Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Work and Stress

It has been an interesting last few weeks. Interesting is a good word. There has been lots to do and some unexpected curveballs along the way. Some things have been forgotten and others have replaced them. Some issues have come up and some, which were thought to have been important, have been left behind. Such is life I guess.

But at this moment I feel as if I have returned to normal, a very common word for all Belarusian people. And though Belarusian normal never seems to come with a very promising economic outlook, in the end normal is normal and therefore a bit easier to live with.

I guess specifically what has happened to have me feeling so nostalgic is that potential business opportunities, well two financial resources, have pretty much gone away. And though one might normally be feeling low or sorry for oneself at such moments, asking where to assign blame and kickng oneself over the loss, I find that this is not the case with me. In fact as I mention I am kind of glad of it. Really I am. I didn’t like the added stress in my life while the possibility of doing business with these particular people existed, I didn’t like how it felt dealing with them and I didn’t like the potential problems that could have come along with the association. And mostly, I didn’t like it because these folks obviously didn’t give a damn about any of the things I just mentioned.

I think also that feeling the way I am about such things is pretty normal in Belarus. Yes, people here really need money but I don’t think anybody likes to be treated as though they are nothing more than an unimportant facet of another person’s deal just because they do. Nobody likes to be downwardly pushed or treated in a disrespectful manner in general but this is especially true when it comes from someone who believes that they can do so simply because of the financial differences in our portfolios. In fact, we can’t stand it.

And over the last few weeks while I had been dealing with these two people, both of whom decided to play with me during conversations that should have been much more of a business nature, I got to feeling as though it was more important to them that their egos be fulfilled than that any business be accomplished. Rather than simply speaking to me as if I was an intelligent, sentient person, which I hope you can see that I am, they went right past me in their thinking, ignored my words when I spoke of specific needs and requirements- and this was especially egregious in one case because the requests on their side were blatantly illegal- and basically implied that I was some kind of a small time joke to them. How humiliating. And worse, it honestly seemed as though making things humiliating was what had in fact been on their minds.

Of course at the same time, the thought of having a few more dollars was certainly appealing on my part. I was not against doing business with them in principal from the beginning. And I think in both cases I acted in a businesslike manner and did what was required on my side quickly, efficiently and reasonably. Or in other words initially, I allowed for trust and was into it. But rather than simply moving forward with what was needed, what I got back was the impression that because THE MONEY WOULD BE COMING FROM THEIR SIDE, all of my efforts were just a small inconsequential part of things and what was really important was that I KNOW MY PLACE. And of course, their dismissive attitude led to some face losing on my part when they failed to understand that some of the people I had already spoken to on their behalf were waiting for quick and timely decision making rather than wasting time sitting around waiting for a bunch of wankers to decide who was big and who was small. I had the thought to actually print the letters, which is something that had been mentioned to me as being something interesting to do, but I decided not to because the principle would be missed. You’d never hear it anyway.

But I can assure you that from a Belarusian point of view, hearing this sort of talk from outsiders does not inspire a healthy, jealousy based Christian work ethic or any sense of necessary competition. All it does is make people here hate the person who is filling their ears with all of this trash. Why? Because first of all, it seems like great waste of time and money and to people who live without, this is an insult. Secondly, it is really egocentric and unfair to speak to people this way and for those who have been raised to live together well, egoism is the same sort of dirty word that communism was in the states during the McCarthy years. And thirdly, having the bad taste not to understand this is as socially reprehensible as bragging over one’s latest sexual exploits to a woman who has just been raped. This, by the way is not such a far fetched analogy for people who have seen so many of their women taken away and enlisted as sexual toys because of these self same economic differences.

From this side of the fence, I think that this is the normal perception of western businessmen in general. The feeling pretty much is that most of the time, the main influence for wannabe carpetbaggers is the ego inflation that comes along with dealing with people “below their station” Or, rather than just simply doing what is necessary to live, these quick buck types always need a lot of extraneous and unappreciated frivolity in order to keep their interests up. Such is the life in the west, all of that “Oh, I’ll just dial out for pizza because I don’t feel like cooking” and “Oh, I guess we should just jet down to the Turkish Riviera for holiday because they are cheep and I don’t really give a damn anyway”. This is not jealousy mind you; it is just that throwaway money is something that Belarus simply does not have. And please, it is not that Belarusians haven’t the character to have money and it isn’t (really) about Lukashenka making it impossible for money to be had, but rather it is simply a case of incomes failing to justify it and the culture not understanding why it is needed. And this second explanation is bigger than you think because for the last 70 years or so everybody was supposed to have had the same money and there wasn’t a lot of it so flippancy was simply out of the question and cheapness, with the exception of making guests and friends feel welcome, was one of the necessary foundations. And unfortunately, it was that same warmth and cheapness that drew all of the bottom feeders when the wall finally fell. And no, their coming was not in friendship and the jolting truth of exactly how uncouth the west can be was one of the great heartbreaks of the last 15 years

I also think it fair to mention here that trying to hedge against foreign exploitation has been one of the foundations of Alexander Lukashenka’s presidency. I know that you are not supposed to say nice things about the man, but the fact remains that most of his bad press has come from the west and has originated, in this writers opinion, not really from any democratic short comings but rather because Lukashenka told the west to stuff their one sided business deals. Get it? Argue all you want about election returns, but you would think that people should be allowed to have the right not to be raped, robbed and humiliated. And in the beginning, when the banks all failed and everyone here saw how little and poor they were without the Soviet Union to protect them from exploitation, they turned to someone who said he could and would do for them what was needed. And he did! He did tell the west to get stuffed! And of course the country got hammered economically because of it. But in spite of this, they did vote for him for his second term, and they did vote for him in the referendum, and they will probably vote for him for a third term. Is he hard as nails? Yes he is. But then again, he would have to be wouldn’t he?

I have often wondered why it has never occurred to the western press that it was the USA and Europe’s continuously overbearing and one-sided fiscal assault which has been the main thing that has kept the man in power. If the real truth was that there was some overt love for democracy rather than simply a hunger to exploit and find personal wealth among the wreckage, why hasn’t the west ever tried to be a bit more… humble and warm handed in their approach to Belarus. This probably would have been appreciated much more than the west’s demanding the rights to dictate policy and inflicting economic sanctions to get their points across. But of course, we all know now that this is simply not the way things are done in the great shark hunt: Westerners love life in the coliseum, right? Only the strong survive and in the end it’s just a game, right?

But as you can see, money or no money some people still just don’t want to play. Me, I guess I am one of them. I mean, you would think that it should be understood that people of any economic status should have the right not to be physically, spiritually or economically assaulted. Or coerced, hounded, played with, abused, ill-treated, used, demeaned, battered, endangered, disempowered, emasculated, robbed or for that matter, run down by a cars while riding a bicycle. But apparently, and especially when they feel they are above reprisal, there are some people who obviously don’t believe this should be so. Perhaps I should start to refer to such types as Zaremba’s, or that they suffer from Zaremba Syndrome. I for one would rather see a few economic sanctions put on these sorts of people than on ten million or so $100-a-monthers who are just looking for a little peace and quiet.

So the point is that I am not at all feeling bad to have lost the above mentioned opportunities because the ill feeling that I had inside me when there was a possibility of continuance has gone along with them. Yes, I am poorer for this financially, but I am richer because I have regained my time and the ability to continue with my own projects without being hindered by responsibilities I hadn’t any real interest in or love for. One such new project by the way, is the intended launching of yet another page, this one specifically having to do with Polish police and administrative corruption. This being something I am sure you can see as having potentially much greater social value than any smalltime attempts at Belarusian exploitation ever would.

At any rate, this is the story. And as that loss of income was, regardless of all of this ranting and raving about ethics very much needed, as you can see I have opened up a PayPal account so as to more easily receive outside recourses. I still have not worked out all of the bugs in this yet, but nevertheless yes, we are open for business and hopefully will be at least solvent and that the cost of doing this site, and especially paying for all of the extra hours of necessary internet use, will be taken care of in the very near future.

Oh, and one last thing, please read on to the next entry which is one I really like. It is a negative of posting that sometimes things which deserve a second or third look are sometimes lost when new things come along. The blog which follows is one of these I think, and I almost didn’t post this one simply because it would cover up the next. So please continue on and please tell me what you think.

And as long as I am at it, please have a look at the latest chapter of the book and the BEING HAD Times news page as well. There are lots and lots of interesting things going on.

More soon…