Saturday, October 17, 2009

Not laughing matters

Found a fun link on Nanopolitan. About West German spies collecting East German jokes. The jokes are funny, of course, though the whole business is awfully sad at one level. Sample this bit from the article:

"Telling jokes was playing with fire," says Kleemann. The Stasi had 91,000 employees and a network of around 189,000 civilian informants to spy on the East German population of 17 million. It regarded every political joke as a potential threat. Anyone who poked fun at the representatives of the organs of state and society was subject to prosecution.
"There were cases of people who were jailed, it was particularly bad in the 1950s and 1960s," says Kleemann.
Here's one example about how that risk was lampooned: "There are people who tell jokes. There are people who collect jokes and tell jokes. And there are people who collect people who tell jokes."

I also found another awful thing while going over my long-neglected blogroll.

A report about a foreign journalist who was brutally beaten up by the Delhi police. What makes it particularly scary and sad is that it could so easily have been me. I worked in that particular magazine, albeit very briefly. I lived in that particular colony. Hell, I even lived in that particular block.

There were times I returned very late from work, often 2 am or 3 am, and I'd see cops in the neighbourhood all the time. When I moved houses, just a few streets away in a neighbouring colony, I was often stopped by cops who set up barriers and check-points at night. I was never sure whether I ought to feel reassured or worried at the sight of a police checkpoint near my home. In the bazaar nearby, over and over, they would make warning annoucements about theft and unidentified, unclaimed objects; and the message would end with: 'Delhi Police - with you, for you, always'.

It used to be one of our in-jokes amongst the journo fraternity in Delhi: that that is part of the problem -- Delhi police, with you, always.

Jokes aside, I'd thought there had been some improvement. After all those crash courses in how to deal with the public, and the importance of cops having a good public image. After all that, this!

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