Wednesday, March 28, 2007

St Tutilo of Gall, the NYPD, and the Stasi

Sacramentary, possibly from the monastery of St Gall, ninth century.

First things first: today is the feast day of the ninth-century monk St Tutilo of Gall. Here's what the Catholic Forum has to say about him:
Large, powerfully built man. Educated at Saint Gall's monastery in Switzerland where he stayed to become a Benedictine monk. Friend of Blessed Notkar Balbulus. A renaissance man before the term was coined. Excellent student, he became a sought-after teacher at the abbey school. Noted speaker. Poet and hymnist, though nearly all of his work has been lost. Architect, painter, sculptor, metal worker, and mechanic; some of his art work continues to grace galleries and monasteries around Europe. Composer and musician, playing several instruments including the harp. No matter his talents or works, he preferred the solitude and prayers of his beloved monastery.
Well, any friend of Notkar the Stammerer is a friend of mine. Besides (can't you tell seeing how talented he was?) he was Irish.

Also, imperatrix pulcherrima Africae occidentalis and I saw a film this past weekend that made quite an impression on us, The Lives of Others, which won the Oscar for best foreign film this year. Crystal has already posted on it (cave spoilers). The story, sent in East Germany in the 1980's, could easily have been sentimental or contrived, but a great screenplay, excellent directing, and exquisitely subtle acting made it very powerful.

The movie centered on the omnipresent spying on East Germans by the Stasi, the state police. Everyone was watched, there were hundreds of thousands of informers, and the slightest expression of dissent was enough to make one a target of suspicion. After watching the film I went home and read the Times, learning that the NYPD had infiltrated and spied on activist groups inside and outside the country before the 2004 GOP convention in New York. We're not talking about bomb-throwing anarchists or Al-Queda:
These included members of street theater companies, church groups and antiwar organizations, as well as environmentalists and people opposed to the death penalty, globalization and other government policies. Three New York City elected officials were cited in the reports.
I was upset about Bloomberg bringing the convention here in 2004 so that Bush could use New York's suffering as a background for his war-mongering, I was upset that New Yorkers were not allowed to protest during the convention or in Central Park, and I was upset about the arbitrary arrests during that week. But this takes the cake.

I'm not saying the NYPD is like the Stasi. I'm just reporting the news. I report, you decide. And also, near the end of the film, you see how East Germans now can request and examine the Stasi reports on them. New Yorkers don't have that privilege. Ain't that grand?

St. Tutilo, pray for us.


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Jeff said...

I report, you decide


Thank you, Shep... er, I mean Liam...

Great post. I'd venture to guess that most of the correspondents here have landed themselves on one list or another for what we've said about Iraq alone. I'm quite sure that your membership in the The Alliance for Moderate, Liberal and Progressive Blogs was sufficient in and of itself.

You know, I was watching Judgement at Nurremburg on PBS over the weekend, and I was struck at how many parallels there are between the Homeland Security "necessities" we hear about, and the measures taken in Germany during the 1930s which the prosecutors and defense attornies in Nuremburg were wrangling about. Quite sobering.

Sandalstraps said...

The two articles you linked concernin NYPD spying provoked two thoughts:

1. The NYPD's work reminded me of Javert's infiltration of the student revolutionaries in Les Miserables. And, in my book, any time you can be credbily compared to Javert, you're on the wrong track.

2. The city's argument for why police files should remain sealed seems flimsy at best. "Media fixation" hardly seems like legal grounds to keep law-abiding citizens from seeing what information you've been (illegally?) gathering on them.

If I were a judge (and many, many parties should be glad I'm not, and never will be) I'd tell the city that if they were so worried about defending themselves in lawsuits they shouldn't have mounted a domestic spying campaign.

Daylight prevents corruption.

crystal said...

I saw similarities between the situation in the movie and our political situation too - it's both creepy and infuriating.

I remember a philosophy teacher in college talking about regimes ... he said that the weaker and more frightened a ruler was, the more rigid and intrusive the laws of his administration would be. Can't wait for the election.