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Do Yourselves a Favor – Turn a Blind Eye to Who I Am

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My false feathers - too beautiful to be rejected!

My false feathers - too beautiful to be rejected! (courtesy justrecently.wordpress.com)

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.

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Police Academy Professor: “Only Perceptions have Shifted”

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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.

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Related

We, the Anti-Democrats, December 5, 2010

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We, the Anti-Democrats

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The following is my – unauthorised – translation of a short article by Adam Soboczynski, a journalist who has attracted a lot of attention and frequently readers’ anger with his articles for Germany’s weekly Die Zeit. In his latest article, he criticises the appreciation for a French manifesto, “L’Insurrection Qui Vient” (German: “Der Kommende Aufstand”). Whenever published online, Soboczynski’s utterances draw great numbers of – mostly angry – comments. His references to Stuttgart in the following are about Stuttgart 21.

– TAIDE

We, the Anti-Democrats

Adam Soboczynski, Die Zeit (online and printed ed. 49), 2 December, 2010

 The angry citizen isn’t conservative. He’s reactionary.

The Coming Uprising (Der kommende Aufstand), the much-discussed, partly printed by Der Spiegel, prized in the feature pages, manifesto of a French “invisible committee” has, despite all revolutionary rhetoric, a conservative nucleus: the loss of traditional conviviality, donnybrooks, good manners. Thought that could be associated with the left – a call for building communes, a celebration of subversive protest, anti-capitalism – are being notched with mourning past everyday habits.

The coming uprising is also anticipated so briskly because it seems to picture the uprisings of angry citizens who didn’t only agitate this country in Stuttgart. That’s what Der Spiegel claims this week. The paper misses the point that the protests are – despite what they may seem to be – of no conservative kind. Certainly, as a pensioner, you don’t want to be confronted with a construction site that is going to stay for ten years. For the last few years of your life, everything should remain the way it has been.

What appears to be, at first glance, a conservative impulse, is in fact reactionary. Reactionary in that secretly, it is moulded by a fervent distrust of parliamentarism and democratic institutions that structure [political or social, probably – Taide] participation.
Apparently, every sense of formal aspects of democracy have been lost: people don’t want to get involved in the political parties’ mean business, but shortcut opinion formation by referenda. No governments relying on discreet communication, people celebrate WikiLeaks. People wish to restrict minorities (such as migrants or smokers) by referenda, while the state is unnecessarily still protecting them.

Just as the sixtyeighters once came from America to Germany, it’s the reactionary Tea-Party movement today which inspires us. Even if only for operating the principle of majority against democratic institutions, quite in accordance with market-economy principles, you can’t consider citizen anger as conservative. If the sixtyeighters believed that the state was mixing with capitalism in a calamitous way, today’s angry citizens structurally align with capitalism.

Henning Ritter, a publicist, has recently noted in his jotter the fine observation that self-fulfilment may be highly appreciated, but without having anything in common with emancipation. The sixtyeighters were filled with the legitimate desire to emancipate from many things – the generation of their parents, or the patriarchy. Despite all revolutionary pathos, the protest soon turned to subcultural recesses or all kinds of careers that were felt meaningful. But from the moment where it dawns on you that self-fulfilment beyond the existing achievements doesn’t translate into individual gains in liberty any more, there will be no march through the institutions any longer, but their dismantlement instead.

Narziss und Schmollmund: “so was von gewalttätig”

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Thilo Sarrazin ist SPD-Mitglied, Ex-Finanzsenator Berlins und derzeit Bundesbanker. Die Bundesbank hat bei Vertragsabschluss einen diskreten Lebenswandel von ihm erwartet – jedenfalls lässt ihre Reaktion auf ein  Interview Sarrazins mit “Lettre International” im vorigen Jahr das vermuten – ein Interview, in dem der Mann erklärte, er müsse niemanden anerkennen, “der vom Staat lebt, diesen Staat ablehnt, für die Ausbildung seiner Kinder nicht vernünftig sorgt und ständig neue kleine Kopftuchmädchen produziert” .

burqas needn't be boring

burqas needn't be boring

Dass Sarrazins Ausführungen seinem jetzigen Posten nicht angemessen sind, mag durchaus sein. Dass er sich persönlich mit der oben zitierten Wortwahl diskreditiert, glaube ich selbst. Provokation kann zielführend sein – aber in diesem Fall drängt sich der Eindruck auf, dass vor einem Jahr ein – soeben erschienenes – Buch schon einmal vorab interessant gemacht werden sollte. Jedenfalls steht es auch Türken, deren Töchter kein Kopftuch tragen, allemal frei, sich gekränkt zu fühlen. Zumal dann, wenn sie Gemüsehändler sind (was ist eigentlich an dem Beruf so ehrenrührig?).

Man wird den Eindruck nicht los, dass Sarrazin sein Publikum nicht überzeugen, sondern im Buchhandel abmelken will – und dass er es gründlich verachtet. Manche von denen, die den Narzissten heute für seine “klaren Worte” lieben, haben ihn vor gar nicht langer Zeit  gehasst, als er ihnen vorrechnete, wie ein Hartz-IV-Empfänger für weniger als vier Euro am Tag in der Küche prima zaubern könne.

Jetzt “verdummen” wir also “auf natürlichem Wege”: durch Einwanderung aus der Türkei und dem Nahen Osten, in irgendeinem Zusammenhang. Vielleicht ist das rassistisch – wenn es bedeuten soll, dass die Einwanderer natürlicherweise dumm seien.
So scheint Sigmar Gabriel, Vorsitzender seiner und Sarrazins SPD und ihr oberster Schmollmund, das auch aufzufassen. Grundsätzlich wolle er sich mit Sarrazins Thesen zur Einwanderung ja “intellektuell” auseinandersetzen, sagt Gabriel. Aber sie seien teilweise “sprachlich so was von gewalttätig”, dass eine Auseinandersetzung schwer in Frage komme.

Das ist Quatsch. Wenn das rechtlich geht und sich in den entsprechenden Gremien oder Verbänden hinreichende Mehrheiten dafür finden, kann die SPD den Genossen Thilo natürlich rauswerfen. Aber sie soll nicht glauben, dass sie damit um eine Auseinandersetzung mit ihm herumkäme. Ein Großteil der Wählerinnen und Wähler erwartet eine solche Auseinandersetzung – nach Abzug jeder Menge sarrazinscher Effekthascherei, Pauschalbeleidigung und persönlicher Eitelkeit bleibt nämlich immer noch genug kritische Substanz übrig, über die gesprochen werden muss, um zu einer brauchbaren Beurteilung der deutschen Einwanderungs- und Integrationspolitik zu kommen – und insofern sind Sarrazins Provokationen, über deren Appetitlichkeit sich streiten lässt – ein Angebot. Das Buch muss sich deswegen keiner kaufen.

Und dann beginnt überhaupt erst die Arbeit. Aus der Beurteilung muss man ja auch praktische Schlüsse ziehen. Welcher Mitarbeiter eines Sozialamts oder einer BAGIS soll bestimmten Zeitgenossen – mit oder auch ohne Migrationshintergrund – die Leistungskürzungen präsentieren, die Sarrazin als Antwort auf Arbeits- oder Bildungsverweigerung vorschweben? Sarrazin hat – vermutlich und hoffentlich – Personenschutz. Der Sozialamtsmitarbeiter oder -leiter leider nicht. Und im Gegensatz zu Sarrazin wohnt er möglicherweise auch noch in der selben Nachbarschaft wie sein gemaßregelter Klient.

Man mag argumentieren, dass es zum Job eines Amtsmitarbeiters gehört, das auszuhalten. Aber in manchen Stadtteilen wird der Job dann allenfalls noch Bewerber finden, die nicht wissen, was sie tun.

Auch solche Probleme sind grundsätzlich – höchst wahrscheinlich – lösbar. Das Dumme ist nur, dass die meisten Debatten, auch Sarrazins, genau da enden, wo es konkret wird.

Zur Not mit einem Parteiausschluss.

Stand der Debatte: 27.08.2010

Six Decades of Kitsch and Vulgar Productions

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From the News

Culture Minister Cai Wu criticized the trend of “vulgar productions” and “kitsch” in print and on electronic Chinese media, and lashed out at publications with gossip and sensational stories that advocate money worship and consumerism.

“We publish more than 300,000 books every year, but how many of them could be compared with the scriptures inherited from our ancestors?” asked Cai in an interview with Xinhua.

From china.org.cn

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Some vulgar books about China suggest to point at the mulberry but curse the locust when you criticize someone or something.

But what I do know is that China is as old as it owns Tibet. When I’m looking at the list of Chinese classics as listed by Wikipedia, it seems to me that the classics weren’t all written within sixty years. (The first Chinese classic I ever read, aged twelve or so, was Jin Ping Mei).

The People’s Republic of China is a rather young dynasty state, and during the 1950s China reconstructed, during the 1960s, the Great Helmsman and his vulgar fat ass knocked over what had been reconstructed previously, same during much of the 1970s, and then it was time to reconstruct again.

But it’s true – after 1978, some more useful stuff could have been written. Instead, we got:

– Deng Xiaoping’s Theories (and some other of his works)

– Jiang Zemin’s Three Represents and an opera building which (experts say) lacks architectural freedom (but still looks like the shell of a nuclear reactor)

– and I’m sure Hu Jintao has hired a gang of ghostwriters already, to write some more politporn.

Not to mention the “Modern Beijing Opera” and Chinese pop “music”. And almost every speech ever delivered and printed by a Communist cadre, on whatever level of the hierarchy.

But there’s no reason to become alarmist. Time after 1949 has been too short to build a civilization in China.

Written by taide

August 8, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Aygül Özkan’s next Big Thing

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So sorry, prime minister.

So sorry, prime minister.

After Aygül Özkan’s initative for the removal of crucifixes from Lower Saxonian classrooms (that would be basically five or six classrooms in the south of  Oldenburg Land) has failed, her latest initiative, one for culturally sensitive language in the press, has failed, too. Lower Saxony’s prime minister David McAllister said today that he hadn’t been informed about the contents of the “media charter”, and that his state chancellery, not Özkan’s ministry of social affairs, was in charge of Lower Saxony’s media policies. “There is no way that a government could instruct journalists how they have to report.”

Özkan was appointed minister of social affairs by former Lower Saxonian prime minister Christian Wulff, shortly before Wulff himself chose to become Germany’s top empty shirt & tie, probably after learning that his state’s financial situation was fairly rotten.

Now poor Özkan is in the lion’s den. McAllister, the new boss, is a bad guy.

But Taide has learned from usually well-informed circles that Özkan is already preparing her next big thing. She plans to have all Lower Saxonians (who are, after all, very Hanoverian) collectively apologize to prime minister McAllister, son of a Scottish father, for the Battle of Culloden. Besides, a minute of silence shall be obeyed on 16th April next year.

“Isn’t the Right to Work a Civil Right?”

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Lutz Brockmann is the first mayor who the union speaker can remember who managed to appear on each and every May Day rally in Verden to date. “Only you have managed that, Lutz.”

Good to know that our mayor got something done in his six first years in office.

Verden's mayor Lutz Brockmann greets the masses

Verden's mayor Lutz Brockmann greets the masses

Apart from Mr Brockmann himself who is a member of the social democrats (SPD), neither the SPD nor the “Left Party” had information booths at the rally. The (market)-liberal democrats (FDP) were obviously missing, too, and so were the conservative christian democrats (CDU). The Industrial Union of Metalworkers (IG Metall) had a booth there, and so had the Green Party.

At least one employer was there, too, but stayed on the sidelines. The union speaker didn’t invite him for a beer.

The rally was organized by the German Federation of Unions, the DGB. And it was a smart decision to let a green politician talk. Brigitte Pothmer is a member of the German federal parliament (Bundestag), and she was the one who could actually deliver something that deserves to be called a speech. She even had the nerves to tell her audience that Greece needed financial help, and that it would get financial help: “The longer it take, the more costly it will be.”

That said, just like everyone else, she kept talking about the rights of young people to be trained in the companies after finishing schools, about the right to earn good money for ones good work, the right to this, the right to that. No word about the need to do a good piece of work before getting paid, and no word about the duties to learn reading, writing, and to acquire a basic numeracy before being unleashed on innocent industrial units.

“Isn’t the right to work a civil right? Aren’t decent wages a civil right?”

Obvious answer: to prepare oneself for a good working life is a civil duty. To get the means to make it happen is a civil right. To dumb oneself down is not.

There was a lot of talk about the youngsters and their rights. Their right to oversleep wasn’t mentioned, but it was manifest yesterday morning. You saw many greyheads there on the rally, and I remember no0ne who might have been younger than thirty.

And that, even though they only started at eleven a.m., rather than at 10 a.m. as tradition would demand.

It would have been an even smaller congregation of early Christians if they hadn’t been joined by unionists from the neighbouring town of Achim, who organized a bicycle tour to Verden. Achim itself hasn’t seen a May Day rally this year.

Anyway, Mrs Pothmer made an entertaining talk. And the trade unionist, as usual, managed to produce at least one phrase which made no sense at all. Something like “more work for more money”.

Weather was nice, same as last year. It only started raining in the afternoon. And the Bratwurst was even better than last year.