28 August - 21 September 1999
It is hard for me to believe that I left Bulgaria a year ago on 1 September, 1998 and was in Ecuador during this period. Time does fly when your having fun!
As I told you last time, my last day at the assignment with Intermountain Farm Credit was on 3 September. I was very glad to finally leave there but the ongoing job search is also a big pain and not working does not equal not spending. Neither Accountants Inc. nor Accountemps had a job assignment lined up for me. However, Accountants Inc. did set up an interview for me with Washoe Medical, the largest Hospital and medical provider in the area, on 13 Sep. It was a 3-person panel type of an interview that I never complete with a feeling for how I might have done. They had about an hour worth of prepared questions and then I devoted another hour to a written test that included the preparation of an Excel spreadsheet. Then, going at things backwards, I spent an hour and a half filling out an employment application. Received a call from Accountants Inc. on 20 Sep that said that another candidate had been selected! The San Francisco interview continues to offer a possible job but I am becoming even less optimistic as time passes. I received an e-mail from Milka also on the 13th that said that she had sent a Letter of Recommendation on 5 Aug and had e-mailed me the same day. I never received the e-mail but I called the company in S.F. and they had received her mailed letter. Once again they said it would be a couple of weeks before they make a decision and mail me a job offer or reject.
As I have implied in the past, I spend a considerable amount of my time reading. Most of my selections are older fiction but I break that up with more contemporary nonfiction and have three titles that I want to recommend strongly. The first is by Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of World Order. The other two are by Francis Fukuyama and I would suggest reading them in the order presented but if you only read one then select his second publication. His first was The End of History and the Last Man. The second one, that I have just finished, is Trust with a subtitle of The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity. If only the Peace Corps had put this book on its suggested reading list prior to my going to Bulgaria they could have saved a lot of time by eliminating the history, psychobabble and games during Pre Service Training. But there is also the possibility that the PST classes and 2 years of living in the culture prepared me for the book and its ideas. It is some of the best writing on culture, as it affects business and politics that I have come across. I offer up some selected passages to give you an idea of theme that the book addresses. Think Bulgaria when you read the word Russia; I think I have told you this before.
Both private companies and political parties are weak or nonexistent in post communist societies like Russia and Ukraine, and elections lurch between extremes defined around individuals rather than coherent political programs. The 'democrats' in Russia all believe in democracy and markets on an intellectual level, but they lack the social habits to create a unified political organization. The Eastern European countries that appear to have the greatest chances for success as democracies are Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic, which retained nascent civil societies throughout the communist period and were able to generate capitalist private sectors in relatively short order. The mutual dependence of economy and policity is not limited to democratizing states in the former communist world. In a way, the loss of social capital in the United States has more immediate consequences for American democracy than for the American economy. Democratic political institutions no less than businesses depend on trust for effective operation, and the reduction of trust in a society will require a more intrusive, rule-making government to regulate social relations. The balance between individualism and community has shifted dramatically in the United States over the past fifty years. The moral communities that made up American civil society at mid-century, from the family to neighborhoods to churches to workplaces, have been under assault, and a number of indicators suggest that the degree of general sociability has declined. On the other hand, there continues to be steady proliferation of interest groups of all sorts in American public life: lobbying organizations, professional associations, trade organizations, and the like, whose purpose is to protect particular economic interests in the political marketplace. Although many of these organizations boast large memberships, their members seldom interact beyond paying dues and receiving newsletters. It is, as always, possible for Americans to relate to one another through the legal system, building organizations on the basis of contract, law, or bureaucratic authority. But communities of shared value, whose members are willing to subordinate their private interests for the sake of larger goals of the community as such, have become rare. And it is these moral communities alone that can generate the kind of social trust that is critical to organizational efficiency.
Although I am not much of a joiner, I can think of 7 interest group organizations in which I have membership. (Was it Gracho Marx that said "I wouldn't join any organization that would have me as a member"?) I would guess that most Americans now belong to a dozen or more of this type but belong to few that require a subordination of their individual rights. Mr. Fukuyama devotes some time to this issue of America's proliferation of individual rights since the 1960's. He makes one telling point that I had never realized; almost all democracies, except the U.S., have duty requirements written into their constitutions. Even the Declaration of Human Rights imposes a written duty upon each individual, whereas we Americans once relied upon a "moral duty". It now seems we have neither the constitutional nor the moral duty - only rights. As I heard many Bulgarians say, "We are now a democracy, we can do anything we want". I think that Louis Bromfield understands it better when he says the following in Animals and Other People:
In the last analysis we are all animals and the fact of being born a man does not endow us with any special rights or virtues; rather it imposes upon us obligations of a high sort indeed, which animals and birds do not share - obligations of intelligence, ethics, decency, loyalty and moral behavior. The sad thing is how frequently these obligations are violated and ignored by man himself.