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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.

“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.

Knockout Drops

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My vacation started today, and it is Friday. So off I went to my favourite pharmacy to by some knockout drops. The following is the dialog I had with Ms Richardson, the fourty-something year-old owner of the my favourite pharmacy.

Me: Good morning!
She: Good morning, Mr Taide! And what a beautiful morning it is, isn’t it? Your vacation started today, right?
Me: That’s right! And to celebrate the advent of this beautiful season, I’ve decided to go to the Dropstone discotheque tonight.
She: Oh, the Spring-Feelings-Make-My-Heart-Big-Bang Party?
Me: That’s right. I’m in the mood for an extramarital one-night stand.
She: Enjoy!
Me: That’s why I’m here.
She (whispers, tongue-in-cheek): You don’t need viagra yet, Mr Taide, do you?
Me (hating it when middle-aged pharmacists try to be tongue-in-cheek): Naah, not at all! I’m as powerful as a bull in its prime. But I’d like to buy some knockout drops.

Everyone in the sales room is now staring at us.

She (neither whispering nor tongue-in-cheek any more): Are you MAD?!
Me: Oh, uhm, no. Why should I be mad? Because I’m going to the Dropstone?
She: Because you are an outrageous, filthy, rapist, criminal BASTARD!!!
Me (now slightly annoyed): You are jumping to conclusions. I’m not going to drug anyone but myself.
She (confused): Yourself? But why?
Me: It helps me to deal with the situation. I’m too cheap to pay for sex. On the other hand, I reckon that sex with Dropstone acquaintances is going to be relaxing, but ugly. I’d prefer to awake with a mind-lapse next morning. Besides, if she claims that she didn’t want to have sex with me, I can counter-claim that I didn’t want to have sex with her.
She: We don’t sell knockout drops.
Me: Why didn’t you tell me at once? Could have saved both of us a lot of time. See you.

____________

In the News today

More and more women become victims of sex-related crimes involving so-called knockout drops. The federal pharmacists association demands measures to fight this crime. “This subject must get into public focus, and the international criminal dealing business with pharmaceuticals must be controlled more tightly and be punished more severely,” the association’s president Erika Fink said yesterday.

Robert Enke, One of the Last Defenders

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Once in a while, I’m teasing a friend from Portugal. Portugal is the country where the evening news start with soccer results, and more soccer results, and lots of backgrounders, and comments from coaches and managers, and outfield players, and of course the last defenders. And may be after tons of information of that kind, the Portuguese will be informed about a big tax reform, rates of unemployment, or the death of their president (if their president passed away).

I won’t tease my Portuguese friend again. Maybe the Portuguese are a bit dumber than us, but we will soon catch up with them.

Robert Enke was a German football goalkeeper. He played at Barcelona, Benfica Lisbon, and Fenerbahce Istanbul, and until Tuesday, at Hannover 96. He was also one of the German national soccer team’s goalkeepers.

He was 32 years old when he died. He used a train and its drivers to get killed. In the media accounts, he “apparently threw himself in front of a train”. Or maybe he just stood there and waited for the train to hit him.

Bishop Margot Käßmann, recently elected to lead Germany’s Lutherans (“church must be where the citizens are. This is true for the sunday services, but also for radio and television”) led an initial memorial service in Hannover.

Enke and his wife had suffered a stroke from fate when they lost their daughter at an age of only two, and Enke had suffered from depressions for several years.

Now, everyone is very sad, which brings a line from the incomparable British Queen to my mind, after the death of Princess Diana, and H.M.’s immanent beheading for not showing her feelings (or so it appeared):

“Millions of others who never met her, but felt they knew her, will remember her. I for one believe there are lessons to be drawn from her life and from the extraordinary and moving reaction to her death.”

Can there be a more subtle way to criticize a howling mob?

Robert Enke was probably an admirable man. Even more so, as he was ambitious, but not showy. He played a constructive role in public life, without the annoying attitude of a popstar. And he did his job as a last defender as long as he could. That he didn’t seek help when he needed it is a tragedy, but no exceptional tragedy.

Let’s hope that the train drivers – one colleague was making another familiar with the section around Hannover when their train struck Robert Enke – will be able continue their work, without a trauma. Very little is said about them.

And let’s hope that Mr Enke’s widow, Teresa Enke, will get what she asked the fans for: a funeral limited to family people and close friends. It’s a natural and legitimate request.

The fans should figure out someone who actually needs their sympathy. A soccer club is no family.

Written by taide

November 14, 2009 at 10:22 am

Verden Kills

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It was nice to shut down in Verden’s pubs during the 1980s. There was the Pedro in the Grüne Straße, and Vienna and Litfass in Am Lugenstein. Once a year, there was the Domweih, the biggest annual donnybrook in town. Occasionally, there was trouble with the Brits stationed here back then, mostly because of some NATO mattresses, but it was usually no problem to avoid our friends and allies, and one hour before midnight, military police treated those of them  to pissed to get away with solid ash wood clubs and collected them into Landrovers to cart them back into the barracks.

"sports" bar

Verden, "sports" bar

I haven’t been to our pubs for some twelve years. Ten years ago, an idiot visited the Domweih with a Kalashnikov, about one year later, someone opened fire on a doorman, some two years ago, a twenty-year-old was almost sent to kingdom come by twenty stabs, probably one for every year of his life.

Early in the morning on Tuesday, a thirty-year old patrolman was knived and seriously injured by a 19-year old in a pub next to the railway station. BILD-ZEITUNG means “picture paper”, and they duly deliver a picture of the crime.

I enjoy my life. And I’ll happily stay away from my home town’s night life to live a bit longer. Anyway, even if this town was safe – just to see the faces of certain people there would spoil the party.

________

From Verdener Nachrichten Online, talking with Jürgen Menzel, police speaker, four days after the knife attack:

Q: Have there been expressions of sympathy from local politics?
A: No.

Northern Castings: The Winners are In

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Beauty Contest

Beauty Contest

As reported earlier, Verden held its Miss Verden Contest on March 28. And the winners are in! They are, of course, much more beautiful than on this poster to the right. Personally, I think they are also more beautiful than the ladies over there.

But I don’t agree with the jury in Verden. I would have voted for No. 10, the lady in the second row to the right (big picture), next to the emergency exit. But of course, tastes differ. It was No. 5 in the end. Of course, her smile is much nicer than No. 10‘s, but hey, is this a Verden-chooses-the-friendliest-trolley-dolley contest, or is this about beauty?

OK, maybe I’m getting it all wrong anyway. I’m not in this line of business. And of course, I don’t want to go into details, because that could appear sexist.

But now you all now that Verden is chique. If you ever voiced any doubts about that, you can eat your words now.

Also in the news here in Northern Germany: The East Frisians chose their most beautiful Holstein cow in Leer, on March 11. Her Title: Miss East Frisia.

Written by taide

April 4, 2009 at 7:51 pm

My Night with Princess Anne and a Bottle of Glenfiddich

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My memory of that night is somewhat blurred. It was a big Fest in Verden, some kind of donnybrook to celebrate the one-thousand-th universar… ahem… anniversary of our home town. We were downtown to celebrate my seventeenth birthday with a bottle of Glenfiddich. Princess Anne lodged five houses down the road, as a guest of the British garrison.

I think it was her because she was Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Corps of Signals.

The police almost arrested us. I never met her face-to-face. But the princess lodged five houses down the road, only five houses away from my parents’ house. I don’t remember her clearly. I’m not even sure if it was Princess Anne or Princess Margaret. But I do remember the bottle of Glenfiddich. It was the green one.

Written by taide

July 24, 2008 at 6:45 pm