In the post about the snow cops in Boston, I used the term “Blockwart”, which is a German term of insult for someone who takes enjoyment in the enforcement of minor rules and laws. (In WWII Germany, the Blockwart or Blockleiter was the Nazi party member politically responsible for the neighborhood.)
Here’s a prime example of the Blockwart mentality, culled from the German newspapers:
Meet Horst. He went into early retirement five years ago at the age of 50. He has decided to use the time on his hands by enforcing the parking rules in his home town of Osterode in Lower Saxony. He leaves the house every day with a notepad and a camera, and collects license plate numbers of parking violators. When he gets back to his house in the afternoon, he diligently writes up an Anzeige (citizen’s report of an infraction to authorities) for each infraction, and then faxes the stack to the local county office so they can issue traffic tickets.
In the last four years, he has sent in ten to fifteen Anzeigen per day, for a grand total of 15,000. He even wrote up a life flight helicopter that had landed on a public street to pick up a patient.
Naturally, he has achieved a certain notoriety in his town. When people get irate with him or insult him in public, he files Anzeigen for defamation, and collects money for pain and suffering. Apparently, some businesses in his home town will no longer serve him, because his presence keeps other customers away. From everything I can read about Horst, it’s pretty clear that he has a personality disorder. Maybe the relentless riding of minor rules and the writing up of his fellow citizens for small infractions makes him feel powerful or important. It’s definitely not a mentally normal or healthy thing to spend all your time hounding your neighbors and fellow townsfolk for violating traffic laws.
Of course, over here he would probably be in heaven if you gave him a badge, gun, and ticket book, and let him loose on the wintery streets of Boston to hand tickets out directly on the spot. The question remains–do people like Horst feel drawn to positions where you can legally lord it over your fellow citizens? And how many like him have slipped past the psych exams and are working in code enforcement?
On a side note, it’s obvious that Horst doesn’t really care about the laws, just their suitability as a legal way to be an obnoxious asshole. He got a speeding ticket for going 60km/h in a 50 zone, and socked with a ten euros fine. He appealed the ticket instantly, and dragged the county to court over those ten euros, fully aware of all the legal ways to make yourself a nuisance.
After fighting a 10-Euro ticket all the way to trial, his county officials have finally had enough. In the future, they’ll just file his Anzeigen without issuing tickets for infractions based on them. (No word on whether they’ll issue refunds to the 15,000 recipients of traffic tickets based on Horst’s earlier Anzeigen.)
So yeah: Blockwart. There’s your prime, textbook example and definition.