December, 2010

  1. Arrogance

    December 6, 2010 by Christopher Buxton

    I was recently castigated by a former student for becoming yet another foreigner to “treat Bulgarians as though they were aborigines”.

    I learn from the comments appended to an article on the early release of Michael Shields, that “the English have always treated Bulgarians as if they were aborigines.” You may remember that Michael Shields was the English football fan, who was imprisoned in Bulgaria for the grievous maiming of a Bulgarian citizen, but then was transferred to serve the remainder of his sentence in a British Gaol.

    In the right wing “patriotic” press, American Ambassador James Warlick, who has the temerity to comment on Bulgarian internal affairs, is routinely described as “regarding Bulgarians as aborigines.”

    I have been searching for some history of this most surprising of comparisons. I would like to know whether any foreign commentator has ever compared Bulgarians with Aborigines.

    Apart from the fact that both peoples have suffered from Imperial repression and a degree of cultural isolation, there are no points of similarity beyond common humanity.

    What may be true is that those Bulgarians who perceive the world as an ethnic league table would identify aborigines as occupying the lowest position. Patriotic Bulgarians would also hold as an article of faith that history or even malign world conspiracy has handed Bulgarians the outrageously unjust fate to be placed on a lower position than that enjoyed by other “advanced” nations.

    Anyone from one of these supposedly “advanced” nations, who lives in Bulgaria will, like me, be tempted to comment on the joys and challenges of everyday life. Bulgaria’s entry into NATO and the EU makes it inevitable that Bulgaria will become the object of report and even advice.

    The problem is that any critical comments will be construed as patronising and arrogant.

    In England, the failure of the World Cup Bid has led to a storm of self-righteous fury. Accusations of corruption in the British popular press, feature FIFA Third World representatives, Russian kleptocrats and oil rich Sheiks. How dare the world ignore the whiter than white combination of Prince William, David Beckham and David Cameron?

    Ha! Ha! Ha!

    I would imagine that in the rest of the world, people are quite pleased by this very public punishment of perceived English arrogance – even while admitting the fallibility of FIFA as an institution.

    Arrogance involves the assumption by the individual of some superiority. Arrogance is perceived by others – seldom by the individual. And I admit that as an English citizen I have to try to monitor myself when daring to comment on another country even though I live in that country and am affected by social and legal issues.

    Seizing on some comments I had made about attitudes to homosexuals and gypsies, my former student last year launched a diatribe against the horrors perpetrated by the English over the centuries. I could have written this part of his article for him. I could be accused of arrogance if I stated I could have written it better.

    There is a kind of arrogance which is based not on a feeling of social superiority, but on a tortured sense of persecution. This sense of persecution, however justified, will foster entrenched opinions and stereotypes. Thin skinned sensitivity and perhaps a commercial need to pander to a like-minded audience may lie behind the oft-repeated accusation that Bulgarians are being treated as if they were aborigines.

  2. Awful, awful!

    December 2, 2010 by Christopher Buxton

    In his powerful memoir, Alcohol, Kalin Terziski defines his parents generation by their hushed reaction to all life’s challenges typical in communism – “awful, awful”. Sudden deaths, arrests, cuts in water and electricity, queues outside shops, divorcing couples, ungrateful children, holes in the road, suicides of young poets and petty crime would evoke the same frightened response of “awful, awful!”

    One imagines these words ringing out more loudly round Bulgaria today as the news spreads from the town of Oryakhovo of the baby allegedly stuffed alive into a hospital freezer and the spectacular arrest of the responsible doctors. The baby’s mother was a shy Bulgarian school pupil, terrified of her violent father and the baby’s father was a gypsy. Whether the baby was indeed still alive when stuffed into the freezer will emerge from an inquiry.

    What has emerged is that in their hastily written report of the “death” they got the gender and age of the baby wrong.

    Revealing of the current environment of State Paranoia is that this story only emerged as a result of phone tapping. A conversation was overheard between the hospital chief and the local mayor about the baby. This led to spectacular scenes as anti Mafia police – normally used for arresting gangsters and corrupt politicians – rushed into the hospital and arrested doctors at gun-point.

    The Hospital chief has shared his astonishment that doctors should be treated as dangerous criminals. Leader of the Conservative Party has demanded the resignation of the Minister of Home Affairs, following the latter’s decision to quote from the tapped conversations.

    Self elected bard of moral outrage, Martin Karbovski has seized upon the freezer as a powerful metaphor for the state of modern Bulgaria. And the fact that the words for miscarriage and abortion are the same in Bulgaria has allowed him to portray the citizens of this frozen realm as “abortions.”

    Helpful though his comments may be in provoking a chorus of “awful, awful!”, they will have done little to worsen Bulgarians’ already fairly jaded view of everyday life.

    In a desperate attempt to bring a smile to the lips of his fellow citizens, Greatest Living Bulgarian, Boyko Borisov has brought out the latest episode of “Government – The Soap Opera” – in which he confesses that he and his colleagues were completely taken in by the beautiful former chief of the Agricultural Fund, Kalinna Ilieva. Not only did this young woman succeed in fooling them all with a falsified diploma, but incredibly she passed off her pregnancy as a cancer tumour.

    In another twist of the absurd, former chief of National Security, Alexei Petrov, who is threatened by investigation of years of corrupt links with the underworld, is being persuaded to run for the post of president in next year’s elections. Subject to a highly publicised police campaign, the so called Tractor and head of the Octopus has already had talks with that Dorian Grey of Bulgarian politics the outgoing president, Purvanov.

    Former Communist, Purvanov has clearly despaired of the chances that the Socialist party under the anally retentive Stanishev can challenge the super-popular Boyko Borisov. So with the aid of a few well chosen pals, Purvanov is launching his own left-leaning party in time for the next Parliamentary elections.

    Awful, awful!