what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Balkan mistrust


Summer seems to have dawned at last – with 40 expected in the plains of Bucharest and 31 here in Sofia rising to 33 Monday. I should then be in the rarely explored North-Western mountain area – first of Varshets then, from Tuesday evening, in the old fortress area of Belogradchik. In the meantime, I have my spreading fig tree to protect me from the sun in the garden.
Amos Oz has been keeping me company these last few days – first with Black Box mapping ruthlessly the relations a woman has with her present (faithful and loving if rather eccentric) husband; her tight-arsed and rich ex; and their delinquent boy. Great stuff – with the powerful outporings of emotion I have now come to expect of this writer who should have got the Nobel prize a decade ago. Now I’ve started on his story of the strained relations between a 60 year old nomadic planning/engineering consultant back home and living with a younger woman with a mission – Don’t Call it Night. Oz seems to have a happy 40 year old marriage himself but he really gets into the painful crevices of relationships! Here's a long interview with him from Paris Review.
During the night I was reminded what an insightful writer Michael Lewis (of Vanity fair) is on current financial matters – the best things I have ever read on the Irish meltdown (his story reads like a modern version of The Emperor's New Clothesand the Greek crisis.In the classic journalistic (if not Detective Colombo) tradition, he approaches the issues from a common-sense point of view.
And here is an interesting article which was inspired by Lewis's exposure of Greek corruption to dig deeper and to try to explain why the Greeks have the political and ethical problems they do.
He reimnds us that, until the late 19th century, Greece was part of the Ottoman system (as were BUlgaria and Romania) - with all this means about clientilism and antipathy to authority. "Greeks are naturally distrustful of their leaders, and extremely quarrelsome among themselves" - as one can certainly say also about the Romanians. Here it's worth going back to the Ionitsa article I excerpted from on June 13. There is little doubt that officials have major difficulties talking and cooperating with one another (let alone with citizens!)in this part of the world (an ex-Deputy Minister here who is one of the trainers on our programme was talking to me recently about this). And yet this is never really picked up in the needs assessment which supposedly precedes all the training which EC programmes fund here. All the emphasis is on transferring knowledge - not altering attitudes and behaviour.
Finally an excerpt from a longer piece -
The present financial conundrum is a result and not a cause. It is the result of decades of rule by incompetent politicians, certainly in the case of Greece.( It doesn't need a Marshall plan it needs a regime change. Count on the evil undemocratic EU to take over much of the decision making behind the scenes, and a good thing too.)
The problem with present-day politicians in general is that they aspire to power and once they have it they don't know what to do with it. Consequently they're easily influenced by lobbyists and public opinion. The result is - predictably - indecision and procrastination or hysteria and panic. Being so unfocused our dear leaders get lost in petty detail, always a sign of people not getting the big picture. The founding fathers of the EU had a clear concept: no more war in Europe. The present lot just looks after the shop, and not very well
Two musical bonuses – first, from Romania (but only for the next few days), the pianist and composer Dinu Lapatti (1917-1950)
and from the English mining community The aquarelle is a Stamatov

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