Archive for December, 2009

ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES

December 13, 2009

Several days before Christmas my wife and I usually go to the city airport to meet our children who come to stay with us for a couple of weeks. Actually, we start waiting for them in September-October counting down first months, then weeks, days and finally – hours. We know a special place at the arrival gate in the airport: when passengers have passed the customs control and are approaching the door to go out, sensitive detectors open it for them and within those few seconds when the passengers are passing through the gate and the door remains open, you can stand on your tiptoes, crane your neck and glimpse inside the spacious hall with a row of customs check-points – guessing which of the newly arrived is your son (daughter).

When at last the automatic door lets our children out, they emerge before us so dear and so young – bringing with them a part of their own lives, which is “foreign” only to their parents but so natural for them. While carrying the luggage to the bus-stop, we exchange some clipped phrases, in which intonation prevails over the contents, and by some words uttered by them in passing we feel how closely they are still connected with what was going in America yesterday or in Britain a few hours ago.

The Christmas tree is already set up.  As it was set up every December in the last 33 years. I bought the tree when both of them were still going to the kindergarten. In those days we used to call it the New Year tree. The tree is artificial, which means that with our “green thinking” we have saved 33 fir-trees by now. It makes my wife and me quite proud when we are watching the news about the summit on the climate change in Copenhagen 🙂

After several weeks the Christmas tree will be stripped off its decorations, dismantled into components, stacked on the upper shelf in the pantry and we will be seeing off our children to the airport. Our children will start departing to their respective destinations. On the way to the airport we — for the most part — remain silent: all of us think about ARRIVALS. Our children think about their arrivals in Britain and in America. My wife and I think about the kids arriving back home again. Next Easter? Next summer? Next Christmas?

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DUALITIES

December 7, 2009

My good acquaintance emailed me an invitation to join Facebook. After giving the positive answer and chain-adding some more mutual acquaintances as friends , I found myself in a virtual community of the people whom I had known some time ago but who  later left the closely-knit team  mainly for reasons of moving out to other countries – their home countries or foreign ones, as the case could be. Facebook was my first experience of social networking and I really liked it: the continuous kaleidoscope of micro-messages and the photos uploaded by the people I know so well gave the feeling of deja-vu and were at variance with the vicissitudes of the present-day life.

The re-established community was not exactly a replica of the former group: some new people joined time and again, until one of the old-timers warned everybody against consenting to the membership of a certain Somebody (the name was also given). The communication with the Somebody could destroy your data on the hard-disk.

I have paraphrased the English proverb, saying to myself that no silver lining can go without a darker cloud. It has always been so: Good and Evil, Yin and Yang, a plus and a minus, high and low… Hegel’s dialectic of opposites as the source of development seems to be opportune and to the point here. Eventually, this blog post would hardly have emerged if it had not been for the old-timer’s warning to beware of the Somebody:-)

A LINGUISTIC OBSERVATION

December 1, 2009

The words “socialist” and “social” are linguistic cousins. They were very much linked in the ex-USSR. The word “social” meant “relating to human society and its members; characteristic of living together; enjoying life in communities.” People lived in a socialist state, they belonged to “friendly” social classes: workers or peasants. “Intelligentsia” (teachers, doctors, engineers, journalists, writers, etc) was considered less “friendly” – it did not belong to either class and was categorized as “social layer”, or “insertion”.  The social work (understood as arranging all kinds of public events, or being “responsible” for academic achievements of the students, for sports at an enterprise or university, for issuing a wall newspaper, etc) was a considerable advantage when mentioned in any resume.

Nowadays the word “social” is undergoing the pejoration (deterioration) of its meaning. It looks like it will have the same lot as the words “sly” (formerly meaning “clever”), “silly” (“happy”). “wench” (“girl”). We are going to start with the program of “social housing” (cheap apartment buildings for poor people), at present older people prefer “social transport” (earlier called “public” – municipal buses, trams and trolleybuses, the metro), they also buy “social bread”: “normal” bread costs twice as much. By switching over into “social consumption” you are sliding into the periphery of life, with a perspective of becoming a social outcast, a “pariah” in the circles you used to be in.

The opposite is also true: an expensive tie bought at a boutique in the city centre, or a trendy car you drive are the signs of success. In that case you’re are a tough guy. And toughness is appreciated. Just the same as ouright lie, clan solidarity, mutual distrust, primitive thinking.

All that rings the bell. A Greek philosopher was saying something like that more than two thousand years ago.

ABIDANCE BY LAW

December 1, 2009

Of late the city “marshrutkas” (shuttle-buses) are allowed to take in and let out passengers only at designated stops, which are also the stops for other city transport – buses and trolleybuses. Earlier you could wave to the marshrutka driver at any place on the road and he would stop and pick you up no matter where you were. Or, while in the marshrutka, you could “order” your stop for getting off by naming some landmark on the route: “At the crossroads, please”, “Just round the corner”, etc.

Yesterday I heard a lady in the back of the marshrutka shouting to the driver the name of an “unofficial” place where she would like to get out. When the driver disregarded her plea, which was both a request and a command, the lady got really angry. To my remark that the driver has no right to stop anywhere, but only at fixed places, the lady retorted indignantly: “Others have the right and he hasn’t!”

That is the beginning of all our problems, I thought. We are growing indignant over the law being broken by our politicians, by their going scott-free from crimes committed, by unjust trials, by pervasive corruption. But it looks that law-abidance, like charity, begins at home too.


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