Every other week we take a look with EV specialist and Innovation Origins columnist Auke Hoekstra at what caught his eye on topical issues or what he runs into where the preservation of our planet is concerned. Earlier this week he made a plea for telepresence robots, which are going to replace long business trips. But today Auke doesn’t want to talk about sustainability. He wants to say something about the situation in America. “What’s the point of having solar panels everywhere when you live in a rotten society?

Read all previous articles in the series here.

In recent weeks, Auke has noticed on Twitter that the death of George Floyd, police violence, and racism have also affected many of his colleagues’ ‘energy.’ “These people want to make the world a better place, just like I do.”

“Do you know what it comes down to? Life on earth is such a beautiful and extraordinary thing. Each time I walk around outdoors, I can’t help but be amazed. That’s why I put my heart and soul into sustainable energy. I want to make sure that this earth becomes a bit more beautiful. But that doesn’t just apply to the natural ecosystem. The society in which we live is also a beautiful thing. It has taken so many years for us to get to this point. It’s incredibly complex and very special. But it is fragile too. I also want to commit myself to this. I want to figure out how something works and then also try to improve society.”

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‘Anyone in their right mind can see that something is really off here’

What not everyone is aware of is that Auke graduated in business administration before he started working in the fields of electric transportation and renewable energy. “That’s where I learned how such a state apparatus works – or, in the case of America, should work – because something’s really off there. In order to be able to coexist together well, we have rules that we must abide by. Those rules are made by politicians we have chosen. As citizens, we put our trust in them. Then you have the executive authority to oversee that these rules are enforced. And judges see to it that they don’t overstep their authority. The trias politica (separation of state, ed.)”

And that is precisely where it all goes wrong in America, Auke contends. “If you look at the figures, you’ll see that since 2005, around 15 thousand people have been killed during arrests. That number is shockingly high, things are done a lot rougher over there. But if you look at the figures more closely, you can see that only a tiny percentage of cops have to account for their actions in court. Of all these cases, there were only five who were eventually convicted of murder. Anyone in their right mind can see that something is really off here.”

America the dutiful?

“The task of the police is to enforce the law. This brings with it a great deal of responsibility. Their most important task is to take action against people who are prepared to use violence. This gives the police a tremendous amount of power. That’s why they should approach this law with the utmost care. If they don’t stick to it as closely as they can, or if a blind eye is turned to any gratuitous violence they may commit, then something is going seriously wrong in the system. They need to be called to order by the judicial authorities.”

‘It is a terrifying state of affairs if police are not held to account for any excesses’

The fact that this does not happen enough is due to the enormous influence of police unions, according to Auke. “Their job is to protect cops, they do their job, but there are some creepy types among them. Cops already have more protections than ordinary citizens do. Yet the unions take a stand every time a police officer has to appear in court. They make sure, for instance, that images from a body cam are not allowed to be made public. I’ m not saying police officers have an easy job, but I think it is a terrifying state of affairs if police are not held to account for any excesses.”

“The police themselves could also take firmer measures. All too often when you think: ‘they have got to do something about this,’ you hear: ‘keep moving, nothing is going on here.’ More and more people are stunned by this and are starting to protest.”

Citizen journalism

Mobile phones, dashboard cams, and the internet have made these excesses by the police much more visible. Where in the past it was more often a case of one person’s word against another, now people are able to actually see what is going on. “Without images, people are more likely to believe the police. The police speak the truth, a criminal does not – that’s the idea more or less. All of a sudden, with images thrown in, it becomes a different story altogether. It creates to some extent a balance of power between the police and civilians. With the advent of the internet, you don’t need to know anyone at a TV station, but you can sling something out into the world yourself.”

“Journalism and the free press also expose abuses, basically a fourth pillar that was not covered in the original trias politica theory. But through platforms like YouTube and Twitter, citizens can also face up to their responsibilities, which are all steps in the right direction. I would find it a terrible waste if we would soon have solar panels everywhere but live in a rotten society. We all have to keep our eye on the ball to prevent that from happening.”

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About the author

Author profile picture Milan Lenters is a writer and editor. Through IO, he got to know his native city Eindhoven in a different way and sometimes looks with amazement at the many stories that lie ahead.