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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.

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.

From Tehran, for a Clearer Picture

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Iran has supplied sophisticated radar to Syria that can monitor Israeli air force sorties and threaten its ability to attack Iranian nuclear targets by surprise, Reuters quotes the Wall Street Journal. The WSJ quotes – unnamed by Reuters – Israeli and US officials.

A spokesman for the Syrian embassy in WashingtonAhmed Salkini, denounced the allegation as “classic Israeli PR stunts aimed at diverting the world’s attention from the atrocities they are committing in Gaza and other occupied territories”.

The tech transfer was reportedly carried out about a year ago. In 2007, Israeli fighter jets bombed a Syrian site that the Israelis said housed a nuclear reactor in the final stages of construction. The BBC points out that there has been a UN ban on Iran since 2007 to sell or supply weapons to other countries.

Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad travelled Venezuela, Cuba, Brazil, and Argentina last week. MercoPress (Montevideo) writes that Syrian communities are very strong and economically influential in Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina, advocating the establishment of “a new and more just international order” by including Brazil in the U.N. Security Council.

On June 29, Radio Damascus, in a commentary, noted that

The countries currently visited by president al-Assad – Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, and Cuba – all adopt stands that support the just Arab cause. At the same time, their stands confront the policies of hegemony, war, and terrorism in the whole world. Those states have suffered a lot from the American policies and interference in the affairs of states and peoples. The previous American administrations supported dictatorial regimes, and supported them against their peoples.

Now, Damascus apparently believes, it is time for America to support Syria’s dictatorial regime. And no more distractions, please.

Written by taide

July 1, 2010 at 2:30 pm

How Israel screws its Reputation

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Israel’s government press office passed on a link to a youtube video – by “Caroline Glick and the Flotila Band” –  to journalists on June 4, five days after the IDF raided the Turkish cruising ship Mavi Marmara on May 31 which was on its way to Gaza to “bring in humanitarian aid and supplies”, defying the Israeli blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory.

"Caroline Glick and the Flotila Band"

youtube video: "Caroline Glick and the Flotila Band"

The video, “We con the world”, had been posted on youtube on June 3, produced by the Latma website. Maybe the “joke” could have worked if it had lasted up to twenty seconds – but “We con the world”, based on the 1980s song by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie, takes painful five minutes, too long even if it had been a good skit. Israelis act as “Arab” and “Turkish” activists (or gangsters?), and with strained attempts to produce funny lines: “The greatest bluff of all”, “We’ll make them all believe that the Hamas Is Momma Theresa” (by the way, the old nun spelled her name Teresa) are not really funny.

The press office apparently had second thoughts about the “fun”, too. Der Spiegel quotes Dutch  news agency BNO as reporting that the office had contacting them with the intention to retract the email with the link.

The main problem with the video isn’t that it is using stereotypes. That could still be funny. The real problem, I believe, is that Mrs Glick and the Flotila Band didn’t enjoy their own show. It was a hasty propaganda measure, and the Israeli government’s press office dived for it like for a last straw.

The American “Center for Security Policy”, a conservative organization, is a major donor to latma.tv, Der Spiegel wrote on June 5. Caroline Glick, who took part in the “Flotila Band” production, moved from Hyde Park, Chicago to Israel in the 1990s and is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the “Center for Security Policy”. Yesterday, she posted another “funny” one: “The Three Terrors”, i. e. Ahmadinejad (Iran), Erdogan (Turkey), and al-Assad (Syria). The comments to her post don’t suggest that the viewers really had fun either. It’s fear, loathing, and little else.

It is obvious that the “Free Gaza” movement gives a rat’s ass on how life and Hamas are treating the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip. The only thing that matters is what Israel does to Gaza. The “Free Gaza” movement wouldn’t have cared either if Hamas had taken the cargo from the Mavi Marmara and distributed it among the Palestinian people there in accordance with their allegiance to the Hamas regime.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the IDF raided the Mavi Marmara in international waters, and that the operation took the lives of nine “activists” who, after all, may have carried lots of knives and clubs – but no guns.

Sometimes, it would be nice if people like Mrs Glick and her Flotila Band would just shut up.

Their recent activities show that their mouths are no smaller than those of the people they fear and hate. Maybe they know each other only too well.

Written by taide

June 19, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Too Beautiful to be Published

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Margot Kässmann, material celf-censored by Tai De

Margot Kässmann, material celf-censored by Tai De

Given that I’m a civil servant, and that freedom of expression in Germany is more limited than in the U.S. of A., I will not publish this beautiful (fictional) story about former Bishop Kässmann, who will indeed spend some time abroad.

But not in Afghanistan.

Pope: No Pasarán

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“From God comes the courage not to be intimidated by petty gossip.”
Pope Benedict XVI, Palm Sunday address

I’m Lutheran, not Catholic. But I like this statement.

not intimidated

Not intimidated (picture: JR)

Written by taide

March 30, 2010 at 8:54 pm