Germany is a Nation of Rules

Posted by on Dec 28, 2016 in Blogposts | No Comments

The German truck drivers’ association collected over 100,000 Euros for the family of the driver of the truck who was allegedly shot by Anis Amri, the Tunisian jihadist who then drove the truck into the Christmas Market at the Breitscheide Platz the week before Christmas. Under German law the government must make a relief payment to the family of each victim of terrorism for failing to protect the security of its citizens. Generous and high-minded as that provision sounds, none of the families of the citizens who died in the rampage at the Christmas market will benefit from it. To be entitled to the payment, a victim must be shot, not run over by a truck.
To ensure that the family of each of his victims got its stipend, the jihadist would have had to get out of his truck and shoot them all individually—that would have made him a philanthropist-jihadist, or something of an oxymoron.

For anyone who thinks the situation is absurd, the following anecdote may give some insight into the bureaucratic mentality that engenders it. On one of my trips to Berlin last year I was riding a bus from Εast Berlin to my neighborhood of Schoeneberg in the west. On Berlin buses there is a space opposite the rear door where passengers boarding with a baby can fix their baby-carriage securely to a partition and be able to sit at one end of it. From my seat, I could see a man with a suitcase sitting in the baby-carriage space, and for the next few stops, I witnessed a mounting drama. Woman after woman with a baby-carriage boarded the bus and, seeing someone sitting in the reserved seat, turned her baby-carriage around and tried to find what stability she could, steadying herself with one hand on an overhead strap while with the other she tried to prevent the carriage from rolling away and the baby with it. Finally, the fourth or fifth woman addressed the man with the suitcase.

“Excuse me, but this space is reserved for people with baby-carriages,” she said.

The man said something in reply and went on sitting stolidly in the seat. Nearby passengers exchanged glances for a moment and then assumed their non-committal expressions. But I could tell there had been some muted reaction to what the man said. Eventually the bus reached Kaiser Wilhelm-Platz which was my stop. Another man stepped out of the rear door ahead of me, and when we both landed on the pavement, I got his attention.
“Excuse me, but could you tell me what the man said to the lady,” I said, “I didn’t catch it.”
“He said the space is also reserved for people with suitcases.”
“I see,” I said, and after exchanging a look, the man and I went our separate ways.