Archive for September, 2015

“WHOEVER HAS EARS TO HEAR, LET THEM HEAR”

September 29, 2015

During Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. many of the Catholic believers in that country hoped he would speak openly and clearly on such thorny problems as the ongoing re-definition of the family, same-sex marriages, abortions and the like. By the end of his visit he was expected to deliver an address on religious freedoms, which was a key-issue in Kim Davis’ fight (Kim Davis, a lawyer from Kentucky, was imprisoned for refusing to give a marriage license to a same-sex couple). However, the pope changed course and, avoiding the topic, focused on love and importance of families. The papal spokesman later explained that the pope didn’t want to get into polemics because he came for a positive message (for “bridge-building”) and didn’t want to further polarize American society. Early in his papacy, when asked by correspondents on gay marriages,  Pope Frances had referred to the Bible: “Who am I to judge? Judge not, lest you be judged.”

This time, while returning to Italy in his plane, the pope was more straightforward. In his interview he said that believers have a “human right” to refuse to discharge a duty if they feel that it violates their conscience (he meant Kim Davis)

As far as I can understand, Pope France’s visit had a positive impact on the Catholic community. His de-emphasis of the Church’s opposition to gay marriage and abortion raised his popularity among liberal-oriented Catholics, and, probably, moved him closer to the open advocates of the controversial questions among non-believers. On the other hand, devoted Catholics interpreted the pope’s American speeches and interviews in a “conservative” way.  Bill Donahue, from the Catholic League, said that it was “pretty clear that (the pope) was denouncing radical Islam, that he was denouncing same-sex marriage…He was very clear on abortion. I don’t think anyone failed to hear what he was talking about.”

All that reminds me of another fact I know from American history. In 1892 Adlai E. Stevenson was a candidate for vice-presidency in the U.S.A. He travelled around the country in a train giving speeches. At each town his train stopped and Stevenson gave a speech. In one place people were very concerned about the naming of a certain mountain in their area: some of them wanted to name it Mt. Tacoma, others wanted the name to be Mt. Rainier. Adlai Stevenson could in no way avoid taking sides: he had to join one group or the other. And.. right at the moment when he was to pronounce the name to the locals at the platform, he put his hand up and the train conductor (as it had been definitely pre-arranged) blew the train whistle…

Adlai Ewing Stevenson was the 23rd vice-president from 1893 to 1897.

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AN APPETITE WITH A LINGUISTIC BACKGROUND

September 25, 2015

DSCcookbookAccording to the decision of the Council of Europe the date September 26th is annually observed as the European Day of Languages (EDL). An official document says that the EDL celebrates the linguistic diversity of a continent with more than 200 indigenous languages (225 languages, to be exact) and 24 official languages. What I particularly liked in the document was that the EDL is also aimed at “encouraging people of all ages to learn languages.” To me, a 67-year-old ex-teacher of English, the phrase sounded as “Vitaliy, there is life in the old dog yet.”  So, I rolled up my sleeves I looked into the linguistic panorama of Europe.

Firstly, Europe is not the most diverse continent language-wise. Ethnologue, a comprehensive reference work that catalogues all the known living languages in the world, lists 6,909 languages as of 2009, which means that 9.7% of the world population (711 m in Europe out of 7.3 bn in the world) speak roughly 3.3% of the world’ language total.

Secondly, only the popularity of the German language correlates with the number of its indigenous speakers. German is second popular after English and second as regards the number of the German-speaking people in Europe. Here’s the list of how popular the main European languages are and how many people speak them as their native language.

POPULARITY: 1. English, 2. German, 3. French, 4. Italian, 5. Spanish, 6. Russian.

NUMBER OF INDIGENOUS SPEAKERS: 1.Russian (150m), 2.German (95m), 3.Turkish (80m), 4. French (67m), 5.English (63m), 6.Italian (60m), 7.Spanish (48m), 8.Polish (38m), 9. Ukrainian (30m), 10.Romanian (26m).

Not without interest are the data that show how well the Europeans switch from language to language. 56% of EU citizens speak a language other than their mother tongue. 44% admit to speaking ONLY their mother tongue. 28% have knowledge of two foreign languages. 38% know English, 14% know French or German, 7% – Russian, 5% – Spanish, 3% – Italian.

A typical multilingual European is either a student, or someone who holds a managerial position, or someone born in a country where the language of his/her parents is different from the main language of the country.

On my bookshelf I found an English-language cookbook titled Vegetarian – the Best-Ever Recipe Collection and suggested that my wife pick up a recipe and prepare something “yummy” to celebrate tomorrow’s ELD. Liudmyla looked doubtfully at me and asked if I don’t think that I’ll have to go hungry for some longer time before she is through with reading recipes IN ENGLISH. If the issue concerns the European languages, I answered, I’m ready to go hungry as long as it takes her to read the English cookbook from cover to cover. The date of September 26, I said, should encourage people of all ages to learn languages!

Liudmyla didn’t have to be asked twice. She got down to reading the book immediately, and already this afternoon –on the eve of the ELD! – both of us enjoyed eating Eggplant, Lemon and Caper Salad. My research into the European Language Day and Liuda’s enthusiasm for both English and cooking gave each of us a good stomach for that dish.

…AND NEVER THE TWAIN SHALL MEET

September 19, 2015

Some twenty years ago I did research on the Ukrainian diaspora, and since that time I have been keeping track of it. At present 12 – 15 million Ukrainians (including those who are their 2nd and 3rd generation descendants in adopted countries) live abroad, which makes about a third of the nation. There were periods in the history of Ukraine when its people were forced to leave their homes in multitudes. In the past they emigrated to France, Canada, the U.S.A., Brazil, Argentina, Australia – as now they go to Poland, Slovakia or the Czech republic. I read many of the published letters they wrote to their relatives who had remained at home, as well as interviews they gave and articles they placed in their community newspapers. No matter what their individual characters could be (they could be stubborn, despondent, tenacious, patient, optimistic, depressed, confident, etc., etc.) there was much of Christian humbleness and gratitude in all of them, even if they were no believers at all.  They recognized that they had entered a foreign county where they had to start their social ascent practically from the lowest rung of the ladder, and they were thankful to that country for giving them a chance to move upwards. For the most part they were hard-working and conscientious, and when last June I read Czech President’s words of praise for the Ukrainian immigrants coming to the Czech Republic, I was not particularly surprised (you may google-translate Miloš Zeman’s interview from http://jihlava.idnes.cz/prezident-milos-zeman-v-jihlave-k-bezencum-v-evrope-fxs-/jihlava-zpravy.aspx?c=A150624_121928_jihlava-zpravy_mv )

2015-09-19IslamWhat is taking place in Western Europe these days, cannot be in any way called emigration or exodus, escape or departure, flight or hegira, as those names continuously surface up on the Internet. There is one exact term for it: INVASION. If, for the time being, it’s not an armed invasion, then, definitely, psychological and cultural. The invaders’ behavior is impudent and assertive. They do not think of asking for any permission, they are confident that they have the right to brazen through and to win through. They don’t seem to have any particular love for the countries through which they are going or to which they are going. It looks that they hate even each other. Isn’t it hatred when they trample one another getting into trains through all doors and windows? And how about their parental feelings? The father in a boat has his lifebelt on, but his son has none.  Or, would you throw your own child over the fence and over the police line? They use their children as a kind of weapon in the psychological pressure: 15% of women refugees are pregnant.  The invaders know sympathetic attitudes and kind-heartedness of the Europeans and capitalize on them.

What is happening is only the thin edge of the wedge. People who stampede into the EU disregarding moral and legal norms CANNOT be law-abiding citizens in the future. Their would-be loyalty to European values is rather questionable. They have their own god and their own militant religion. Their religious centers are not only for religion – they are, directly or indirectly, incubators of violence and rejection of another culture. That tinderbox is sure to explode one day, and Paris riots of 2005 proved it.

I’m sure that many people in the West (and also many Germans among them – of those who are reputed to be neat, order-loving and sticking to the law) would share my view on the problem. But they are cautious to express themselves openly for fear of being accused of racism.  To which I will ask them the following: If a stranger broke his way into your apartment, plopped into your chair with his feet on the table and suggested that you serve him lunch because he was fleeing from “baddies,” would you not kick him out fearing you may be accused of inhuman behavior?

I am browsing the Internet for the latest events in Europe. Rudyard Kipling’s words keep hammering in my brains: “East is East and West is West…” (pls see the title of this post).

THE CHOICES WE FACE

September 10, 2015

2015-09-10Kim DavisWhen I woke up this morning the sky was dark and “Turkish”: in the east the crescent of the old moon was hanging right over a very bright star, which, as Google told me later, was the planet Venus. I grabbed a camera and, still drowsy, snapped a picture of the Moon and Venus’s rendezvous. Incidentally, in Ukrainian and German(my second foreign language) the Moon  is the masculine gender and Venus – the feminine, which fits my conservative views of who should meet whom in so small hours of the day.

Yes, my views are becoming more and more conservative. It seems that in present day journalese this word acquires the meaning of “old-fashioned”, “outdated”, “deteriorated“, “retrogressive”, “bigoted,” etc. A clerk from Kentucky (U.S.A.) – a Christian “conservative” – refused to issue a marriage certificate to a same-sex couple. The to-be-married bride and groom (their names are given, but I’m not sure who is which) sued Kim Davis asking the judge to punish her. Instead of fining the clerk, as the plaintiffs sought, Judge Bunning went beyond that and jailed Ms. Davis. As I understand, there are no definite prescriptions of incarceration terms for such cases and Ms. Davis can be staying in prison as long as the judge decides – probably until she “repents.”

Ms. Davis could have done differently – just as her colleagues did (“I don’t want to, but I will follow the law”, another lawyer, who is also a preacher’s daughter, said). But that would have run against her moral principles, against her conscience. So, she made her choice.

I am not in the least interested in the casuistic macramé the American judiciary is webbing at the moment. I only see this little great Christian on a witness stand and hear her voice when she, being asked whether she approved of same-sex marriage, replies – with courage in her heart and tears in her voice, “It’s not of God.”

That’s how things work in America. In Ukraine we throw grenades. If I weren’t a Christian, I would be on the side of Ukraine.


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