Monday, May 23, 2005
German conservative politician suffers from spill
[Note: The name of the man who was the brunt of Mr. Gloystein's joke is Oelschlager, not Ottmann.]
After the usual platitudes for the crowds thronged around a stage set up in the city’s old town, near the historic town hall, Mr Gloystein, 59, produced a bottle of sekt, German bubbly. The fact that it was a Winzersekt 2002 Riesling Brut was lost on Mr Ottmann, who was standing at the edge of the stage having previously been walking among the crowds seeking handouts.Sam Leith of the Telegraph best described the aftermath—
"Everyone knows the guy locally," said Hartmut Ebener, an eyewitness. "He’s homeless, harmless and quite sweet. He didn’t deserve what happened to him."
Mr Ebener, along with other horrified spectators, was stunned when Mr Gloystein upended the magnum bottle and proceeded to pour it all over the head of Mr Ottmann.
The politician made things worse by laughing and joking even as booing and hissing rose from the spectators.
As well as being homeless, penniless, jobless and damp, Mr Ottmann suffers from a chronic long-term illness that makes it difficult for him to walk.
What made the scene so piercing? It was that, as he stood, with his hands at his sides and champagne cascading over his hair and down his front, Udo Oelschlager didn't shout or throw a punch: he burst into tears. "Who are you?" he asked in hurt bewilderment. "Why are you doing this?" You can't fake that.
Gloystein could not have created a more resonant image of wealth and complacency sneering at poverty. But it was the tears that surely did for him.
In trying to salvage the situation, Gloystein spoke in the same gestural vocabulary as the original offence. Here, he said, offering first his business card, then money from his pocket, then his £150 Montblanc pen. These declined, he offered him a night in a luxury hotel, followed by a two-week holiday. How much that missed the point; how much it compounded the offence.
"I don't need your money," said Oelschlager. "I'm not going to be bribed. You offended me and wanted to make me look like an idiot." Never underestimate the moral power of a gentle, suffering thing. Oelschlager is pressing charges, and Gloystein's career has gone down the poop-chute. Good.
As one Freeper said of the occasion over at the Free Republic, "What sort of world do we live in when one cannot pour wine on homeless persons?"