“Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.” — Schiller, Die Jungfrau von Orleans
That’s probably the most mis-translated quotation in the English language; we usually see it as “Against stupidity, even the Gods struggle in vain.” There’s a lot of discussion about how exactly it should be translated (don’t worry, I’ll spare you) but I think, especially in context in the play, that the more direct translation is preferable: “with obtuseness, the Gods themselves struggle in vain.” Or even “with cluelessness, …”. Dummheit is a wonderful word for the exact kind of stupidity that can only be achieved by bureaucrats and functionaries with expansive rule books.
Which, God knows, the German language needs a word for.
Anyway, today’s news has a lot of examples. Here’s one from the Denver Post: “City officials have identified one out of every 17 Denver police officers as having discipline issues serious enough that their courtroom testimony may be suspect.”
Denver’s Police Department has been stupidly run and marginally corrupt — not as bad as Chicago perhaps — as long as I can remember, so much so that the city more or less has a budget item in the millions of dollars every year for settlements with people unjustifiably killed or wounded by police. (After a real surge in those cases, the City of Denver hired a new Director of Public Safety who has been firing some bad eggs … so of course now the police union is lobbying to fire him.) In this case, the Denver PD is required to notify defense attorneys of any possibly important facts; when they have a cop who is one of these, the Denver PD sends a notice, quote:
“The District Attorney has received notice that this officer has been subject to an administrative finding that may or may not prove relevant if he or she testifies in a criminal matter. Information regarding this administrative proceeding should be obtained through the Denver Police Department’s Civil Liabilities Bureau.”
When the defense attorneys try to find out what the issue is, they’re often told those are personnel records, and thus cannot be released.