Wladimir Kaminer asks: »Really?«

This super super test begins with a newspaper article, deals with turbulent world events, the great significance of the colour green in the former Soviet Union and ends in Munich on a spring-like evening with two BMWs: an M4 and an M8. Whereby four avocados also play a role.
  • Text
    Wladimir Kaminer
  • Fotos
    David Breun

Somewhere between Berlin and Munich, Wladimir Kaminer is leafing through a newspaper. And comes across this article in which the idea of British researchers is discussed: Everyone has their own CO₂ budget - and if they exceed it, they have to cut back. For example, taking the train instead of the car. Which for Vladimir is not a sacrifice at all, but sometimes even a luxury. And then there are the fuel prices. And Ukraine. And Russia. Which is why our author quickly asks himself: "Really?"

Of course, there is no patent answer to this question - which is why we fast-forward a bit. All the way to Munich. Where Vladimir meets a good friend, but also the past and the future.


In Munich I met ramp editor-in-chief Michael. A couple of beautiful cars were there waiting for us too. BMW M GmbH was celebrating its fiftieth anniversary and had given us two of its gems for our super super super test, an M4 and an M8. Back then, fifty years ago, BMW’s engineers had been thinking about how they could get road approval for a race car. That, I believe, is how the M brand was born. What does the M stand for? Opinions still differ on that. Of course, motorsport plays a key role here, but it could just as well have to do with modern luxury and magnificent performance. The brand has also had an amazing film career over the past half a century, its cars having been featured in Lethal Weapon, Mission Impossible and the Fast and Furious franchise. They have often been used as the epitome of sportiness and performance.

Sitting in a BMW M, you tend to look at the world from a distance. As soon as you press down on the gas pedal, the landscape outside starts to move, and you can literally feel the proximity to the horizon. Today, at a time when everyone in the automotive world is talking about CO₂ emissions, sustainability and autonomous vehicles, these cars seem like something out of a time when automobiles still symbolized the dream of freedom and independence, luxury on four wheels. But what is luxury for us today? Sacrifice? Moderation? Renunciation? Will people in the future still be able to decide for themselves what they want, or will even the planning of their desires be left up to the state?

"As soon as you press down on the gas pedal, the landscape outside starts to move, and you can literally feel the proximity to the horizon."
Wladimir Kaminer

This possible future reminds me a little of my old homeland, the Soviet Union. Our socialist empire was an autarky, poor but economically independent. With its planned economy, it had not only planned the quantity of goods to be produced in advance, it could also predetermine the needs of its citizens. The state told its citizens what they should want in the coming year and how much of it. There were better times and worse times, sometimes our autarky had done business with Africa, then there were green bananas. My mother used to put them in the oven because she actually wanted yellow bananas, in effect acting dissidently to annoy the state.

The bananas usually skipped the yellow phase and went straight to black. Very rarely did we have yellow bananas. When the Greek army officers took power in their military coup, we were suddenly able to buy green olives from Greece in our Soviet stores, and every now and then the citizens were delighted with Pulman brand cigarettes from Cuba, which were also sold in dark green boxes.

"But what is luxury for us today? Sacrifice? Moderation? Renunciation?"
Wladimir Kaminer

We need to change, set different priorities, the trend researchers tell us. Eating healthy, relaxing, taking in the great outdoors instead of leading a life of luxury – that appears to be the prevailing opinion these days. But what is luxury anyway? Maybe it is health, peace and quiet, and nature, and nice cars are a part of it too, because one does not necessarily exclude the other. The secret of our suffering is that we don’t really know what we want. Imperfect beings in a perfect world. We don’t appreciate what we have until we lose it. We don’t know what we are missing until it comes back to us, and we continue to constantly seek things we don’t need.

It was fun to drive the M4 through the dark streets of Munich. But it was also exhausting. Too many traffic lights, too many pedestrians on the road. During the lockdowns, we were blessed with empty streets. Now they are slowly coming back out of their hiding places, the pedestrians.

Then the thoughts turn to the future: "Really?" Will we soon be offsetting the water consumption for the production of batteries against avocados? For Wladimir, the case is clear: to hell with vegetables. I just want to drive around in the M4 once in a while. Like on this day. In the air that evening is a mixture of apocalypse and hope for a better world. And that inspires Wladimir:

"We need our errors and temptations, because it is precisely from their energies that we create the future. We don’t know what it will look like. Like the blind, we grope our way forward, each of us trying as best as we can to touch the future. The dispensary for white canes is open twenty-four hours a day."
Wladimir Kaminer

Wladimir Kaminer

Columnist & Bestselling Author
Wladimir Kaminer was born in Moscow in 1967, where he trained as a sound engineer for theatre and radio. He has lived in Berlin since 1990. He sees himself as a citizen of the world and says he is Russian in his private life and a German writer in his professional life. With his collection of stories "Russendisko" and numerous other bestsellers, he has become one of the most popular and sought-after authors in Germany. And the ramp columnist who traditionally writes the Super Super Super Test.
ramp #57 Geht’s noch?

ramp #57 Geht’s noch?

Wer sich für logisches Denken als perfektes Erkenntnisinstrument begeistert, sollte dieses Heft lieber gleich zur Seite legen. Das Leben begegnet uns nämlich leider nicht bedingungslos folgerichtig. Eher fröhlich wild. Macht aber nichts.

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