Attacks on German train personnel (g) have risen 28% over last year, with 1100 such incidents reported in the first six months of 2016. Both Deutsche Bahn and the train conductors' union are now reviewing plans to equip conductors with pepper spray and give them self-defense training. Security personnel will be provided with police dogs.
Does this mean that German pensioners are turning violent in their old age? Or that middle-class commuters have decided to save their Excel spreadsheets, close their laptops, and go in for a spot of ultra-violence?
If you're one of the dwindling band of belligerently naive Germans, you will insist this must somehow be the case. If, on the other hand, you're a sentient homo sapiens capable of Noticing Things, you will understand that this increase in violence against authority figures may have something to do with the influx of over 700,000 uneducated foreign males from the most chaotic countries on earth. A lot of them fit into most of the categories below:
- speak neither English nor German
- have mental problems
- have no means of private transportation
- no money to buy train tickets
- no understanding of how to buy train tickets
- no understanding of train etiquette in a modern society
- no respect for authority figures
In fact, a lot of them fit into all of the above categories. I personally have witnessed more detentions and shouting matches on German trains (4) in the past year or so than I had in the previous decade. And yes, with heavy heart and bowed head, I am constrained to report that every one featured a young male migrant.
So now there will be pepper spray and police attack dogs on German trains. I can't wait to see the fun that ensues the first time a conductor uses pepper spray in a sealed train compartment traveling 300 km/hr.
This is why we can't have nice things.
To be more precise, one of the Nice Things we are losing in Northwestern Europe is the existence of very safe and orderly public spaces in which members of all social classes can mingle freely with minimal risk of a threat, disagreeable spectacle, or bodily injury. Parks, public swimming pools, trains, plazas, outdoor festivals, sidewalks, etc.
They're still safe, of course -- stories about Germany descending into general chaos are silly hyperbole. However, the probability of encountering a weird, disagreeable, or dangerous situation on any random long train ride or long walk in the park has increased. Everyone senses this, and lots of people are talking about it. Lots of people. And definitely not just ethnic Germans. Experience and studies show that it takes only a small increase in perceived danger and lawlessness to drive large changes in individuals' risk-perception and behavior.
If nothing's done to intervene, what will happen is the creeping privatization of German life. Your neighborhood park will become too nasty, so you'll chip in with your middle-class neighbors to create a private one, or just get a Schrebergarten. After seeing your Xth unsettling confrontation in a German train, you'll finally say "screw this" and get a car. Certain neighborhoods will go from being the kind of place where you might not want to live to the kind of place you definitely would never want to live, increasing residential segregation to Parisian or Chicagoan levels.
It'll all happen gradually to us frogs in the warming water. But before long, Germans will start prizing (and paying for) insulation from the lower orders just as much as Americans do. An they'll know whom to thank.