Long ago, I wrote an article, in Romanian, describing for the needs of a Romanian audience what I perceived at the time to be a strictly Romanian problem. Let us go through that for an introduction in today's sad, misfortunate subject matter.
The wanna-be customer, the customer without a budget, the customer that wants just an idea, just a salty snack, the client who's perpetually in "economic crisis" terms is a rather frequent topic among Romanian contractors.
"Free" is something done by the desperate for survival. Those of you who clamor for respectability, who pretend to have obtained investment must get in the habit of writing checks for services rendered.
I have all sorts of contacts with people who supposedly run major businesses in .ro, we discuss all sorts of things, not of the nature of sports or women or hunting but of the nature of their job. Yet obviously, once you suggest they sign a contract they run off to "there's no money", "I'm only interested in some ideas", "I just want to find out", "The crisis hasn't skipped us" blabla coming from people who instead of actually hiring a service prefer the chewed gum and duct tape of "ideas", "helpful advice", "friendly expertise" and such nonsense.
Generally, the commentary offered and the criticisms arrayed against the nonsense lay on the lines of "respect"i, which is to say, of the contractor's respect for himself, for his compentency and profession (for it is, supposedly, a profession), of the customer for himself, for his own business and its futureii and only in the last place, the customer's respect for the contractor.
All these representations are supported with practical examples from the old economy, the economy of physical objects. The respect of a producer for himself and his product is readily visualised as "I'll burn it down before I sell it for that price". The respect of the customer for himself is at work in any upscale restaurant. You've yet to see some businessman invite some other businessman for lunch and then order "something to eat for free, whatever you got back there".iii The final bit, the customer's respect for the producer, is chiefly on display when people hire housemaids or governesses for the children. The first question is never how much, but above all what do the recommendations say. Because you're not about to save twenty dollars there.
I believe this approach is fundamentally inadequate, and the actual problem is merely perception. Let's take another set of examples.
"Daddy, when are you buying me a computer ?" ; "When do I get a wedding ?". Car money, house-for-the-children money, aunt Lena's operation money, tooth fillings money, all these expenses go into a particular rubric that might seem ridiculous when put to paper (because the Romanian mind has some very deeply rooted - and deeply fascinating - pudibonderies as to what may be set out on paper or regarded through the eye of reason), but isn't really.
Mostly through chance, a number of professions that are fundamental to any contemporaneous economy were aglutinated, in the somewhat endarkenediv minds of a wide majority, under the heading of "playthings", points of interest to adolescents, unserious, unreal and - in this sense - unrespectable matter.
When confronted with the professions in this category, the mental attitude is not public, nor does it arise from the power relations described by economy. Instead, it is familial, and derived from the power relations inside the clan.
This readily explains why the man seated will never tell the waitress "anything, as long as it's free", yet that same man will seek "some ideas", which he "just wants to find" etc. This is also why he imagines his "friendship" or "goodwill" is worth two shits : he thinks himself inside the clan.
Romanians have anyway pretty serious problems with the rational flow of money in society, some of which are universal, some of which moreover particular. As a fine example, your average Romanian fellow would readily prefer to earn 11 units, when everyone else earns 10, instead of an alternative where he earns 90, when everyone else earns 100, indifferent to the fact that 90 is still, significantly above 11. This, in the language, is called "the neighbour's goat problem".
These misunderstandings and erroneous representations lead to the bizarre situation in which money is moreover seen as a means to social control than as a meausre of the circulation of goods and services, or of the efficiency and utility of labour. A hundred lei is that hundred which Gigel ain't getting unless he's a good boy, rather than the value added by Cornel's work. As such, the fundamentally Romanian way to make money is to beg someone who has it, and not to produce value. Therefore, "running a business" is to shake as many carrots as possible under as many donkey noses as possible, not to construct partnerships and honor agreements.
This way of seeing, money as a whip rather than as an exchange substrate, of any property as an inheritance and not as an object with an utility, puts the poor "businessmen" in an absolutely desperate situation. They have not the experiences or knowledge that survival requires in modern economy, nor the habits and ethics of the intellectual work upon which their occupation rests, and which would in principle allow them to transcend their condition by instruction (or even mere reading), nor the ability to represent correctly the utility and role of consultants in the world of the pretentious but dumb.
The irony of the situation comes from the fact that the principal symbolic benefit of representing money in a clan structure comes from the very fact that it answers an ontological necessity : look how many people ask me for money, it must be that I'm, important, and, at the limit, it must be the case I exist. The wish of Becali or Mazare or whoever else of their ilk is exactly this : a procession as long as feasible of people holding their hat in their hands.v
Admire the beauty of the world. From the poorly understood and poorly implemented wish to validate their own existence, the "businessmen" mistreat the consultants, who were their only hope of survival, the only element that could conceivably allow the perpetuation of the "businessmen" in question. Doesn't it beat any fiction ?
What a difference the better part of a decade makes!
Meanwhile, incipient decay that had been ongoing but not yet visible (to me) in the West expanded, and my own understanding and experience base expanded, and now I can see that it's not Romania that caught up with the resplendent West. Nay - it's the West that caught up with stupid, muddy, marginal Romania.
Allow me to pick two examples, out of millions, because these two examples made the click in my head.
I. The fabulous case of OpenBSD.
OpenBSD has, for a while, played the foremost role of "consultant", exact equivalent of the poor kid in the quote above. Everyone hit them up constantly for... you know, "just an idea", just an algo, just a salty snack. For free.
And then, one day OpenBSD announced that either it gets enough money to keep the electricity on or it shuts down.
A month later, OpenBSD announced that hey, this is it, unless we get so and so in a week we're closing.
So I gave them the so and so.
This didn't result, as you'd expect, in "MP gave us the so and so, and now we're saved". Because why would it ? That event never happened - thanks to the tireless efforts of one certain barnaclevi now exposed and thousands others who fancy themselves "anonymous"vii - MP isn't a thing and OpenBSD was saved by... Microsoft. Right ?
One has to ask himself nevertheless - if Microsoft really wanted to pay half a million to OpenBSD, why did it wait to do it ? What's 2015 have that 2014 did not have ?viii Why all this jerking around, only to end up paying more, and on top of paying more, to end up playing the role of Pollychinelle in a medieval farce ?
Funny how just as soon as housewife starts getting looks her wifebeater clad redneck of a husband suddenly remembers he wanted to buy her earrings all along.ix
II. The endless case of PGP.
PGP is a tool that has been used as nothing but a toy for the past two decades! Why ?
It's not really "serious", is it ? According to whom ?
"Customers" would never accept it, right ? They'll accept any other piece of idiocy to date, and I won't bother to list, but they'd never accept PGP.
It's not actually needed, obviously. "The same" could be had cheaper, faster, easier, by more people, provided it's not actually the same. But that wasn't needed anyway (and customers'd never accepted it!).
We discover ridiculously infantile errors, worthy of a six week old prototype all the damned time - most recently, these days. Every time it's being put to some serious use, every time we attempt to employ it in production, another ridiculously infantile bit that's tacked on, for no real reason, rears its mouthbreathing head. Why do you suppose that is ?
Yes, I'm sure now that #b-a has picked it up it'll suddenly and retrospectively will have been very important all along, and "some researchers" will have retrospectively said (undocumentably) everything we say, and so on and so forth. Like we've seen it play out before.
In conclusion : The jerking around is not a Romanian thing. It's a poor-but-stupid-peoplex thing. As the US has become overrun with stupid and is now poorxi, the same crap comes back from wherever crap temporarily goes.
The jerking around is simply the return to pre-economic relations and means of social organisation, deployed by people who have meanwhile become too stupid to be able to have an economy and too poor to even need one in the first place.
It doesn't bode well.———
- I've meanwhile learned a lot more about this "respeto" nonsense, and none of it is flattering to the primitive tribes in Argentina, last decade Romania and wherever else. [↩]
- Whatever of my great-grandparents that kept animals didn't sit down to eat before feeding said animals.
You might think what you will of the sort of savages that ran a society in which women refusing sex was tantamount to a declaration of mental handicap, and wives carried red lines on their backs at least 90% of the times they needed red lines on their back. You may think what you will of your great progress hence, not even a century ago, and of your great and blinding superiority over them.
I however will think very little of you for as long as your couch is in better shape than your tools. Yes, this implies you actually have tools, which don't necessarily have to be a wrench, but necessarily have to not be a smartphone. [↩]
- Or at least I would hope so, but given the pressure words like "businessman" are under, from the large wave of drool coming out of the ustardian kids these days - a wave large enough Hillary Clinton's surfing on it even! - who even knows anymore. Maybe US business expense accounts come with a complimentary airbnb reservation by now. [↩]
- "Intunericit" is strictly speaking incorrect usage in Romanian, but it was made famous by one of Ceasuescu's brothers who, under arrest during the Revolution and clearly perturbed, narrated a story and misspoke, saying "cind a inceput sa se intunericeasca" instead of "cind a inceput sa se intunece", roughly the equivalent of saying "when it started to endarkenate". Since he was stupid in the sense of just a step or two above diagnosable cognitive impairment, the expression survived him as the sure mark of the sort of intellect that might or might not inherit the kingdom of heaven, but certainly will get naught else. [↩]
- This is how you go asking, in Romanian. [↩]
- Barnacle is a term of art in the B,TMSRO~ universe. It denotes one of those USG minions who exist chiefly to prevent normal functioning of society in some particular point. The barnacle is today's soviet comissar, he's there to do what the thin layer of metal oxide does to keep inox tools unrusted. [↩]
- Mostly because contemplating the alternative is too scary, and obviously nobody has to do anything that's scary. Like...ever. [↩]
- Ah, that's right, in 2014 nobody could have foreseen Heartbleed getting shot straight in the head, and Mike Hearn getting beheaded to go with it and so forth ?
Ah, in 2014 nobody had any serious understanding of how and why Bitcoin can't be crushed financially ?
Learn to read those reports, boys and girls, those schmucky kids that work for you still did summarize 2013 Trilema articles for you, they were right there on the desk, alongside the reports invalidating every other "no one could have foreseen" to date.
Read more, seriously. [↩]
- For the record, the test that establishes whether any given pair of tits is best employed as the beaten housewife of some inept redneck or something else is simply whether she sees through this crap or falls for it. There's pointedly no detriment to the world at large coming out of her being stupid. [↩]
- Hey, ever heard of Sergiu Brucan ? You'd have loved that guy.
He said Romanians are "a stupid people" once on live television, and for five or so years afterwards his middle name was fucking Goldstein. [↩]
- About as poor as Romania in the 90s, incidentally. I won't get into the details of intellectual poverty, for I don't want to upset my liver, but as far as economic poverty goes, let me point out that Romania also was doing the entire "we can't afford it so it's bad" song and dance the US Pravda's been churning out re Olympics recently.
In any case you're not adding 2k worth of value per capita top the world, which is where Romania was, back then. It got better. Maybe the US will too. Someday. Ask me sometime what Romania had to go through to reach that someday, marginal as it still is. [↩]