A country where everyone is showing disrespect is doomed to go down
A conversation between the Minister of Investment Planning Ivan Danov and the writer Kalin Terziiski about the "euphemism treadmill", the responsibility for the state of society and the investment in dreams
Writers love to make generalizations like "politicians are scoundrels," "ministers are good for nothing", etc. Mr. Terziiski when a particular person is standing in front of you, are you willing to repeat or challenge some of the stereotypes?
К.Т.: Bulgarian intellectuals are always considered outcasts and neglected. I prepared a negative review about the Minister of Culture Petar Stojanovic a week ago. I honestly confessed my reasons for it: the review for the Minister was based on my attitude towards his brother. The brother of Peter Stojanovic is a chief editor of a magazine. He asked me to write a text. Then, he apparently changed his mind and stopped answering my phone calls.
We are like that - our every sentence invents some well-defined arguments, the core of which, however, is usually- something personal.
In Bulgaria a Minister fully assumes the responsibility for all the negatives. We put someone to hate him. Whoever is elected will become "up for a laugh" or a "criminal". And thus it turns that all listed in power, to which we assigned responsibilities are "bastards." So it is convenient to us. We live in a comfortable discontent - when we are underprivileged, we are in safety.
How do you treat the critique? There's a quote of Margaret Thatcher: "If my critics see me walking over the Thames they would say it is because I couldn't swim." Do you associate it with you?
I.D.: After a year in the government I learn to accept criticism and get used to the false things that in circulation. But this negativity will have an impact in the future - a country where everyone is showing disrespect is doomed to go down.
К.Т.: If a honest person starts to protect himself from abuses, he goes even dirty. Maybe because pure stains more easily, the dirty is easy to spot and this causes more disgust. In Bulgaria we have a bad attitude towards those who seek their rights.
Professor Danov when you assumed to be minister of investment planning, how did you imagine the work expected to be done? What do you manage to achieve from the previously set tasks and for what there was no time left?
I.D.: I entered the ministry with a project that I had to realize: to introduce the German building law to the Bulgarian planning and construction. It creates conditions where there is no corruption and an equality among participants is noticed. I got a "great" response from people who have copyright claim of Bulgarian legislation and who were offended that I do not accept the qualities of it. Some of these people, who are also in my team, finally admitted that their laws are poorly written in comparison with the German laws. Some said that bulgarians are not germans, that we would hardly accept the German laws, but my experience shows that when Bulgarians go to Germany they adapt quickly to the rules and when they return to Bulgaria, they are confused from the chaos here.
With my team we managed to prepare the larger part of the package of laws, but there was not enough time to reach the final result. If we had a normal term length, by the end of the year we would accept the laws, and in the next two we could see the results. I am sure that if the country wants to move forward, this legislation should be adopted, someone will have to finish the job. I have said it before and I am saying it now: the current planning laws are one of the reasons for our weak economic growth. It discourages foreign investors.
When there are laws which are respected in the field of the design and construction, the need for a Ministry of Construction, as is our Ministry, will gradually disappear. Currently we need such a Ministry. The Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works did not have time to deal with the technology of construction and design. Even if it is decided that there is no need for this Ministry of Investment Planning to exist, after a certain time analysis will be done and it will be created again. The exact name must be the Ministry of Construction and Architecture. The term "investment planning" charged the Ministry with negatives - there were rumors at how we allocate millions and billions, but actually it comes to design and construction.
К.Т.: There is a theory of "a euphemism treadmill." An euphemism is placed to replace a word that is loaded with negative connotation and the euphemism immediately acquires the same meaning, because the substrate does not change. Instead of "madman", because it is indecent, we say "mentally ill person". This also becomes indecent and we begin to call him "a user of mental health". This applies completely to the Ministry of Investment Planning. There were no bad comments about the "Ministry of Construction," but there were obviously some reasons to amend the name. Creating names is welcomed for the administration - this is an activity, which may take three months for preparing the change of the name. I don`t know if one Ministry brings an incomprehensible name, if that will inspire people working in it, to become more European, more energetic and more proactive. I think that the sense is going in no direction.
I.D: The design itself in Bulgaria is not regarded as a respectable activity. In Bulgarian cinematography there is no movie in which the architect is a positive hero. During the socialism, the architect becomes a designer, which means - technical figure in the design organization. And the architects are no longer a part of the elite in the global sense of this word, they become just people who generate folders.
The current government of Bulgaria - what is it, according to the writer, and what - according to the minister?
I.D: It was a pleasure for me to be this year with the colleagues from the office of Mr. Oresharsky. What I think it should happen in the Bulgarian politics hereafter is to establish a national doctrine to unite people with milestones to determine direction - to know where we are going. Like the period when Bulgaria joined the EU - then there was an objective that united all the member states. After the goal was successfully achieved, arose the chaos, because the next doctrine didn`t occur. Oresharsky plan was an attempt to indicate the direction, but there was not enough time to focus our attention on all the things.
К.Т.: The governments are function of the status of the people, of their spirit, enthusiasm and of their level of thinking. To deal only with the government, it's like to heal a person not through the heart and the mind, but through a pedicure. To start from the nails or from the colon of the patient is completely pointless - you can fix up something, but if the generator of life force is not well, the decision will be temporary. So am I annoyed by talking about marginal things like politicians, power etc. Only a society made up of worthy individuals can broadcast an adequate management. Socialism as thinking - by transferring all responsibilities to society and institutions must be transformed into individualism. Everyone should first turn to himself and transform his being from "animal" to a man. We need a serious revision of ourselves to enter into society as people who have asked themselves: how I communicate with the others, what am I doing in a coordinated effort with them, how I drive a car on the streets and am I creating chaos and disorder. There is a very nice anecdote about how a man drives on the highway in the opposite lane and hears a radio message: "Warning! In the opposite lane is moving a car". And he said: "What a car, man. They are thousands of cars."
I share the idea of prof. Danov about the national doctrines. Our problem however is that we have ascents only when we are united by a terrible and murderous purpose. I find it ugly to give the Balkan war as an example of our great national upsurge. Can't we all be more united around something more peaceful and more humane? Something that is not so sporadic and not leading to outrages thereafter.
I.D.: Union around something that is not scandalous means to unite around something constructive. Except that in the constructive there are always some political figures, who are leaders and who are ahead from the rest. Bulgarian however doesn`t like someone to be in the way ahead. Some years ago I watched a show in which the writer Rangel Valchanov, God rest his soul, told how in the garden in front of "St. Seven Saints " a woman was feeding pigeons. Young people came and chased the birds. The woman asked Rangel: " Sir, why Bulgarians do not like creatures that can fly".
Growth and unification of the nation require that we learn to protect the creatures that can fly.
What is the responsibility of the politician for the conditions of the society and what is the responsibility of the writer?
К.Т.: A very important task for the intellectuals is to raise the spirit of the nation. Sadly, we expect some kind of institution, a Ministry of the Spirit, to give us strength, enthusiasm, courage. Our main problem is the huge discontent of the life. One of my biggest "fights" is to explain to people in our country that there is no reason to be unhappy. Statistically speaking, Bulgaria is not a bad place to live, but comparing to the most developed countries it is not a good one. Being unhappy and thinking that you have reason to feel miserable, because you are poorer than the richest man in the world, is on the one hand, a whim, and on the other, a sing of misunderstanding of the world.
One can be on a profit from everything in life as well as at a loss of everything. The best story, in my opinion is told "Whatever grandpa does. it is always good". Grandpa returns from the market and swapped the cow for a goat, a rooster, a goose, and finally - for rotten apples. But whatever he does, it is nice. This is a great wisdom, very individualistic. It is based on cognitive-behavioral therapy. You reframe the situation so that it looks positive and you could go forward, not backward.
But Bulgarians we don`t know how to do that. One of the saddest things in our live is that we always look to glean from somewhere the worst and to turn it into an anti-Golden Taurus. We bring out the ugliest and we expose it as a sacrificial altar. And we're really unhappy, not of poverty, but because we are rude, lazy, we suspect and impede each other by any means.
I.D.: You cannot be responsible for someone who is not responsible for himself. I have lived 20 years in Germany. And there are all kinds of people - people who are happy with the few they own and those who are unhappy despite the millions they possess. The Germans have an exceptional quality that I appreciate very much. For a foreigner is hard to drill there, but when the locals see that he is highly qualified, they accept him and even allow him to lead them in order to go ahead. The big difference between there and here is that there are rules observed by everyone. This is part of the education. The most important thing in Germany in the early phase of education is the discipline. The children are told that the rules must be observed: to do their homework, to be polite, to respect others, not to lie. One of the special features of the Bulgarian nature is its mendacity - we deceive each other. We are educated like that - everybody hide something deep in himself, doesn`t confess in church in order to feel better.
К.Т.: The key word is education. One well-behaved people generate strong and big goals. The question is who gives education - people devoided of purpose and enthusiasm cannot educate. Education is not only the responsibility of parents, teachers, intellectuals, government, but of all of us. We should not be calmed down with phrases like: "So do all" but "to cultivate our own garden" (by Voltaire), to monitor whether we follow the rules, the ethical standards, whether we are good. So step by step we'll reach the ability to broadcast good politicians- politicians who do not want to straighten Bulgaria, but who want to go to Heaven.
In which historical figure are you interested the most?
I.D.: There are many of them. When I was young, I admired Che Guevara, because of his pure ideals and his courage to follow his dreams. In my adolescence I was impressed by Margaret Thatcher as well as by Churchill and Helmut Kohl. I like Thatcher because of her philosophy that all people should have an equal start up to seven years of age, and then everyone goes his own way and reaches as far as he can.
Now up to 18, 20, 30 years, we all have an equal start. This is a loss for those who can show more.
If these people governed Bulgaria now, would they succeed?
I.D.: We would drive them away. The coach of the German national football team - Loew, took over the team, at the time when there was a very deep crisis in the German football as a whole. The Germans waited 10 years till Loew leaded the national team to the World Cup Champions. In Bulgaria, that couldn`t happen - we haven`t enough patience to wait for a process to develop completely in order to take advantage of the result.
If you are offered to become a minister, will you accept, Mr. Terziiski?
К.Т.: A man who is 44 years old should do other things. A writer who is 44 years old must be like a volcano. If he all of a sudden abandon the possibility to generate thoughts, works and engage himself with administration, it would be a loss. There's a time for everything. Maybe in about 15 years or at the age of 58 - why not? I don`t know what kind of person would I be then. If I am very prolific, even aged 58 I wouldn`t become a minister. Or if I became I would write a novel about how I was a minister.
How does ministerial involvement affect your academic career, Minister Danov?
I.D.: A little bit, because it interrupted my direct contact with the students since I had no time to participate in the exercises. The lectures are like a living organism. The basis may remain the same, but some things should be updated. An analysis should be done after each test session - what these people could not understand and what needs to be altered in the lectures. From this point of view, my teaching work suffered because this year I read old lectures.