Saturday, March 14, 2009

neo-liberalism, or the vorovskoy mir in action: a bedtime tale for demons

Oh, the dirty tales we can tell of this brave new world – the world its prophet, its reflection, its mediocrity, its voice Thomas Friedman called, justly, the “flat world” – for indeed, all heads, all minds, all hearts were flat in this world, flat as soda when the fizz has gone out of it and left behind a toxic industrial syrup laced through with sugar substitutes. Drink it up! Oh, drink it all up, every last drop, zeks!

Such are the rules in the zona. The flat world has another name, a more secret one perhaps: vorovskoy mir – the thieves world. The bankrobbers who have graduated in their masses from the Ivies best business schools have built ever more elegant algorithms on the approved vorovskoy mir model, algorithms that have produced a flat utopia. Here flat is a word that signifies an act – as in a tire going flat. Every one of us is caught within its rubbery coils – can’t you smell them? It that rubber, in endless amounts, that is being rubbed in our faces.

Thus, to understand the zona, it isn’t enough to read the business pages – one must go back to texts like Pushkin’s The Captain’s Daughter, which is, I believe, the first instance of the vorovskoy mir bursting into the pages of the classics, through the use of Fenya, or thief’s slang. And haven’t we grown used to our own fenya, that of the financial market, where the letter killeth? Of course we have. We are the geeks. We swallow everything. We wait for the next course.

And where is that next course, brothers and sisters? Why, it is coming, steaming hot, out of Austria. There’s a small article by Piotr Dobrowolski on the Austrian difficulty in Freitag, The Alpine Banks on the Slalom. Or Nightmare Banks – Alpen meaning both things. It appears they made a 100 billion dollar bubu. After the wall fell, “No ukranian cow station was too out of the way not to have its own branch, no business plan of a Hungarian neo-capitalist was too absurd not to be supported with generous credit.”

Now, of course, as Dobrowolski writes, the money is gone. Goldman Sachs estimate the money lost at around 70 percent of the total, the Austrian banks insist on 10 percent: so it is in a range of 100 billion to 23 billion.

Of course, in Austria, it is rather hard to catch ahold of these facts. As Dobrowski points out, when a paper like Profil, the Austrian Spiegel, assures its readers that Austria is not going bankrupt, what it doesn’t tell its readers is that it is owned by the Raiffeisenbank – a strictly guarded media secret, just as NBC’s fealty to GE is never mentioned by anyone in the press (for who can seriously believe that our thieves in law would distort the news for their own purposes?) – and Raiffeisenbank took a strong position in the East.

Of course, when the thieve’s world money dries up, someone somewhere must take a hit. Only among the vory does the true sense of the last judgment survive in this fallen world – for they know down to the birthmark what it means for the demons to strip the sinner and prod and poke his shameful hindquarters towards a roaring furnace.

“The massive support that Austria is extending to its bankers does not remain without any effect. Just now the discussion of social cuts is being engaged: beginning with the overtime for teachers, demands for wage cuts with all branches up to a projected dismantling of the state postal service. Now, where Proell [the chancellor] has had no luck in his preference of getting more money out of the EU for the Austrian banks, the compulsion for savings is even greater. For the money for the poor bankers must come from somewhere.”

“For those who think Jesus Christ is Santa Claus, oh yeah”

I am only a humble collagist, so for my final quote, let’s go to this remarkable summary of the Free Market ideology:

“The best way to understand the society of vory v zakone, the governing elite in the world of thieves, is to describe the system of norms that its representatives observed. The first rule prohibited cooperation with any state authorities. Anyone who had ever served in the army or worked for or been a member of a state organization could never aspire to receive the title of thief-in-law. “The major collective representation of thieves that determined their relation with external reality is their idea of a struggle between the two worlds,” writes Likhachev. “The thief, like a primitive man, divides the whole world into two parts, ‘its own’ – the good one – and ‘the alien’ – the bad one. A consistent and conspicuous rejection of any order from state authorities, whatever it may cost the thief, constituted a major element of his behavioral norms.”

In the U.S., of course, we call this Fresh water economics. But as Vadim Volkov concedes, this admirable distrust of the state order was thrown out the window when the state order became subordinate to thievery. And who can doubt the brilliant results? Not this zek.

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