What do we fear the most? The things we can see clearly in all their horrific detail or the ones that stay invisible but paint their terrible vision all over our minds? Welcome to the latest issue of ANGST magazine, in which we hope to see what there is to “see”!
When I got asked to introduce this marvellous topic, I immediately started searching my brain for adventurous stories because in a way seeing involves a movement towards something. Not for nothing do we find SEEkers, who pursue, who aim at discovering something they don’t know yet. Then I realised that the word “see” is so basic to me that I have apparently stopped thinking about it closely and consciously at all and with that I stopped asking from where it originates. Going way back to dusty Latin, I remembered “videre”, which means “to see” and all of a sudden discovered that by only changing one single letter the word turned into “vivere”, which actually means “to live”. So does the active act of seeing – is a passive form even possible? – not truly manifest a crucial part of being awake and alive? One more mental leap brought me to “visum”, the Latin passive participle of “videre” and further more a commonly used word nowadays with highly political relevance. A “visum” or visa, gives people the right to stay in a country that is not their country of origin. I guess I do not have to point out that exactly this is the wish of many people at the moment who come to us from the warlands of Syria, Somalia or Iraq to only name a few. What is of interest, however, is the idea behind the word, the idea that the permission to stay comes along with the act of being seen. Although “seeing” might in a sense always be subjective, approval is associated with you not being invisible anymore as an individual human being. While legal and political practices may be out of our hands, we can start to see, to acknowledge, the people coming to our country and teach those among us, who understand them as one massive and collective threat onto whom they project their own angst. We can show the refugees acceptance by opening our eyes to their stories and offering them at least our personal approval. We’ve come full circle when we consider the phenomenon of homophony, which describes words that sound the same while being written differently. What we end up with are “see” and its partner “sea”. The sea is one of the most feared obstacles for many people seeking to be seen here in Europe. And still, the sea is probably also one of the most glorious sites with an open horizon as far as one can imagine.