Copyright

Please contact FICTITIOUS NEWS to use any content of the archive at info(at)palomaayala.com

SATIRE TAXIS is the only publication done after the re-districtation of the city of Zürich in 2016. The future of this project is as uncertain as the integration and evolution of this new society.

Before any newspapers had written a word about it, there was speculation every time a body was seen pushing a car around Förrlibuckstrasse, Waidstrasse and Ballonstrasse in Zürich city. What used to be a very out of the ordinary vision, became normalized in the year 2016. For some it was a huge joke, an urban myth even, but for others “the Pushers” were the only way to deal with the strict regulations of the municipality affecting owners of vehicles and the motorized movement of people through the city.

Die Wochenzeitung was first to report the story on August of 2018. A short piece was published based on street gossip that told the legend of the men that were subverting Zürich’s transit legislation, which until now states that motor vehicles transiting across boundaries of districts must pay 4% of the vehicle market value on a yearly basis.

The Zürich Police Department issued the first of two denials a few weeks after, saying it had established no real presence of people laboring as “pushers” of cars and calling the whole thing a “notable journalistic nonsense, completely fictitious” (Zürich Stadtpolizei 2018).

In September of 2019, a year after the matter of “the Pushers” became public, these men were no longer there to be proven or disproven. They had disappeared for reasons discovered two years later, by means of an epistolary exchange between the siblings Tsäbis, Betani and Knüt, from whom the latter was recognized to be one of the major “Pusher” presences in the short time this activity existed.

The description of Knüt Tsäbis in his letters to Betani from 2016 to 2018, gives light to the history of their group. As he wrote, the group “counted only of a few men”. The exact number remains unclear, what is known is that they came together by boat using a quite intricate route that took them on secondary water flows in “a zig-zaggy line” towards north. They navigated on a small inflatable raft that survived the two-weeks trip “surprisingly unpunctured”. The men arrived to Zürich See late in 2015, with no losses upon the days of rowing other than some body weight. It was an “over-all good arrival”, he states, “We are strong and eager to find a job.”

They tried several occupations in the beginning, but were limited in ways. Undocumented individuals have few chances to get a well payed job and of course, there are no social securities as a “Sans-Papier”. No passport, no rights.

Knüt describes how he devised the idea to push cars for money. After some months of living in Zürich, it became clear to him that the city recent legislations were a source of dissent. He witnessed how some inhabitants were openly declaring their opposition to the new laws that had redefined the limits of districts. The most affected were districts 4, 5, 9, 6 and 12, with people suddenly suffering a raise in their living costs, including rent, food, and vehicle ownership. The redefinition of districts concentrated or separated the immigrant neighborhoods, increased tax rates on transit of vehicles, and caused the closing of some community centers, re-purposed as new administration offices.

“It is really expensive to go anywhere, but us… we just go everywhere we please. We have the taxis. We move everywhere and just take care to act like we belong and we do our jobs peacefully. We never have a problem.” Knüt worked as a taxi driver in the months previous to the “pushing”. Him and some men of his group acted as substitutes for those taxi drivers that looked alike to them. They seem to have made good acquaintances with the population of Angolan, Ethiopian and Eritrean taxi drivers with local licenses. Their labor situation required of them a steady presence in the job or risk to loose the license. Taxi drivers are highly controlled by the Taxibüro and the Zürich Verkherspolizei, active workers must check a time card twice a day, and are subjected to frequent stops and frisks. In addition, they strive to survive in competition with UBER, a much less state-regulated taxi system.

The controlled environment and the fear of loosing jobs, plus the possibility of getting an extra income, often used to pay the lease of their vehicle, presumably caused the bi-localization activities of some drivers. The Zürcher Times coined the terms “labor bi-localization” or “dual work” in the article “Dual work: a symptom of social mistreat” (Yeke, 2015) to describe those workers making use of doppelgangers, frequently undocumented, so that a person acquires the ability to perform two jobs and two salaries at the same time. Interestingly, the article comments on how this is possible only through racial profiling and the police officers’ lack of experience in differentiating individuals of certain similar features. This seems to be the case exemplified by Knüt’s description. The officers never noticed the difference between the picture in the license, and the face before them. “The secret is to smile much and speak nothing”, wrote Knüt.

Knüt and one colleague began to push cars in Förrlibuckstrasse, in the limit of districts 5 and 10. This crossing road continued to be used in the following years as the most successful. It was a small quiet street that attracted no attention from the police. He then decided to extend business to the limits of districts 5 and 6. “We called it the Diana Hill because of the pizza place. It was the best situation to be a “Pusher” because one needs to push uphill and contain the cars downhill. We charged more money. It was only for strong people and we were the best.”

Betani wrote back to him for the first time late in 2016. Knüt sent letters and money, but never an invitation to make the trip there.

Her letter reads:



















Money came easily, as Knüt states in the late letters to Betani. “The Pushers” worked only during early hours and late in the afternoon, when traffic was at its peak. They pushed in groups of two in three streets located in the limits of districts 4 and 9, 5 and 10, and 5 and 6. Their clients were mostly taxis and a few private vehicles that were recommended to them. They were never controlled by any institution and gained the whole of their revenues. The letters of Knüt to Betani prove at least two years of activity.

There is more than one hypothesis about why were they never stopped by the police. On one side, they were evidently helping with the fluidity of vehicles by bringing traffic to the smaller streets. This hypothesis relies on common sense to accept the permanence of non-regulated work permitted because it was probably providing a sort of public service. A plausible justification. It is also a fact that the given loop-holes in the transit law allowed for the ”pushing” to be neither legal or illegal. The one thing nobody believes is that the Zürich Stadt Polizei was not aware of the whereabouts of “the Pushers”. Moreover, there is no official record of the existence of any “pushing” deed in public archives. Were they unimaginative, playing dumb?

Further speculations place their focus on the re-destrictation project initiated by Zürich municipality in the second year of legislature 2011-2015. After the limits of districts 4, 5, 6, 9, 10 and 12 were edited, with the consequential administrative change and the new tax placed over motorized vehicles was instated, an increasingly high number of residents protested against additional policies generated within the frame of the Urban Sustainability Department. The legislation evidently divided or re-mapped the districts that had higher concentrations of immigrants, unemployed individuals, and other vulnerable social groups, mixing them with wealthier neighborhoods as a strategy to keep the city socially diverse and healthier under parameters of the “Urban Policies on Diversity” (Plüss & Schenkel, 2014). But as stated by P. Rérat and L. Lees in the article “Spatial capital, gentrification and mobility: evidence from Swiss core cities” (2010), Swiss “governance aims to promote the city as an attractive location for business interests and investment. Wealth redistribution and welfare are considered as antagonistic to the overriding objectives of economic development (Peck & Tickell 2002, Jessop 2002). The new entrepreneurial strategy leads to a system where cities are considered as the main actors in global competitiveness...”

Under this lens, gentrification happened as a consequence of an intentional process, a political agenda building up a progressive city that appears environmentally friendly, socially amiable, integrative of a variety of ethnicities, secure, and good-looking. The process incorporates such practices as hindering the use of cars, elevating taxes and parking costs, lowering speed limits in neighborhoods to 30km/h, and adding strict regulations to motorized vehicle use. Security is achieved through harsh and frequent police controls. The attitude of amiability promotes multicultural neighborhoods full of well-behaved, highly educated immigrants that can deal positively with the social and economical local conditions, with shops and cafes that are not affordable for many. And to maintain good-looking communities, constructions are continuously renovated, causing unaffordable rents from which even some of the Wohnbaugennossenschaften or cooperatives are a part of.

Christoph Küffer, Professor of Urban Ecologies in ETH (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich), mentions that “environmental injustice is in particular about why those who are rich and in power don’t act. The most disturbing new concept that I encountered at the Lugano Conference was “eco-gentrification”: rich neighborhoods, cities, and nations build their local sustainable ways of living [...] – green parks full of beautiful and rare species, sustainable food stores, and gentle bike trails – while surrounding poor neighborhoods and world regions quietly degenerate. It is what happens in cities around the world, and you could say on a country-scale in Switzerland: a beautiful, safe mountain retreat for a global elite?” (Why Environmental Justice Matters, 2015)

This reality is marginalizing the most vulnerable and has probably fostered activities like the “pushing”, which becomes a satirical performance of lives that represents exclusion and vulnerability, using bodies to push the unwanted machines across limits and regulations. They are the taxis of taxis, carrying the latter in a subversive action exhibiting the non-solidarity (or stupidity) of some state policies or even groups of power. This scenario assumes that “the Pushers” are known and tolerated by the police because they are not only performing a task in service of the city and stay small, contained, so that not many know about them, but they become part of a plan to solve the inconvenience of protests conducted by the Taxi Driver Syndicate, which became a strong voice in the protests of 2014 against the inter-districtal transit tax and the endorsement of companies like UBER. If we support this scenario we should ask if some sort of lobbying existed from UBER to members of the legislation of Zürich Stadtparlament. We should demand answers, first of all to insist that indeed, “the Pushers” existed and to know why were they never acknowledged.


The end of “The Pushers”

In mid 2018 Knüt realized that he started to be bored. “There is no future in this job.”, he wrote. In a letter to his sister he mentioned that the business was not like before, seemingly not because he had less clientele, but due to some sort of “blue sad seed that has grown from being lonely and from being ignored.”

Parallel to Knüt’s depression, Betani wrote him a last letter:














Knüt moved north some time after July 2018. He had heard the story of the Swiss man who swam upstream from the Rhine spring to the North Sea (The Local, 2012). He did not know where to go exactly, but he took it for a sign to have come firstly from the South Sea. “The obvious north should be followed”, he wrote. He took his inflatable raft, traveled by train to Koblenz and jumped in the Rhine alone after some preparations and goodbyes were made.

During this trip he thought of inviting Betani and her child to join him. They would have to go through Störskog, travel south and meet him in Malmö, where he knew a couple of friends that were already settled and who spoke well of the jobs and the housing qualities.

His letter to Betani was short and precise:














Zürich, in the year 2021







1 Umgangssprache für «Schieber»

2 Umgangssprache für «Schieberei»

3 P. Rérat and L. Lees., Spatial capital, gentrification and mobility: evidence from Swiss core cities, 2010 «Swiss governance aims to promote the city as an attractive location for business interests and investment. Wealth redistribution and welfare are considered as antagonistic to the overriding objectives of economic development (Peck & Tickell 2002, Jessop 2002). The new entrepreneurial strategy leads to a system where cities are considered as the main actors in global competitiveness…»

4 C. Küffer, Why Environmental Justice Matters, 2015 «Environmental injustice is in particular about why those who are rich and in power don’t act. The most disturbing new concept that I encountered at the Lugano Conference was “eco-gentrification”: rich neighborhoods, cities, and nations build their local sustainable ways of living [...] – green parks full of beautiful and rare species, sustainable food stores, and gentle bike trails – while surrounding poor neighborhoods and world regions quietly degenerate. It is what happens in cities around the world, and you could say on a country-scale in Switzerland: a beautiful, safe mountain retreat for a global elite?»

An uncanny view in Förrlibuckstrasse: “The Pushers” are real

 “Dear brother Knüt,

Fast words, now that things are changing here as they are over there, surely. News are not prosperous in these violent times. People are being put in detention centers even before making the trip. If one shows intent of travel, they put you there. No questions are asked. Non answered.

Everything is payed with your money inside there, please send some.

You should move. They say it is better to turn north. You go norther.”
 “Dear Betani,

Fast words back to you.
You have to learn how to ride a bike. Make sure Emilia too.

I will send money.

We will meet soon.
Mr. Stefanin will tell you what to do.”

A recent discovery of the letters by Knüt and Betani Tsäbis raises questions of public performance of power, legislation enforcement and the Zürich urban sustainability agenda.

 “Dear brother Knüt,

I want to drop a few lines for you today to honor the nice letter I received from you recently, little Knüt, in which I see that you have your health and health is what we should value the most.

Mother is well as am I and the pig. Little Emilia suffers of the season like every year, but there is little we can do but pray for her days to be with nights of sleep.

Klas has returned but will leave again to make your same trip. He will work the harvest of corn to earn the rest of dundas to pay for Mr. Stefanin and the lot. Pray for his prosperous travel, brother.

Little Knüt, I rejoice in the pushing and wish for you to be well.
You were always the one with the ideas.”