Archive for May, 2009

Entry for May 17, 2009

May 17, 2009

PAST OUR DANCING DAYS?

With the jubilee date approaching (I’m going to be 60 in a few days), I tried to intellectualize about the roads we take, about the right choices and wrong decisions, about sandcastles built on deserted beaches, about a wagon hitched to a star, about a man’s reach that should exceed his grasp, about more names crossed out in the address book, about time becoming a thief, etc, etc.

While I was struggling with these ideas, my wife came to me and sat by my side. She listened to my fiery monologue, smiled quietly, gave me a kiss and advised that instead I should post only a picture which now accompanies this blog entry.

You can hardly ever grow old if there’s a wise person to give you a smile and a kiss, right?

Advertisements

Entry for May 13, 2009

May 13, 2009

EUROPEAN, NOT CHRISTIAN

A left-liberal British journalist Johann Hari published an article in The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-dear-god-stop-brainwashing-children-1681008.html

The article is critical of the British law that requires schoolchildren to take part in daily religious worship. The journalist is barking up the wrong tree. He’d better have directed his irony and spite at drug consumption, smoking or bullying at schools, or at cases when pupils run amok and shoot their classmates. Maybe Mr. Hari thinks there is a better law – the law which allows uploading an online game “Amok Madman” (the description in the Internet: you as a madman trying to shoot cans while drinking beer. The longer you take, the harder it gets. As of today, the game has been played 13,723 times)? The morning prayers at schools are qualified by the columnist as “anachronism” that “persists in this blessedly irreligious country”. The author also laments: “…Why is worship forced on 99 per cent of children without their own consent or even asking what they think”. I wonder, how many courses would be left in the school curriculum if we delivered the selection of the study matter into the hands of pupils?

Johann Hari goes as far as using the data contained in the book of a specialist on theropod dinosaurs Gregory Paul “Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look” to state that “the more religious the country is, the more likely you are to be stabbed or raped there”.

I put Mr. Hari’s article in the context of the growing European sentiments which may be summarized as “aggressive secularism” or “Christianophobia”. The trouble is that the sentiments in no way contribute to the moral growth, but only cultivate social Darwinism. Just a couple of examples:

  • A nurse Caroline Petrie has been suspended from her job for offering to pray for elderly patient’s recovery from illness. Incidentally, the nurse did not force her own religious beliefs on the patient but politely inquired if the elderly lady wanted her to pray for her – either in the woman’s presence or after the nurse had left the patient’s home.
  • A council worker Duke Amachree was suspended after he discussed his faith with a terminally-ill woman. He was told by his superiors that it was inappropriate to “ever talk about God” with a client and that he should not even say “God bless”.
  • A 16-year-old girl was placed into foster care after being assaulted by a family member. Her foster mother, a practicing Christian, had taken care of 80 foster kids over 10 years, but she was removed from the list of foster care providers after the girl expressed a desire to be baptized. Moreover, government officials told the girl to stay away from church for six months! Can you imagine an atheist foster parent being removed if a Christian child in her care stopped believing in God?
  • Rocco Buttiglione, an Italian Christian democrat and an academic philosopher, stood down after his being proposed as a European Commissioner. That happened when some political groups opposed his Roman Catholic views on homosexuality. Britain’s Education Secretary Ruth Kelly had to feel that she was getting the Buttiglione Treatment for the same reason too. In this respect the refusal of the EU to include specific mention of Christianity’s influence on Europe’s civilization can be added.

The first two of the above examples are particularly illustrative of what I call the “social Darwinism”. The people to whom the Christians suggested that they should pray for them reported the Christian workers to their authorities. A very similar situation existed in the ex-USSR: that was the time when people were laying the information with the secret police against one another and rampant reprisals followed.

One reason for this “secular fundamentalism” is the changing demographic character of the Continent. While clinging to power, the European national governments are dancing attendance on the incoming migrants and try to be “politically correct”. The prospects do not look brighter. With Europe’s native-born labor force declining since World War II, the need for more workers helped boost the Muslim population from about 1 million in 1945 to about 18 million today. The addition of Turkey to the EU would bring about 62 million more Muslims into the European fold. Islam scholar Bernard Lewis is not alone in saying that Europe will be Islamic by the end of the 21st century “at the very latest.” To many who think that Europe is more a cultural than a geographic entity, this would alter the very core of European identity.

In olden times Johann Hari was supporting the 2003 U.S. war against Iraq. Later he changed his stand and wrote that his support had been a terrible mistake. Hopefully, at some point the journalist will also change his views on the morning worship at British schools. The Bible has an example of an individual who, having once been a fierce persecutor of the Christians, became a Christian himself, and even wrote a good part of the New Testament. His name was Saul, which later was transformed to Paul. The apostle Paul.

Entry for May 07, 2009

May 7, 2009

ABOVE THE LAW AND BELOW IT

Reuters placed the information about the Ukrainian Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko’s detention by police at Frankfurt airport in the news column categorized as “Latest Oddly Enough Articles”. The other pieces of news were of the type “Afghanistan’s only pig quarantined in flu fear”, “Cow wins free pass after escaping slaughter in NYC”, “Berlusconi denies relationship with 17-year-old girl”, etc. I must admit that I’m neither surprised at nor indignant over Mr. Lutsenko and his son being severely drunk or throwing their mobile telephones in a rage, or their starting an altercation in which police officers were hurt. I’m tired of getting surprised and growing indignant while observing the boorish lot which goes under the name “Ukrainian powers-that-be”. What makes me really indignant is the attempts to pull the wool over my eyes: Ukraine‘s interior ministry denied that any altercation had taken place at Frankfurt airport but said Lutsenko had simply missed his flight and departed for Seoul the next day. Ukrainian President ordered that an investigation into the matter should be made. Even if the truth is searched for and has been discovered, it will hardly be done for moral reasons, but on the ground of political rivalry. Nobody but President himself had swept under the rug the case of the journalist Gongadze’s murder – had the case successfully been brought to a close, it would have pointed to a number of high-ranking politicians who were directly or indirectly involved in the murder and who are President’s confidants.

Quite a few people in Ukraine oppose globalization, the country’s joining NATO or becoming a part of the European Union. However, when I think of drunken groups at every poorly-lit “thirst-aid station” in Kyiv, or humiliation of conscripts by older soldiers, or permissive environment created for our small fry who think they are big fish, I’m all for the shining McDonald’s where you don’t have to queue up and where your kids can get a lot of fun (even with all that junk food in it). I’m for the army where soldiers’ dignity is respected, and I’m very supportive of the system where boozed-up and violent individuals can be prevented from boarding the flight and handcuffed – even if they are interior ministers.

Entry for May 06, 2009

May 6, 2009

ACCOUNTING FOREVER!

It has been officially reported in Ukraine that the targets for tax returns have been met and the plan of revenue to the state budget in the first quarter has been fulfilled. Moreover, the plan has even been overfulfilled – by more than one per cent.

The figure of one per cent made me suspicious. I immediately remembered the Soviet times when targets for five-year plans were always exceeded but people bought sausages, butter, oranges, etc. in Moscow and carried them home to Ukraine, Siberia, Kazakhstan and other regions of the country. A facetious riddle was current in those days: “What is long, green and smells of sausage?” The answer: “A passenger train leaving Moscow”.

I also wondered what kind of plan fulfilment it was, if according to the same statistics the industrial production in Ukraine had fallen by some 30 per cent? I had kept wondering till I spoke to my acquaintance who is working as an accountant at the Ukrainian subsidiary of a well-known Western company. The company had suffered losses in the first quarter and when their financial reporting was made and presented to the tax inspection, the inspectors refused to accept the statement. As it turned out, the rule-of–thumb with tax administrators was to agree only to PROFIT in the financial statements. If a company showed losses, the financial statement was simply rejected by taxmen. The tax authorities also added that if the accountant insists on Q1 being a quarter without profit, the tax police will study all their balance sheet. “My feeling was that I was a criminal”, the acquaintance said. She remarked that the “profitable quarter” project was launched not only locally – the same principle was being applied all over the country.

In accountancy practices a term “creative accounting” is used. The term is a euphemism meant to cover the use of novel ways of characterizing income, assets, or liabilities and the intent to influence readers towards the interpretations desired by the authors. In such cases the true income and assets of a company are misrepresented for the purpose of Brownie points scored.

The sad truth is that if the moral downturn continues, what is good and bad, right and wrong, wholesome and damaging, virtuous and wicked, honest and double-tongued will change their places on the scale of values. The smell of sausages may again permeate the long green snake-like transport departing (this time) from Kyiv. If there is any sausage left by that time.

Entry for May 03, 2009

May 3, 2009

THEFT

The notice in the picture reads:

On April 23 a black bag with a computer and documents was “borrowed” from the boot of the car at this place. Will you kindly return the HDD and the passports? Remuneration is guaranteed. The phone number and the email address were supplied at the bottom of the notice.

The person who had suffered might have addressed the police too. I am sure the police knew the culprit. At least they knew those several people who may have been directly or indirectly involved in that case, or who had supervised it. In this country thieves mostly operate by “covering” a certain location. My Ukrainian acquaintance once said that she knows thieves in the metro by sight and warns her friends against them any time she recognizes the pickpockets. You may only guess why the police do not root out the crime by knowing the people behind it. Do they proceed from the premise that it’s easier for them to contain the evil if they allow certain freedom for the criminals? Or are the police paid by the same criminals for not being too hard on the thieves? My American friend who is a Christian missionary had his passport and some money stolen on a bus in Ukraine. He immediately reported the case to the American Embassy. After a few days representatives of the transportation agency that arrange the bus service on the route visited the American and returned him the passport saying it had been “found” and later brought to their office. Only the passport had been recovered, — there was no money with it. However, the missionary was rejoicing at this outcome since it saved him a lot of bureaucratic redtape and and – definitely – much greater trouble. My heart was delighted when I heard that the passport had been recovered, though I also understood that the transportation agents had hardly told the whole truth: the U.S. passport was much more valuable than the amount of the money stolen with it – one could get up to ten thousand dollars for the passport in the black market.

My American friend said it was God’s hand that had helped him out. I agreed.


%d bloggers like this: