Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Christmas Eve 2015

A friend writes to me:

I understand--I really do understand--the sentiment which says that a political discussion can be dangerous, can lead to blows, or almost a mini-civil war.  And, I suppose that's true especially in such a situation as when you are in Northern Ireland and talking about the presence of British troops....or in Greece perhaps after the Civil War there, or in countless other situations.... 

But the USA in 2015 wasn't yet Belfast or Athens--even if the growing social and economic inequality is a wild beast waiting to escape from its cage.

In any case, I cannot accept or tolerate my sister's behavior.  She literally screamed at me, at the top of her lungs, and with fury and rage in her voice: "No! No! No!"--when I merely attempted to enunciate the following propositions:

1.  The Financial Crisis in the USA has harmed most people in the country, but those who caused it and benefited from the system have now recovered their losses, and acquired new profits.

2.  Economists did predict the crisis:  Michael Hudson and Steven Keen to name two.  (My authority for that is an Economics blog where Economists voted.)

3.  It is very unfair to suggest that "we" are all "greedy" as if all of us were to blame, as if all of us equally benefited from the economic system.  When an aging person wants a decent retirement, they merely want a civilized or non-poor level of living, not luxury.  When a Wall Street Hedge Fund manager seeks profits, he is not after a decent standard of living, but a luxurious one.  The truly rich own yachts and private airplanes, own companies (and freely fire the rest of us) and buy politicians.  It's not right to compare the aging pensioner or would-be pensioner to the wealthy and their servants.

There is a further oddity about (3).  My very own mother was accused by my sister of being greedy.
Yet, my mother, as a defenseless widow, merely seeks a decent life--not a luxurious one.

All in all, it was  a very sad evening.  My sister's performance was shocking.  She went on to engage in the most ruthless and factually inaccurate ad hominem.  And, here too, there are cruel ironies.

My sister's behavior suggests that her idea of "winning"  (sic) an argument consists in shouting loudly, insulting your opponent, and destroying their character with whatever slander comes to mind.

But the irony is this:  My sister complained that it was disgusting to have her Christmas Eve spoiled by an "atheist"--and she uttered that word with venom, contempt, loathing.  Oddly enough, it was not a visit to the Church that had been interrupted by a political discussion. Moreover, my sister is officially a member of the Roman Catholic faith.  Yet, the atheist's views (for the author of these words does indeed not believe that God exists) were much like those of the current Pope.

For the Pope himself has said that while greed is natural, that's no excuse; and we should oppose it.  Moreover, greed, he suggested, leads to the poverty of children and wars.

So, the evil atheist had, on Christmas Eve, been defending a view very much like the Roman Catholic Pope.  And the atheist was viciously attacked by a follower of the Pope.  Curious and ironic that...

I myself can think of nothing to add to my friend's story. However, it does remind me Yanis Varoufakis's reaction to the brick wall of deafness he met at the meetings of the EuroGroup.....

I suppose that someone might say that our ideal of free discussion and debate is often a mere formality or an excuse to prop up a sour system.  I suppose that it often is.  Yet, when I hear a story like this one, I do think that it should be possible to have a discussion with different points of view, without censorship.  I can't see why that should be so difficult. 


Sunday, January 3, 2016


Facebook is a terrible thing, a miserable thing.
I find myself writing my thoughts there, and receive admonishment from "friends".
It is not appropriate, it seems, to express emotions which do not fit the format.
Most especially, ambiguity and the working-through of thoughts do not belong to that format.
Yet, if anything, it is that which friends should allow--not the final expression of happiness, but the preliminary, if difficult, steps of understanding.
All banned in that space of momentary joys, pleasures, and above-all Capital-A-Achievements.
How disgusting.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I don't agree with google or fb or anyone else.  Your advertising is unwanted.  The internet and all its associated elements should be run by the government as a public service, free of charge and without advertising..  As for those who currently mis-manage the web, you should all be put on trial in public--streamlined live. And I would hope that you will all be fired from your jobs because you have shown nothing but contempt for the public.

Friday, November 13, 2015

What kind of place is this? Pure Idiocy in the Czech Republic

"Well you've been washing your clothes a lot."
Jeezus fucking Christ!
That is none of your goddamned business.
What's more:  What kind of cheapskate university is this where they want to make a profit from teachers washing their clothes?

I wash my clothes once a week! That's a lot?  What kind of a country is this?

A lot compared to students who take their clothes home once a week and wash them at home.... I suppose that's what a lot means.

How dare you even notice how often I wash my clothes!  It's none of your business!

That's fascism.  That's impertinent. Who are you to tell what's washing my clothes a lot--or a little?
I am wasting my money because I wash my clothes too much?!
If I think my rent is high, it's because I wash my clothes too frequently?

Really.  I can't find words to describe it.
I guess I'll indulge another local custom--and go piss in the street.
which is common in the whole of the Czech Republic and not only one Neo-Liberal entity.

But I'll tell you one thing:  when you piss in the street, you don't wash your hands
And that's basic sanitation.
The sort of thing that makes the difference between civilization and something else.
So, pissing in the street is uncivilized.  

But pissing in the street by males and young children is common.
And it's not sanitary.
Western Culture?   Make me laugh!

You're paying more for rent because you wash your clothes too much.--Yeah, that's exactly the sort of thing I expect to hear at the University of xxxxxx......It's not an isolated incident.  And it wasn't completely unexpected.   It's characteristic of the local mind-set...... the local mindlessness supporting impossibly idiotic utterances.  You see, it's like this:  when someone complains, it's always THEIR fault!   And the complaint has to be stomped out, dismissed, and if at all possible the complainer must be made to feel as though he or she is lacking in a basic component of intelligence.  Whatever we do around here, and what we think is normal is unmentionable, untouchable,  a sort of religious icon.  And anyone who says or thinks otherwise is not deserving of consideration, and will not be taken seriously.  And must be stomped on immediately.

I actually resisted the move toward billing me electronically for washing my clothes, and held out for cash payment.  But they insisted I pay electronically.  And gave me no choice.  I anticipated the fascism in it, and I was right.  Of course, it needs  a certain mind-set to employ the technology that way, and they have it, and they did not disappoint me......

What's good for the mindless accountants that keep the books ain't good for you or me.  The idea that it's good for everybody is just another of the lies that is propagated mindlessly .....  But the mindless ones I am dealing with here don't raise to the level of even attempting that sort of justification.  It is mindless unquestioning obedience they want.....

Monday, October 5, 2015

Perfect Timing

Here in Pavilon E on the campus of a Central European (formerly "Communist") country,
I live in a dormitory.
It is not the worst dormitory.  My room is relatively large and has a separate kitchen corner.  I do not have a stove, but only a hot plate--which regularly ceases operation.
(But if I ask, they will repair it.)
It can be noisy here, and my windows face onto a nearby high rise with its thirty or so balconies.
On the other side of the flat, I see an ugly intersection where billboards are illuminated all night.  The paper thin curtains do a poor job of keeping out light.

However, I have the luxury of not needing to clean my own toilets.  A cleaning lady does that twice a week.  But I never know when she will come...And she is here now, just when I was about to take a shower.

I've got to teach soon, and I don't know if I will manage to shower.
Ahh, she's just left.

I don't like the thought that one person does all the dirty work.  And I don't like the way the cleaning ladies sit in their room on the ground floor smoking,.....The smoke filters up the stair well, and the place stinks.

Yet, they deserve better.  Their job is not respectful.  

Ah, gotta go take a shower...

So much for a slice of life from a post-Socialist paradise..........

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Wage Slavery

Today I spent a good two hours planning for the courses I'll be teaching, as well as hunting for textbooks.  Then I spent more than two hours on public transit commuting to teach for about two hours.  I shall be paid for two hours of work.

That makes four unpaid hours of work today.

Wage slavery.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Czech Public Transport/Czech Punishment

One of my colleagues jokes, "Oh, you take that bus (the one going to the train station)?  Ha Ha Ha.  It's always full.  How can you do it?"

Well, if she knows it's always full, then so do the transport authorities.

Or, maybe not.  Maybe they are busy pasting paper advertisements to the windows of the buses,
and collecting payment.  (Hard to see out sometimes.  It's actually obnoxious and disrespectful.)

In 1996 I rode buses in Bratislava, in the Slovak Republic, and they were just as crowded and creaky
(swaying from side to side, hitting bumps hard) as are the buses today in the Czech Republic, in the city of Pardubice.  I see no progress.

If every family owns a Skoda and every school age child owns brand name sneakers and a smart phone, no, I don't count that as progress.

But no one complains, and it is (evidently) a laughing matter.

However, it's worse after a holiday or three day weekend--as if people were being punished for not working.

Oh yeah, the Glorious EU gives money to the Czech Republic and--lo and Behold!--they generously allow the government to buy buses.  But they are crappy buses--the sort that bounce up and down and seem ready to break apart on the bumpy roads.  And they are often full.

The buses are, moreover, full at entirely predictable times.  (As are, characteristically, the trains.)
Why not have more buses at those hours?

I repeat.  I saw this in 1996 in Bratislava. It is not a new problem.  (Yes, I know Slovakia is not the Czech Republic. For my purposes, it doesn't matter.  The point is that there has been little real progress.)

Some people call this "austerity"--denial of basic services to the majority of the population, in order to spend the money elsewhere.

Where is the money going?  Well, despite the fact that the army's budget in the Czech Republic is not increasing as much as they would like, there's a question of what they plan to really do with the equipment they've got.  Who are they really going to fight a war with?  Or is it all to be used against potential immigrants?