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Small States - Georgi Grozdev


Small States

Small states are irresponsible. Their excuse is big states.

While I'm here in Shanghai I'm thinking how complex it must be to run a 24-million-population megalopolis. This equals an average-sized country in Europe, bigger than Romania and over three times as populous as Bulgaria. How come they wash the streets here and there are no piles of garbage? Let me drop the questions. The comparisons are not fun at all when it comes to Bulgaria's capital city, which grows but doesn't grow old. Yet another stupid motto from our recent past kept to be used.

It was here in China that for the first time I've clearly realized how small we are. As well as how pathetic we are when several times a day we tell ourselves how we did something very important and how we were the first to do it.

The government of Shanghai, as well that of the Chinese territories, is built on millennial administrative tradition. There are no three-four hundred parties, a ranting and corrupt parliament. There is just one, and, to be honest, I don't know exactly what kind it is despite its recognizable label. Bulgaria seems like the equivalent of a metro stop's worth of people. How many arguments, how much pompousness and how many machinations for our crowd, which is just a modest one for Chinese standards.

I read somewhere that Nepal dealt with corruption by disbanding the government, parliament and the whole bureaucracy. The state still existed with far fewer rulers only there was no one to lie and steal. This left something for ordinary people. An extravagant approach, indeed.

The Chinese chose another approach. In 134 BC they had the first exam for state clerks. The goal was to pass knowledge, to promote justice and order in society. The chaos was too much and they looked for a solution. This led to the creation of the most unusual system of governance that stood the tests of time. It was the state back then that made it its priority to find the most skilled people to give them administrative positions regardless of background and wealth. According to Confucius, only through the dissemination of education will it be possible to end chaos, unrest and abuse. Recently they celebrated the 2500th anniversary of his birth.

When Henry Kissinger unexpectedly asked Mao which was Chinas biggest problem, maybe to catch him by surprise, Mao immediately responded: Many people!
He is also credited with the thought that the most critical moments in their history were when seven hundred million hungry villagers one day all decided to go to the cities.

We spoke about this with fellow writers from India. With a smile, they added that wherever there are many people, there are many problems. They live in south India and know it very well.

I told them Joseph Stalins opinion on the matter: yes man yes problem; no man no problem. This is perhaps Russias specific way of dealing with things. It made them laugh. This method is inapplicable in China and India. You cant frighten anyone by putting twenty million people in a GULAG. There will still be nine hundred and eighty million at large.
The idea of social agreement among the Chinese, since ancient time, is not that everyone is equal. Rather it absolutely acknowledges the need of hierarchy in order to have effective organization. Hierarchy according to suitability, competency, demanding obedience. In 3rd century BC the Confucian Xunzi wrote: Follow the way, not the prince, follow moral reason, not its father.

The Tan dynasty (618-907) that allowed everyone to prove his or her abilities and competency paved the way. Khan Asparuh, whom I often think about here in China, did not cross the Danube until 681. Why have they declared that year to be the establishment of the Bulgarian state when to this day we still dont have a competent administration? The salariat are exploited, replaced and change themselves after each local or parliamentary election; they get kicked out because of party colors, for every other reason but suitability and competency. We are a bunch of people who even after forty-five years of socialism continue to be divided into us and them. One thousand three hundred years Bulgarian state is a propaganda cliché which cant possibly contain the whole truth.

The Chinese looked for means and ways to create enlightened rulers who have erudite councilors. The population then was fifty million people. Many people!

The big state felts its great responsibility. Our smaller Bulgarian state would attack the Byzantine Empire and then the army would quickly retreat behind the Hemus mountain. Our medieval and even older history is a chain of such raids and nothing more. Where are our laws? If you dont want peace, then take this battle axe! I think this Khan Krum one is just about it.

The irresponsibility of small states can be seen today too, in my opinion. The Chinese person, the American, the Russian cant just say as we can as of today Im no longer a Bulgarian. Im leaving Bulgaria and am off to Terminal 2, youll see! At the Turkish border there is a sign directed at the gastarbeiters: Our Turkish brother, were waiting for your return! In Bulgaria we do without it.

Wherever the Chinese, Russian, or American are, they remain Chinese, Russian and American regardless of their citizenship. They have a responsibility to their origin. It is only small states and peoples that see globalization as a way to forget where they are from and become assimilated by the big ones. It is only them who claim they are better off wherever their gut feels better off. A Balkan person, let alone a Bulgarian, would never become a Chinese, an American or Russian, no matter how much he or she may want to.

The big state, unlike the small, cannot say, well, we have our road map, they helped us draw it and now were keeping busy with it. The European Union does not offer to reconcile wealth and poverty? At the same time rich states become richer, while poor states, like Bulgaria, become poorer.

In order for a person to be successful there are supposedly several conditions: not to reject his or her origins, to control his or her impulses, to be highly educated and skilled. And to have a strategy an idea of the future.

What applies to individuals would seem to hold true for states as well.

Bulgaria is the only Balkan state that does not have a long-term perspective. Maybe this is the reason why each year the country loses an average-sized town.

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