As early as in summer 2010, it apparently dawned on several German scientists that then defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg had, to say the least, been sluggish when writing his doctoral thesis. A postgraduate had written an essay about inconsistencies in Guttenberg’s work, and offered it to several professors – but neither of them was interested, reports “Die Welt”.
And why should they? If you show similar misdemeanor, umm, sluggisnhess, as a sales clerk, you’ll be fired, and it may take you years before someone will employ you again. If a small bugger tries to fiddle his dissertation and gets caught – I mean, if he works so negligently -, he can kiss all his academic ambitions good-bye, and rightly so. But when you are a defence minister, and some gripers simply don’t allow you to look the other way anymore, you’ll give the ex-minister a job in a North-American think tank.
If Guttenberg wants to return into politics is a question he hasn’t yet answered, even though he gave a long interview to the chief editor of “Die Zeit”. But you bet that he is working towards that goal.
“Der Spiegel”‘s Jan Fleischhauer is making fun of Guttenberg, and compares him to former protestant bishop Margot Kässmann. Guttenberg’s “apologies” sound pretty much like Kässmann’s, he believes, and the religious effect makes such apologies so powerful, Fleischhauer adds with more than just a shot of irony. “How can you not forgive them?”
One problem that Fleischhauer doesn’t touch upon though is that a true confession would have to include a detailed description of how the fake, umm, sluggish approach had been conducted. But there are no such details.
There are two things to learn from this: there is one kind of law applicable to upper classes in Germany, and one for the lower. When Helmut Kohl flatly refused to name the gentlemen who had provided his political party with illegal donations, he wasn’t even taken into coercive detention.
Guttenberg’s “apology” to the German public amounts to this: “I’m so sorry, but my life will be destroyed, if you aren’t prepared to forget what I have done. After all, I must become federal chancellor. There is no other way!”
If that’s the chancellor the German people really want, they will get exactly the government they deserve. If his lack of character and substance isn’t obvious enough, any man will be good enough to lead this country.
The current government, led by Angela Merkel, might still be way above what should be good enough for this country.
My wife, proud owner of a facebook profile, has told me that my recent topics aren’t nice. So now, for some nicer. It’s November, but surprisingly mild. Just the right weather for a classic-horsemanship training, late in the afternoon today.
… then on their own.
This used to be the site of Verden’s synagogue, from 1858 to 1938, before it was burnt down in the “Night of Broken Glass”. The place has been car dealer’s parking lot since early after the end of the war. In summer, the bulldozers were back. A shopping center will be built here, soon.
My guess about the future: one eighth of Verdeners may continue to add stolpersteine memorials to their city, and people will continue to traipse across them (literally, stolperstein means stumbling stone, but these won’t make you stumble), and try to put a Reichsbahn waggon next to the train station to remind people of the concentration camp transports, another quarter of Verdeners may continue to oppose Reichsbahn waggons, and all other Verdeners will be shopping on this site, and listen to the sermons in church on christmas eve.
A small town in Germany – or: how to avoid remembering a real bit of the past.
Oh, and the foundations and underground facilities (including the mikveh, I seem to understand) were unearthed in summer, and then returned to the underground.
The Kreiszeitung referred to the location as a “place of memory”. But that was long ago, in 2010.
I mentioned the way German society is ticking, in my post on Rafael Behr and the way he criticizes”complaints” from the police (or their trade union), on Monday. Rafael Behr’s article on DIE ZEIT has got some 163 comments, which is no small number (even though middle-east related articles frequently get more).
One comment by a certain Guy of Osborne (if that’s a place in Britain or elsewhere in the English-speaking world, don’t take it personally – the guy is definitely German, and from how he writes, I can say with confidence that his family has been German for generations):
The police are no service providers? But of course they are! Just like any public officer! Do you think I’m paying for persons who harass me on behalf of an authority (for which I feel no respect either!), or who, in the best case, ignore me? Do I pay taxes so as to enable the state (I’m not referring to the rest of the populace) to subjugate me even better, or to finance his little adventure trips to Afghanistan? Maybe you are right, and I should raise money with other injured parties and hire the Hells Angels – that’s cheaper and more effective.
If I had replied to that poor guy (he’s a damaged party because police in a rather tranquil residential area didn’t save his and his neighbors’ cars as they were scratched at nighttime), I would have wished the “Hells Angels” upon him, and DIE ZEIT would have moderated my comment. But anyway – a friendly patrolman (that’s what he wrote he is), in his capacity as another commenter, took care of Guy’s woes:
“I’m paying your salary with my tax money, so you’ll need to do as I say.”
You pay your taxes, amongst others, so that your children get to school safely, without getting run over by drunk car drivers or being kidnapped by marauding horsemen. You pay so that someone will help you when you are in trouble, when you are trapped in your car, your bank account is being looted, or a crazy stalker is after you.
You pay so that someone patrols your road at half past four, come rain or **** cold, so that you can stay in your bad without being scared.
You pay for someone who’s looking after your ill sister who you can’t reach, and who, with some hundred colleagues, helicopters, and infrared cameras, searches the thickest forest when your high-maintenance mother escaped the home for the elderly.
You pay taxes so that there is always someone who will risk his own health to save yours – no matter how little he may like you.
And your fellow people pay taxes so that the police will protect them from you, if you infringe their rights and break the law.
So – don’t tell me that the police weren’t there for you, only because they won’t mow your lawn!
Israel may not get this one, reports DER SPIEGEL, and Taiwan could use one (or many) of these diesel-electric (and fuel-cell propelled) submarines.
If only the technology would stay in Taiwan. With some help from Taipei, China might re-engineer that thing within ten years. The KMT and the CCP are said to be very close. Almost like brothers. And the Taiwan Strait is a flash point. China told the German government so.
But what are we supposed to do with that thing? Putting it into a thema park?
In 1998, Rafael Behr worked as the head of a police task force or work group (Dienstgruppenleiter). After fifteen years of work as a policeman, he became a professor at Hamburg’s police academy (Hochschule der Polizei). This information, provided by Behr himself, in an article for Germany’s weekly DIE ZEIT, doesn’t give me an exact idea of how long ago he left the active police service.
“At the moment we begin to change ourselves, the world around us changes, too. Not just seemingly, but really“, his website at the academy (currently being relaunched) says. Behr’s field of work at the academy is sociology and coaching.
Things hadn’t become tougher for the police, Behr believes – or rather, “I can’t quite believe the complaints that things were getting worse” (Ich kann das Klagen der Polizei in Deutschland, dass alles schlimmer werde, nicht so recht glauben). “Police is neither defenceless, nor are things getting worse. But above all, there isn’t more violence aimed at the police. Only perceptions have shifted” (Polizisten sind weder wehrlos, noch wird alles immer schlimmer. Vor allem gibt es nicht mehr Gewalt gegen Beamte. Es hat sich lediglich die Wahrnehmung verschoben).
Expectations to the police had become more diverse, from a time somewhere in the late 1980s, Behr suggests. After all, police staff had to show empathy with victims, a sense of justice, communication skills, etc.. Violence, strangely, had been blinded out in that idealised new concept. When police staff happened on people with few or no prospects in life (resignierte und aussichtslose Lebensperspektiven), they were ill-prepared for such encounters. After all, resignation and exclusion [from society] were frequently combined with aggression, and police staff was usually recruited from the middle class, not from the class where aggression was a more frequent phenomenon.
Violence hadn’t increased, argues Behr, quoting the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony. At times, violence was even decreasing. Rather than violence, it was insubordination which was on the rise, and where police staff wasn’t well-prepared. The use of the term “violence” had become inflationary.
It’s probably a matter of definition. According to German news magazine DER SPIEGEL (November 2010), the number of police seriously injured on duty rose by 60 per cent during the previous five years. (Seriously injured, of course, may be a matter of definition, too.) Closer to home, Verden’s nightlife has certainly changed, and the patrolman who was knived here in summer 2009 was a first-night in our small town.
I agree with his latter point – violence has been surrounded with taboos, to a silly degree. When even boxing becomes a “no” in “good society”, it’s no wonder that you can’t make violence a topic. Addressing it seems to be about as worldly innocent as asking Pope Benedict to discuss the benefits of buggery on television. And just as bad, addressing the former matter in an open-minded way may discredit you, just as addressing the latter one would discredit the Pope.
But that’s probably the only issue where I might agree with Behr. Let’s address a police person’s realities. One of these realities is that police staff bear guns. If someone approaches you as a police person, as happened on the Bremen Freimarkt last month, to adorn his or her face with lipstick colors (it seems to be a frequent practice), you better don’t carry a gun at all. To let unknown people come that close to you won’t be advisable otherwise. And frankly, just as these people wouldn’t paint the face of a carousel owner’s or a supermarket cashier’s face with lipstick, they shouldn’t be allowed to paint a police person’s face.
Behr replaces much of what is conveniently termed “violence” with “insubordination”. But that term, too, lacks definition. It seems to suggest that it is basically about some happy, occasional anarchism light. But that’s not the case, certainly not in Germany, which is still ticking like the corporate state it used to be. People who spit to the feet of police people (let alone into their faces) are angry, because a police person epitomises state power. The problem is that just as violence, power, too, is surrounded by taboos. German civil society, to quite a degree, and not only below the middle class, is unable to handle authority. Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer ´described stupidity this way, in 1943:
The fact that a stupid person is often stubborn should not deceive anyone into thinking he is independent. In conversation with him it is felt that you are not dealing with the person himself, but with cliches, slogans, etc. that have gained dominance over him. (Daß der Dumme oft bockig ist, darf nicht darüber hinwegtäuschen, daß er nicht selbständig ist. Man spürt es geradezu im Gespräch mit ihm, daß man es gar nicht mit ihm selbst, mit ihm persönlich, sondern mit über ihn mächtig gewordenen Schlagworten, Parolen etc. zu tun hat.)
I’m not trying to judge if the classical American cop approach – common wisdom suggests that it includes no fun factor – can be attributed to an innate American feeling that you are free anyway, and that (as a member of the middle class, anywaqy) you practically cooperate with, rather than cowardly submit to a cop. In Germany, a citizen’s feelings are much more likely to be dominated by concepts of authority and powerlessness than elsewhere. And when a cop in Germany comes across as weak, the mice will play. It’s hardly a coincidence that many Germans find the idea of Per Steinbrück for chancellor (that’s Germany’s political top job) not only tolerable, but even desirable. It’s hardly a coincidence that Helmut Schmidt, German chancellor from 1974 to 1982, and Wehrmacht lieutenant in the 1940s, endorsed Steinbrück last week, even before Steinbrück actually decided to apply for the job.
The times when a cop’s word “counted for something” are over, writes Behr. Those times wouldn’t come back, and a different society wasn’t in sight. “It is imperative to think police anew.”
Maybe. But before doing that, we must understand what our society – not just the “new underclass” – is actually like.
We, the Anti-Democrats, December 5, 2010