Exercises in Arrogance: I

This is not an exercise for beginners. It is an exercise in advancing the exploration of arrogance. it started as a banality. On the way to the Rathaus on Thursday I went to the hairdresser and was in a chatty mood. Here I am telling my hairdresser about the fact that I have two main professional occupations, and he volunteers that he knew that one is politics, but did not know the other. This was the funny thing, I was not even thinking of politics. Politics is something that I do in my spare time, it is not a profession. Politics is also a civic duty. After all, if you are not willing to govern, you are damned to be governed.

Thursday’s triple – in fact quadruple – dose of the Bern city parliament had something for everybody. There were big items on the agenda and we did not get through half of those items. Still, some of the meatier subjects were debated. The annual report 2013, or a great opportunity for the left to say that they also know about finance, and the right to point out the errors, or vice-verse. Thursday night was no exception and we got it approved, but not without a vote of protest from our fraction. The best was yet to come. The details are theatrical. At one point it really got out of hand and people were shouting at each other (and yes, the local newspaper reported on that). Civilised I say, in comparison with some parliament squabbles elsewhere, but unusual for typically slow and anaesthetised Bernese. The protocol of Thursday’ sessions is going to be a doozy! 

The epitome of ridicule was reached as the clock was about to strike 23:30. At that point one member of the parliament gets up to make yet another motion of order and argued that we were wasting taxpayer’s money by going into overtime, thus we should break up and resume the debate at another time. Parliamentarians in this city get paid in 3 hour blocks, and since we had been debating since 20:30, we had been at it for three hours and were no where close to conclusion. We voted, and this motion did not get a majority, thus it was rejected. This rejected motion prompted yet another one by another parliamentarian asking that our honorary for the overtime be cancelled. This caused a commotion because such a motion of order is not permitted according to the statutes. However it is possible to ask that we voluntarily forfeit of the honorary. This was put to a vote, and roughly speaking those who had wanted to debate the damned business to its bitter end, forfeited, and those that wanted to go home didn’t. 

In view of all these antics, one must be curious as to what it was that we were debating. You guessed it, about spending money. This time about a public transportation project that has captured the fancy of mostly left politicians, but which is meeting considerable opposition from the residents, the extreme right, and the liberals. When one looks at the project in detail, there are major flaws with it. Surely Bern should update and modernise its public transportation, but this project is ridiculously poorly conceived. A lot of arguments for it are about serving two suburban communities (Köniz and Ostermundig)  with trams. Both Köniz and Ostermundig have train stations. Needless to say that S-bahn (trains) are a whole lot faster than trams and do not cause congestion on the streets or hinder bike riders. But that is not all. Actually, I get bored listing all that is wrong with this concept. The debate in the Stadtrat is however a bit more interesting, but just as poorly informed. Lies, and more lies, and who gives a damn? Damn lies!

Still, the substance seems almost besides the point; marginalised. The basics of the exercise are about power. The majority block wants this project’s credit to be approved, and the minority doesn’t. The strategy on the pro-project side is to get it through as fast as possible, and that on the minority side is to delay it. It is the way it is. Anyhow the fellow with the motion that we forfeit our honorary is now poking fun at the fellow who wanted to interrupt the debate because he did not forfeit. This is pathetic! Kindergarden silliness. 

Indeed the arguments against going into overtime were not very sound. We will debate this damned tram project as long as it takes, this is what a parliament is for. This is not a business meeting to be run efficiently. Democracy, for better or worse,  is not very efficient. First people are irrational, and if anything, politics is irrational. Fortunately the whole project will be put up for a vote in September, and then the residents can have their say. 

News from the back seat

I hate shopping. Really! It does not matter if I have unlimited credit, or not a penny in my pocket, shopping I do not like. I am a masochist. I signed up for Kris Kringle, so the misery is here for another week: I need to find gifts to give to the poor soul on the receiving end. On my receiving end, I have a very generous Kris Kringle who has me well supplied with Nespresso capsules, dark chocolate, marzipan, etc, etc… is the other side of this coin. The thing with the capsules got me! Heaven can wait, but not for its capsules! I am heaven. How I came to be a consumer of Nespresso, that is altogether another story.

Did I already mention that I hate shopping?

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Westside and Thinking with my feet

Malls! Shopping malls and the creatures on earth, or how on a saturday I ended up for a few hours in one of the cathedrals of consumption, the Westside mall. That was yesterday; it was Saturday.

On Friday evening Bern hosted this Museum Night, that is all museums were open from 6 PM to 2 AM. I had an invitation to the opening event at the Bundeshaus where I was given a free ticket for the whole shebang; normal citizens paid CHF 25, and silly politicians and other neurotics were handed out a ticket for free and invited to a cocktail in the national parliament. On the grand scale of things the free perks that a communal politician gets are peanuts, this was a good example of these and it is good that it is so. I noticed that this evening of fun for all, and that I may or may not write about, was sponsored by Credit Suisse and Westside. Credit Suisse needs no introduction, but Westside is only know to the locals in Bern, and even those might not know it well.

I hate shopping and I am not fond of shopping malls. Westside is the newest shopping mall in Bern and I have so far been there a total of four times. I was there once with a friend in their water park, a second time was for the end of the year dinner with the whole Stadtrat, then on the first of this year at the invitation of a friend for a movie and a smoke, and last time, yesterday. I headed to the Westside mall because I wanted to go into their wellness area. I arrived without a reservation and got a disappointment since one needs to make reservations, and for the weekend these must be well in advance, or so I was informed. I felt like a total country bumpkin. When in London I have the same wishes for a few hours of wellness and a massage, all I have to do is show up at the door of my favourite spa.

At the desk the receptionist was not even friendly which makes me suspect that this is one business that is running well. Since all I had at my disposal on the matter of wellness was to breathe deeply and be zen about it, I walked around the mall and checked out the shops. All a bit disappointing as these are for the most part the same shops that one finds downtown or anywhere else in Switzerland to say nothing of around the globe. But then, I might be poorly informed, I hate shopping, but I love trying on shoes. Some, that is, most of the shops were pretty empty. So, at one of the shops I decided to try on shoes. The last thing that I need is another pair of shoes. What came as a surprise to me was how very persistent the sales person was in trying to persuade me to buy the shoes which were indeed too tight for my foot. It so happened that my choice were the last pair that they had on stock. Not only do I not need a new pair of shoes, I also only buy shoes when they fit from the first instant on my feet regardless of what the official size says on the package. The result is that I have shoes in a range of sizes from 37 to 40, all of which fit well. I have also learned through a couple of mistakes that if the shoes do not fit well from the start, there is no spray or stretching that is going to correct that regardless of what the sales people claim. I have tried. Really. I am anal about the comfort of my feet, they are my thinking organ!

Walking around the Westside mall did bring back memories of being in California and walking around in an airconditioned mall with friends just to escape the heat or to take a break from the trials and tribulations of either being a student or a beach bum. Somehow it felt good yesterday to have this carefree feeling. Alarmingly enough, the carefree feeling did not last long. I started to look around me and I discovered another similarity with California, the waist line of the Swiss is increasing at an alarming rate. It was not common to see overweight or obese people in this country, now they seem to hang out in the malls… I think this is a thought that I do not want to develop, still a few very unflattering expressions did come to mind.