Photo: Dragiša Modrinjak. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Workers must command
A Bulgarian grocery store opened for business in my Amsterdam neighborhood. On the inside of the plate-glass window they hung a Bulgarian flag, making the store highly visible from the outside, but dark inside. They sell overpriced Bulgarian groceries. And the same can be said of almost all the ethnic markets. First come the migrants, and after them—the markets. After a time the ethnic food markets disappear, but the migrants? Do they stick around? The number of Bulgarians in the Netherlands is clearly on the rise; two Bulgarian markets have opened recently in my neighborhood alone. And as to those with a “Balkan tooth,” they have famously deep pockets as far as food is concerned; they’ll happily shell out a euro or two extra to satisfy gourmandish nostalgia. The markets sell Bulgarian wine, frozen kebapcheta and meat patties, cheese pastries (banitsas), pickled peppers and cucumbers, kyopolou, pindjur, lyutenitsa, and sweets that look as if they’ve come from a package for aid to the malnourished: they are all beyond their shelf dates. The store is poorly tended and a mess, customers are always tripping over cardboard boxes. Next to the cash register sits a young man who doesn’t budge, more dead than alive, it’s as if he has sworn on his patron saint that nobody will ever extract a word from him. The young woman at the cash register is teen-magazine cute. She has a short skirt, long straight blond hair, a good tan. Her tan comes from her liquid foundation; her cunning radiates like the liquid powder. She files her nails, and next to her stands a small bottle of bright red nail polish. The scene fills me with joy. She grins slyly. I buy lyutenitsa, Bulgarian (Turkish, Greek, Macedonian, Serbian) cheese, and three large-size Bulgarian tomatoes. Dovizhdane. Довиждане.
I know that every European right-wing heart warms to this description. True, the “Easterners,” the Bulgarians, Romanians, Poles, not only steal, drink, and lie, but they bring with them their own pickles, their own swill. They can hardly wait to milk our welfare system, move into our subsidized housing, which they then sublet to others while they go back to their houses and lounge and laze around with the money they’ve ripped off from us taxpayers. Of course the Bulgarians, Romanians, and Poles think the same of their Roma; and until recently the Bulgarians thought likewise of their Turks. Ever since educated Bulgarian women have been rushing off to Turkey in droves, however, to earn a little pocket money as housekeepers, the constellation of products and the erosion of stereotypes has shifted to the advantage of the Turks.
The division into those who work and those who do not—the hardworking and the indolent, the diligent and the ne’er-do-wells, the earnest and the couch potatoes—is hardly new, but over the last few years it has become the basic media-ideological matrix around which revolve the freethinkers of the general public. Joining the category of the indolent, ne’er-do-wells, and malingerers are the ranks of the jobless (for whom the employed claim they are simply incompetents and bumblers), along with the grumblers, indignants, and the groups defined by their country, geography, and ethnicity (Greeks, Spaniards, Romanians, Bulgarians, Serbs, Bosnians—all shiftless riffraff!), anticapitalistic elements, hooligans, vandals, terrorists, and Islamic fundamentalists.
In response to the question of how to become a multimillionaire, one of the wealthiest Russian oligarchs replied, “Don’t you forget, I work seventeen hours a day!” The very same answer is given by criminals, thieves, politicians, porn stars, war profiteers, celebs, mass murderers, and other similar deplorables. They all say seventeen hours a day, my career, and my job with such brash confidence, not a twitch to be seen. On Meet the Russians, a TV show broadcast by Fox, young, prosperous Russians, many of them born, themselves, into money, fashion models, fashion and entertainment industry moguls, pop stars, club owners, and the like, all use the following phrases: I deserve this; everything I have, I’ve earned; my time is money; I work 24/7; I never give up. Read More