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Sam Vaknin

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Member Since: Jul, 2000

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Books
· FREE A Critique of Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-first Century [

· FREE DOWNLOAD The Death of Sex and the Demise of Monogamy

· FREE DOWNLOAD Short Fiction About Narcissism And Mental Health

· FREE DOWNLOAD Speculations and Physics

· FREE DOWNLOAD Essays on God and Freud

· FREE DOWNLOAD Macedonia: A Nation at a Crossroads

· FREE DOWNLOAD Healthcare Reform Checklist

· FREE DOWNLOAD The Facts and Fictions of the Securities Industry

· FREE DOWNLOAD Abuse, Trauma, and Torture - Their Consequences and Effects

· FREE DOWNLOAD From Alexander to Obama Narcissistic and Psychopathic Leaders


Short Stories
· Ned’s Short Life

· Sexsomnia

· Fugue

· The Galatea of Cotard

· Live Burial

· Lucid Dreams

· A Dream Come True

· Anton's Trap

· The Elephant's Call

· Night Terror


Articles
· FBI Warns: Google Used by Malicious Hackers

· Israel’s Brinkmanship: after the Elections in 2015

· ECB (European Central Bank) vs. Bundesbank (Germany)

· The Eurozone's Greek Future

· Live and Let Die: The West's Perennial Error of Picking Sides

· The Holocaust Revisited

· The Situational Codependent: Codependence as Reaction to Life Crises

· Israel in 2025

· 10 Predictions for the Coming Decade

· Narcissistic Cops: Police Brutality Explained?


Poetry
· Her Birthday

· Hebrew Love

· My Putrid Lover

· Twinkle Star

· Synthetic Joy

· Our Love Alivid

· The Miracle of the Kisses

· Selfdream

· In Moist Propinquity

· A Hundred Children

         More poetry...
News
· FREE E-BOOK Abuse, Trauma, and Torture - Their Consequences and Effects

· FREE E-BOOK Narcissistic and Psychopathic Leaders

· FREE EBOOK The Hitler File (Excerpts)

· NEW eBOOK Excerpts from the Archives and Case Studies

· EIGHTH EDITION - Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited

· NEW BOOK - After the Rain - How the West Lost the East

· NEW EBOOK Personality Disorders Revisited

Sam Vaknin, click here to update your web pages on AuthorsDen.

Diplomats and Non Government Organizations (NGOs) thrive in trouble spots.

This letter constitutes a permission to reprint or mirror any and all of the materials mentioned or linked to herein subject to appropriate credit and linkback.

 


Every article published MUST include the author bio, including the link to the author's Web site.

AUTHOR BIO:



Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, and eBookWeb, a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory, Bellaonline, and Suite101.

Until recently, he served as the Economic Advisor to the Government of Macedonia.

Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com

The Sample Articles (please scroll down to review them):

SPECIAL - The Self-Appointed Altruists

SPECIAL - The Morality of Child Labor


I. The Expat Experts 

II. The Pettifogger Procurators

III. To Give with Grace

IV. Micromanaging Malignant Optimism

V. The Cavemen and the Alien
VI. Who is Guarding the Guards?

VII. The Friendly Club


Author: Sam Vaknin

Contact Info: palma.unet.com.mk; vaknin.link.com.mk

 

 

The Self-Appointed Altruists

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Also published by United Press International (UPI)

 

Their arrival portends rising local prices and a culture shock. Many of them live in plush apartments, or five star hotels, drive SUV's, sport $3000 laptops and PDA's. They earn a two figure multiple of the local average wage. They are busybodies, preachers, critics, do-gooders, and professional altruists.

Always self-appointed, they answer to no constituency. Though unelected and ignorant of local realities, they confront the democratically chosen and those who voted them into office. A few of them are enmeshed in crime and corruption. They are the non-governmental organizations, or NGO's.

Some NGO's - like Oxfam, Human Rights Watch, Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Amnesty - genuinely contribute to enhancing welfare, to the mitigation of hunger, the furtherance of human and civil rights, or the curbing of disease. Others - usually in the guise of think tanks and lobby groups - are sometimes ideologically biased, or religiously-committed and, often, at the service of special interests.

NGO's - such as the International Crisis Group - have openly interfered on behalf of the opposition in the recent elections in Macedonia. Other NGO's have done so in Belarus and Ukraine, Zimbabwe and Israel, Nigeria and Thailand, Slovakia and Hungary - and even in Western, rich, countries including the USA, Canada, Germany, and Belgium.

The encroachment on state sovereignty of international law - enshrined in numerous treaties and conventions - allows NGO's to get involved in hitherto strictly domestic affairs like corruption, civil rights, the composition of the media, the penal and civil codes, environmental policies, or the allocation of economic resources and of natural endowments, such as land and water. No field of government activity is now exempt from the glare of NGO's. They serve as self-appointed witnesses, judges, jury and executioner rolled into one.

Regardless of their persuasion or modus operandi, all NGO's are top heavy with entrenched, well-remunerated, extravagantly-perked bureaucracies. Opacity is typical of NGO's. Amnesty's rules prevent its officials from publicly discussing the inner workings of the organization - proposals, debates, opinions - until they have become officially voted into its Mandate. Thus, dissenting views rarely get an open hearing.

Contrary to their teachings, the financing of NGO's is invariably obscure and their sponsors unknown. The bulk of the income of most non-governmental organizations, even the largest ones, comes from - usually foreign - powers. Many NGO's serve as official contractors for governments.

NGO's serve as long arms of their sponsoring states - gathering intelligence, burnishing their image, and promoting their interests. There is a revolving door between the staff of NGO's and government bureaucracies the world over. The British Foreign Office finances a host of NGO's - including the fiercely "independent" Global Witness - in troubled spots, such as Angola. Many host governments accuse NGO's of - unwittingly or knowingly - serving as hotbeds of espionage.

Very few NGO's derive some of their income from public contributions and donations. The more substantial NGO's spend one tenth of their budget on PR and solicitation of charity. In a desperate bid to attract international attention, so many of them lied about their projects in the Rwanda crisis in 1994, recounts "The Economist", that the Red Cross felt compelled to draw up a ten point mandatory NGO code of ethics. A code of conduct was adopted in 1995. But the phenomenon recurred in Kosovo.

All NGO's claim to be not for profit - yet, many of them possess sizable equity portfolios and abuse their position to increase the market share of firms they own. Conflicts of interest and unethical behavior abound.

Cafedirect is a British firm committed to "fair trade" coffee. Oxfam, an NGO, embarked on a campaign targeted at Cafedirect's competitors, accusing them of exploiting growers by paying them a tiny fraction of the retail price of the coffee they sell. Yet, Oxfam owns 25% of Cafedirect.

Large NGO's resemble multinational corporations in structure and operation. They are hierarchical, maintain large media, government lobbying, and PR departments, head-hunt, invest proceeds in professionally-managed portfolios, compete in government tenders, and own a variety of unrelated businesses. The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development owns the license for second mobile phone operator in Afghanistan - among other businesses. In this respect, NGO's are more like cults than like civic organizations.

Many NGO's promote economic causes - anti-globalization, the banning of child labor, the relaxing of intellectual property rights, or fair payment for agricultural products. Many of these causes are both worthy and sound. Alas, most NGO's lack economic expertise and inflict damage on the alleged recipients of their beneficence. NGO's are at times manipulated by - or collude with - industrial groups and political parties.

It is telling that the denizens of many developing countries suspect the West and its NGO's of promoting an agenda of trade protectionism. Stringent - and expensive - labor and environmental provisions in international treaties may well be a ploy to fend off imports based on cheap labor and the competition they wreak on well-ensconced domestic industries and their political stooges.

Take child labor - as distinct from the universally condemnable phenomena of child prostitution, child soldiering, or child slavery.

Child labor, in many destitute locales, is all that separates the family from all-pervasive, life threatening, poverty. As national income grows, child labor declines. Following the outcry provoked, in 1995, by NGO's against soccer balls stitched by children in Pakistan, both Nike and Reebok relocated their workshops and sacked countless women and 7000 children. The average family income - anyhow meager - fell by 20 percent.

This affair elicited the following wry commentary from economists Drusilla Brown, Alan Deardorif, and Robert Stern:

“While Baden Sports can quite credibly claim that their soccer balls are not sewn by children, the relocation of their production facility undoubtedly did nothing for their former child workers and their families."

This is far from being a unique case. Threatened with legal reprisals and "reputation risks" (being named-and-shamed by overzealous NGO's) - multinationals engage in preemptive sacking. More than 50,000 children in Bangladesh were let go in 1993 by German garment factories in anticipation of the American never-legislated Child Labor Deterrence Act.

Former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, observed:

“Stopping child labor without doing anything else could leave children worse off. If they are working out of necessity, as most are, stopping them could force them into prostitution or other employment with greater personal dangers. The most important thing is that they be in school and receive the education to help them leave poverty."

NGO-fostered hype notwithstanding, 70% of all children work within their family unit, in agriculture. Less than 1 percent are employed in mining and another 2 percent in construction. Again contrary to NGO-proffered panaceas, education is not a solution. Millions graduate every year in developing countries - 100,000 in Morocco alone. But unemployment reaches more than one third of the workforce in places such as Macedonia .

Children at work may be harshly treated by their supervisors but at least they are kept off the far more menacing streets. Some kids even end up with a skill and are rendered employable.

"The Economist" sums up the shortsightedness, inaptitude, ignorance, and self-centeredness of NGO's neatly:

"Suppose that in the remorseless search for profit, multinationals pay sweatshop wages to their workers in developing countries. Regulation forcing them to pay higher wages is demanded ... The NGOs, the reformed multinationals and enlightened rich-country governments propose tough rules on third-world factory wages, backed up by trade barriers to keep out imports from countries that do not comply. Shoppers in the West pay more—but willingly, because they know it is in a good cause. The NGOs declare another victory. The companies, having shafted their third-world competition and protected their domestic markets, count their bigger profits (higher wage costs notwithstanding). And the third-world workers displaced from locally owned factories explain to their children why the West's new deal for the victims of capitalism requires them to starve."

NGO's in places like Sudan, Somalia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Albania, and Zimbabwe have become the preferred venue for Western aid - both humanitarian and financial - development financing, and emergency relief. According to the Red Cross, more money goes through NGO's than through the World Bank. Their iron grip on food, medicine, and funds rendered them an alternative government - sometimes as venal and graft-stricken as the one they replace.

Local businessmen, politicians, academics, and even journalists form NGO's to plug into the avalanche of Western largesse. In the process, they award themselves and their relatives with salaries, perks, and preferred access to Western goods and credits. NGO's have evolved into vast networks of patronage in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

NGO's chase disasters with a relish. More than 200 of them opened shop in the aftermath of the Kosovo refugee crisis in 1999-2000. Another 50 supplanted them during the civil unrest in Macedonia a year later. Floods, elections, earthquakes, wars - constitute the cornucopia that feed the NGO's.

NGO's are proponents of Western values - women's lib, human rights, civil rights, the protection of minorities, freedom, equality. Not everyone finds this liberal menu palatable. The arrival of NGO's often provokes social polarization and cultural clashes. Traditionalists in Bangladesh, nationalists in Macedonia, religious zealots in Israel, security forces everywhere, and almost all politicians find NGO's irritating and bothersome.

The British government ploughs well over $30 million a year into "Proshika", a Bangladeshi NGO. It started as a women's education outfit and ended up as a restive and aggressive women empowerment political lobby group with budgets to rival many ministries in this impoverished, Moslem and patriarchal country.

Other NGO's - fuelled by $300 million of annual foreign infusion - evolved from humble origins to become mighty coalitions of full-time activists. NGO's like the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) and the Association for Social Advancement mushroomed even as their agendas have been fully implemented and their goals exceeded. It now owns and operates 30,000 schools.

This mission creep is not unique to developing countries. As Parkinson discerned, organizations tend to self-perpetuate regardless of their proclaimed charter. Remember NATO? Human rights organizations, like Amnesty, are now attempting to incorporate in their ever-expanding remit "economic and social rights" - such as the rights to food, housing, fair wages, potable water, sanitation, and health provision. How insolvent countries are supposed to provide such munificence is conveniently overlooked.

"The Economist" reviewed a few of the more egregious cases of NGO imperialism.

Human Rights Watch lately offered this tortured argument in favor of expanding the role of human rights NGO's: “The best way to prevent famine today is to secure the right to free expression—so that misguided government policies can be brought to public attention and corrected before food shortages become acute.” It blatantly ignored the fact that respect for human and political rights does not fend off natural disasters and disease. The two countries with the highest incidence of AIDS are Africa's only two true democracies - Botswana and South Africa. 

The Centre for Economic and Social Rights, an American outfit, “challenges economic injustice as a violation of international human rights law”. Oxfam pledges to support the “rights to a sustainable livelihood, and the rights and capacities to participate in societies and make positive changes to people's lives”. In a poor attempt at emulation, the WHO published an inanely titled document - "A Human Rights Approach to Tuberculosis".

NGO's are becoming not only all-pervasive but more aggressive. In their capacity as "shareholder activists", they disrupt shareholders meetings and act to actively tarnish corporate and individual reputations. Friends of the Earth worked hard last year to instigate a consumer boycott against Exxon Mobil - for not investing in renewable energy resources and for ignoring global warming. No one - including other shareholders - understood their demands. But it went down well with the media, with a few celebrities, and with contributors.

As "think tanks", NGO's issue partisan and biased reports. The International Crisis Group published a rabid attack on the then incumbent government of Macedonia, days before an election, relegating the rampant corruption of its predecessors - whom it seemed to be tacitly supporting - to a few footnotes. On at least two occasions - in its reports regarding Bosnia and Zimbabwe - ICG has recommended confrontation, the imposition of sanctions, and, if all else fails, the use of force. Though the most vocal and visible, it is far from being the only NGO that advocates "just" wars.

The ICG is a repository of former heads of state and has-been politicians and is renowned (and notorious) for its prescriptive - some say meddlesome - philosophy and tactics. "The Economist" remarked sardonically: "To say (that ICG) is 'solving world crises' is to risk underestimating its ambitions, if overestimating its achievements."


NGO's have orchestrated the violent showdown during the trade talks in Seattle in 1999 and its repeat performances throughout the world. The World Bank was so intimidated by the riotous invasion of its premises in the NGO-choreographed "Fifty Years is Enough" campaign of 1994, that it now employs dozens of NGO activists and let NGO's determine many of its policies.

NGO activists have joined the armed - though mostly peaceful - rebels of the Chiapas region in Mexico. Norwegian NGO's sent members to forcibly board whaling ships. In the USA, anti-abortion activists have murdered doctors. In Britain, animal rights zealots have both assassinated experimental scientists and wrecked property.

Birth control NGO's carry out mass sterilizations in poor countries, financed by rich country governments in a bid to stem immigration. NGO's buy slaves in Sudan thus encouraging the practice of slave hunting throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Other NGO's actively collaborate with "rebel" armies - a euphemism for terrorists.

NGO's lack a synoptic view and their work often undermines efforts by international organizations such as the UNHCR and by governments. Poorly-paid local officials have to contend with crumbling budgets as the funds are diverted to rich expatriates doing the same job for a multiple of the cost and with inexhaustible hubris.

This is not conducive to happy co-existence between foreign do-gooders and indigenous governments. Sometimes NGO's seem to be an ingenious ploy to solve Western unemployment at the expense of down-trodden natives. This is a misperception driven by envy and avarice.

But it is still powerful enough to foster resentment and worse. NGO's are on the verge of provoking a ruinous backlash against them in their countries of destination. That would be a pity. Some of them are doing indispensable work. If only they were a wee more sensitive and somewhat less ostentatious. But then they wouldn't be NGO's, would they?

 

The Morality of Child Labor

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Also published by United Press International (UPI)

From the comfort of their plush offices and five to six figure salaries, self-appointed NGO's often denounce child labor as their employees rush from one five star hotel to another, $3000 subnotebooks and PDA's in hand. The hairsplitting distinction made by the ILO between "child work" and "child labor" conveniently targets impoverished countries while letting its budget contributors - the developed ones - off-the-hook.

Reports regarding child labor surface periodically. Children crawling in mines, faces ashen, body deformed. The agile fingers of famished infants weaving soccer balls for their more privileged counterparts in the USA. Tiny figures huddled in sweatshops, toiling in unspeakable conditions. It is all heart-rending and it gave rise to a veritable not-so-cottage industry of activists, commentators, legal eagles, scholars, and opportunistically sympathetic politicians.

Ask the denizens of Thailand, sub-Saharan Africa, Brazil, or Morocco and they will tell you how they regard this altruistic hyperactivity - with suspicion and resentment. Underneath the compelling arguments lurks an agenda of trade protectionism, they wholeheartedly believe. Stringent - and expensive - labor and environmental provisions in international treaties may well be a ploy to fend off imports based on cheap labor and the competition they wreak on well-ensconced domestic industries and their political stooges.

This is especially galling since the sanctimonious West has amassed its wealth on the broken backs of slaves and kids. The 1900 census in the USA found that 18 percent of all children - almost two million in all - were gainfully employed. The Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional laws banning child labor as late as 1916. This decision was overturned only in 1941.

The GAO published a report last week in which it criticized the Labor Department for paying insufficient attention to working conditions in manufacturing and mining in the USA, where many children are still employed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics pegs the number of working children between the ages of 15-17 in the USA at 3.7 million. One in 16 of these worked in factories and construction. More than 600 teens died of work-related accidents in the last ten years.

Child labor - let alone child prostitution, child soldiers, and child slavery - are phenomena best avoided. But they cannot and should not be tackled in isolation. Nor should underage labor be subjected to blanket castigation. Working in the gold mines or fisheries of the Philippines is hardly comparable to waiting on tables in a Nigerian or, for that matter, American restaurant.

There are gradations and hues of child labor. That children should not be exposed to hazardous conditions, long working hours, used as means of payment, physically punished, or serve as sex slaves is commonly agreed. That they should not help their parents plant and harvest may be more debatable.

As Miriam Wasserman observes in "Eliminating Child Labor", published in the Federal Bank of Boston's "Regional Review", second quarter of 2000, it depends on "family income, education policy, production technologies, and cultural norms." About a quarter of children under-14 throughout the world are regular workers. This statistic masks vast disparities between regions like Africa (42 percent) and Latin America (17 percent).

In many impoverished locales, child labor is all that stands between the family unit and all-pervasive, life threatening, destitution. Child labor declines markedly as income per capita grows. To deprive these bread-earners of the opportunity to lift themselves and their families incrementally above malnutrition, disease, and famine - is an apex of immoral hypocrisy.

Quoted by "The Economist", a representative of the much decried Ecuador Banana Growers Association and Ecuador's Labor Minister, summed up the dilemma neatly: “Just because they are under age doesn't mean we should reject them, they have a right to survive. You can't just say they can't work, you have to provide alternatives.”

Regrettably, the debate is so laden with emotions and self-serving arguments that the facts are often overlooked.

The outcry against soccer balls stitched by children in Pakistan led to the relocation of workshops ran by Nike and Reebok. Thousands lost their jobs, including countless women and 7000 of their progeny. The average family income - anyhow meager - fell by 20 percent. Economists Drusilla Brown, Alan Deardorif, and Robert Stern observe wryly:

“While Baden Sports can quite credibly claim that their soccer balls are not sewn by children, the relocation of their production facility undoubtedly did nothing for their former child workers and their families."

Such examples abound. Manufacturers - fearing legal reprisals and "reputation risks" (naming-and-shaming by overzealous NGO's) - engage in preemptive sacking. German garment workshops fired 50,000 children in Bangladesh in 1993 in anticipation of the American never-legislated Child Labor Deterrence Act.

Quoted by Wasserstein, former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, notes:

“Stopping child labor without doing anything else could leave children worse off. If they are working out of necessity, as most are, stopping them could force them into prostitution or other employment with greater personal dangers. The most important thing is that they be in school and receive the education to help them leave poverty."

Contrary to hype, three quarters of all children work in agriculture and with their families. Less than 1 percent work in mining and another 2 percent in construction. Most of the rest work in retail outlets and services, including "personal services" - a euphemism for prostitution. UNICEF and the ILO are in the throes of establishing school networks for child laborers and providing their parents with alternative employment.

But this is a drop in the sea of neglect. Poor countries rarely proffer education on a regular basis to more than two thirds of their eligible school-age children. This is especially true in rural areas where child labor is a widespread blight. Education - especially for women - is considered an unaffordable luxury by many hard-pressed parents. In many cultures, work is still considered to be indispensable in shaping the child's morality and strength of character and in teaching him or her a trade.

"The Economist" elaborates:

"In Africa children are generally treated as mini-adults; from an early age every child will have tasks to perform in the home, such as sweeping or fetching water. It is also common to see children working in shops or on the streets. Poor families will often send a child to a richer relation as a housemaid or houseboy, in the hope that he will get an education."

A solution recently gaining steam is to provide families in poor countries with access to loans secured by the future earnings of their educated offspring. The idea - first proposed by Jean-Marie Baland of the University of Namur and James A. Robinson of the University of California at Berkeley - has now permeated the mainstream.

Even the World Bank has contributed a few studies, notably, in June, "Child Labor: The Role of Income Variability and Access to Credit Across Countries" authored by Rajeev Dehejia of the NBER and Roberta Gatti of the Bank's Development Research Group.

Abusive child labor is abhorrent and should be banned and eradicated. All other forms should be phased out gradually. Developing countries already produce millions of unemployable graduates a year - 100,000 in Morocco alone. Unemployment is rife and reaches, in certain countries - such as Macedonia - more than one third of the workforce. Children at work may be harshly treated by their supervisors but at least they are kept off the far more menacing streets. Some kids even end up with a skill and are rendered employable.

 

The Expat Experts
By: Dr. Sam Vaknin



In "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", Lewis Carroll wrote:
"Curtsy while you're thinking of something to say. It saves time."

What a missed career. He should have been an expat expert. To paraphrase a sentence originally written about women (no misogynism implied): "What else is a foreign consultant but a foe to friendship, an inescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil nature, painted with fair colours?" (Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image (London: Penguin Books Inc., 1993).

Not unlike poor Mr. Prufrock in T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," foreign advisors in the exotic countries of CEE, especially once moderately inebriated, are prone to dramatic monologues and musings, "measuring out their lives in coffee spoons" as they contemplate "the yellow smoke that slides along the street, rubbing its back upon the window-panes."

All foreign advisors belong to either of three categories: the hustlers, the bureaucrats and the corporates.

The first sub-species peddle their specious wares aggressively, flamboyantly and relentlessly. They present a picturesque assortment of quaint British eccentricities and pronounced professional idiosyncrasies. They often are under a cloud - but never in the shade. Sometimes they even flaunt their chequered past and colourful adventures. It is the only form of entertainment in the drab cemetery that Eastern and Southeastern Europe is. In the hope of landing a fat consultancy contract with a confused minister or with a terror-stricken central banker, with a quadriplegic stock exchange or with a dying industry lobby, with sansculotte trade unions or with gullible Western NGOs - they gypsy around, living off tattered suitcases in shabby hotels, yearning to strike gold in the next station of their mendicant's journey. Necessarily abstemious - they are otherwise and when serendipity strikes, containers of greed and avarice and gluttony and hedonism. Unfulfilled, they often deteriorate to colluding in obscure dealings with corrupt officials. You can find these hangers-on in every pub and bar from the farthest Russian north to the warm waters of Bulgaria, the same dogged look, the same mane of yellowing hair, the old-cut suits and sole-worn shoes and the drooling eagerness to gossip and to profit.

Contrast these has beens to the bureaucratic breed. Ever the laptopped, they travel first class and reside in five star luxurious hotels strewn among the decrepitude of their surrounding. Unashamed, they flaunt shimmering utility vehicles and satellite cellular phones in the face of the unemployed and downtrodden they came ostensibly to help. Occupied mainly by scanning the daily paper and solving simple crossword puzzles, they disrupt their onerous routine only to wine and dine venal officials on mutually fattening expense accounts. They are the malignancy of Bretton Woods, a cancerous growth of well intended aid, the hideous face of altruism. Their organizations are the dumping grounds of the inept and the unwanted, the professional failures and the embarrassingly corrupt, the egregiously ignorant and the narcissistically immature. They tax the resources of their hosts as all parasites do and give very little in return. Their advice is often wrong and almost invariably leads to adversity and woe. They tend to overstep their mandate and supplant elected offices and their humiliated occupants. They dictate and intervene and threaten and determine with the callousness of those who lose no thing when their "advice" goes awry. In time, they move on from one political carcass to another, birds of prey with metal wings and the sated satisfaction of the well fed and the multi-salaried. Earning in a day what others earn in two months - they often hold their mission and its objects in contempt and scorn. They are content to climb the autistic ladder that is a multilateral institution. The rare are recruited by the private sector as third rate lobbyists.

The suborned politicians of this region have good use for these emissaries of defective micromanagement. They hide their thefts and their incompetence behind a fig leaf of "they told me to". They blame their failures, their patently erroneous decisions, their marked inabilities - on the negative externalities of the international community. An elaborate sign language of winks and nods develops in the execrable, fungal intimacy between native bureaucracy and foreign supervisors. The "advisors" and "country managers" and "resident officers" often come themselves from shrines of good governance and civil society, the likes of China and India and Saudi Arabia or worse. They understand the secret language of power and quid pro quo. What better than a fat and satiated cat to guard the skinny and famished ones? So, they collaborate in the most lamentable of manners, eyes closed, ears plugged, mouth stapled. The bureaucrats author delusional science fiction, delirious potpourris of wishful thinking and grotesque projections, the customary backslapping and mutual admiration. And the politicians pretend to listen, patiently ignoring the more arcane lingo and outlandish offers, waiting for the aliens to take off to their planet and allow them to proceed with plundering and loot.

The third type of expert foreigners are members of academe or business corporations (the distinction quite blurred in the United States). The infamous Harvard affair in Russia exposed the profit motives of these self appointed and self-proclaimed do gooders. It also elucidated their moral standard - rather the lack thereof. Scores of Western consultancies set shop in CEE and southeast Europe - accountancies, law firms, the odd professional. Western know how on anything from wood processing to canning, from intellectual property to real estate and from publishing to brewing can be obtained. Ultimately, this breed of entrepreneur-consultants represents the biggest hope. True, profit motivated and all too willing to cross the lines for client, God and country - still, their thinking is a sound one, their ethos genuine, their goals are realistic and they seem to know the path. In their ruthless application of the admixture of drive and dream, they often lead the way - obtaining finance, converting others to the cause, constructing projects, educating, preaching and teaching and hectoring and, in this arduous, often derided process, falling in love with land and people.


 

The Pettifogger Procurators
By: Dr. Sam Vaknin



Recently, the most unusual event has gone unnoticed in the international press. A former minister of finance has accused the more prominent members of the diplomatic corps in his country of corruption. He insisted that these paragons of indignant righteousness and hectoring morality have tried to blackmail him into paying them hefty commissions from money allotted to exigent humanitarian aid. This was immediately and from afar - and, therefore, without proper investigation - denied by their superiors in no uncertain terms.

The facts are these: most (though by no means all) Western diplomats in the nightmarish wasteland that is East Europe and the Balkan,  the unctuously fulsome and the frowzily wizened alike, are ageing and sybaritic basket cases. They have often failed miserably in their bootless previous posts - or have insufficiently submerged in the Byzantine culture of their employers. Thus emotionally injured and cast into the frigorific outer darkness of a ravaged continent, they adopt the imperial patina of Roman procurators in narcissistic compensation. Their long suffering wives - bored to distraction in the impassibly catatonic societies of post communism - impose upon a reluctant and flummoxed population the nescient folderol of their distaff voluntary urges or exiguous artistic talents. Ever more crapulous, they aestivate and hibernate, the queens of tatty courts and shabby courtiers.

The cold war having ebbed, these emissaries of questionable provenance engage in the promotion of the narrow interests of specific industries or companies. They lobby the local administration, deploying bare threats and obloquies where veiled charm fails. They exert subtle or brutal pressure through the press. They co-opt name-dropping bureaucrats and bribe pivotal politicians. They get fired those who won't collaborate or threaten to expose their less defensible misdeeds. They are glorified delivery boys, carrying apocryphal messages to and fro. They are bloviating PR campaigners, seeking to aggrandize their meagre role and, incidentally, that of their country. They wine and dine and banter endlessly with the provincial somnolent variety of public figures, members of the venal and pinchbeck elites that now rule these tortured territories. In short - forced to deal with the bedizened miscreants that pass for businessmen and politicians in this nether world - they are transformed, assuming in the process the identity of their obdurately corrupted hosts.

Thus, they help to sway elections and hasten to endorse their results, however disputed and patently fraudulent. They intimidate the opposition, negotiate with businessmen, prod favoured politicians, spread roorbacks and perambulate their fiefdom to gather intelligence. More often than not, they cross the limpid lines between promotion and extortion, lagniappe and pelf, friendship and collusion, diplomacy and protectorate, the kosher and the criminal.

They are the target and the address of a legion of pressures and demands. Their government may ask them to help depose one coalition and help install another. Their secret services - disguised as intrusive NGOs or workers at the embassy - often get them involved in shady acts and unscrupulous practices. Real NGOs ask for their assiduous assistance and protection. Their hosts - and centuries old protocol - expect them to surreptitiously provide support while openly refrain from intervening, maintaining equipoise. Other countries protest, compete, or leak damaging reports to an often hostile media. The torpid common folk resent them for their colonial ways and hypocritical demarches. Lacking compunction, they are nobody's favourites and everybody's scapegoats at one time or another.

And they are ill-equipped to deal with these subtleties. Not of intelligence, they end where they now are and wish they weren't. Ignorant of business and entrepreneurship, they occupy the dead end, otiose and pension-orientated jobs they do. Devoid of the charm, negotiating skills and human relations required by the intricacies of their profession - they are relegated to the Augean outskirts of civilization. Dishonest and mountebank, they persist in their mortifying positions, inured to the conniving they require.

This blatantly discernible ineptitude provokes the "natives" into a wholesale rejection of the West, its values and its culture. The envoys are perceived as the cormorant reification of their remote controllers. Their voluptuary decadence is a distant echo of the West's decay, their nonage greed - a shadow of its avarice, their effrontery and hidebound peremptory nature - its mien. They are in no position to preach or teach.

The diplomats of the West are not evil. Some of them mean well. To the best of their oft limited abilities, they cadge and beg and press and convince their governments to show goodwill and to contribute to their hosts. But soon their mettle is desiccated by the vexatious realities of their new habitation. Reduced to susurrous cynicism and sardonic contempt, they perfunctorily perform their functions, a distant look in their now empty eyes. They have been assimilated, rendered useless to their dispatchers and to their hosts alike.
To Give with Grace
By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

 



Yankee Go Home. Nato is Nazo. American trash culture. The graffiti adorn every wall, the contempt seems to be universal. America and Americans are perceived to be uglier than ever before. It borders on hatred and xenophobia. Are we talking about Serbia in the midst of its Kosovo baptizing by fire? Not really. America-bashing seems to be a phenomenon engulfing rich (Czech Republic) and poor (Macedonia), the lawful (Greece) and the lawless (Russia), the Western orientated (Bulgaria) and the devoutly Slavophile (Serbia). Often, America (and Britain, its Anglo-Saxon sidekick) stand as proxies and fall guys for this ephemeral ghoul, the West. At other times, the distinctions are finer and France or Scandinavia, for instance, are excluded from the general outcry and condemnation.

Americans - these patriarchs of spin doctoring and image making - complain about the yawning discrepancy between facts and perceptions. America is by far the most generous nation on earth, they say (and it is). It recurrently risks the lives of its soldiers and diplomats in the service of worthy causes the world over. It often endures economic damage as it seeks to tame and educate unwieldy tyrants - the cost of weaponry, the exclusion of American business from whole regions of the globe. Its agenda is meritorious and virtuous. It champions human rights, civil society and peace. It actively engages in the enforcement of the former and in the pursuit of the latter. Never before in human history has a superpower put its prowess and clout to more deserving and selfless use. And it is all true .

But America gives without grace and takes without shame. It is a nation founded on contracts, on quid pro quo, on haggling and on litigation. It is Mammon gone amok, law-abiding gone cancerous and commerce gone haywire. Money has replaced all values combined and fear substitutes for conscience. Its barons are robbers, its serial killers are celebrities, its politicians corrupted by the twin infections of campaign finance and narrow interests. Its diplomacy is the conduit through which it spreads its rough hewn, frontiersmen, bottom line and sound bite culture.

Thus, its "aid" is always strings-attached. Even when not explicit, the payback is imminent and immanent. Goods can be bought with American money only from American manufacturers. The recipient countries are used as dumping grounds for surpluses, be they agricultural or military. A swarm of advisors and do-gooders is in place to secure American interests and markets, to deflect adversaries, to intervene in local politics, brutally, if needed. As a result, American charity, this fabulous beast, is derided as a new form of American colonialism. Broken promises and keen trade protectionism only aggravate the feeling that the West is more interested in photo opportunities than in business opportunities. It seems to be less concerned with the welfare of the assisted than with the expense accounts of the assistants. Rather than where most needed, grant money and provisions flow in the direction of waiting TV cameras.

Even the "natives" of CEE and the Balkans accept that Western diplomacy is the long arm of its business community. What they find harder to digest is the double moral standard, the hypocrisy, the preaching and the hectoring, the bad and uninformed advice foisted upon them by third rate dropouts advisors and fourth rate third world bankers. What they reject is the pompous likes of Blair - hair artistically dishevelled in squalid refugee camps - lecturing, preaching and beseeching while conveniently ignoring aid pledges he solemnly made a while before. What they abhor is Germans reprimanding them for political corruption, Frenchmen upbraiding them for nepotism and cronyism and Britons teaching them health care administration. Or Americans swearing by their selflessness, objectivity and lack of ulterior motives. America plays by different rules, exempt from international law and institutions. In short, the indigenous resent being considered stupid.

The "multi"-lateral institutions (such as the IMF, the WTO and World Bank) are long arms of the USA and, to a lesser extent, of Europe. These are rich men's clubs. Their main aim is to sustain the criminal fool's paradise that is Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans. They turn a blind eye to corrupt politicians who do their bidding and another blind eye to violations of every right imaginable - as long as a swampish stability is maintained. They are the sotto voce juggernauts which, in the name of free marketry and civil society, prepare the way for American and Western business. The little good they do is lost in their partiality, ignorance and shortsightedness. They are their master's voice.

Perhaps the West - more so the Anglo-Saxon contingent - should try the refreshing opposite of unbridled narcissism. Perhaps it should give freely and accept nothing in return, not even gratitude. Perhaps it should no longer twist arms and threaten, let multilateral institutions be really multilateral and encourage pluralism through tolerance. More gratitude and business come the way of those who seek them not. Omar al-Khayam, the Persian poet, said: "IF you want to have the bird, set her free". But then the USA is not very likely to listen to an Iranian, is it?

Micromanaging Malignant Optimism
by Sam Vaknin


Never before has the Balkan been more of a powder keg, ready to detonate thunderously. Never before has it been so fractured among political entities, some viable - many not. Never before has it been dominated by a single superpower, not counter-balanced by its allies nor shackled by its foes. This is a disastrous state of things, about to get worse.



Driven by America - this amalgam of violent frontiersmen, semi-literate go getters and malignant optimists ("with some goodwill there is always a solution and a happy ending") - the West has committed the sins of ignorant intervention and colonial perpetuation. Peace among nations is the result of attrition and exhaustion, of mutual terror and actual bloodletting - not of amicable agreement and visionary stratagems. It took two world wars to make peace between France and Germany. By forcing an unwanted peace upon an unwilling populace in the early stages of every skirmish - the West has ascertained the perpetuation of these conflicts. Witness Bosnia and its vociferous nationalist Croats. Witness Macedonia's and Kosovo's Albanians and their chimerical armies of liberation. These are all cinders of hostilities artificially suppressed by Western procurators and Western cluster bombs.



The West should have dangled the carrots of NATO and EU memberships in front of the bloodied pugilists - not ram them down their reluctant throats in shows of air superiority. Humanitarian aid should have been provided and grants and credits for development to the deserving. But the succour afforded by the likes of Germany to the likes of Croatia and by the benighted Americans to the most extreme elements in Kosovo - served only to amplify and prolong the suffering and the warfare.



The West obstinately refused - and still does - to contemplate the only feasible solution to the spectrum of Balkan questions. Instead of convening a new Berlin Congress and redrawing the borders of the host of entities, quasi-entities and fraction entities that emerged with the disintegration of the Yugoslav Federation - the West foolishly and blindly adheres to unsustainable borders which reflect colonial decision making and ceasefire lines. In the absence of a colonizing power, only ethnically-homogeneous states can survive peacefully in the Balkan. The West should strive to effect ethnic homogenization throughout the region by altering borders, encouraging population swaps and transfers and discouraging ethnic cleansing and forced assimilation ("ethnic denial").



But the West's blunders are not confined to the political and geopolitical realms.



The West (actually, America) has many long arms, the IMF and World Bank being the most prominent. These ostensible multilaterals have committed yet another strategic blunder. Instead of weaning their clientele - the post-Communist countries in transition - off central planning and command economics, they engaged in Washington-based micromanagement of their economies. The Bretton-Woods institutions have become all-pervasive, multi-tentacled approximations of the Communist party. They dictate policy, involve themselves in the minutest details of daily management, veto decisions (economic and non-economic), cajole and threaten governments, block private sector lending and compete in the international credit and investment markets.



The post-Communist countries in transition are like infants taking their first steps in the demanding world of free markets and capitalism. The multilateral financial institutions are the mother figures. Good mothers let go, encourage in the child a sense of independence, self-reliance, learning by mistakes and the predictability of just rewards and punishments. Bad mothers refuse to acknowledge the emerging boundaries of their off-spring. They reward clinging behaviour and punish every act of separation and individuation. They are overweening, doting, crushing figures. In short: they micromanage.



From my book "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited":



"The separation from the mother, the formation of an individual, the separation from the world (the "spewing out" of the outside world) – are all tremendously traumatic. The infant is afraid to lose his mother physically (no "mother permanence") as well as emotionally (will she be angry at this new found autonomy?). He goes away a step or two and runs back to receive the mother's reassurance that she still loves him and that she is still there. The tearing up of one's self into my SELF and the OUTSIDE WORLD is an unimaginable feat...The child's mind is shredded to pieces: some pieces are still HE and others are NOT HE (=the outside world). This is an absolutely psychedelic experience (and the root of all psychoses, probably). If not managed properly, if disturbed in some way (mainly emotionally), if the separation – individuation process goes awry, it could result in serious psychopathologies. There are grounds to believe that several personality disorders (Narcissistic and Borderline) can be traced to a disturbance in this process in early childhood. Then, of course, there is the on-going traumatic process that we call "life".

The Caveman and the Alien
By : Dr. Sam Vaknin


 

"'Life' must be curious, alert, erudite and moral, but it must achieve this without being holier-than-thou, a cynic, a know-it-all or a Peeping Tom."
(Edward K. Thompson, managing editor of "Life," 1949-1961)

When Chancellor Kohl's party and Edith Cresson are suspected of gross corruption - these are labelled "aberrations" in an otherwise honest West. When NASA in collaboration with its UK counterpart blow a 130 million US dollars spacecraft to smithereens having confused the metric system for its pound/feet archaic predecessor - people nod their head in disapproval: "accidents happen". When President Clinton appoints his wife to suggest an overhaul of the multi-hundred billion dollars US health system - no one thinks it odd. And when the (talented) son of the police investigated, rumoured to be hyper-corrupt Minister of Interior Affairs of Israel becomes a Minister himself, no one bats an eyelash. Yet, when identical events happen in the decrepit countries of Eastern, Central, or Southern Europe - they are subjected to heaps of excoriating scorn, to vitriolic diatribes, to condescending preaching, or to sanctions. It is, indeed, a double standard, a hypocrisy and a travesty the magnitude of which is rarely to be encountered in the annals of human pretensions to morality.

The West has grossly and thoroughly violated Thompson's edict. In its oft-interrupted intercourse with these forsaken regions of the globe, it has acted, alternately, as a Peeping Tom, a cynic and a know it all. It has invariably behaved as if it were holier-than-thou. In an unmitigated and fantastic succession of blunders, miscalculations, vain promises, unkept threats and unkempt diplomats - it has driven Europe to the verge of war and the region it "adopted" to the verge of economic and social upheaval.

Enamoured with the new ideology of free marketry cum democracy, the West first assumed the role of the omniscient. It designed ingenious models, devised foolproof laws, imposed fail-safe institutions and strongly "recommended" measures. Its representatives, the tribunes of the West, ruled the phlebeian East with determination rarely equalled by skill or knowledge. Velvet hands couched in iron gloves, ignorance disguised by economic newspeak, geostrategic interests masquerading as forms of government characterized their dealings with the natives. Preaching and beseeching from ever higher pulpits, they poured opprobrium and sweet delusions on the eagerly deluded, naive, bewildered masses. The deceit was evident to the indigenous cynics - but it was the failure that dissuaded them and all else. The West lost Eastern and Southeast Europe not when it lied egregiously, not when it pretended to know for sure when it surely did not know, not when it manipulated and coaxed and coerced - but when it failed. To the peoples of these regions, the king was fully dressed. It was not a little child but an enormous debacle that exposed his nudity. In its presumptuousness and pretentiousness, feigned surety and vain clichés, imported models and exported cheap raw materials - the West succeeded to demolish beyond reconstruction whole economies, to ravage communities, to bring ruination upon the centuries-old social fabric, woven diligently by generations. It brought crime and drugs and mayhem but gave very little in return, only an horizon beclouded and thundering with eloquence. As a result, while tottering regional governments still pay lip service to the Euro-Atlantic structures, the masses are enraged and restless and rebellious and baleful and anti-Western to the core. They are not likely to acquiesce much longer - not with the West's neo-colonialism but with its incompetence and inaptitude, with the non-chalant experimentation that it imposed upon them and with the abyss between its proclamations and its performance.

In all this time, the envoys of the West - its mediocre politicians, its insatiably ruthless media, its obese tourists and its armchair economists - continued to play the role of God, wreaking greater havoc than even the original. While knowing it all in advance (in breach of every tradition scientific), they also developed a kind of world weary, unshaven cynicism interlaced with fascination at the depths plumbed by the local's immorality and amorality. The jet-set Peeping Toms resided in five star hotels (or luxurious apartments) overlooking the communist shantytowns, drove utility vehicles to the shabby offices of the native bureaucrats and dined in $100 per meal restaurants ("it's so cheap here'). In between sushi and sake they bemoaned and grieved over corruption and nepotism and cronyism ("I simply love their ethnic food, but they are so ..."). They mourned the autochtonal inability to act decisively, to cut red tape, to manufacture quality, to open to the world, to be less xenophobic (while casting a disdainful glance at the sweaty waiter). To them it looked like an ancient natural phenomenon, a force of nature, an inevitability and hence their cynicism. Mostly provincial people with horizons limited by consumption and by wealth, they adopted cynicism as shorthand for cosmopolitanism. They erroneously believed it lent them an air of ruggedness and rich experience and the virile aroma of decadent erudition. Yet all it did is make them obnoxious and more repellent to the residents than they already were.

Ever the preachers, the West - both Europeans and Americans - upheld themselves as role models of virtue to be emulated, as points of reference, almost inhuman or suprahuman in their taming of the vices, avarice up front. Yet the disorder in their own homes was broadcast live, day in and day out, into the cubicles inhabited by the very people they sought to so transform. And they conspired and collaborated in all manner of corruption and crime and scam and rigged elections in all the countries they put the gospel to. In trying to put an end to history, they seem to have provoked another round of it - more vicious, more enduring, more traumatic than before. That the West will pay the price for its mistakes I have no doubt. For isn't it a part and parcel of their teaching that everything has a price and that there is always a time of reckoning? 


 

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?
(Who is Guarding the Guards)
By : Dr. Sam Vaknin



Izetbegovic, the nominal ex-president of the nominal Bosnian state, the darling of the gullible western media, denies that he and his cronies and his cronies' cronies stole 40% of all civilian aid targeted at Bosnia - a minor matter of 1 billion US dollars and change, in less than 4 years. The tribes of the Balkans stop bleeding each other to death only when they gang up to bleed another. In this, there are no races and no traces - everyone is equal under the sign of the dollar. Serbs, Bosnians and Croats divided the loot with the loftiest of egalitarian instincts. Honour among thieves transformed into honour among victims and their murderers. Mammon is the only real authority in this god forsaken, writhing rump of a country.

And not only there.

In Russia, billions (3 to 5) were transferred to secret off shore bank accounts to be "portfolio managed" by mysterious fly-by-night entities. Many paid with their jobs when the trail led to the incestuous Yeltsin clan and their byzantine court.

Convoys snake across the mountainous Kosovo, bringing smuggled goods at exorbitant prices to the inhabitants of this parched territory - all under the avuncular gaze of multinational peacekeepers.

In Romania, Hungary and Greece, UN forces have been known to take bribes to allow goods into besieged Serbia. Oil, weapons and strategic materials, all slid across this greasy channel of the international brotherhood of cash.

A lot of the aid, ostensibly intended to ameliorate the state of refugedom imposed upon the unsuspecting, harried population of Kosovo - resurfaced in markets, white and black, across the region. Food, blankets, tents, electrical equipment, even toys - were on offer in bazaars from Skopje to Podgorica and from Sofia to Thessaloniki, replete with the stamps of the unwitting donors. Aid workers scurried back and forth in expensive utility vehicles, buzzing mobile phones in hand and latest model, officially purchased, infrared laptops humming in the air conditioned coolness of their five star hotel rooms (or fancy apartments). In their back pockets they safeguarded their first class tickets (the food is better and the stewardesses ...). The scavengers of every carnage, they descended upon this tortured land in redundant hordes, feeding off the misery, the autoimmune deficiency of the syndrome of humanism.

Ask yourselves: how could one of every 3 dollars - 50% of GNP - be stolen in a country the size of a tiny American state - without the knowledge and collaboration of the international organizations which ostensibly manage this bedlam? Why did the IMF renew the credit lines to a Russia which cheated bold-facely regarding its foreign exchange reserves? How was Serbia awash and flush with oil and other goods prohibited under the terms of the never-ending series of embargoes imposed upon it?

The answer is that potent cocktail of fear and graft. First came fear - that Russia will collapse, that the Balkans will spill over, that Bosnia will disintegrate. Nuclear nightmares intermingled with Armenian and Jewish flashbacks of genocide. The west shut its eyes tight and threw money at the bad spirits of irredentism and re-emergent communism. The long arm of the USA, the "international" financial institutions, collaborated in constructing the habit forming dole house that Eastern and Southern Europe has become. This conflict-reticence, these approach-avoidance cycles led to an inevitable collusion between the ruling mob families that pass for regimes in these parts of the planet - and the unilateral institutions that pass for multilateral ones in the rest of it. An elaborate system of winks and nods, the sign language of institutional rot and decaying governance, took over. Greasy palms clapped one another with the eerie silence of conspiracy. The world looked away as both - international financial institutions and corrupt regimes - robbed their constituencies blind. This was perceived to be the inevitable moral cost of stability. Survival of the majority entailed the filthy enrichment of the minority. And the west acquiesced.

But this grand design backfired. Like insidious bacteria, corruption breeds violence and hops from host to host. It does not discriminate, this plague of black conscience, between east and west. As it infected the indigenous, it also effected their guardians. They were all engulfed by raging greed, by a degradation of the inhibitions and by the intoxicating promiscuity of lawlessness. Inebriated by their newly found powers, little ceasars - natives and financial colonialists - claimed their little plots of crime and avarice, a not so secret order of disintegration of the social fabric. A ghoulish landscape, shrouded in the opaque mist of the nomenclature, the camaraderie of the omnipotent.

And corruption bred violence. The Chicago model imported lock, stock and the barrel of the gun. Former cronies disappeared mysteriously, bloated corpses in stale hotel rooms - being the only "contracts" honoured. Territories were carved up in constant, unrelenting warfare. One billion dollars are worth a lot of blood and it was spilled with glee, with the enthusiasm of the inevitable, with the elation of gambling all on a single spin of the Russian roulette.

It is this very violence that the west tried to drown with its credits. But unbeknownst to it, this very violence thrived on these pecuniary fertilizers. A plant of horrors, it devoured its soil and its cultivators alike. And 120,000 people paid with their lives for this wrong gamble. Counting its losses, the west is poised to spin the wheel again. More money is amassed, the dies are cast and more people cast to die. 


  

The Friendly Club

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin



Cyprus, that beacon of political stability and financial rectitude, was invited to negotiate its membership. Bulgaria, the epitome of good governance and civil society as well as Malta the undisputed friend of the West (remember Qaddafi?) - were among the list of new candidates handed down in the Helsinki meet of the most desired economic club on earth: the EU. To these were added Romania and its collapsing economy. Macedonia was relegated to the "West Balkan" group - a revolutionary re-definition of historical affiliations. In this assemblage, it found itself rubbing shoulders with the disintegrating Albania and the pariah Yugoslavia. Croatia was ejected from this leper colony by virtue of the death of its megalomaniac autocrat and his replacement by ex-communists.

Things have been very different only a few months ago, when the EU and NATO needed the good and naive services of Macedonia. It was a honeyed courtship. Macedonia was then virtually besieged by a flood of world class politicians, all eager to make the acquaintance of the charming political class of the Balkans. Promises were doled out with abandon. Blair promised tens of millions. Clinton topped this by pledging hundreds of millions. And the grateful West offered billions. In the meantime, Macedonia's infrastructure was pulverized by heavy armour and light-footed refugees - a quarter of a million of them.

The people of the Balkans are the off spring of broken promises. Their village shrewdness (which is not to be confused with worldly sophistication) predisposed them not to trust the kindness of strangers. Their in-bred paranoia led them to attribute prophetic foresight, sharp planning and intricate conspiracy to what were mere stumbling and bumbling on the part of the West and its mighty NATO. The disillusionment came fast and painlessly. To live in fantasy is often more rewarding than to have it fulfilled and many Macedonians were grateful for the intermission in their hundred years of solitude. The hangover, the bitter aftertaste, the sore muscles of the morning after - the Macedonians accepted all these with unusual grace.

But as insults were added to injuries, a sense of betrayal evolved. They felt exploited and discarded, objectified and dehumanized by super-powers of mythical proportions. They felt abused and deceived. Used to getting the short end of every stick - this time there was no stick at all. Having been thus manipulated and largely unable to direct their anger at the veritable sources of their frustration - they turned upon themselves in internecine squabbling, disgraced and flouted. This was further exacerbated by incessant preaching and hectoring of the representatives of those powers which thus forsake them. By the very people who reneged on promises. By countries and politicians whose own domestic politics and personal conduct were an object and abject lesson not to be emulated. Countries imbued with corruption preached to the Macedonians about good governance. Countries which suppressed their minorities in bloody campaigns reprimanded Macedonia for its treatment of its own minorities. Countries which sold weapons to every despicable dictator in every corner of the earth - prevented Macedonia from trading with its neighbours.

Of the money promised - very little materialized. The blazing trail of West European and American movie stars and presidents became a trickle of East European politicians and Brussels bureaucrats. Membership became association, association became new association and new association went nowhere as dates were postponed and dates kept were used as photo-oppurtunities by synthetic Western leaders.

If anyone should have been invited to join the EU it is poor Macedonia. Poor - but not as poor as Romania, for instance. Any comparison of the two bespeaks volumes about the West's betrayal. Romania's official inflation is 40% - Macedonia's is around 1% and has been, on average, less than 3% in the last 3 years. Romania's depleted GDP is collapsing. Macedonia has survived the Kosovo crisis with its GDP intact and is poised to grow by 4-6% in the year 2000 according to the IMF. Romania's average wage is less than 90 dollars a month - Macedonia's is 160 US dollars. The lei is as unstable as Yugoslavia's denar was prior to the Kosovo crisis - Macedonia's currency held stable throughout the external shock-ridden last three years and is trusted by its citizens. Romania's governments change frequently and with little reason, often succumbing to the wishes of an ominously violent street. Macedonia's government has changed once in the last 5 years and that following a fair and democratic election. Admittedly, Romania's market is much bigger than Macedonia's and its location closer to the EU. But Macedonia is an important bridgehead to the Balkans and beyond (Turkey) and its web of trading agreements and arrangements makes it a virtual market of more than 110 million people.

But Macedonia is friendless in the EU. It has no patron saint, no Germany (Croatia, Czech Republic), no France (Romania), no Greece (Cyprus). It is too small to fear and small enough to ignore comfortably. It is a peaceful and docile nation. It is co-operative. It is trustworthy and has proven its devotion to the idea of the West in times good and bad, mainly the latter. Perhaps these qualities disqualified it. Perhaps being taken for granted does not grant being taken. Whatever the explanation, the people of this tiny country grieve this short romance, so fleeting, so sweet, so dreamy and, as they are finding now, so surreal. 

======================================================
300 articles and essays (International Affairs) by the same author - available!

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