Fubar in Helvetia

This is not a post about typesetting. This is about politics. I mean, it is about the cabaret, the theatre, the tragedy and the pure nonsense that we muster to get from one social state to the next. I mean, this is about what politics is, and without exception we are all involved in it. We do not always play the same roles. Some of us change costume and hat several times during one single act. Some of us are for cabaret, and others only have talent for drama. One thing is for sure, we all suffer in tragedy. Above all we like a good show.

It is been a while since I wrote anything of much substance. I have been busy, and if I am any good at reading the tea leaves, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I am either going to be even busier in the months ahead, or else I will be six feet under ground or my ashes will be floating down the Aare. Life is being good to me. Politics is keeping me entertained. Last thursday the best show in town was to be had at the Bernese Rathaus with item 13 on the agenda of the city council. I delivered the results of the committee’s deliberation for the majority. I kept it as dry as one can keep it; I left the polemic for my fraction’s head. This is the one item in this town that gets everybody from left to right on the political compass fairly much up in a frenzy. My luck! I volunteered for this. This is the issue of the Reitschule. After the show when the spectators left the tribune at the Rathaus, somebody yelled that we were all out of touch with reality. Whoever yelled out that note of protest was right. I correct that vote, and add that we are all out of touch with reality. The people on the spectator tribune and those of us down on the city council’s chambers, we are all out of touch with reality. The reality on the city council’s floor and the reality of the Reitschule seem far removed from one another. FUBAR. Really, fubar. Somehow not much has changed since the term was coined.

In the past twenty odd years since the Reitschule was brought to life by some left wing political forces, it has been subject to a popular vote five times. It is clear, the majority of Bern’s population wants to keep the place going, It offers a good alternative cultural scene. I am included in this majority, I have always voted for it as a citizen, and as an elected member of the city council I defend its rights. Still, it is not that easy, but it is simple. Trivially simple. The Reitschule has the magic appeal of a mirror. The magic is that in this mirror you only see what you do not want to see about our society.

The extreme right’s insistence of doing away with the Reitschule has only ensured that it is now firmly anchored as an institution. In the last extreme right initiative, the popular vote pronounced itself clearly against a sale of the real estate and its closing. The extreme right has some outlandish ideas that somehow closing the Reitschule would solve all the problems in society, in particular those of violence. But to add insult to injury, the same extreme right is very disturbed by the fact that freedom of expression is not anything to which they have a monopoly. Frankly, I find this all rather deplorable. There is a place and a need for the Reitschule in Bern. The violence and drug problems and the increased feeling of desperation that some citizens of this world feel need to be addressed, but closing the Reitschule is not going to solve any of those problems.

Actually, the more I think of it, the more convinced I am that the Reitschule has a wonderfully comfortable position in any negotiation with the city. Even if all hell breaks loose and no agreement can be found on the subsidies and rent of the localities, even then, in that worst case, the association governing the Reitschule still has a good negotiation position. Please note that this is a position that has been gained through democratic mechanisms, and if it were not for the extreme right’s aversion to it, its position would not be as strong as it is now. If the right wingers have any brains at all they will stop picking on the Reitschule and will try to solve the city’s  violence and problems in more constructive ways. The police do the best that they can, but here too, I think that there is no party in this discourse that could not do a bit better, or try a little harder. Dialogue, in particular constructive dialogue is necessary. As long as each institution involved in negotiating the subsidy contracts remains in their entrenched positions and are not willing to listen and learn, nothing constructive is going to happen.

I just see that government is everybody’s business, and that to resolve conflicts needs a whole lot of good will from everybody, a whole truck load of tolerance, but also a bit of inspiration and respect for those who happen to think differently.

PS: By the way, I really think this is a storm in a glass of water. As I write this protests and police violence have resurged in Cairo. The situation in Syria remains critical, and the suffering through out the world continues. Our city’s little problems seem a bit quaint, if not out right darlingly provincial. This is life in the land of milk and honey.

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