Berlin's luxury car arsonists

Discuss

63 Responses to “Berlin's luxury car arsonists”

  1. Rasselas says:

    This has NOTHING to with “envy”, but all to do with class-injustices and working class-people doin’ the right thing – fightin’ back, by any means necessary.

    There is a difference between “necessary” and “appealing to the sort of dumbass who likes to talk about how tough he is.”

  2. blithering says:

    I have to admit I didn’t get a real understanding of what’s going on from the article. People don’t usually adopt vandalism (particularly well organized vandalism) as a political tactic simply out of “envy” as some of the commentators above have suggested. Sure, the occasional brick through the window happens, but this seems very organized for something people are writing off as a backlash to their neighbor’s success.

    As to tactics: It clearly get’s news coverage and if we really are looking at the work of Anarchist groups then they’re not going to mind if the left ends up with egg on it’s face.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Er use whois to find out who registered the domain?

  4. Moriarty says:

    It helps to think of “gentrification” on the city scale. Yes, it’s annoying when your prosperity doesn’t increase as quickly as your neighbors and the resultant rising rents become unaffordable and force you to move, but really what we’re talking about is the improvement of a neighborhood. It’s not as if it’s a zero-sum situation – the improvement of one neighborhood doesn’t necessitate decay in another. Obviously, else we’d all still be living in medieval-quality slums and dodging upper-story chamberpot contents.

  5. RedShirt77 says:

    As a liberal I hate the word gentrification and all its implications. Its a conservative term in the classic sense. Based on a fear of change and progress.

    In America, the term is pointed at white people although usually urban renewal brings mixed neighborhoods and not ethnic enclaves.

    Some affordable housing requirements should help renters from getting ousted and some home owners stay in their homes, but people investing in housing stock, paying more taxes, and working to improve city govt and schools should be a blessing for many cities. Instead it is treated like a surge by folks that I have to guess, want to live in dilapidated old wrecks.

  6. toxonix says:

    Build a wall. Put the Ticks on the one side, Yuppies on the other.

    oh wait…

  7. Anonymous says:

    @#24: “Certainly none of them would burn a poor person’s car to get ‘em out of the neighborhood.”

    While I agree with your overall point, I feel I must point out a slight inconsistency in your comparison. The rich, quite simply, have more options than the poor. The rich have the ability to get the poor around them removed “legally.” And, unlike the poor stuck in less affluent neighborhoods, the rich have the resources to move to any neighborhood they want to, assuming the less affluent neighbors don’t start burning their property.

    Doesn’t exactly justify it, I know; I’m just sayin…

    Overall I’m not really in favor of this whole thing (not sure I’m really against it, either).

  8. RedShirt77 says:

    Not to mention that having a economic mix that includes more higher income households means on average a lower tax burden for the individual and not a higher.

  9. Hans Brasil says:

    What about garage? Do rich people dont own a garage?

  10. Anonymous says:

    #53 posted by failix, August 3, 2009 2:56 PM

    Yeah I happen to know one or two, but if their luxurious car got burned because they displayed and parked it in poor neighborhoods, I wouldn’t want to know them.

    So what you’re saying is that people with money shouldn’t socialize with poor people? That sounds kind of elitist from here.

  11. semiotix says:

    I’d be curious to hear from some of the people defending the arsonists why they’re not engaging in similar behavior themselves. Any takers? (Apologies in advance if some of you are out torching police cars–I didn’t mean to slight anyone!)

  12. Stickarm says:

    @8 peterbruells:

    “I used the German term “Stallgeruch” , which literally translates at “stable smell”. But what it means is “to have the right pedigree” or “belonging to a certain social group”. It also implies that *not* having the same “stable smell” will cause problems, up to total rejection.

    Is there a catchy English term for this? I couldn’t find one.”

    That’s an interesting word. It makes me think of the phrase “from the wrong side of the tracks,” which has similar failings to the other suggestion of “not one of us.” Both phrases seem too limited, though — “wrong side” implies a binary us vs. them situation while “one of us” focuses on the individual group from which the subject is being excluded.

    Stallgeruch seems to imply a sort dislocation within a set of many options. That is, the subject isn’t being excluded from a specific group, instead the observation is being made that something is out of place and that’s going to cause problems.

    The lack of an English word or catchy phrase to describe this exact idea is probably due to cultural differences between places where English and German are spoken. It seems revealing about the way people express views on class structure, although maybe it’s not a very shocking revelation. For instance, I would expect that the Japanese would have at least one word or phrase to describe this exact idea. That the English language lacks this particular turn of phrase isn’t actually all that surprising.

    Thinking about this word also left me considering the difference between how words in German or Japanese are seemingly “constructed” as opposed to the way words are “coined” in English. Right now we’d have to describe this whole idea in order to convey the thought in English. Eventually, though, someone might put a sort of title over the long description and people might start using that title rather than the whole description. The word doesn’t isn’t inherently derived from the meaning, the meaning is assigned to the word.

    @17 benher:

    “The Germans have a word for everything.”

    According to Bablefish, it’s “alles.”

  13. Anonymous says:

    Chicago could use some of this.

  14. peterbruells says:

    Ah, the good German virtue of envy at work.

  15. Moriarty says:

    Cultural differences? Maybe, though I don’t think it’s due to less awareness of social classes, as nice as it would be to think so. Maybe more like a notion that it’s improper to discuss bluntly. English is a great language for insinuation and subtext.

  16. peterbruells says:

    @49 No, they do not necessarily own garages. This whole gentrification thing is a truly urban process and most large European cities got their historic centers and inner city growth long before the automobile arrived.

    Even in middle-class suburbia where I live, many people built their houses with parking space for one care only in mind, yet very often own two.

    As a result, many have to park at the sidewalk. Plus, even if they had garages for their cars, they wouldn’t have garages for visiting friends.

  17. oyvinja says:

    This is strangely reminiscent of the early days of Rote Armee Fraktion. They started off with a bit of light arson too, before escalating.
    Ah, the Germans.
    They are so efficient.
    Though I hope there won’t be bombs next.

  18. failix says:

    “So what you’re saying is that people with money shouldn’t socialize with poor people? That sounds kind of elitist from here.”

    Yeah that kind of sounds elitist and stupid, but it’s not what I said…

    @Peterbruells:

    Ok now I get the streber thing, though I still don’t think it has anything to do with what happens in Berlin right now ;). But seriously, public transport is not an inconvenience!

  19. redconsensus says:

    At #31 – Have you ever actually lived in a neighborhood that was undergoing gentrification? Because let me tell you, you have a very sugarcoated notion of what happens to the people who usually have lived in those neighborhoods for decades before they became ‘hot’ areas for affluent folks who move in and drive rents ups, killing local small businesses and driving out long time residents. I’m all for mixed neighborhoods and that’s certainly one of the possible good outcomes of neighborhood redevelopment but the more common poor outcome is that people who, as you say, ‘want to live in dilapidated old wrecks’ get driven out of their homes because their landlord realizes he can renovate or sell and make a lot more money.

  20. os says:

    @peterbruells:

    this is not envy. the “ticks” or “zecken” as we call those people in german fear to lose their quarters by “gentrification”. i really hate this word. in german you may call it “yuppisierung” which i hate even more. that’s why i call this process “entzeckung” or “de-tickification” in english.

    the problem is that the homeowners invest their money into their own buildings, renovating them to get more rent. but the ticks don’t want that cuz they fear to lose their homes. so they burn big cars of people which moved to already renovated buildings in their quarters. how stupid! a little too late, i’d say. and with no effect at all. cuz the big cars are usually well-insured. instead of using their brains and do protesting at the right time they turn themselves into criminals.

    i really think about buying a “the tick” costume to go on nightly vigilante missions here in berlin catching red-handed arsonists ;)

  21. Anonymous says:

    could be a insurance scam club, i wish my car was torched.

  22. f sharp a sharp infinity says:

    This strikes me as being monumentally stupid. I mean, is the plan to give the media a fresh batch of left-wing sterotypes and public moral outrage?

  23. RedShirt77 says:

    They should just build a fireproof Lexus and solve the problem once and for all.

  24. peterbruells says:

    @OS: I *am* German, you do not need to explain German terminology to me. Though I have never heard of anyone save Nazis call others “Zecken” – okay, probably some lefts, trying to make that term their own.

    You said it though: The method employed doesn’t really work. And better grass-root tactics before would not work, either, because of the envy I mentioned: In that climate, there is a kind of neighborhood spirit, but one that absolutelly requires people of have the right Stallgeruch – god forbid someone betters themselves. Envy kicks in, new cars get scratched. That’s why the home-grown upstarts go away, leaving the underachievers (and not necessarily all underachievers by choice, I’ll give you that) *both* at home and open to gentrification. Because they won’t gentrificate themselves.

    And yes, they turn themselves into criminals, but as long as they burn Mercedes and Porsche, they get positive feedback from the lower middle class people, who are live comfortable with their income, but have a both a bad conscience and a feeling that they should earn more.

  25. peterbruells says:

    @55 Public transport and bike *are* quite an inconvenience.

    However, I reply mostly because of the Streber. You mixed up the causality: People get termed “Streber” because they are diligent and get good grades. The kind who calls other “Streber” are usually those who’d like the good grades, but not the work associated with it. Interestingly, the kind who doesn’t have to work a lot to get a good grade, who get by by their intelligence, are usually not called Streber, and very seldom need to put down those who work for their grades, either.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Cars are people too!

  27. peterbruells says:

    @5 You have to understand Berlin’s unique position. Not only is it a city-state and as such prone to financial problems (Especially because of tax reforms in 1969 (1) ) it was dependent on federal subsidiaries ever since it became a Western Germany exclave, cut off from the mainland. It got maintained, of course but big business left and hasn’t really returned yet, since Hamburg, Cologne, Frankfurt and Munich established themselves as major commercial gubs with their own specialization. OTOH, they have to pay for welfare for all the people who don’t find jobs, plus, of course, delusions of grandeur when it comes to public projects.

    Anyway, in that milieu some people don’t really give a rat’s a* about the public image. They are either in denial, thinking that the average German will actually rise (which he won’t, he’ll just be slightly sympathetic as long as only really expensive cars get hit) or think that they actually have a functional society of their own, forgetting that a necessary MRI scan or liver transplant – which they will get, if they need it – can only be paid because the seemingly dull majority pays their taxes and public health insurance on time.

    1) Before the reform, income tax would go to the state in which the income was earned. Afterwards it went to the state the person lived in. Nowadays that’s for many high-income employees what’s roughly equal to “suburbia”, which in the case of the city-state, lies usually in other states.

  28. peterbruells says:

    @all I used the German term “Stallgeruch” , which literally translates at “stable smell”. But what it means is “to have the right pedigree” or “belonging to a certain social group”. It also implies that *not* having the same “stable smell” will cause problems, up to total rejection.

    Is there a catchy English term for this? I couldn’t find one.

  29. semiotix says:

    @43: I believe you. :)

  30. Swedish Tommy says:

    @38: “I’d be curious to hear from some of the people defending the arsonists why they’re not engaging in similar behavior themselves”

    I have been engaging in similar (but not identical) activities.

  31. Anonymous says:

    @ PETERBRUELLS
    “Is there a catchy English term for this? I couldn’t find one.”

    I grew up in a very poor part of the U.S., appalachia. The phrase used to describe outsiders with more education or money was also used to denigrate those who wanted to better themselves through either work or education. Often it was hurled by parents at their own children.

    The phrase in one of its forms is: “Thinks they’re too good for us”

  32. os says:

    @8:

    what about intolerance?

  33. Takuan says:

    “not one of us”

  34. failix says:

    Weiter so! ;)

  35. peterbruells says:

    @9 Nah, that doesn’t cut it. Intolerance can get as far as denying others’ rights to act like they want. Stallgeruch is limited to the affected milieu. Kind of like the English class system, where people were supposed to stay where they are.

  36. SwedishCanuck says:

    In comaprison to the rest of the discussion here, this seems rather petty and insignificant… I was going to take issue with the article’s definition of the targets, but I think the article has it right. It’s the Boingboing headline that’s off target. If you actually look at the map and list of cars destroyed, it’s hard to say that they are all “luxury” when we’re talking VW Golfs and Opel Corsas.

  37. os says:

    @peterbruells:

    sure, you’re right. intolerance doesn’t fit. but in my oppinion it’s the essence of “stallgeruch”.

    but returning to my prior usage of the word “zecken” i fear you’re right, too. it’s most probably used by right wing people. but back in my old school days where we used this word, we were neither right-wing nor left-wing, perhaps left-wing sympathizers. but this gentrification stuff is a very emotional thing for me cuz i’m directly affected.

    most people in my “kiez” tolerate or even respect me, but some see me as a yuppie. i don’t see me as one but that’s not the point. what i really don’t like is me or my belongings being burnt by people cuz i’m different. and at this point the difference between left or right wing is zero. perhaps this quote fits best here:

    fear is the path to the dark side. fear leads to anger. anger leads to hate. hate leads to suffering.
    ~ yoda

  38. os says:

    @12:

    it often happens that the cars standing next to a burning car catch fire, too. there’s not much space for parking here in berlin and cars stand very close to each other.

  39. sf says:

    Insurance fraud, you can hire local scumbag to torch the car you can no longer afford due to the credit crunch. Was popular in the UK during the last recession at a time when joy riding was at its height so was easily hidden within real car crime.

  40. Anonymous says:

    @9 PeterBruells

    Try ‘stagnation’ or ‘stagnant’, you could affix ‘social’ to it but it wouldn’t be necessary.

    ‘Stratification’ would also do but ‘stagnant’ sounds closer in traditional meaning to your word of choice.

  41. Anonymous says:

    So would it be ok to torch a big-ass Jeep that is constantly parked in a handicap spot outside my door? It gets a few parking tickets now and again but not enough IMO…

    Please answer both emotionally and responsively, better tactics will be appreciated. Unfortunately there’s no way to call the local parking officers to give them an easy ticket to write out even though they have a quota to fill.

    Sorry for Anonymous comment!

  42. benher says:

    The Germans have a word for everything.

  43. blithering says:

    @REDCONSENSUS – Exactly. Which is what actions like the ones being undertaken by the vandals comes down to. Obviously, I can’t speak for the people currently setting fire to cars. But in general folks who are being pushed out of their neighborhoods tend, rightly or wrongly, to feel they have little recourse against what amounts to forced removal. So they adopt whatever tactics they have available to fight the people who, intentionally or not, are removing them from their neighborhoods.

    @#38: No sir, officer sir. I’d never even consider doing such a horrible thing to an automobile.

  44. Anonymous says:

    I’ve never been to Berlin and don’t know anything about this spicific situation but the rich by their very nature take everything nice for themselves. A building in a nice area, a suburb with a nice park, a nice view, a short commute. Violence and intimidation are the only ways people without large cash assets can compete with the winners in our economic system.
    The only way the rich will ever give the poor a fair shake is if they know fear. Didn’t you know the rich tore up the social contract?

  45. Anonymous says:

    “The Germans have a word for everything.”

    We do too: “everything”

    But the Germans have words for everything, too.

  46. Teapunk says:

    Ah, and usually we have pretty long words for everything.
    I think Peterbruells hit the nerve: mostly it’s social envy, and the ever present fear of “gentrification” (is that even an English word?).
    I really don’t think the burning of cars or damaging other property can do any good or proof any political point – no “weiter so” from me. What do these people want and why do they think they can archieve it this way?
    People in East Germany brought down a whole state with peaceful demonstrations. Not with torching Honeckers car.

  47. failix says:

    I don’t think they do it because of social envy. But actually, I don’t care what their motivation is. Whether it’s a political one, or whether they are just stupid, what counts is the result: A car is off the streets, plus one rich motherfucker is pissed. I like that.

  48. failix says:

    @Moriarty

    “That isn’t the result, though.”

    Well actually it is partly the result, in addition to what you say. But what I stated as a result is worth it.

    @Patrick Austin:

    “Do you know any rich motherfuckers? Because I do, and most of them are pretty OK as humans go.”

    Yeah I happen to know one or two, but if their luxurious car got burned because they displayed and parked it in poor neighborhoods, I wouldn’t want to know them.

    “Certainly none of them would burn a poor person’s car to get ‘em out of the neighborhood.”

    Even if they lived in the same neighborhood as the poor person, I doubt they’d resort to burn down anything. The rich can just move to another place. The poor on the other hand, gets kicked out of the place he used to live in, because some random dude with money thinks he needs to renovate it.

    Maybe I should add that I’m one of those who don’t think that cars deserve this special sacred status we tend to grant them. And I don’t understand people who spend money on expensive cars, whether they are rich or not. So I’m obviously very biased.

  49. sabik says:

    @peterbruells #8, tall poppy syndrome?

  50. gtron says:

    this is called ‘car-bequeing’ where I come from

  51. peterbruells says:

    @53 Some random dude? No, sorry, the owner. Pro-tenant laws in Germany already skewed the market, causing Germans to have the lowest rate of home-owners in Europe.

    And sacred.. well, I don’t get it either when grow men become hysterical because someone bumped their car, but a car is often – remember the lowest home-owner rate – the single most expensive item someone owns. And when it is destroyed and not covered by an insurance, it can seriously endanger your job (because the boss doesn’t really care how you get to work) or at least one will be quite “inconvenienced”.

  52. Anonymous says:

    The DFW could use some of this.

  53. Anonymous says:

    Chicago could use some of this.

  54. criznell says:

    DFW could use some of this.

  55. Moriarty says:

    @Failix#19:
    “I don’t think they do it because of social envy. But actually, I don’t care what their motivation is. Whether it’s a political one, or whether they are just stupid, what counts is the result: A car is off the streets, plus one rich motherfucker is pissed. I like that. “

    That isn’t the result, though. Destroying an insured car has a few different results: the owner is inconvenienced for a few days, but is compensated with a newer car, which a luxury automaker gets to sell and profit from. Everyone else’s insurance rates go up slightly. Social class antagonism deepens another notch.

    Also, I should point out that owning a VW Golf hardly makes one “rich” by conventional standards, let alone a “rich motherfucker,” which you apparently think is redundant?

  56. Patrick Austin says:

    @#19: Do you know any rich motherfuckers? Because I do, and most of them are pretty OK as humans go. Certainly none of them would burn a poor person’s car to get ‘em out of the neighborhood.

    Class warfare = teh suck.

  57. Swedish Tommy says:

    This has NOTHING to with “envy”, but all to do with class-injustices and working class-people doin’ the right thing – fightin’ back, by any means necessary.

  58. failix says:

    @54:

    “Some random dude? No, sorry, the owner.”

    Some random owner if you will.

    “because the boss doesn’t really care how you get to work”

    Come on now, this is Berlin. If you own a bike you should be fine. And if you’re not a sports kind of guy, the Stadtbahn will do the trick.

    By the way, on the envy thing, I really don’t get what Streber has to do with anything of this. Seriously, nobody envies a Streber if that’s your point.

  59. epo says:

    @#8 The somewhat dated English expression “not one of us” has this connotation. Ostensibly a genteel excuse for rejection it was actually a put-down of people who didn’t fit in. The Peter Gabriel song with that title expresses it well.

  60. RedShirt77 says:

    @REDCONSENSUS I think you were responding to me.

    I have lived in several neighborhoods that would count or at least on the edges of such neighborhoods, and have known people displaced and people that moved in.

    I think it is terrible that the poor get pushed around, but that is caused by capitalism and the animosity America in these cases is directed at “white people”. The least desirable housing will always be the cheapest and low income people will always end up migrating to the cheapest housing. The poor get moved by construction projects of all kinds and find their communities encroached on by immigrant communities looking for the same cheap housing.

    If anything, having higher home values or having landlords willing to invest in their properties is not a bad thing, even if it means eventually they will need to move to cash in.

    Admittedly real success would come if the same people were able to all raise their incomes and fix up and continue to live in the same homes. That sort of change is very rare.

    If you study the history of cities in America you see that in a single neighborhood Irish would move in, then polish, then Italians, then Jews, then blacks, and then Hispanics sometimes those people had money and built nice houses, sometimes they were poor and the houses decayed. Urban renewal means that mixed community of higher income individuals move in.

    I think these changes are largely inevitable as changing populations change cities to suit their needs. The resistance to the change is driven in part for every communities desire for continuity and certainty, but usually devolves into racism and class warfare.

    I don’t see any legal recourse to stop the change, however, I do see how strong local leadership could reduced the racially charged hatred and violence.

  61. Anonymous says:

    Paola Totaro (the author of the linked article) is gaining a reputation in Melbourne (Au) amongst some for being a pretty lazy journalist. She(?) tends to pick leftist/radical events in Europe and then proceeds to make shit up that sounds-about-right.
    See: http://slackbastard.anarchobase.com/?p=1817

  62. peterbruells says:

    @sabik Thanks for “tall poppy syndrome”. Didn’t know that one, but the related concept of janteloven. Anyway, it doesn’t seem to fit, because it – as far as I could gather – relates to society as a whole while Stallgeruch to many discrete groups – it can be applied to people born into money and people born into a Kiez – a certain neighborhood with defining characteristics.

    About the “no envy problem, it’s just fighting back”: Of course, envy isn’t the only reason. There are real grievances, of course, but envy is an underlying problem of the German mindset. Ah, there’s a nice German word which demonstrates this: “Streber”. Often translated as “nerd” or “geek”, it’s more like “teacher’s pet” – someone whose good if not excellent grades are dependent on him actually learning and being polite, to, if not brown-nosing the teacher.

    Yes, I know that that concept is also known in English cultures. But it’s not just a case of “Germans have words for everything”.

Leave a Reply