November 3, 2002

Sato Roams

Category: Personal — Biella @ 3:13 pm

Sato roams is a redundant statement but since most don

November 2, 2002

More on legal praxis

Category: Other — Biella @ 7:33 am

This is from Niels, giving some nice background on Dutch legal life:

“Our legal praxis cultivates an orientation towards the letter of the law in which everything is micro-managed (and expensively so)..”

One of the main reasons why the Netherlands have developed a time/space based differentiation of dealing with the law is that if we didn’t, the whole country would come to a grinding halt. We do have our microlaws – try building a house in the Netherlands. The legal system here is a classical one, implemented by Napoleon when he conquered europe. The general idea behind it is that the law provides a more or less durable set of norms, thus compensating for the volatility of everyday politics, and that the government has to offer ‘legal certainty’ when interfering in society. This means the law is usually a hindrance – it stops people from realizing their ‘grand idea of the week’. This differs greatly from the northern american idea of legal engineering, eg *using* the law to get your grand idea of the week into realization, instead of working around it. In the end, there is hardly such a thing as legal certainty in dutch daily life – it only exists among lawyers and in some courtrooms. Also, the last 5 years several laws have become much broader, allowing for specific implementation – but this depends on the people who influence it. The law on universities(1997) allows them much more organizational freedom, yet the proposed planning laws take a very centralistic stance, and deny the ‘praxis’ -the way spatial development takes place. This creates a very confusing situation, in which people do not understand the laws, and have rely on ‘experts’ to do the finetuning. You will understand that such a separation between the group who *are the experts* and the people who actually have to deal with the consequences does not create a large basis for legitimacy. “Gedogen”, as described in the very nice article you linked to is an “official” practise in only a few situations. Much more common is a very pragmatic way of dealing with situations, in which people try to reason with each other to get things done.

(/some background ;)
Posted by Niels

November 1, 2002


Category: Anthropology — Biella @ 7:20 pm

As I was packing for Chicago today, I looked out my window and decided, it was way, I mean WAY too nice of a day to stay home all day so I got on my bike and headed to the Golden Gate Bridge where I was stunned, as usual, by this view. How nice it is to bike here in and I like biking, as odd as it may sound, as a means of “virtual writing.” I wish someone would invent this little gadget that would allow one to telepathically “type” one’s thoughts straight from the brain to one’s computer. When I bike I have all these really clear ideas and it is as if I start to mentally write as I pedal away. And today, I was pedaling to some last thoughts about the Netherlands that I wanted to write before they evaporate forever from my mind, which tends to happen with me (and hence the need for the gadget)… There are three things that I was thinking about: bikes, the law, and hackers all withing the context of praxis (a fancy word for practice or activity). I can write an endless amount on each of them but for the sake of my own time sanity, I am going to try to keep it ahem, less verbose that usual. Let’s see if I succeed

So, if there is one thing that I would have LOVED to take a picture of (as it really struck me as amusing, cute, and odd),was that of the “Dutch pre-teen couple” holding hands while riding their bikes. I mean, my first reaction was like “that is cute but so ridiculous… They are riding bikes yet holding hands!” And then I moved on to “damn, that is cool. I wish I could do that.. and how the hell do they do that?.” To deciding that the very fact of a young couple in love, or at least in lust, holding hands while biking, succinctly but powerfully sums up what makes riding a bike in the Netherlands, so very different of an act from riding a bike here in the US. In short, it is a way of life for many folks there as it is how people get around, permeating not just the national psyche but the very way that people use their bodies. People can thus thoughtlessly hold hands as if it were a leisurely stroll down the street. There is an intimacy with this wonderful piece of technology that here in the US is an intimacy that gets formed instead with cars and increasingly with the SUV. Unfortunately. Not only are they a wee-bit more expensive but they are a wee-lot more worse for the environment and well, it seems like holding hands on bikes is way more fun that holding hands in a car (yes, yes, I know you can do more in a car but stop thinking dirty like that)…

So, aside from the bodily praxis around bikes, I was fascinated at how the law works in the Netherlands. The short of it, is that it doesn’t work, like it does in the US, and hallelujah for that. I mean, it does work but the letter of the law often gets ignored in place of other norms and practices that are built from the ground up instead of the top down. I believe the official name for this practice is gedogen which means something like “official blind eye” and it allows for, well a pretty free and at least fluid society. I think in so many ways, this legal practice is about the total opposite from American legal culture, which can be summed up nicely in the following New Yorker cartoon . Our legal praxis cultivates an orientation towards the letter of the law in which everything is micro-managed (and expensively so), in which the underlying assumption is to screw your fellow person over, goddammitttttttttttttttt, if you can. What I think is so ironic is that here in America, one of the most common subjects is that of FREEDOM of this or that, blah, blah, and while on the one hand, I do think it is a relatively free society, there are so many countless ways where we Americans are prisoners, prisoners, especially to our legal minutia and RULES. No drinking beer at the beach, no swimming, no talking loudly, no skateboarding, NO. NO NO. If you did not hear me: “NO!”