The Next Prime Minister
A visit to his home he shares with his grandfather and brother. He tells me my future is in this country. He will find me a job, find me a new wife. He will make me famous if I want to be famous. I am like his uncle. I am safe now. I should feel safe. Stay the night. Don't go back to the hotel. It is too late.
The next morning: Wake up. You have to go. You can't stay here. You should go back to your own country. Go to the Embassy.
That was my plan. First I have to meet the retired translator at the three benches on the hill behind the castle. I am on time. We walk to the cafeteria, and after our meal, talk about politics. He tells me about his party, his dream: the leaders of his party, this group of people are good. He says:
- They are Nationalists, not Liberals. They don't kill and rob like the Liberals did. The world makes fun of us, but we have to take care of ourselves.
- Do you know these people? Who they have dinner with, how much money they have? Their connections with businesses? Nationalism is a dream of community. Community does not exist except when people are not afraid of not having a place to sleep and no food to eat. That's the first requirement. The second is that they like to give gifts, both for good and bad reasons, to feel magnanimous, a kind of vanity, and out of real liking, curiosity, affection, love even. And one more thing is required for community: the members can't or won't leave. This way, anyone who gives can be sure of receiving, not in exchange for giving, but because the gifts have to go somewhere. Are these conditions here in this country?
- Far from it, right? Then what is the result of talk of community, of Nationalism? What do these words really mean? I can tell you. Want me to?
- Nationalism means forced community. It means the government takes from one person and gives to another. It means the government forces people to stay, or go, and finally the government decides who lives or dies, because it determines all aspects of life. It decides where you will be and what you have.
- That's just what you say.
- Yes. You tell me how the world looks when you dream. I'm telling you how the world looks when you're awake.
- Then what according to you should we do? We tried Libralism.
- You tried another dream. Government is a tool, it wears out, has to be replaced.
- Why should the government help you if you don't provide the information? Everyone else fills out the forms fully and carefully.
- They must be in a different situation.
- You got yourself into the situation. The government is not responsible.
- I said this already. The government offers emergency loans, publishes the offer on its web site. I am applying. I don't see anything special here. The government gave the banks $900 Billion a year ago.
- That's different. No one told you to leave the country and get yourself into trouble.
- Many people told the banks not to make bad loans. The only difference is that the government actually paid the banks interest on the money they loaned, because the banks used to money they borrowed from the government to buy government securities at higher interest. The government paid the banks interest on its own money, but is charging me interest, and penalties too.
- I don't want to discuss all this. If you don't provide the information, I can tell you, the loan will not be approved.
- I will provide all the information that is possible to provide. I've even told you I will provide you "possible" information. I will give you an "address on arrival" that might be true, because I will not ask my acquaintance if I can go there. I won't ask because I am virtually certain the answer would be no. But I can fill out the form this way. It's your choice, the truth or the possible truth. That is all the information the circumstances allow.
- You're telling me you know no one in the United States to ask for help, no friend, no family?
- Yes, I am telling you that. That is the world we live in.
- Yes. But the U.S. Government is not going to go look for information for you. If you can't provide more than email for the three people we can't process the application.
- I don't think I can get their addresses and phone numbers. They aren't friends. And they'll be afraid of the government. Your colleague said you needed 3 people I had actually asked for money. But if you only want people I know, I can give you my brothers. I have no contact with them, but I can fill out the form with information I get from the internet. Is that acceptable?
- I'll come back. Take a seat in the back.
The Vice Consul returns and tells me to go ahead and fill out the form with the names of my family members. The government will contact them. I can use the computers behind me. As expected, these computers are locked. I return to the bulletproof windows and wave my arms around until someone appears. I'm told to click on "New Task". I do, but then an "Enter Password" box appears. I try the second computer. Same result. I wave my arms about in front of the bulletproof glass, this time no one responds, and I go.
At the University I get from the internet the addresses and phone numbers of my brothers and my wife's last known address, her doctor friend/employer's Beverly Hills Office. I read an email message from my Bulgarian friend, who has read my story about progress and the conference on teaching energy saving. She writes that I am an evil guy for eating their food and criticizing them. People like me ruin institutions. People like me cause repression, because extreme measures have to be taken to keep people like me out.
I have great power.
It's too late to take the papers back to the Embassy. A couple of students I know pass by and I ask them to sit down with me. I couldn't provide email or other addresses for them and don't know their full names. Soon they leave to go study. A few minutes later, one of the girls returns to the table, and we talk for hours.