I really wanted to be a police officer. The dream was dashed when I realised that I couldn’t produce passing transcripts during the Police Entrance Exams. I didn’t have it in me to suspend critical thought in a way that would allow me to go through with it: everything about the exams –from the kind of preparation required, the costs of buying past papers and their solutions from a private organisation, the handling of the examinees on the day, to the exam questions themselves– made it clear that suspension of (free) thought was an underlying requirement. What was left was to undergo the exercise as a kind of performance.
I found myself sitting through the exams* and taking in the vibe: What kind of demographic takes these exams? For what kinds of reasons are these people here? How seriously do they take them? What kind of police force are they going to form? What kind of compromise – sacrifice are they already performing by being here? Will they smile back?
I used the 6+ hours I was there to take down my thoughts about complicity (the commitment to the conservation of the status quo vs. the careful protection of necessary change), about the educational politics of policing, about the formal assessment of governmentality at the cross-point of education and enforcement, possibly towards an article on “Κυβερνητικές εξετάσεις και κυβερνητικότητα” [insert link to notes from the day, insert nod to Zelia Gregoriou]. Sitting all the way through the exams was my way of letting the dream go: I failed to summon the complicity, or the pretense of non-criticality required to give serious answers to the exam questions. And I also failed [this is a.. joke, I hope, or not:] to summon the reportedly required μέσο / nepotism / take part in an exchange of political favours that is presumed necessary. Figuring this out seemed part of the exam preparation: not just the candidate’s investigation of who and from what position may have the power to influence the police recruitment process, but also the memorisation of names in key positions: the acknowledgement that understanding the etiquette and hierarchy around such things is part of the job. (Along with basic literacy, evidence of familiarity with names and positions of people in power is formally part of the General Knowledge exam.)
Advise to secure μέσο came from various quarters, but was most convincingly imparted by a kindly officer at a police station along with advice on how to get my lost ID card reissued. His primary piece of advice about becoming police was not to do it. Not to take on this extremely difficult thing, this kind of damage to my person. His second piece of advice was that in order to secure a post, I would have to appeal σε υπουργόν & πάνω [minister and above]. I was surprised of this coming from someone in uniform, but then realised that this earnestness may even have made him one of the good ones. I resolved to follow his advice at which I also failed.
My interest in the police isn’t new [Evi connects it to my interest in policy]. For a while I’ve been collecting questions towards what I dream of as a massively internationally-funded research project on ‘Cultures of Civil Service’++. I’ve also been holding back a compulsion to process the Police Academy curriculum (with a nod to Constantina Zanou and Antonis Hadjikyriakou), and I’ve also had a conflicted love affair with Civil Defense, where I insisted on serving despite, or perhaps because of their readiness to write me off for showing up too old and too opinionated after my studies.
I think the police is very important. Organisms/groups invariably rely on self-regulation systems (see white blood cells paradigm), and the Cypriot police has a tremendously loaded history (see colonial and bi-communal peculiarities discussed for e.g. in Novo 2012; Anderson 2008; and Michael 2009; also see Russel Brand’s vision of a revolutionary paradox where the police are forced to face off with protesters marching for better police pensions and working conditions; also see my mom’s case/life’s work and the debates that come up when one chooses to constantly hold up the police to a higher standard).
I’m interested in the police in the same way that I am interested in the struggles of mid-level civil servants (with the example of my parents as I was growing up.) At the same time I think the police should be slightly different to what it is now, that it should include different kinds of people, and that it should be differently educated. The most interesting thing about ‘becoming police’ (becoming officer, becoming white blood cell –and figuring out what this means– / becoming servant of the state or the community which presumes a clear understanding of the boundaries of this state or community) and my practice in relation to this, is how badly it was received in my environment:
– I’m pretty sure it was the reason for the abrupt departure of a truly wonderful lover *sigh*
– most of my friends thought that I was an idiot, naive, or crazy,
– a dear cousin whose father and husband are both policemen lashed out in teary indignation about why would I ever do such a thing to myself,
– others saw it as evidence of betrayal of the revolutionary cause,
– and one friend told me off for potentially taking a steadily-paying governmental position away from a less educated candidate who would need it more than I do!
Also my parents’ reaction was a flat veto, which I’m still very upset about: how is not supporting your offspring get into the civil service not a violation of core Cypriot parental ethics?$$$
There’s a lot more I wanted to write here: about the culture and psychology of civil service, about good and bad civil servants (not least in connection to the Nuremberg trials, about my dad’s writing/insider’s perspective on the failures of the RoC national health plan, about the present onslaught against my mom despite or because of her years of service), about what civil service does to a person, about what happens to a person when they’re expected to step outside of themselves and into protocol for the common good: a good haphazardly upheld by a structure that is always to blame and under attack. About a sense of calling, or an ethics, or a sense of sacrifice in relation to this, and about my own gradually maturing belief (a coming-from-the-left critical take on political correctness discourse) that taking office, becoming a servant of a particular order, should contain no pretense of objective disengagement from the personal. I often think that in some ways, in Cyprus, we’re lucky the machine hasn’t completely forgotten this, yet. Following rank in disengagement from one’s humanity, in divorce from personal judgment of right and wrong or from a sense and instinct of personal connection, is a very odd and dangerous contradiction (enter Hannah Arendt, also see Jones and Stout, 2015).
* and also slept a little. I was quickly awoken by the supervising police officers. I thought it was sweet how concerned they were by my unexpected behaviour. Falling asleep during an exam in a classroom was cathartic.
++ I put part of this together with my grandfather. He worked three jobs to put my mom and her siblings through school, and is remarkably proud of his work with the Social Services of the Republic of Cyprus, during its early days. He has astonishing stories to tell about tackling the early conflicts of the institutionalisation of social welfare in the RoC, of his use of Assiotika conflict resolution tactics in handling cases of domestic violence and other kinds of social crises, and enjoys talking about underhanded bureaucratic techniques that helped save an orphanage and resolve the abusive management of a home for the destitute in the 70s. Another example of what I mean with ‘Cultures of Civil Service’ is inspired by something a friend who works at the Ministry of Agriculture told me a while back: that at some point they had an internal campaign ‘to answer the phones’.
$$$ I think they thought it would be too harsh for me. Probably because they figured I would follow their example and pay the same price. They seem to think academia is safer (!).
Related books and articles
– Anderson, D., & Killingray, D. (1992). Policing and decolonisation: Politics, nationalism, and the police, 1917-65. Manchester University Press.
– Anderson, D. M. (1993). Policing and communal conflict: the Cyprus emergency, 1954–60. The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 21(3), 177–207.
Gratton, P. (2016, February 16). Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism, “Decline of the Nation State and the End of the Rights of Man.” Retrieved June 21, 2017, from https://philosophyinatimeoferror.com/2016/02/15/arendt-origins-of-totalitarianism-decline-of-the-nation-state-and-the-end-of-the-rights-of-man/
– Johnson, E. H. (1967). Sociological Interpretation of Police Reaction and Responsibility to Civil Disobedience. J. Crim. L. Criminology & Police Sci., 58, 405.
– Jones, R. G., & Stout, T. (2015). Policing Nepotism and Cronyism Without Losing the Value of Social Connection. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 8(1), 2–12. https://doi.org/10.1017/iop.2014.3
– Klinger, D. A. (2012). Police training as an instrument of accountability. Louis U. Pub. L. Rev., 32, 111.
– Law Enforcement As an Instrument of National Power | The Foreign Service Journal – March 2017. (n.d.). Retrieved June 21, 2017, from http://www.afsa.org/law-enforcement-instrument-national-power
– Michael, M. (2009). Resolving the Cyprus conflict: Negotiating history. Springer.
– Novo, A. R. (2012). Friend or foe? The Cyprus Police Force and the EOKA insurgency. Small Wars & Insurgencies, 23(3), 414–431.
– Rusfeti and Political Patronage in the Republic of Cyprus – ProQuest. (n.d.). Retrieved January 6, 2018, from https://search.proquest.com/openview/fc78a05720f9ac66324a5e5755aeb118/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=55223
– Sholette, G. (2013). Speaking Clown to Power. NeMe. Retrieved from http://www.neme.org/texts/speaking-clown-to-power