November 15, 2002

SOFIA SIDESHOW is a blog from Bulgaria. Excerpt:

The Right is not hated or stereotyped here in Sofia, like in some parts of the US (cough).
I still find it exhilarating when an liberal American (invariably an actor) makes an off-the-cuff political statement, absolutely sure to hear no conflicting views—possibly even believing that none legitimately exist—and yet finds himself the minority at the table, with genuinely offended Bulgarians glowering at him (or her).
I’ll draw back the curtain on one example: One American fellow (a nice guy, mind you, not some kitten-eating troll) with some minute knowledge of Bulgaria mentions loudly over his foie gras how capitalism is hurting this country.
The Bulgarian girl, 10 years the younger, stares at him like he grew a second head. And the fellow continues with what he thinks is the final and immutable proof of his assertion.
He says, "Prices were cheaper back during the previous government, isn’t that right? Now I mean, you didn’t have cuisine then like MacDonalds,” he sneered that last word, “but hey?”
My only note is: “but hey” is not an acceptable ending to a point you are trying to make. “But hey…” is a poignant failure to discipline your mind, to examine the full breadth of what you are trying to argue. Often, it is avoidance of the revelation that your point is actually no excuse for whatever you are defending.
The girl looked like she was going to use her knife, but instead, she told him that everything was indeed much, much cheaper under Communism. Bananas, she said, were only 5 stultinki per kilo [US: 2.5 cents]. He nodded, knowingly. Except, she added, there were no bananas.
You could buy bread for 2 stultinki per loaf…He looked at her warily now…But bread was rationed.
You would go to a market and buy a picture of bread. Then, when the government made a radio announcement, that picture could be turned in at a government center, for bread, after waiting in line, sometimes for hours.
Medicine was free, she said. There was none (well, none for The Workers).
He looked around like he had zips on the wire. Backup! Repeat: I need backup!
Yes, she went on, bread is now a 50 stultinki, and bananas are now 150 stultinki a kilo, but now you can buy as much as you want, any time. Fresh bread, for everyone, with no lines.
She’s spent most her life as a non-Communist, but she still said the last part with a hint of awe.
He sat there for a moment, mulling, then said this:
“But it’s still a lot more expensive, isn’t it.”

Indeed, indeed.