Bella Wallersteiner

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A Hard Rain is Going to Fall

by Bella Wallersteiner Ulrich Muhe as as Gerd Wiesler in The Lives of Others It has been nearly 31 years since the Berlin Wall came down to reveal 69 miles of files amassed by the Ministry of State Security (Stasi) as it spied on more than 5.6 million citizens of the former German Democratic Republic. The archive holds films, photographs, recordings of phone conversations, mind-blowingly tedious reports of mundane conversations and interactions between neighbours and even samples of sweat collected by punctilious officers hoping to win a medal or promotion. We have a supercilious and unfounded belief that British citizens would act differently and rise above compliance with an authoritarian state. Do we not cherish individualism, freedom of speech and make fun of our politicians? Evidence from the first month of lockdown suggests that many of us harbour an inner Stasi: in April the UK Police received 194,000 calls from members of the public snitching on neighbours alleged to have broken lockdown rules by making an unnecessary journey, going for more than one walk a day or checking on a second home. So much for the doughty spirit of British non-conformity and defiant anti-authoritarianism. More recently, the police arrested 32 protesters at the Resist and Act for Freedom Rally in Trafalgar Square on September 19th. The media focused almost entirely...

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February 2024
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