I am visiting family in August, so there may not be much posting. I expect to do more blogging in September.
Friday afternoon I had a job in the outskirts of Pardubice. Someone might call it an industrial “park”—or even a “greenfield site”. Both expressions would be misleading.
It is visibly in the start of the countryside. There are even fields being cultivated near my workplace.
However, to call it a “park”or to speak of “greenfields” falsely suggests–and this false suggestion is common to Communist tower-block suburbs (eg Petrzalka in Slovakia) and suburban neighborhoods just outside Capitalist metropolists (Chicago or Dallas)—that the area is more pleasant than it is.
Mostly, there are no sidewalks, and the pedestrian must avoid enormous trucks. (Like the one used to commit murder in Nice.)
The actual roads are devastated–not even full of pot holes, so much as falling apart. They are only spotted remains of what used to be a paved road.
And as the decrepit bus bounced and shimmied and shaked along one such devastated former road, my thoughts were interrupted by the abrupt presence of someone asking me to prove I’d paid. But shit! Really! I had only just gotten on the bus exactly one stop before, and I had purchased a ticket from the driver!
Out of my Way!
When they boarded the bus,
it stunk of cigarettes.
But they were young enough so that,
their bad habits had not caught up with them yet,
except just one that was going to.
Displaced and tired,
they might have been Ukrainians,
working at the Taiwanese factory known for exploitation,
and murder through the failure to put in elementary ventilation
in its Mainland China factories….
They still had some youthful hope,
and what the fuck,
they were free from work for another day,
or maybe two or three.
Except that they didn’t pay for their ride,
and the ticket-checker was coming to get them,
plodding and deliberate,
she had all the grace of a wilted flower,
she was righteous in her pursuit of free riders,
and I watcher her as she demanded legitimation from one young man,
sitting high in a seat in the front of the bus,
“Haven’t got it”.
And so she sat down to fill out the form,
using the ID he’d given her.
All of it done as if it mattered.
That’s the sort of place this is:
One miserable person pushes down on another,
and no one notices or cares.
Bicyclists proudly pedal their off-road bikes
and pedestrians scatter.
You have to keep your eyes open on Pardubice’s sidewalks:
there are bikes and roller-skaters who don’t care about you,
because you are in their way.
And if you get hit,
hell, it’s your fault anyway.
They will gladly run you down,
pedaling a bike with military tires,
they do not see you;
Like the ladies who guard the entrances to university housing,
they have an air about them,
an air of superiority and condescension:
you are beneath their notice,
an object of contempt.
When we’re on top,
we don’t hesitate to kick someone who’s stuck below.
Get out of my way!
There are many reasons why a person might wish to be “rich”.
They may simply wish security, and wish to indulge a taste for luxury.
They may wish to escape poverty.
Or, they might have a sort of half-fantasy of themselves as a sort of wise king or tyrant, commanding other people.
All of these dreams ignore the fact that everything is worthless if one is ignorant. And I do not know a single soul who is so wise that he or she could wisely command an army, a nation, a factory, or even a small group of people–not even a family. I’ve never met such a person. And I do not believe that any such person exists–outside of the imagination of those who say they want to be rich, and outside of the imagination of those who are rich.
If one is ignorant, one can’t even be master of one’s own self. To risk damaging other people by managing them is to engage in immeasurably more dangerous behavior.
An adult can be forty-something, be established in a job–even a “career”–and be a loving parent….
Yet, have the intellectual habits of a teenager or child. That is, outside of their narrow specialization, they make basic errors and cannot process information…..
Most workplaces do not demand creativity or intelligence outside of a narrow region.
And it is sad and bad for the culture, for society in general….
Their material success gives them a confidence which allows them to form unwise opinions on subjects they do not understand. And if you speak to them honestly, and point out the elementary errors they have made, they become confused and even angry with you. Or refuse to listen.
Shit. That sounds like a Socratic dialogue, and I am certainly no Socrates.
I know many Czechs who seem to regard Germany as a sort heaven…. but I have never heard any of them recognize that Germany has serious infrastructure problems.—As does the USA, and Czechs (at least the ones I meet) are similarly badly informed about the USA….
I was wondering why Czech trains are always late. could it be the desire to imitate Germany?
The number 174,630,000 was used to rub further salt into the wound this week. That’s the number of minutes German passenger and goods trains have been losing every day over the past year, with train delays said to have risen by almost a third since 2009. The reason is an extensive wave of very overdue repairs and modernisation taking place across the 33,000km (20,500 mile) rail network, from replacing ageing tracks and 19th-century signalling stations to repairing crumbling bridges and platforms, some of which are so old they are said to be close to collapse.
Last night when I took a Czech train, I first got my pants horribly wet on account of beer someone had poured on the seat…..Then, when I went to the toilet to wash my pants, I was assaulted by a cloud of cigarette smoke.
Not what I would call polite or considerate. Most troubling, I suppose, is the fact that young Czechs are taking up the habit of (addiction to) smoking. I would not call that social progress.
Last week I was posed a question by an adult student. I shall formulate it more fully than he did:
Why are you saying things about the USA that I’ve never heard before? Why are you telling me things I have never heard from Czech media? Why are you telling me things that no other American has ever told me?
And Isn’t there anything about the USA you are proud of?
The suggestion, of course, was that I was making things up, or lying, or mad.
I did, however, give a sort of answer to his last question. I said I was proud of my mother–but I am no nationalist–I am proud of my mother because she voted for Bernie Sanders.
My student, however, did not understand my answer.
I must say that I have, over the years, formed the impression that engineers, in particular, fall prey to the failing noted by Socrates (this student was an engineer)–the conviction that competence within their narrow specialty (and they really do sometimes create fine things) translated into broader wisdom with respect to things political and social….
Note on the small-scale disrespect imposed on us daily:
I purchase something in a shop. It might be toilet paper. It might be toothpaste. It might be a drug store in the USA or in Europe. And the person behind the counter (usually a woman) asks, “Don’t you want …..” And she gestures to a crappy piece of candy.
What a waste of my time. I am waiting for my change back, and they are imposing upon me. They are taking advantage of my temporary position as a captive audience.
This is a daily instance of inequality, our powerlessness, the true disrespect which we face on a daily basis. And we are not supposed to notice or comment upon it. We simply don’t have the right–do we?
People in the Czech Republic–at least those I meet–are deeply confused by the question of anthropogenic global warming.
Not long ago, the university which employs me (part time) launched a revision of the grounds and buildings where I work. At the end, there were enormous stretches of cement and stone where there had previously been grass.
More than ten years ago in Slovakia, I read an interview with a Slovak scientist in which he warned that such large areas of cement will only increase flooding. And, Europe is currently experiencing flooding….
So, the science here is pretty well know. However, it has not spread to people in decision-making roles….
This is all very sad and disturbing. I don’t think, by the way, that there’s anything beautiful about long flat spaces covered by stones, rocks, or cement–even if the task of laying down the stones is pain-staking and back-breaking. That’s not an aesthetic I appreciate.
But, for what it’s worth, here’s a link to an interview with Dimitris Lascaris in which he points out the facts about flooding and global warming. It’s a pity that those people upstairs (as ST says, “ti hore”) don’t listen to the scientists.
Reflection from flat cement surfaces also increases warming…. as if we needed
A friend wrote me recently, telling me about his job at a Language School in Central Europe. He said it was ridiculous. His employer behaved as though he were doing my friend a favor by employing him, and demanded “professional” behavior.
My friend commented that the man did not understand that the job he had was PRECARIOUS, and not at all “professional”. I believe this misuse of language is common among the managers of language schools in Europe. (Another friend reports similar mis-use from Vienna.)
Here is an accurate explanation:
“Precarious workers are those who fill permanent job needs but are denied permanent employee rights. Globally, these workers are subject to unstable employment, lower wages and more dangerous working conditions.”
Another friend, who also is a language teacher, writes:
“I was horrified to discover the dangerous conditions of country roads. And I don’t trust the bus-drivers–because we all know that companies require long hours to increase profits. And I also don’t trust the local government to regulate this.
But, then I looked at the poverty–spiritual and material–of the people on the bus. I am, I thought, no better than they are. They are human beings, and they have been ignored and abused by their society. And I am one of them. I deserve neither more nor less. –But, no, we all deserve more….”