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From Poland, No Pity For Cypriots -- Or Ourselves

When a crooked system is allowed to fester, there are few who are free of blame -- and little chance we will remained unscathed. A view from the European Union's eastern front.

Out of the shadows
Out of the shadows
Jacek Żakowski


I feel no pity for Cypriots, they got what they deserved. Their ‘free rider’ state has been a parasite to the European Union, and neighboring countries. Cyprus wanted to make its living by helping fraudsters. I am not surprised that nobody is running to help.

I also don’t have any sympathy for the gangsters, bribe givers, shifty businessmen and other swindlers from the EU and its surroundings, who have long since found haven for their dirty money on Cyprus. I’m not moved by the laments over their bank deposits being stolen by the state. For years they have been using Cyprus to rob their homelands, forcing their governments to turn a blind eye on this growing issue.

It’s a grotesque paradox that those who have been robbing the states are screaming the loudest, that they’re being robbed by the state.

I don’t sympathize either with us, ordinary Europeans, who will be touched by the consequences of the loss of credibility in the banking system. We let our governments tolerate a gigantic sham exempting the rich from taxes and shifting costs of state maintenance to the poor. Even when it came to light that these kinds of frauds are one of the reasons for the crisis, and despite the fact that the leaders of the world’s greatest economies acknowledged it, we accepted as citizens that it would continue.

We need to learn our lesson, even if we feel we were misled, manipulated by the crooked few telling us that this is how it has to be.

Not reality

How could this all happen? To a large extent, it's because half-a-century of tranquility made Europeans believe that the state is a kind of Limited Liability Company where the risks and costs borne by citizens are proportional to the taxes they pay. According to this neoliberal idea, if the country’s efficiency is low, we need to minimize the risk by lowering our input, meaning taxes. People should focus on their private sphere and avoid losing time on the public one. This even includes voting.

The current events shaking Cyprus remind us that those neoliberal, individualistic, selfish motives don’t fit the reality. It is clear as a bell that a state is an Unlimited Liability Company. The liability is total. Thinking that the national problems aren’t ours is a delusion. We cannot neglect the public sphere with impunity. When we citizens push problems under the rug, minding our own business, the state goes astray. If our intellectual laziness let us believe in the nonsense proclaimed by some scam artists, when we let them buy politicians, sooner or later we’ll pay for that in our own lives and well-being.

The price we are paying now is still low. The swindlers will lose their tax haven, and a part of their fortunes. Cypriots will lose the fraudulent source of their wealth. Politicians and various experts who supported this system will lose their sponsors.

And we, as citizens? We will not only lose some money, but more importantly the illusion that democracy guarantees everything, even without our active participation. It doesn’t. In matters of state, the rule of limited liability doesn’t work. Neither our money or our houses, health or even life will be safe so long as we will believe that we can simply not bother.

In democracy there’s no escape from civil responsibility. It will get us sooner or later.

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A Refuge From China's Rat Race: The Young People Flocking To Buddhist Monasteries

Unemployment, stress in the workplace, economic difficulties: more and more young Chinese graduates are flocking to monasteries to find "another school of life."

Photograph of a girl praying at a temple during Chinese Lunar New Year. She is burning incense.

Feb 20, 2015 - Huaibei, China - Chinese worshippers pray at a temple during the Lunar New Yeat

Frédéric Schaeffer

JIAXING — It's already dawn at Xianghai Temple when Lin, 26, goes to the Hall of 10,000 Buddhas for the 5:30 a.m. prayer.

Still half-asleep, the young woman joins the monks in chanting mantras and reciting sacred texts for an hour. Kneeling, she bows three times to Vairocana, also known as the Great Sun Buddha, who dominates the 42-meter-high hall representing the cosmos.

Before grabbing a vegetarian breakfast in the adjacent refectory, monks and devotees chant around the hall to the sound of drums and gongs.

"I resigned last October from the e-commerce company where I had been working for the past two years in Nanjing, and joined the temple in January, where I am now a volunteer in residence," explains the young woman, soberly dressed in black pants and a cream linen jacket.

Located in the city of Jiaxing, over a hundred kilometers from Shanghai, in eastern China, the Xianghai temple is home to some 20 permanent volunteers.

Unlike Lin, most of them only stay for a couple days or a few weeks. But for Lin, who spends most of her free time studying Buddhist texts in the temple library, the change in her life has been radical. "I used to do the same job every day, sometimes until very late at night, writing all kinds of reports for my boss. I was exhausted physically and mentally. I felt my life had no meaning," she says.

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