Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

An pleasant afternoon's slanging match

Note: The lady who communicated here just got in touch and asked me to take the post down.


I am however, deleting the personal contact data.

Given my extensive contacts in Eastern Europe, including Bulgaria, my guess is she got an earful ;)

Last Tuesday, I received this in my personal email from Toronto, regarding an old article of mine which can be found here: http://www.fee.org/Publications/the-Freeman/article.asp?aid=4300

Subject: Fond Memories of Communism
Date: Tue, 23 Dec 2008 12:43:13 -0500
From: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
To: Stephen Browne

I accidentally stumbled onto the article above, link is http://www.fee.org/Publications/the-Freeman/article.asp?aid=4300 , and I beg to differ. I was born in 1981 in Bulgaria, and moved to Canada in 1997. My sister, my family and I have good memories of communism. Not to say it was a perfect system, no system is, but it was life like any other, with human emotions, hardships and happiness. There were good things about communism that I miss; most Bulgarians I talk to will agree. I am not sure where you got your information, but I for one, feel like you have no idea what you're talking about.

xxxxx xxxxxxx
Reconciliation Administrator > Capital Control
I replied:

From: Stephen Browne
Sent: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 2:32 PM
To: xxxxx xxxxxxx
Subject: RE: Fond Memories of Communism

Thirteen years in Poland starting 1991, extended stays in Belarus, where friends are active in the opposition, Lithuania etc. As you may have missed, the list was supplied by my wife, who grew up in Poland. Other details supplied by friends in Ukraine, Russia, etc.

And yes, I'm aware that Bulgaria had it better than many communist bloc countries, vis a vis apartment availability etc than other communist countries, due to, among other things, a patent-pirate semiconductor industry. However, I lived in Bulgaria in 1996-97 (you'd have been what, sixteen?) when the inflation rate was at least 10% per day, bread almost nonexistent in stores, and food prices were soaring through the roof. I marched with the people of Sofia when, cheered on by President Stoyanov, they brought down the last coalition government and kicked the communists out entirely.

And you left this paradise.... why?

Steve Browne

Date: Tue, 23 Dec 2008 14:47:17 -0500
From: xxxxx xxxxxxx
To: Stephen Browne

First of all, nobody said it was paradise, there is no paradise, all I was saying that people DO have fond memories from that time, and it wasn't the evil empire you make it out to be. Second of all, below, you are talking about life AFTER communism, not during. Third of all, I don't appreciate your tone.


From: Stephen Browne
Sent: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 3:08 PM
To: xxxxx xxxxxxx
Subject: RE: Fond Memories of Communism

"I am not sure where you got your information, but I for one, feel like you have no idea what you're talking about."

Sorry, your model courtesy leaves me chagrined.

Where did I say evil empire?

And of course people have fond memories, because 1) even during the worst of times, people do find mirth, companionship and love, and 2) as Alexander Dolgun observed in Russia, after his release from eight years in the Gulag, society was full of ex-prisoners who spent their free time together reminiscing about all the great times they had in the camps. The brain tends to remember good feelings and forget the bad. It's a survival mechanism, we need to remember most what we did to feel good so we'll know to do it again.

I know Poles who can smile and tell you how they laughed and joked together - waiting three hours in a line to buy a few ounces of cheese.

Did you read about my Bulgarian friend Kyril? Seven years in labor camps during the '70s, where they beat him daily and knocked quite a few teeth out - for... having foreign guests. It may not be an empire, but that sounds pretty evil to me.

Yes, after the communist government passed, but the economic crisis was made by the former regime, and the utterly corrupt way they managed the transition. One way was by dissolving the collective farms without creating any way to privatize the land - and by the way, selling off all the equipment to each other in sweetheart deals for princely sums like a dollar a tractor.

And lastly, read it again, everything you find objectionable in that article is reported from the testimony of native eyewitnesses who were not ten years old when the regime fell, and were still living with the aftermath.

And you still haven't answered the question.


Date: Tue, 23 Dec 2008 15:20:04 -0500
From: xxxxx xxxxxxx
To: Stephen Browne

I left because I was in the custody of my parents and had no choice. I am sure your next question is why I never went back: because, I have since built a life here, formed relationships, and feel no need to leave yet another home.

Your stories of people suffering during communism are true, I never said it was perfect, but don't you tell me that, there weren't good things about it. I can point out just as many injustices done to just as many people by wonderful capitalism. Do not say that nobody who lived in communism has nothing good to say about it, it is not true.

You said: "In Sofia one night at a party with a group of participants in the cognitive science summer seminar at the New Bulgarian University, one English psychologist remarked, "You know, there were a lot of good things about communism." I noticed that all of the people around the table who were thoughtfully nodding were Brits and Scandinavians. The rest maintained a polite silence except for one Slovenian girl who said that while communism had failed, socialism was still a good idea. She had (surprise, surprise) been educated in Canada."

And excuse my model courtesy, but when faced with sentences like the one below, I feel like throwing up.

"I thought to myself with glee, "Hey, dude! We won and you lost. Feels pretty good to me."

Sent: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 3:46 PM
To: xxxxx xxxxxxx
Subject: RE: Fond Memories of Communism

I have just looked over that old article, and was reminded that the very first thing in it was an account of a fellow telling me how wonderful it was under communism. Which in turn reminded me of another reason there are people who remember communism fondly - their former privileged elite status. The reason my girlfriend's mother in Bulgaria thought things used to be better.

"I can point out just as many injustices done to just as many people by wonderful capitalism."

No, you can not.

The total number of murdered under communism is reliably, and conservatively, estimated at around 100 million. That's 100,000,000 people murdered by the various communist states in the 20th century - not counting war casualties, but only unarmed and helpless people. A small number of that total were family of people who are dear to me.

That's one-third the population of my country, and five times the present population of your new home. Murders committed by the USSR alone equal ten times the number committed by National Socialist Germany.

There is no evil or injustice in the history of capitalism that even remotely approaches this monstrosity.

Moral equivalence is the doctrine of moral imbeciles.

Throw up all you like, it means you have something to eat. Which is more than could be said for about 10 million Ukrainian peasants deliberately starved to death under orders from Stalin. That's what, 1.25 times the present population of Bulgaria?

Or on a somewhat lesser scale, my wife as a child in Poland. She too-clearly remembers food shortages.

Date: Tue, 23 Dec 2008 15:47:59 -0500
From: xxxxx xxxxxxx

Are you insane? Hold on, don't answer. I know the anwer.

To: xxxxx xxxxxxx
Sent: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 2:57 PM
Subject: RE: Fond Memories of Communism

Typical. When confronted by facts - resort to insult.

Right now you're working yourself into a rage because you couldn't answer a single point I raised. (And that's answer by the way. Your rage is making you incoherent.)

At this point the young lady couldn't contain herself and brought in a colleague:

From: Igor
Sent: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 4:09 PM
To: 'Stephen Browne'
Cc: xxxxx xxxxxxx
Subject: RE: Fond Memories of Communism

Hello Mr. Browne,

A colleague of mine just forwarded me a link to your article and I could not swallow that…let’s call it misrepresentation…

First of all: most of info in that article is not from communist era, but rather after-destruction era, second even more important fact for most westerners like yourself- the system in USSR was NEVER called communism, but socialism instead.

And that was exactly what it was: free good education, dedicated summer vacations (for my parents at sea shore of Black sea, and my parents were not elite: my father is a simple plumber at a regular factory), free kids leisure activities and sports conducted by professionals in their respective fields – therefore USSR had most medals in Olympics in those years, do you want me to continue about science, space achievements, culture, literature….I can continue and continue, and do not believe those opposite facts were never brought to your attention…and if they were, then what???....where are they???...your article is just another piece of western propaganda- isn’t it???


Administrator/ Capital Control- Reconciliation

From: Stephen Browne
To: igor
Sent: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 3:35 PM
Subject: RE: Fond Memories of Communism


Look again. The testimony you find objectionable is from Poles, Bulgarians, Lithuanians etc, who lived through that era their whole lives. I got to Eastern Europe just barely post-collapse (and by the way, why did this wonderful system collapse?) when the echoes of that mighty shout of freedom were still ringing - and the realization of "Oh my God what a mess we have to clean up!" was just setting in.

And to answer your question, no it's not.


Well, it went on for another couple of exchanges, ending when the young lady signed off with: "Merry Christmas, you ignorant American!"

I was not, of course, arguing for the sake of trying to convince this person. A glance at the correspondence will show that's futile.

The fact is, it was a slow afternoon and I was enjoying getting under her skin and watching her lapse into incoherent rage. Fact is, hey dude, we won and you lost - feels pretty damn good to me!

I hate to kick a man when he's down, but... oh the hell with that noise. I love to kick these commie pukes when they're down!

So lie down and take your kick like a man. Just remember, you'd have offed me!

As we say in Oklahoma, "I know it's wrong - but I'm weak."

So anyway, the first thing I did was to forward this correspondence to all of my friends and colleagues from the former communist countries, including Bulgaria, and urged them to contact these people. And please CC me.

When I did, I posed two questions:

1) Are these people claiming an equivalence between the communist holocaust of the 20th century and the admitted injustices and wrongs of western powers, or is it possible that they don't know?

In other words, is it possible that the educational system of Canada entirely omits this history, or actively denies it? God knows ours doesn't seem to bring it up much.

Any Canucks out there want to weigh in on this?

2) Is there an element of "survivors guilt" in the young lady's reaction?

In a subsequent email she launched into an impassioned screed about how she's "Bulgarian, in her heart and soul."

Sorry, though I say it who am not Bulgarian, though I love the country and its people greatly, she is not. She is Canadian, and she has sold out her people and betrayed the suffereings of her former nation for acceptance in Canada.

From Kalinn, in Bulgaria, I received this:

I said: I wonder about a couple of things, 1) is it possible in Canada they don't know about the communist holocaust? They've got a very socialist-friendly education system up there.

Yes, it is possible - not only in Canada but in West at all. Reasons of it are perfectly described in Black book of communism by Stephane Courtois : USSR was an Western ally in WWII; there were a strong communist parties in Western countries; Jewish holocaust took up the whole territory for modern barbarianism in XX century .

2) Psychologically, do you think it might be something like "survivors guilt"? They fled their native land, leaving it at a time when heroic men and women were finally changing it, and now they want to say it wasn't so bad so they don't feel so cowardly?

Yes, survivors gulit exists. I think that also exists a kind of "traumatic identity" but I couldn't explain it in English very well. That's why I am sending another my article form 2005 in Bulgarian. Your "friends" will understand it quite well.


From Elena, who grew up in the Soviet Union:

I would answer "yes". I think you are correct on both issues. Canada is very socialistic and the guilt issue is very
possible. She didn't say anything about her parents although it could make things much clearer. Why they moved to Canada?
Did they feel guilty about moving and so on? She was obviously a child when she left her homeland, so she knows about it
only trough somebody's stories. And as you said people tend to forget bad things, so after a while her parents must have
been reminiscing on the good parts of their life back home. Childhood impressions are extremely important, children grasp
information without analyzing so it usually goes straight to subconsciousness. When people grow up they carry a luggage of
unsubstantiated subconscious ideas that define what they are unless they decide to reevaluate everything they learned in
their childhood through their new grown-up perspective.
> >
> > When I start thinking about my childhood back in the Soviet Union I have nothing bad to say either. Mine was an average
family with their problems and happy moments and as it was my childhood my memories are usually more positive than my later
memories of something else. It was a carefree time for me even though it was not for my parents. If I stopped there I would
also be telling you now that you don't know anything about communism and all your words are just western propaganda. In fact
in the poverty stricken '90s, when my parents kept working but their salaries were delayed for over 6 months and if it had
not been for our grandparents who were growing their own food, we would have been starving, I would have told you that
communism (socialism) was much better than that horrible capitalism we lived in. Yet through all those years my major values
were justice and truth and eventually they helped me to reevaluate my past and everything I learned (that was 15 years of
continuous education)...

However it makes me feel really sad. I know many people like this woman, both in Russia and here. It's hard to believe but many people would rather live under communism than under capitalism. And you know why? It's the responsibility. You don't have to take responsibility for your life under communism or socialism.


  • At 6:11 AM, Blogger Ted said…

    Looks to me like someone's expecting a woman to think logically instead of emotionally, and value freedom above security; two things they don't do very well or often.
    Almost a hundred years of leftist brain-filthying has programmed them to look to and rely on big government to do all for them, all the while claiming to be "liberated"...thus we get back to the logic thing:
    They don't think, they feeeeeel.
    Just be grateful you're not married to this one!

  • At 3:35 PM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    Amen brother!

    My wife on the other hand, can be almost terrifyingly logical, she's almost English in that sense.

  • At 10:57 AM, Blogger Rawle said…

    @ Ted

    Looks to me like someone's expecting a woman to think logically instead of emotionally...

    Don't you think that's overdoing it some? I agree with you about leftist indoctrination, but that thing about "expecting a woman to think logically instead of emotionally" is needless hyperbole.

  • At 12:32 PM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    Not to mention the fact that that very perceptive comment at the bottom was from a woman,

  • At 9:01 PM, Blogger Ted said…

    Not doing it very well or often is not to say it never happens: We do, after all, have Ayn Rand as a refreshing departure from the norm. It's one of the great things about Objectivism that gets one's attention.
    Sadly, for every Ayn Rand there are a thousand Ann Coulters!


Post a Comment

<< Home