Friday, February 6, 2009

Germany not a police state

Fortunately or not, Germany, and more specifically Berlin, is definitely not a police state. My take on why that is? In an effort to atone for, and perhaps even somewhat eradicate, their atrocious history, Germans are doing what they can to remove all resemblance to their not-so-distant past. This is done on both superficial levels, such as prohibiting the use of the swastika in any way, as well as an institutionalized mentality and 'propaganda', if you will. While I generally agree with this type of an approach, considering Germany's actions during WWII, I nonetheless see certain setbacks (naturally). 

When I first moved from Los Angeles to Berlin, I immediately noticed a lack of police around the city (relatively speaking) and that sort of made me nervous. Having lived here for more than three years now, I have seen incident after incident that made me wonder what the police were doing at the moment. For example, when the biggest train station in Europe had its grand opening a couple of years ago (in Berlin), over one million people actually attended the event. How many policemen? About 1,000. If I did my math correctly (and I did), that is approximately one policeman for every 1,000 people. This is the reason, perhaps, why a 17-year-old KID was able to stab 10 people before police were able to stop him. At that moment I was thankful that this was not America; otherwise, the knife would have been a gun, with potentially many more casualties, but that's a whole different blog entry. 

Why were there not more police present? Where are the police every morning when the drug dealers gather at the subway station nearest to my house to make their deals? Where were the police when a gang of teenagers started smoking pot in the middle of a crowded subway? Where are the police, period? ... I know the answer to that. Whenever there is a demonstration, by law, the police must be present and it appears, in great numbers (I've witnessed demonstrations where there were more people in uniform than demonstrators themselves). Don't get me wrong, I enjoy many of the freedoms that I have here, which I did not have in the U.S., but they seem to come at a rather high price. As in many aspects of life, perhaps balance is the key here. 


  1. i do not agree... i think the fact that berlin has much much less violence than LA pretty much justifies the absence of police! people tend to self-regulate and require less assistance when police is not around. Berlin is not perfect but is a much safer place than Los Angeles.
    I recently read (scientific american i think) that for example in order to improve traffic conditions a radical approach is needed! getting rid of traffic lights in certain areas (or even all of them) helps solve traffic problems in a metropolitan area and improve SAFETY. Reason? people become more aware of their own actions behind the wheel even start driving slower....
    similar case with the police, surprisingly elimitanting police is not necessarily leading to more criminal activity. paradox...
    is the same true for governmetns? anarchy has been around as a concept for a long time, there must be a good reason for it.
    Authority is a sign of regress, self control is progess. Authority goes against human nature and builds up tensions between individuals. Progressive companies such as google have very little corporate stucture yet are more successful than old fashioned heavyweight corporatinos with ten managers for every employee.
    to cut it short, i do not agree with your point, in fact i see it as a part of a bigger issue of individual vs authority.

  2. I don't agree with you at all. I don't think that the reason LA has more crime than Berlin has to do with police presence. Take for example certain areas of LA, such as Compton and East LA, where the police try not to enter. Those areas are filled with crime, so much so that the police are scared to go there. Therefore, a lack of police does not necessarily equal lack of crime. You can see the same example in Russia, where police are present but not really, due to corruption. The crime rate is really high there. People will not necessarily be able to regulate themselves without laws and consequences obliging them.

    As far as anarchy being around, it's probably not older than authoritarianism, if looking at organized societies. In fact, anarchy was probably a response to the latter. Also, genocide and wars have been around since the beginning of time. The existence of these things over a long period of time does not automatically make them good. They are all extremes, in one direction or another, and in my opinion, not the answer society is looking for. Again, I think balance is called for.

    Also, you are juxtaposing individual and authority. I don't really see them as opposites of each other. They are definitely related to each other, but the absence of one does not equal the presence of the other. And I would argue that authority is inherent in nature. If you look at the animal kingdom, there is a type of 'authority' that exists amongst the species. Think back to Darwin.

  3. Sasha, something radical like taking all the traffic lights away would not work. I was recently in Cartagena, Colombia and they do not have traffic lights. no one drove slower, people crossed the street in front of a bus, our tour bus almost hit a dog and to top that off little cars were trying to cut off the bus. the tour guide told us that they wished they had traffic lights to regulate the flow of cars and people getting hurt.... in any case... good piece...