05 April 2013

Risen Again - 4/5 Recap & Rants

It was Easter this past Sunday and it was a good time to indulge in the east European traditions, some of which seemed a little more cruel than unusual.  Particularly when it involves whipping women.  There were lovely eggs to make up for it, though.  Though Europe had it tough because snow, not flowers, came to greet them on the symbolic holiday of rebirth.  It's like winter reborn.

The cat's out of the bag. Orbán is the most sought after television personality in Hungary.  No, I'm kidding, he's stealing all the airtime available.  I want graphs on the Politburo air times for comparison, just for kicks.

April Fool's!  I thought this was a pretty USA-centric holiday, but it turns out that Odessa is the OG of pranks.  The best part was that Humorina started during the Soviet rule. That's one way to let off steam about the endless droning of ideology!

Alena Ledeneva had a great interview in the Atlantic this past week about the sistema of Russia, why the system runs the way it does, and her views on the possibility of change.  Not to say democracy couldn't work, but this article makes me wonder if that's what will work in Russia.  It was western civilizations that migrated work from the realm of kin to strangers and that's all fine and dandy, but is that what everyone wants?  Can sistema exist without corruption?  Is there a "third way"?  (I recognize that the phrase was used by Communist apologists who wanted to reform the system.)

Slovenia ratified Croatia's ascension and then the Balkans began singing Kumbaya, My Lord while hiking through the mountains.  That was a joke, mainly because Serbia and Kosovo (surprise! not!) had deteriorating talks.  I really just wonder how exactly things will progress if Serbia continues to ignore Kosovo's independent status.  There's no tip-toeing around that fact because the gymnastics required for reaching a deal with that issue hanging is mind-boggling.  The article makes a good point in that Serbian Kosovars could have political weight if they were cut free.  It's not like Serbia is doing a whole lot in the area except pretending they still have a claim.  Give them a passport and citizenship and call the rest off.

Speaking of ambivalent feelings and ridiculous hold-outs, the Czech Republic got all stirred up about the EU flag flying next to their own.  The gall of a country to assert its union in a supranational governmental body!  It's more of the sovereignty issue bubbling to the surface and it's probably because most Czechs (among others) don't feel like they have real control in the EU.  There could be argument on whether or not casting more of your lot with the EU will give you more economic power and then more political power, but the fact is the Czechs are fearing what ultimately gave them prominence in Europe.  That's not even touching on the importance Havel placed on EU citizenship.  I would like to suggest making that book mandatory reading for all Europeans.

Georgia got a really cool McDonald's.  I'm jealous because we still have the tacky, obnoxious (almost theme park like) scheme and it's horrific.  I am hoping the place goes out of business and some cool local restaurant moves in there, however.

FEMEN goes anti-Muslim in their latest protests.  Harriet Salem wrote an article about Ukraine's acceptance of FEMEN and feminism and there's much to be discussed, some of which I have covered before.  I should write a whole article on this because I still have mixed feelings. They contribute to the feminist conversation about sexuality, freedom, the "right" way to advocate rights and if that is going through existing channels of power or creating new ones or, in the case of FEMEN, using a cog in the existing machine to break through.  They feed into patriarchy as much as they fight it and it's unclear if they are blazing a new path or simply recycling the same pornographic images of violence against naked, vulnerable women. The media has been desensitized the public to the images of sexually exploited, vulnerable women.  You'd only have to flip through a fashion magazine to see couture torture porn.  Despite cries from feminists the world over, these images persist and the general populace doesn't really understand the problem.  Is another image like that going to change anything?  Or does the fact that they paint their bodies with ideology tweak the image enough to reach people?  Occupy Wall St used the same idea of being helpless and attacked, which was characteristic of most movements of the 60s and 70s (RAF not being one of them), to mixed results.  Some images outraged and others made people denounce them as "dirty hippies".  Political activism has become tricky simply because most people don't really trust you unless you resemble the current power structure, but they also don't really trust that structure either.  There's also been the discovery that social media only works as a tool, not a motivator.  Kony 2012 got a lot of attention, but it didn't motivate; the social media worked as a marketing device, but didn't get everyone to buy the product.


This article infuriated me.  It is one of the sloppiest things I have ever read about eastern Germany.  I can't be sure if it's the article or the study itself, but it's riddled with assumptions.  The most glaring is that there is some assumption that pregnancies at the time of the Wall falling were planned, or at least that they had the option of abortion.  Let us not forget that the Wall coming down surprised everyone and that no one had anticipated that whirlwind of change.  There was a lot of chaos in the fall of the Wall because DDR citizens were quick to leave and undermine their own government before there was any structure put in place to absorb them.  Not only that, but abortion was not exactly socially kosher at that time either.  It really wasn't kosher anywhere (still true in most places). Women in the DDR were told to birth kids, put them in daycare, and go back to work.  They had the responsibility of repopulating the world with communists and then going to the factory to keep it humming along.  There was a fair amount of abortions after it was legalized (well, at least after it was officially counted), but that does not mean that those services continued well into 1990.  Or that women were within the first trimester when the Wall fell and had access to safe abortions (real risky behavior is unsafe abortions - real talk here).  It's unclear if they solely accounted for women who both conceived after the fall and gave birth around that time OR if they included those who were pregnant at the time of the event and continued with the pregnancy.  It was an exciting time and no one thought it was going to lead to the serious problems that arose later on (that perception is important!).  Also, staying pregnant/keeping the child is not always a pragmatic decision; emotions come into play as well.  Pregnancy is emotional and ignoring the reasons why they carried to term and didn't give up for adoption is critical.  None of these factors are addressed or considered.  

Whether or not it was planned aside, there is the fact that most of these criminals had single mothers.  Economic/financial stress is a huge factor in a divorce/discontinued partnership and there may be the fact that women no longer felt pressure to be tied to a man, since two working spouses was advantageous in the land of shortages and second economies.  The issue of being a single mother cannot be reduced to that single fact.  The circumstances of single parenthood are a huge factor to be considered.  How did they become single mothers?  Did they choose it?  Was it because the man left?  Was there abuse? Money trouble?  Were they seeking better opportunities and it drove a wedge between them and their partners? These things matter when we talk about how the children of said mothers turn into criminals.  It also falsely assumes that because the children have certain behaviors, that the parents much exhibit them too (or vice versa).  Perfectly fine parents have produced menaces to society and horrible parents have produced productive, happy children.  The child becomes an autonomous human being, parents cannot account for their entire development, and there are larger cultural forces to account for. To say that women who gave birth around 1989-1990 were risk-takers, which was conferred upon their children to produce criminals, is sloppy.  It's the perception of risk - the Wende was exciting, full of hope and I'm sure very few people thought it was going to be a shit show.  They may not have considered their pregnancy risky behavior.  Also, I think calling carrying to term and keeping the baby "risky behavior" is a really, really slippery slope in the first place.  It depends on a lot of factors, including access to healthcare, culture perception and values, support structures, personal circumstances, perceived sense of risk, and emotional investment.  

Crime is also something that has a lot to do with perception, culture, and opportunity costs.  Eastern Germany has some fundamental obstacles to success for young citizens and if there's nowhere to go and nothing to do, crime may result.  Crimes are not solely due to bad parenting and to say otherwise is ignorant.  At least in the United States, most criminals that get locked up are black because of systematic prejudices and structures that unequally punish crimes of poverty (versus crimes of wealth, e.g. embezzlement), which disproportionately affect blacks due to said prejudices keeping them in poverty.  There is a possibility that discrimination is a factor (say it ain't so, Germany!) and that affects the perception of crime.  If one assumes an Ossi will rob, they will look for that suspicious behavior and possibly jump to conclusions.  

There are so many factors that play into this phenomenon, but the study and/or article seems to think that a blanket, simplistic explanation will suffice.  This is exactly what feeds into prejudice and continues a system of oppression.  The anthropologist/sociologist in me is crying out in agony at this article.  You have butchered everything I love about studying people, society, and cultures.  Suffer ignominiously!  And the researchers were both economists, which makes a lot of sense.  The real stuff of social problems is not covered in your coursework and is too messy for your analysis.  Stick to macroeconomics, k?