The Schildburger government of WA
Ancient monument destroyed in May 2006
The Schildburgers are the citizens of the fictitious German city Schilda, and the accounts of their exploits and deeds were first published in 1598, under the title Die Schiltbürger. Essentially, they are a reflection of the folly of bureaucracy and of incompetent leaders, showing that these are a timeless feature that endures through the centuries. The Schildburgers’ foolish town council features prominently in the numerous stories about them, which include the following gems:
The new city hall: The Schildburgers decided to build a new city hall, but in their desire to make it particularly impressive they completely forgot to equip it with windows. When it was complete, they discovered that it was pitch-dark inside, so the council called all burgers to meet at the new building, bringing buckets with them to collect the sunlight outside and pour it into the dark hall.
The bell in the lake: With an approaching hostile army, the Schildburgers’ council decided to prevent the valuable church bell from falling into the hands of the enemy. So they took it down from the belfry, put it on a boat and rowed it out on a nearby lake, where they lowered it into the deep water. To ensure that they would find it again after the enemy had left, they cut a notch into the side of the boat. They never understood why they couldn’t find the bell again.
Protecting the seed. When the mayor of the town noticed that the crows were eating the seedlings in a field he decided to investigate the problem. However, not wanting to step on the field and thereby destroying seedlings, he stepped on a wooden platform and instructed four strong men to carry him across the field.
The cow on the wall: The Schildburgers noticed that there was a rich growth of grass on top of an old stone wall. To ensure that it would not go to waste, they led a cow to the wall, a rope tied around her neck, threw the rope over the wall, and began to heave. As the cow was being strangled, its tongue came out, and the burgers delighted: ‘See how it yearns for the grass!’ By the time they had hauled the cow to the top of the wall it was dead.
The salt field: The council of the Schildburgers was fed up with the high price of salt, so they decided to grow their own. They proceeded to seed a community-owned field with salt and waited. Only stinging nettles grew and the burgers were not very happy, as they found that no salt grew on these plants.
Australia, too, has Schildburgers. They are called the State Government of Western Australia. Here are some of their deeds:
The tourist road: In 2002, the Schildburgers of Perth discovered that there is a cultural monument at far-away Dampier. For Schildburgers, a monument means only one thing: money to be made from tourism. So they decided in 2006 to build a road for tourists, with a platform from which to view the monument. But the monument was in the way of this development, so it was bulldozed. (This is not fiction, this is fact: part of the monument bulldozed in May 2006 is shown in the image above!)
The powder keg: When the Schildburgers of Perth learnt that the company Woodside is the greatest emitter of greenhouse gases in Australia (12 million tonnes per year), and that it stores the equivalent of 97.2 Hiroshima atomic bombs in explosive energy at Dampier, they decided this would not do. So in 2007 they approved the construction, on an adjacent site, of the Pluto plant, which will add another 119.6 Hiroshima bombs equivalent and will double the greenhouse gases and the benzene emissions. This is at the time the rest of the world is trying to reduce such emissions.
Who’s the greatest vandal? In March 2001, the Taliban of Afghanistan destroyed two giant Buddha statues in the Bamiyan region, using explosives. This act of cultural vandalism earned them great international attention. Not to be outdone, the Schildburgers of Perth, the arch-hillbillies of Australia, decided at the end of that year to go one better, and to replace the largest cultural monument in the world, the Dampier Rock Art Precinct, with an acid-gas belching petrochemical industrial precinct. In the course of its construction, they have so far destroyed 95,000 ancient petroglyphs and at least 2000 stone arrangements.
The endemic corruption: The Schildburgers of Perth have been at the economic mercy of powerful companies for much of the 20th century, who have long pillaged the riches of Western Australia. Instead of reining in these corporate raiders, the Schildburger government of Western Australia bends over backwards to accommodate their every whim, without compensation to the people of Western Australia (no royalties). In 2006/7, the investigations of the Crime and Corruption Commission claimed the scalps of five government ministers, one third of the cabinet of Schildburgers, as well as those of many other people in power. There were Schildburger tears shed in parliament.