Opinion: Two kinds of citizens

POSTED: 06/27/12 12:28 PM

Every society is divided in two kinds of citizens: the law-abiding ones and the rest. There are criminals everywhere and if things work the way they’re supposed to law enforcement takes care of the bad guys. They end up in jail, and sometimes they end up at a cemetery. No big deal.
But there is also another category that does not belong to the law-abiding citizenry. These are the people who harass, the people who irritate others with their egocentric behavior and the ones who pester people whose only desire is to mind their own business.
Think about a guy who opens up a roadside barbecue place fifty meters from somebody’s house. Soon enough, he’s got some music going and as we all know, music gets loud, quite often extremely loud and it always seems to continue until the wee hours.
Then there are those who live on the fringes of society. In the Netherlands there are so-called trailer park residents – a cool expression for people with a lifestyle most people strongly dislike. They surround themselves with car wrecks, their sources of income are fuzzy, to say the least and they don’t take kindly to strangers. They live by their own laws and because they stick together as a group, neighborhood cops think twice before they ride into the camp to address unruly behavior. More often than not, complaints against what Americans aptly call trailer trash. Just ask Gijsbert Ruiter, one of those law-abiding citizens who lived a quiet life in Leudal, a municipality in south-Limburg that consists of no less than sixteen villages; it has just 37,000 inhabitants.
Ruiter, a man in his fifties, has the misfortune to live in the vicinity of a trailer park. Somehow the trailer park residents decided to make him a target. They beheaded his chickens and threw stones through his windows. Ruiter put bars in front of his windows to protect himself and his property. He called the police. He appealed to the municipality. Nobody did anything. This went on for years, according to a report in the Volkskrant.
Then Ruiter decided to take some action himself. He did not charge the trailer park with Molotov cocktails or drive a truck through the property. Instead, he put a fence around his property.
That is when the municipality took action. It told Ruiter that his fence was too high and that he had to take it down. Ruiter refused.
Then the municipality took some more action: it sent the police to Ruiter’s home to force him to take down his fence. The police had no trouble showing up, because there was no trailer trash around to be afraid off. They came armed and ready to take down the fence Ruiter had built to protect himself against the trailer trash.
What happened next has been portrayed as the act of a madman: Ruiter threw a Molotov cocktail against the wall of his own house. The iconic picture of that event established his reputation – if only for a few days – as a madman who rebelled against the authorities.
That’s what happens when the authorities law abiding citizens ought to be able to rely on, turn the other way; when those authorities don’t move their butts from their comfortable offices where they have well-paid jobs with a good pension and prime health insurance; and when those authorities are not doing what people like Gijsbert Ruiter are paying their taxes for.
The Volkskrant summed it up nicely: Gijsbert Ruiter is not mad. He is an ordinary man in a country where scum is as free as a bird, and where citizens are increasingly outlawed.
Recognize something?

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