Taide’s Weblog

welcome back to school

Posts Tagged ‘Die Zeit

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

with one comment

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.

Advertisements

Rage against the Machine: Mow-My-Lawn!!!

leave a comment »

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!

Police Academy Professor: “Only Perceptions have Shifted”

with 3 comments

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.

____________

Related

We, the Anti-Democrats, December 5, 2010

____________

So Difficult: “Independent Info from Syria”

with one comment

Clock Tower

All the atrocities are coordinated and conducted from this clock tower. Of course, that's just my assertion (I thought it up), it may not be the clock tower's fault at all, and anyway, I have nothing to back the allegation up, but it sounds good, doesn't it? Besides, a number of people was hanged there by the regime, in 2007.

It is still extremely difficult to obtain independent information from Syria”,writes ARTE, a Franco-German television station. “Now, for the first time”, a journalist, Sofia Amara, succeeded in shooting pictures with a hidden camera, in Syria. Her project was supported by the oppositional “Syrian National Council”.

Yes, it must be extremely difficult to obtain independent information. In June this year, Jürgen Todenhöfer, a German politician, travelled Syria. A video journalist accompanied him and took pictures, too. Not as spectacular – but then, Todenhöfer didn’t need the “Syrian National Council’s” support – and that makes his report much more trustworthy than the one ARTE is mongering, on television, and online.

How did she verify the atrocities reported? How can she tell who commited them? At least on the video shown, ARTE didn’t ask her such questions. A German newscast (ZDF, simply took this into its evening news on October 14, and asked no questions either.

Sure – the Assad regime has failed. How to do business with Syria in the future – or how not to do business with Syria any more – is a legitimate question. Military action should be discussed as an option, too.

But for this kind of journalism, I prefer reading a big German tabloid.

For some more quality, see this interview, conducted by NPR (yes, ARTE, that’s an AMERICAN station).

Written by taide

October 15, 2011 at 8:41 am

We, the Anti-Democrats

with 2 comments

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.

Pekings neue Waffe gegen Nicht-Regierungsorganisationen

leave a comment »

Zeng Jinyan, verheiratet mit dem AIDS- und Umweltaktivisten Hu Jia, arbeitete nach der Verhaftung und Verurteilung ihres Mannes Ende 2007 / April 2008 an der Aufrechterhaltung der AIDS-Hilfeorganisation “Loving Source” (Ai Yuan), an deren Gründung sie beide beteiligt gewesen waren.

Den Betrieb dieser Organisation hat sie nun eingestellt. Als Grund nannte sie in einem Blog-Eintrag steigenden Druck durch Steuerprüfungen. In ihrer Erklärung rief sie alle freiwilligen Mitarbeiter dazu auf, auch nach der Einstellung der Tätigkeit der “Loving Source” alles in ihren Möglichkeiten Stehende zu tun, um weiterhin den Kindern zu helfen, denen die Organisation mit ihrer Arbeit geholfen habe.

Verschiedene andere – bei der chinesischen Führung missliebige – Nicht-Regierungs-Organisationen gerieten seit 2009 ebenfalls unter den Druck der Steuerbehörden.

Eine Australierin chinesischer Abstammung steht per Internet in Verbindung mit Zeng Jinyan und wird – vorausgesetzt, dass die chinesischen Behörden die Kommunikation nicht dauerhaft unterbrechen – weitere Informationen auf ihrem Blog veröffentlichen. Sie bittet andere Blogger, bei der Berichterstattung zu helfen, um damit möglicherweise eine Milderung des behördlichen Drucks auf Zeng Jinyan und anderer Aktivisten zu erreichen.

____________

Hintergrundinfo: Die ausländische Krankheit, “Die Zeit”, 25.11.2004

Written by taide

November 17, 2010 at 9:55 am

More about May Day, More Globally Speaking

leave a comment »

A moderate anti-globalisation activist

A moderate anti-globalisation activist

Josef Joffe, Stanford, California, co-editor of Germany’s weekly Die Zeit, apparently lives in California. They don’t celebrate May Day there, but he’s trying to be nice to the unions here anyway.

Of course, globalisation is great, he writes, and it has helped every country that was open for it, and left those behind who were not. But still… there was that uneasiness

Because it was so unpleasant when American customers who only wanted a domestic flight got their inquiries answered by Indian sing-sang (South Asian Indians, I suppose). Or when you have a bank account in Kent, you don’t want to have your phone calls answered by a call centre in Malysia, do you? The accents get on Mr Joffe’s nerves, because it dramatises the distance between the customer and the company.

Fortunately for most Germans, these excrescences don’t occur to them, because Indians don’t speak German. Germans can enjoy globalisation’s fruits without any pitfalls. But times are getting better again for America and Britain, too, Delta Airlines has now closed its call centres in India, reports Joffe, and so does Chrysler. Hooray!

Written by taide

May 3, 2009 at 8:16 am