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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
                 Wednesday, June 11 2003 

Jon Kennedy, webmasterPoverty and material affluence

In my teens and early twenties I was passionately anti-Communist. Though suspicious of any ardent show of patriotism or nationalism (feeling, I guess, that if "country" was all someone had to worship, live for, die for, they were pretty pitiful), I had been gripped by the precept that ideas have power, and Marx's ideas had been among the most powerful of the twentieth century. So I studied ways to counter the materialistic man-centered ideas of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and Khrushchev and find ways to make my points everywhere and anytime I could. Thus my gravitation toward journalism, pulpiteering (the most accessible avenue to finding audiences for "public speaking"), and a combination of the two in "Christian journalism." Everywhere I went, everything I read, I was on the lookout for material, education, knowledge, intelligence, and, in my special sense of the word, counter-intelligence.

So when I first visited Europe at age 25 I was greatly impressed by the affluence the main countries of the continent had achieved in the two decades after the end of World War II. It was somewhat surprising that there were just as many cars everywhere as in the United States, and that there was hustle and bustle and signs of prosperity in every country we visited. Only in Italy did we see one or two examples of farming using the ancient means—hand human and animal labor—but everywhere there, too, the superhighways were newer and straighter than the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the cities were thriving, and cars from Fiats to Maseratis were testimony that western capitalism was working as it was meant to work. I think my most instructive conclusion about my naive observations on western Europe in 1967 was, "If only the Eastern Europeans would look over the wall and see what's waiting on this side...they'd run from their failed experiments with socialism."

Fast forward to 1995, my first opportunity to visit Russia. By now, the whole Eastern bloc had looked over the wall, and finally having looked both directions and made the inevitable conclusion, had torn down the walls, literally and figuratively speaking. But when my brother Bob and I visited St. Petersburg and Moscow that year, the common perception being touted by all the journalists in the west was the logical case that Russia's poverty and the backwardness of its economy, which seemed even worse after the fall of the Communists than it had been under Khrushchev and Gorbachev, was our greatest danger from that part of the world, and also the greatest danger to the fledgling efforts toward democratization.

But even though we'd been warned that street muggings and robberies were common and Moscow was not safe to walk in, our personal perceptions were not so bad. We saw enterprise everywhere, small shops set up in makeshift booths on the street corners selling goods that wouldn't have been available to buy or sell under the Soviets. And having been reading many Russian authors before the trip, not only because of our hoped-for visit but even more because of my newly found affinity for Eastern Orthodoxy, I doubted that the predictions of the Wesern journalists would come true. Both 75 years of Marxist socialism and a thousand years of Eastern Orthodoxy, which has more days of fasting per year than non-fast days, for starters, had long since prepared these people to grow from hardships. Looking out the windows of our 500-mile train ride through Russia, we saw small towns and cities that reminded us, constantly, of the Vintondales and the Johnstowns of the 1940s. And we thought those were not such bad places to live in, and not that bad times to go through.

Eight years later, it seems those tentative conclusions were accurate. The Russians have not returned to "revolution" to solve their economic crisis. They have, instead, made steady if slow progress, but it's a pace they're all very familiar with.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Things I've learned from my children

11. Play Dough and microwave should not be used in the same sentence.
12. Super glue is forever.
13. No matter how much Jell-O you put in a swimming pool, you still can't walk on water.
14. Pool filters do not like Jell-O.
15. VCR's do not eject PB&J sandwiches even though TV commercials show they do.

— Sent by Mary Ann Losiewcz

Thought for today

In literature as in love, we are astonished at what is chosen by others.

— Andre Maurois

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