From a brilliant long article that everybody should read:
The Right and its moderate liberal fellow travelers today find themselves isolated and impotent in turn. And yet, in response, they appear to have no patience whatsoever for executing their own counter-march through the institutions, instead mostly trying to either force the institutions to behave differently through political power (mostly pointless), or fleeing from the institutions entirely in a bid to create new ones from the ground up (a longshot, if more promising). Either way, they seem to hope everything achieved by the left can be reversed in the matter of only a few years, which is naïve on multiple levels.
It took a very long time to get us to where we are. Many people took many little steps over many years. It will now take many people making many more tiny steps over many years to walk away from this bog of insanity. There are no magic cures and sudden revelations. Alternatively, we can wait for the grandchildren of today’s 18-year-olds to grow up and. . . Well, you know the rest.
8 thoughts on “Prepare for the Long Haul”
OT: Have you been following Chris Arnade’s walking tour of Kyiv?
I loved his walking tour of Bucuresti Romania, which I know a little and his pictures were recognizably modern Romania (at least Bucharest) so I’m assuming he’s similarly capturing modern Ukraine… does it look like the place you left of is it changing?
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I can’t think about Ukraine right now because it’s painful. Let’s wait until things improve and the danger recedes.
// Let’s wait until things improve and the danger recedes.
I do not believe Putin will invade. He is not completely insane.
Ah, I just read Arnade’s article on Bucharest. What a collection of clichés :)). It’s quite funny, really. You have the kind of folks who only prance around the central touristy areas of a city, and then these types who specifically look out for something (poverty, misery, oddities) on the margins of which they can wax poetic. Apparently “communist” (and always “brutal” and “soulless”) architecture destroyed the cityscape. If one bothers to peruse through some older photos of the city, one can easily notice how the squalor and the general run-down quality of the peripheries came to life around the ’80s in the late-communist austerity period and, especially, in the “transition” period of turbo-capitalism where anything public was left to rot, the construction of new buildings was left to flourish unregulated etc. If you renovate them, dismantle the plastered-on balconies and clean up the surroundings you will get for the most part the same functionalist style of building also used throughout Western Europe following the urbanization boom of the post-war period with its stringent need for new housing developments. Not to mention that before the evil commies came with their bland architecture, the interwar period wasn’t exactly offering something better in terms of urban living for the working-classes and the poor, to say the least. Romania was an overwhelmingly agrarian country, the vast majority of the population were peasants and those who moved to the city lived in “mahalale” (i.e. squalid peripheral neighborhoods, completely unregulated, with no public utilities — basically slums/favelas). By interwar standards, most of the new communist dwellings were a bliss. They were built according to actual city-planning, with their little gardens and playgrounds surrounding them (still visible in some of the same South areas he visited, but that were deemed too unworthy to check by this misery pr0n-looking photographer), with actual public utilities available to the inhabitants and so on. And that’s just one irksome thing. There’s plenty others – like the ridiculous notion that Romania is a “nationalist” country. Romanians are probably some of the most chronically self-deprecating people you will ever encounter. They complain endlessly about their country and their fellow countrymen :)). Not exactly the definition of “nationalism”. And Bucharest is not really poor (anymore). It just has a bizarre decentralized administration that self-sabotages a lot, is unfortunately part of a country with great regional disparities (so a lot of the tax money is redistributed at the national level to much poorer regions) and is also part of a country whose political elite still lives in the Thatcherite mental landscape where taxes and regulation are inherently evil. Sorry, I had to get out this rant. I will now go back to my habit of lurking in silence around on the blog :)).
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” I just read Arnade’s article on Bucharest”
I didn’t read the article I just liked the pictures on twitter (which were in line with what I’ve seen at street level in Bucharest when I’ve visited). Bucharest is not a… pretty city by any stretch of the imagination but it has a kind of…. energy that makes it fun to explore.
You make very good points about the functionalism of communist era housing vis a vis what came before. Eastern European communist era housing developments really are their own thing with no real equivalent in western europe as far as I can tell. Government built housing in the UK and France after WWII went to hell very quickly while similar housing in Eastern Europe is still in use, functional and pretty livable.
What you write about ‘nationalism’ and Romania is very true of Poland as well.
But I think it’s a different kind of nationalism… Polish intellectuals don’t doubt the right of the country to exist… how many British or French intellectuals would say that the UK or France have a right to exist? (hyperbole but you get the idea).
Please don’t go back to lurking! I love talking about life in various Eastern European countries and don’t get so many chances….
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Western Europe industrialized (and therefore urbanized) much earlier (like a century and a half) and at a much slower pace, so there was no need for the very fast and extensive construction projects of post-war Eastern Europe, which was overwhelmingly agrarian (with maybe the exception of some parts of modern-day Czechia, that inherited most of the industrial base of the Habsburg Empire/Austria-Hungary). For instance, Romania alone lingered around 20% of the population living in an urban setting for the first half of the 20th century and spiked up to about 50% by the end of the ‘70s. Those massive movements of population from rural to urban areas needed significant enlargement of cities to settle in, if not even small towns almost entirely erected from the ground up. I don’t know about the UK, but maybe the relative lack of success with government housing in France was also caused (at least in part) by some reminiscent…classism, since I remember watching a documentary that mentioned these housing developments being built on the outskirts of cities, with no proper access to public transport, schools, anything. If you gotta to something for the plebs, at least do it somewhere where they can’t be an eyesore….
And yes, Bucharest is not a pretty city by any means. It could at least become ok in time with a decent centralized administration, not split in three different decision centres (sectorial, municipal and national), and…a couple other things I don’t intend to go into here on a blog post of Clarissa that has zero to do with this :)). Beautiful this city will never be, since it went through too many successive waves of ambitious destruction that misunderstood and despised the legacy before them. The pre-1830 Phanariote vibe of the city was too “Oriental” for the modernizing Francophile elites that replaced it with grand neoclassical buildings, large boulevards and later, in the interwar period, peppered it with numerous – now decaying – art-deco villas, the communists thought all this too “bourgeois” so they built literal ready-made housing blocks in the historical areas followed lately by turbo-capitalist hawks who can’t wait for some run-down building to rot faster so they can replace it with a glass office building or a new poorly-designed (compared to which even the late Ceausescu era constructions were top-notch) apartment block to sell to the middle-upper classes. This left the city with an overly…eclectic face (bordering on chaotic) and with no sense of an unified look.
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“post-war Eastern Europe”
You should definitely start a blog on Romanian East-European issues. Fascinating stuff.
Poland also has the rapid urbanization history, so that peasant values were maintained in cities in ways they weren’t in places where urbanization was filtered from village to small town to big city over generations.
And it’s still going on, there is a class of people (mostly younger) who commute between Warsaw and the surrounding countryside spending weekends at home, tens or a hundred or more kilometers away from the city they work in. They’re disparagingly called ‘słoiki” (‘jars’ after the prepared home-cooked food they bring with them to the capital each Monday).
And also new apartments being built all over the place seem more crowded and less functional than the communist built developments which are cramped but with space between buildings and playgrounds etc
“Bucharest is not a pretty city by any means”
But I like it more than any number of prettier cities… I can understand residents might get fed up with the visual chaos but that’s part of its identity by now…
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Thank you very much for posting this link – smart, impressive writing by a very broadly-read person; particularly well taken are his points 1-4, 9-12, 14, 16 and 19.
Nobody who is out of sympathy with the wokesters will want to read any of this. Look away, look away!
Still, I think he’s mostly right.
But you are already familiar with my oft-stated view that Canada’s wokester ‘one-party democracy’ is pointing the way to the entire west’s future (with local variations on the general theme).
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