I’m always annoyed when I get in touch with this state. Or rather when it gets in touch with me. When younger and with longer hair I frequently enjoyed luggage searches at airports (apparently people who work in border controls really dig going through my dirty underwear…) or being stopped in a car close to the Dutch border, you know, ‘randomly’. Not in a single of those incidences had I done anything wrong or suspicious besides existing. And I rarely/never noticed the same ‘services’ being applied to well-off sixty-somethings.
Let’s say that I do mind uniformed officials and their ununiformed counterparts. [Ironically the only bit of bureaucracy were people were friendly and helpful in person (not in their form letters, though) was the local tax office. Cheers to them.] It would be easier to respect state officials if they seemed to be doing something useful and if they actually tried to help people. The people who pay their good salaries and whom they allegedly ‘serve’ rather than miming big-wig bureaucrats and enjoying the power given to them by their job or their uniform.
Some recent incidences of less-than-ideal use of tax money:
My parents happened to walk down their street when a truck passed there, destroying the mirrors of a few cars in the process. Trying to be good citizens (and, I gather, disliking the idea of cars parking where their own might park being damaged in this way) they told the driver to stop and make sure the police are informed, so everybody can have their car fixed. Apparently the driver was a bit in denial about what had happened, so somehow the state ended up suing him for Fahrerflucht (which to my ears sounds dramatic: like he killed a little kid with his car and then drove a way) and my parents were needed as witnesses. A few months later they received a letter telling them about that fact. With the only problem that they were not in Germany at the time of the trial and getting there would seem completely overdoing it in terms of cost and effort.
Eventually cancelling this was not a problem, but the way in which prosecutors write their letters is so damn unfriendly that you really stop wanting to cooperate when reading them. They just go
be there at 8 in the morning, we’ll call you in and attach two pages of legal mumbo-jumbo about how they’ll fine and incarcerate you if you don’t follow that order. And then, in 2010, they are apparently unable to use e-mail for communicating with people (extremely handy, you know, particular for intercontinental messages that need to be delivered quickly) while only staffing their phone until lunch time. No way to get in touch with them afterwards. Would being friendly and helpful be asking too much of those institutions?
In the previous weeks on our way to lunch, all of us were stopped several times by the police on our bikes to have our bikes inspected. The police officers weren’t unfriendly, but I still had to suppress to urge to take the piss, as uniform-people don’t seem to do that kind of humour. Apparently they don’t have enough actual work to do, so they go and check bikes when the weather is nice and they want to spend the day in the sun. They even brought their ‘expert’ on bike-theft recommending that everybody register their bikes. Our tax money at work.
While this was annoying the first time, it started feeling ridiculous the second and third times it happened. Also completely superfluous and worthless. One of my colleagues was even stopped and checked three times in a week. Another colleague reported that his bike was checked ‘OK’ by the police on one day and they told him off for something in another check the next day. Give us a friggin’ break!
Actually this wasn’t the worst bike check I have seen this year. At the beginning of the year they had like half a dozen police plus a bunch of people from a (public, NDR, I think) TV station stopping and filming people on their bikes in the early evening and probably creating a TV show about how ‘dangerous’ those cyclists are. WTF‽
On the other hand, our local police know how to keep themselves busy. They earned the reputation for going out of their way to illegally raid people’s flats because they hold opinions some policepeople/politicians/whoever do not approve of (apparently police aren’t forced to make sure stuff they do is legal before they do it – they get the signature of some not-so-bright judge and then it’s up to you to take them to the next court and prove they were wrong – frickin’ convenient!).
There have been numerous incidences of this in Göttingen over the years. At the beginning of the year, the police/state raided a big ‘lefty’ house for no conceivable reason whatsoever. In fact, I happened to pass there at the time on my way back from shopping – they had removed everybody from their house while searching it. I thought it was some web-2y demonstration/happening as I heard someone use the word ‘flashmob’ while I passed and only learned about the real background later on.
Last week, a group published a brochure along with holding a number of events on the topic. Reading through the brochure was sickening. Particularly learning how regularly and openly the police behave poorly, break the law and how frequently they manage to get away with it by lying – or rather conveniently ‘forgetting’ facts. Fitting into that scheme of ‘forgetting’ is the new-ish trend of them filming demonstrations for perfect police-state surveillance. And then always having ‘accidentally deleted’ the sections of tapes which would show that they beat someone up without reason or that they accuse someone of attacking them who just stood there protesting peacefully.
Unfortunately police forces seem to consider such behaviour acceptable and do cover those of their staff who misbehave in this way instead of clearly saying that they are against such practices, making sure all their staff can be identified clearly, so they can be removed from their job in case they betray the public’s (involuntary) trust in this way.
Speaking about lefty brochures, I have seen my share of them over the years and keep thinking that they are mostly ugly Times New Roman-based messes that are poorly designed and printed. They tend to be equally poorly written with long and convoluted sentences and an ideological ‘aroma’ which means that anybody who doesn’t agree with the writers to begin with – even if they may have a good point – will be appalled anyway. This should render those texts rather ineffective as far as convincing people is concerned. Which in some cases in a shame.
Because of that it was refreshing to see the brochure Staat, Weltmarkt und die Herrschaft der falschen Freiheit by the anti-capitalist group
…ums Ganze!. It’s a book of more than 100 pages that leaves a good first impression by being printed on reasonably good paper with dark red ink (text being in Scala). And also the second impression remains good with the text being carefully written and making the effort to explain the underlying ideology and critique in a comprehensible language. More of this, please.
Received data seems to be invalid. The wanted file does probably not exist or the guys at last.fm changed something.