book complaints thoughts

Sich weiter beschweren

Im letzten Teil ihres Buches “Complaint!” erwähnt die Autorin Sara Ahmed eine Reihe von Ideen zu Beschwerden. Einigen von ihnen stimme ich wirklich zu. Und die Sätze sind eine große Inspiration für diejenigen, die sich beschweren wollen.

“I believe in complaining, even when it’s a bad outcome, just creating that record of what happened. I am glad that it exists for me, and that if any questions are raised I have it. I did lodge a grievance, I had a go, I did try.”

“A record can be what matters to the one who assembles it; a record can be a reminder that you made an effort, that you had a go, even if that effort did not lead to institutional change.” (S. 288)

Dieses Zitat erinnert mich an einen Spruch, der mich schon oft inspiriert hat: “Wenn man sich anstrengt, hat man nicht immer Erfolg, aber wenn man sich nicht anstrengt, wird man definitiv keinen Erfolg haben.” Mit Beschwerden verhält es sich genauso: Man muss eine Beschwerde einreichen und sich die Mühe und Zeit nehmen. Letztendlich hat die Beschwerde möglicherweise keinen Erfolg. Aber wir müssen es trotzdem versuchen, um gegen die dunklen Dinge zu kämpfen.

“I leave no trace of wings in the air, but I am glad I have had my flight.”— Rabindranath Tagore

“Even going through an exhausting of processes can have creative potential. Yes, we can be in a state of exhaustion because of that process. But complaints, even formal ones, slow and tedious ones, long and drawn out, can be creative. ”(S. 289)

“I suggested earlier that even when our complaints end up in filing cabinets, we take them with us. I also noted that we don’t always know where complaints go, before they are filed. But even when complaints end up in filing cabinets, they can get out; we can get them out. Filing cabinets are temporary shelters. The more letters written, the more letters to leak.” (S. 298)

Wir alle wissen, dass die meisten unserer Beschwerden im Aktenschrank verbleiben. Der Aktenschrank ist eine sehr verbreitete Methode, um Beschwerden zu vertuschen. Aber er hat einen begrenzten Platz und kann nicht alle Beschwerden abdecken. Wenn wir also weiterhin auf unsere Beschwerden beharren und uns wehren, werden diese Beschwerden irgendwann ernst genommen werden.

Natürlich hat eine Beschwerde viel mehr Aussicht auf Erfolg, wenn sie von einer Gruppe unterstützt wird. Die Realität ist jedoch, dass viele Beschwerden von Einzelpersonen eingereicht werden. Wenn also diese ähnlichen Beschwerden als Kollektiv zusammengefasst und zusammengeführt werden könnten, wäre die Wirkung der Beschwerde sehr groß. “Two heads are better than one.” Die Autorin Sara Ahmed hat viele individuelle Beschwerden zu einem Kollektiv zusammengefasst, um dieses Buch zu schaffen. Das Buch enthält eine große Anzahl von Vorfällen aus dem Leben der Beschwerdeführer und berührt viele Aspekte des Lebens. Ja, es ist die Kraft einer kollektiven Beschwerde.


Reflection of minding the gap.

Sara Ahmed’s book “Complaint!”’s first chapter “Mind the Gap! Policies, Procedures, and Other Nonperformatives” relies and focuses in the concerns Ahmed has encountered with institutional processes while making a complaint. At the same time the author points out the position in which the complainers see themselves involved in during this processes, and how tedious they are, because at the end it just seems that systems and institutions create and establish procedures for anything but complaining. Parallel, some testimonies of failed complaints are described to enrich the discussion on how policies do not benefit those who they should benefit.

While reading the first chapter of “Complaint!”, and punctually having the chance to get to know various stories from different people and complaints they have made in past opportunities, I would just kept thinking on the times I have made complaints, also the times there was a reason no matter how small to make a complaint and I doubted making it, or even the multiple times I have bypassed the chance to make a complaint just because of my non-intentional ignorance. 

I also feel like sometimes the “strategic inefficiency” (Ahmed 2021, p. 28) is so evident, and clear, and irrefutable that we tend to avoid the burden of starting a process which’s journey does not promise any benefit or which’s end won’t come any easy.

As an immigrant-student I can say that this experience will mostly lead to situations in which one can get lost easily between mountains of papers and tons of extended words, that at the end blurres the exquisiteness of getting into a new culture and challenging itself into the wildness of being valued, while coming from a country which historically has be minoritized.

Even when my experience with bureaucracy in Germany (compared to other immigrants’ I know), can be categorised from 1 to 5 being 5 good and 1 bad as a 5, I can say firsthand that it is overwhelming. To this, let’s add that in any personal/bureaucratic/administrative process communication is the basis, and if one of the parties has difficulty with the language, for example, that prevails in that situation, the ball is now in the opponent’s court. Therefore when language is a barrier and you find yourself in a vulnerable position, it would be very audacious of me to make a complaint. Right?

Am i allowed to complain if I am not German? Do I have the same rights? And if so, am i allowed to make it with my broken German? Are they even going to understand me?

Such questions cross the minds of many of us, so I pretty much identify myself with the situations Ahmed described in this opportunity. A complaint is a messy process, not just because the ending will always seem unreachable, but also because –“Even if you can use a policy as evidence to support a complaint, it does not guarantee you will succeed.” – (Ahmed 2021, p. 43)

Complaints compromise rights and legal processes, but also empathy and emotions in my point of view. “Complaints are personal as well as institutional.” – (Ahmed 2021, p. 38).

As appears in page 48 “You swallow it”. Those single three words describe the need to end something and not even give it a chance to be digested. Often we see injustices and we just have to get along with them, how? Easy. By swallowing them. But when you swallow you don’t disintegrate each part, nutrient, benefit of it. You take the life out of it. And that is mostly how it feels to be part of a minority in such a powerful environment. It just takes the life out of you.

As a future visual communicator I identify the importance to show emotions and experiences  in a more graphic way when language and culture are obstacles. For this purpose, I have decided to accompany this reflection and the feeling left by reading the first chapter “Mind the Gap! Policies, Procedures, and Other Nonperformatives” with two photographic representations of how the process to make a complaint doesn’t looks but feels like.

Foto 1. “Process to make a complaint”. 2021. This work is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 license
Foto 2. “Process to make a complaint 2.0”. 2021. This work is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 license