Saturday, 31 May 2008

Image & words

Political life provides some riveting parallels again... or antitheses, rather.

In the UK, the 'humanising' of Gordon Brown and his image has produced quite a bit of press coverage. He is often either desperately trying to be likable, hence starts using a smile straight out of 1950s horror B-movies, or his PR team tells him to act & sound more 'human' and touchy-feely... and he tries that plus the smile...

The Labour party has lost so much terrain in the political landscape of the UK, that somehow highly paid PR wizards think Gordon's humanisation is a magic potion. If he becomes likable, then they'll gain some votes... Hmmmmm...

These PR wizards could learn from Romania... again... Maybe not learn, as the people they are dealing with and those aimed at by their tactics are radically different.

But the build-up to the recent Romanian local elections provided educational and often hilarious or tragicomic contrasts to this obsession of making a politician likable.

Corneliu Vadim Tudom, the xenophobe ultra-chauvinist (ok, let's simplify this, a demented political chameleon who is so extreme right that he's technically a chimera from a parallel Universe, but even tried to act as Christian democrat and whatever other shades of colour he could imitate) has been on TV many times, but he has again shown that a politician obtaining many votes for his party does not have to be in any way human. Or likable humanoid creature.

Also, it showed the primitive animalic level of Romanian politics, where unimaginable things do not have to be imagined, they happen or are said as absolute banal political routine.

A political figure screaming his head off in a TV studio, totally disregarding everybody is still getting votes in the Romania of 2008. Calling others 'monkeys' on national TV and cursing like a sheep farmer is also perfectly OK. Same behaviour in Parliament has been and still is his 'normal' style of discourse, but at least the downright psychopathic behaviour there can only be seen by few.

A day after the TV debate that caused a bit of scandal (and in that country, did not put a dent on Tudor's or his party's shiny armour), he continued the attacks, talking about how the host should be happy that he wasn't slapped and trampled under his (ie. C.V. Tudor's) feet etc. etc.

So Mr. Brown, the range of expression you can use in political discourse is immense, just look at certain psychiatric cases in Romanian politics. Ah yes, the audience here is somewhat different but homo sapiens can never be underestimated.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Poets and dictators

The revelations never seem to stop in Romania when it comes to public figures' relationships with the Ceausescu regime of yesteryear. These come of course with huge delay, as the so-called democratic country struggled for this many years to reveal the various shades of truths about relationship between the regime's circles of power and the Orthodox church, politicians still in (great) power, writers, artists etc.

One of the most recent ones is truly toe-curling, but all those that all their life hated the sanctimonious chameleon (whose primitive out-of-the-dark-ages rants reflect the amazing depths of his so-called poetry), can also find some way of having a satisfied smile...

It is about the great literary luminary, Adrian Paunescu. A great figure during the Ceausescu years, then fallen into disgrace, then resurrected itself, and certainly came crashing back in everybody's TV and 'art' reality when after the changes, continued his hugely nationalistic 'literary' and 'artistic' activities.

It turns out, this ultra-opportunistic invertebrate has written a letter to Ceausescu, after he has fallen from the dictator's grace, and the letter praised the demented dictator's rhetorical skills and amazing genius.

The text of the letter is truly nausea-inducing, but anyone who had to watch Paunescu on TV screen before, and more importantly after, the political changes in Romania would not be truly surprised.

Paunescu, currently known as a social-democrat senator (yes, it is tragicomic...), explained that actually, the letter is purely a positive reaction to a Ceausescu speech that impressed him.

Also, he claims that Ceausescu wasn't a dictator, he truly was a genius who made a huge contribution to Romanian history. Well, that he did indeed.

To quote this despicable maggot, he actually goes on a rampage saying that those who called Ceausescu a dictator are only those who call themselves brave after a war and anti-communists after communism.

This patronising sanctimonious little life form (it is absolutely difficult to find any civilised word for describing this organism), when confronted in the press about his amazing poems praising Ceausescu, responded (and note the irony): "You all sound like you were born out of Hitler's boots. Where all this fundamentalism?"... and the quote continues with such vulgar words that no senator, nor any civilised person, should be able to quote...

So at least, ironically, even in his declarations to the press in 2008, he remains the same primitive life form with great self-regard and stratospheric vile opportunism.

He does say, he both loved and attacked Ceausescu... and he was hurt by his TV show and his poems being banned for a little while. The irony is that the ban did not come due to his opposition to the regime that sooooo fed him, no, it was a result of several students being crushed to death during one of his shows.

I am sure he, as I read his comments now, considers himself on the same level with other poets and writers who genuinely suffered artistic ban and even physical destruction during those years.

Well, one thing is sure, this proto-maggot manages even now to bring at least me to a new level of anger, almost as if the decades of watching his ethereal transfixed face on TV debiting awesome eulogies to Ceausescu were not enough.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Corruption - quantified

Finally, some real figures after a thorough survey in Romania...

True, it covers only a tiny aspect of the country's multi-faceted corruption that spans every social layer - but it happens to focus on an important one: the amounts of money changing hands in the health service.

The total estimated sum of 'gifts' is 360 million dollars per year.

In the case of a family doctor (and this is where the survey results switch to yet another currency...), the average 'gift' is a donation of 5 euros, 12 euros on average are given to the paramedics, hospital doctors pocket 51 euros on average. These are hefty sums, considering the average pay package or especially pension in that country.

The problem is, that many things about the health service have not changed at all since Ceausescu- namely the fact that without such 'donations' and 'gifts', you can literally die and nobody cares.

The most morbid example was recently in Suceava, where a deceased pensioner's body was left in the ward for half a day without anybody giving a damn, eventually, finally, they took her away. The doctor on duty hasn't even turned up to pronounce her dead.

Less morbid scenarios are ubiquitous, the problem is that while you're alive, without the 'gifts', even the nurses leave you there to rot. Often it is difficult to ascertain what the necessary amount of 'gift' money is needed to make medical staff notice you and treat you properly, as we found out both in my grandfather and my father's case, but fortunately usually nurses and doctors will tell you openly the minimum amount.

It is a business transaction, after all - who can say capitalism has not penetrated every layer of Romanian society... grafted on top of old mentalities and current economic misery. No, not talking about the smokescreen statistics reported to the EU, I'm talking about what anybody on a normal salary or pension has in his/her pocket after paying even the basic bills and very basic food. THAT is the majority and whatever anybody says, those things have not changed in the last 18 years- they are getting worse every month.

With the considerable and deplorable imbalance between incomes and expenses on life's basics even, it is difficult to imagine how an ordinary pensioner would be able to pay the needed 'gifts'. In some hospitals, they even displayed openly the 'fee' for basic services...

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Freedom of... suspicion, Take 2

Well, regarding those police posters about 'raising vigilance' in the war against terror... asking the public to watch out for photographers acting 'suspiciously'...

It was funny up to a point, but it did work - proving that no matter what insane levels of paranoia one tries to induce with often tragicomic methods, these actually work.

One photographer, as reported by the Bureau of Freelance Photographers, was recently challenged by a 'concerned and vigilant' member of the public, as he set up a hefty tripod and a Mamiya 645 (hardly a concealed terrorist tool for spying)... Also, he was about to take pictures of natural subjects and not buildings or any other 'target'.

When challenged, he asked whether using his camera phone or compact digicam would be OK - and the answer was that yes, that would be fine. At which point our fellow photographer has almost lost the plot, trying to point out that... well... a bastard of a tripod and a camera like his considerable Mamiya is not what a terrorist would use to spy on some detail of a... landscape. Instead, would actually use a small digicam or a mobile phone.

But ANY attempt of applying reason to such successfully distorted, utterly irrational thought patterns (yep, well, irrational thought pattern is an oxymoron...) is a completely futile endeavour.

We have managed to reach such levels of masterfully induced paranoia, combined with utter idiotic public attitudes, that this beast doesn't need much feeding any more, it's become self-sustaining and can devour on its own any remaining reason amongst the 'concerned public'.

To balance this incredibly frustrating and enraging story, one has to quote a note from a school flyer that was handed out recently to 'concerned' (yes, that word again) parents & kids.

It literally stated, that it wishes to reassure people who reported masked men armed with heavy guns entering a house near the school. The men were actually builders with protective masks and the 'guns' were heavy duty drills that 'may' have been confused from afar.

No, this is not comedy- life wrote it. Life in a maximally paranoid, afraid, irrational and utterly idiotic 'free' society.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Thresholds

Seeing yet another report on how we should abolish the SAT examinations for schoolkids (due to the stress these cause) made me wonder (again) about our sensory thresholds.

This is again one area where personally I'd wish Eastern Europe (and my former home) not to develop so rapidly, as the same over-protective madness has descended upon those societies, too - and its effects are already visible.

In a world, where Aquafresh toothpaste can amaze you, the toothbrush developed for that toothpaste is amazing (I am quoting the advert slogans), chocolate bar is 'full of joy', plus there is continuous threat from everything and everybody... one has to wonder: where are those thresholds in our sensory experiences?

They are somewhere at a very, very low level, obviously.

Now on the test and exam front, clearly, we need to further destroy our education system. Studying Shakespeare from the (translated into modern English) texts is too heavy, we have to see occasional highlights on video in literature classes. Reading is tiring, stressful (!) and an all-out burden on kids. Sports classes are demanding, 13 hours per week University lectures are intolerable, the list can go on and on.

Let's abolish SAT's, too - please. Please, please let's have kids go to school (I wonder why would they?) where they can pass some time in a total state of Zen (without the enlightenment) relaxation, finish years later, go to University, do the same but with much more alcohol and fun involved, then get a job, where the boss will tell them to relax, don't over-exert themselves on any task, just smoothly glide in and out of each working day... and while doing this, society is already well prepared to protect them from any 'stress' or shock.

The net results are already evident, heck, 11 years ago, in 1997 I already met countless 1st and 2nd year students (!) who had their day ruined completely by something as stressful as an early (9AM) start of a lecture. Literally. The bad mood was there at 3PM still, clearly, the stress of that morning 2 hour effort wore them out.

So what can we say about the kids and teens and more mature students in their early 20s now? It really is a rhetorical question.

While A level results are getting better and better every year, with less and less effort required, and as absolute fact, the level of general AND specialised knowledge has gone through the floor in every single survey done in the past years, we are trying to protect kids more and more.

Nobody speaks of different kinds of stress and somehow one doesn't recall exam stress marking anyone for life... But stress is a mantra now, for easy escapism, over-used by teachers, parents, Government - as a huge wide canvas onto which much evil psychological nightmare scenarios can be painted... as if being tested for your knowledge acquired (or not) in school is something that will mark schoolkids for life.

I am sure that this newest, by no means last, wave of over-protecting stupidity will truly help in preparing them for REAL life and real challenges in that non-soap-opera life...

Thursday, 8 May 2008

"Reality" and paranoia

I put the word "reality" in double quotes, in true post-modern fashion - but the reason is not some avid affiliation with post-modern toshposh, but something that stems from yet another fresh survey.

It seems, at least in Britain, 6 out of 10 parents no longer dare to let their (even 10 years old) kids go alone to as far as 100 yards or to the local shop. The reason, quoted invariably by exponents of this 'free' society, is danger.

We live in a very dangerous world nowadays. And this is getting worse every day. Slight problem is that statistics don't support such deep-rooted feelings on these dangers. The survey had the same result even in very safe, very good neighbourhoods, where the subjects have actually admitted: yes, they know it's perfectly OK, but, "in the back of my mind" as they put it, there is a voice saying: it might be dangerous.

Which brings us to the much touched-on topic of paranoia vs. realities of our society.

Media of course plays a huge role here. To quote another sociologist's study, which happens to be indirectly related: when Bluewater shopping complex in Kent hit the headlines about 'hoodies' being banned so that youths can be recognised on CCTV (and also 'customers felt hoody-wearing youths are threatening'), the media exploded.

Compared to the year before, when only 2 headlines mentioned hoodies in any context, that year of the Bluewater ban, the increase was 26 fold in headlines containing the word 'hoodies' in criminal context.

The fact that sale of hoodies has actually increased in the Bluewater shopping mall is just plain funny.

What is depressing, though, is the very clear quantitative effect of media on the already too paranoid public.

Now we have this, hardly surprising, survey on parental paranoia. It is coupled with another study, where GPS tagging of kids has revealed the very obvious and common-sensical: kids who are not on a short leash, escorted by adults and 'protected' all the time against absolutely everything, roam, explore, interact more with objects, places and people... the net benefits being very clear to anybody who grew up in a society not continuously stunned in a state of panic and fear of everything.

It is truly tragic that the 'protected' children will grow up into even more paranoid parents. It is already now obvious how current young adults are incapable of adapting , reacting properly to any situation or element outside their ordinary well-imprinted (and protected, monotonous) everyday reality. This has been touched on enough times in previous blog entries... but now we can think of what the ultra-protected little people will grow into. The answer is obvious.

So... we have a free society, which not only spends billions a year on 'protective' products (Dettol doesn't just clean, it protects you and your family... to quote just one insane but, looking at their sales, very effective advert) and considers anything mildly extra-ordinary a direct threat (that can even be addressed in court, because those people are incapable of doing something common-sensical to avoid even injuring themselves with some banale tool that may not have stated the absolutely obvious on its list of DOs and DONTs in the manual...), but also, makes absolutely sure that its younger members will be absolutely incapable of adapting and reacting to any new situation or event that occurs in their environment.

So... intuitive intelligence is decreasing every day. And at least, for the marketing gurus of this already deeply mentally diseased society, there is the promise of the future: many more, increasingly paranoia-exploiting very successful marketing campaigns for banale things that can be now heralded as saviours of you & your family.

The other 'reassuring' thing is that, as reported in this blog many times, Eastern European societies are already aligning themselves to this level of idiocy and paranoia. Just ask any teacher in Romania about how kids changed in just 10-15 years, when one takes them to some excursion in the countryside. Things that in the 90s would have been absolutely unimaginable due to their level of utter stupidity (stemming from inability of dealing with ANY unfamiliar environment or situation they find themselves in) are now happening so often and so consistently, that many teachers no longer take the class on any trip due to what the kids do to themselves, even when supervised by several adults.

We are becoming, with amazing speed and effectiveness, a thoroughly STUPID and incapable race. As long as we can function in our own silly world constructed around monotonous routines and in the bubble of well-crafted consumer goods that 'protect' us every step of our small journeys, we can feel comfortable.

Monsters are lurking beyond the walls of houses protected by Dettol surface cleanser...