calls thermodynamic theories of energy. Referring to The Human Motor by Anson Rabinbach and multiple naturist sources, she affirms that in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the body

was conceptualized as a thermodynamic machine haunted continuously by the threat of exhaustion. Within a thermodynamic universe fixated on energy conservation, the importance of the skin was based on its capacity to absorb the rays of the sun and thus to energize the body. The nudists believed that the “electricity of the sun,” the “beneficial, invigorating and refreshing ultraviolet rays,” would restore the body`s energy supply. It has not yet been noticed in the literature on nudism that society‘s growing acceptance of sunbathing might be connected to this energetic imperative.

Dr. Maren Möhring asserts that nudists considered not only sun-bathing, but also “artificial” electric light baths, and even X-rays (X-rays bath? I don’t think that someone tried it) as healthy and revitalizing for the body. Even sunburn was not able to frighten nudists of that time. It was considered a “health enforcing” phenomenon because it “hardened the skin” and allowed new skin to emerge after the burned skin had peeled away. From that point of view even the tiniest piece of clothing could disturb this energizing process, so the slogan: “Fight the bathing trunks! Fight any kind of bathing costume!” was put forward.

Well, it was interesting to read about the modern scientization of the body, but I could not find in the article any assumptions (accepted by early nudists) about the physical mechanism that could be behind the above-mentioned thermodynamical skin’s capacity to absorb the rays of the sun and to revitalize the body. The simple fact that skin can hardly be considered as the principal organ responsible for power supply of the human body makes this thermodynamical theory hanging in midair. I think that even the pioneers of nudism didn’t underestimate the importance of nutrition and didn’t try to live on sun rays.

Empty sea by jonathan charles photo | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Empty sea by jonathan charles photo | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Olga Desmond (1891 – 1964) was a German dancer and actress. She earned popularity due to her participation in “living pictures” in which she introduced the concept of total nudity and posed after the manner of ancient classical works of art. The shows called “Evenings of Beauty” (Schönheitsabende) were organized by the Association for Ideal Culture and prohibited on more than one occasion starting from 1908.

Olga Desmond became one of the first to promote nudity on the stage in St. Petersburg, Russia in the summer of 1908. In 1910 she produced a luxurious folio that featured narratively sequenced nude photos of her as she assumed statuesque, classic Greek poses of heroic character. She even treated her hair to give it a sculpted look.

For Desmond, nothing was more significant than nudity in calling attention to the problem of seeing the movement of the body itself. She was quoted to say,

I decided to break the centuries-old heavy chains, created by people themselves. When I go out on stage completely naked, I am not ashamed, I am not embarrassed, because I come out before the public just as I am, loving all that is beautiful and graceful. There was never a case when my appearance before the public evoked any cynical observations or dirty ideas.

Olga Desmond had a close connection to the nudist movement and was for a while the wife of the editor of the nudist magazine Die Schönheit.

The two images below are taken from Wikimedia Commons.

Olga Desmond posing nude in one of her "Evenings of Beauty"

Olga Desmond posing nude in one of her "Evenings of Beauty"

Olga Desmond

Olga Desmond

Links
1. Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism by Karl Toepfer
2. Olga Desmond – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
3. Olga Desmond: Facts, Discussion Forum, and Encyclopedia Article
4. Ann van Poperingen’s Blog » » Olga Desmond

Naturist holidays shouldn’t start and end at the nudist beach. Browsing the German sites I’ve encountered a few interesting (and less common, at least for someone) options. I decided to make a note of them, just in case.

(1) Nude riding
Those impressed by the legend of Lady Godiva may try to ride naked in the meadows on the south of Bonn. Michael Zauels, who organizes the rides, is quoted to say

The meadows and roads where we ride are very isolated. Sometimes we meet walkers with their dogs, but we come across very favorably.

Rides take place from May to October. The tour may take up from a half to four hours.

coming at ya DSC_8602 by Rob Featonby on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

coming at ya DSC_8602 by Rob Featonby on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

(2) Nude Sailing
German company with its own charter yachts, own base and German skippers organizes one-week and ten-day trips through the Greek islands of the northern Sporades. Sailing experience is not necessary.

deck hand by mediorce on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

deck hand by mediorce on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

(3) Hiking in a birthday suit
Don’t you know that the origins of Nacktwanderns (Naked hiking) go back to the beginning of the last century, when the first pioneers dressed in a romantic understanding of nature started practicing nude walks? Nude hikers prefer small groups and less busy roads. Their website explains that

In random encounters with other hikers we meet occasionally with baffled, but consistently positive reactions.

The hiking tours in Sauerland and in the Taunus are scheduled for April. May will begin with the walk in the Harz. The registration form to participate in the events is provided.

Naked Hike (7772A) by Ron's Log on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Naked Hike (7772A) by Ron's Log on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

(4) Naked bike ride to the Baltic sea
The Udesom island on the Baltic sea was mentioned twice in my blog (on the occasion of the so called ‘Nudist war‘, see links below). Those German nudist who prefer cycling rather than riding may participate in a Nacktradeltour (Naked bike tour) from Berlin to Usedom. The tour is scheduled to be held from July 24 to August 8, 2010.

Links:
Naked and Active – Naked Horse Riding
Nackt reiten
FKK – Segeln in Griechenland
Nacktwandern – Auch was für Dich?
Die Nackten werden jetzt aktiv von Rudi Stallein
FKK-Urlaub: Die Nackten verlassen die Reservate von Rudi Stallein
Border conflict about nudism
Usedom: Addendum

Sometimes I think that almost every contradiction may be viewed as The Conflict Between East and West.

Seventeen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the cultural divide between former East Germans and West Germans is being laid bare at beach resorts,” reported Claudia Rach, Bloomberg News two years ago (see also The New York Sun from September 7, 2006).

K. Bacher in his famous “205 Arguments and Observations In Support of Naturism” quotes Lee Baxandall, according whom

“almost every town on East Germany’s coast has an FKK beach, some 90 sites serving 200,000 campers/lodgers annually; more FKK than textile beaches. A GDR poll found 57% of the population approving of nude recreation, 30% had no opinion, and only 13% opposed.”

FKK-Strand am Schwielochsee. Bild 183-1985-0817-002

FKK-Strand am Schwielochsee

Even, if the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was “Unrechtsstaat” (”unjust state”), while now East Germany is “free,” many of its beaches aren’t. The West is blamed for exporting to the East both pornography and beach restrictions.

Nowadays according to the estimations ascribed to the DFK (German naturist federation) as many as two-fifths of beaches previously used by nudists since Germany reunified in 1990 has lost their nudist statuses.

Claudia Rach wrote that

Since communism’s collapse in 1989, Baltic resorts have added new hotels and restaurants, renovated boardwalks and cleaned up water pollution.
That led to a surge in western tourists, with visitors to the Baltic coast jumping to 5.06 million last year from 1.98 million in 1992, according to the statistical office for the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
Property prices in Germany’s Baltic region have risen 25 percent since 1995, more than the national average, according to a study by the GEWOS Institute for Urban, Regional and Housing Research in Hamburg.
“When people with money holiday in freshly renovated resorts, the last thing they want are naked bodies on their doorstep,” said Wolfgang Weinreich, head of the International Naturist Federation.

The reporter quotes Urs Wagner, the German naturist and Berlin retiree, 57, who said, “It’s a really intense feeling of nature that everyone should experience. But who knows for how much longer. We’re a dying breed.”

In my previous post about the nudist war on the German-Polish border I mainly quoted news articles. They do indeed make an impression that the open-minded Germans contrast with the Poles in their readiness to accept nudity. Of course, not all Germans are open-minded (but I think many of them are :-)). While, concerning the Poles, it is true that the Catholic Church has a strong presence in Polish society. It has roots in the history. In 1795, the third and the last of three military partitions of Poland ended the existence of an independent Polish state. In the absence of their own state, the Polish society begun identifying Polishness with Catholicism. In 1918 the Polish state was reconstructed, but after the Second World War Poland was under the control of pro-Soviet Communists and the situation repeated (see, e.g., Catholicism and politics in communist societies by Sabrina P. Ramet).

It had far-reaching consequences. Catholicism does not accept nudity. In 2002 the results of the investigations of Sopocka Pracownia Badań Społecznych (Sopot Laboratory for Social Research) were published. It appeared that

57% of all Polish spouses never saw their husband or wife naked.
92% of Poles claim that, going naked in their homes, even for a moment, is strictly prohibited.
97% of Polish sons did not see their fathers naked.
95% of Polish daughters never saw their mothers naked and so on.

It raised questions like, “Are we a nation of people who are ashamed of their bodies?” But I would not overestimate the results of the surveys like that. The transition of Poland from closed society to an open society allows for a distinction between natural and man-made law, and an increase in personal responsibility and accountability for moral choices.

Concerning German-Polish nude bathing war the German site, The Local, quotes Robert Karelus, spokesman for the city of Świnoujście, who said that

Poles weren’t as squeamish about nude bathing as had been portrayed in the media.
Swimming in the buff was getting more popular in Poland and several nudist beaches had sprung up off the coast of Poland too in recent years.
The new signs on Usedom will not prompt Polish beach-goers to turn back.
We aren’t so prudish at all.

Ala

Ala, originally uploaded by jędrek.