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Honorary Academic



Mira Markovic is an “Honorary Academic” of the Russian Academy of Science. 


It cost a lot of money to obtain this title and the Serb multi-billionnaire Karic was only too glad to cough it up. 



Whatever else you say about Balkan cronies, they rarely bite the hand that feeds them (unless and until it is expedient to do so).


 And whatever else you say about Russia, it adapted remarkably to capitalism. 


Everything has a price and a market. Israel had to learn this fact the hard way when Russian practical-nurse-level medical doctors and construction-worker-level civil engineers flooded its shores.


 Everything is for sale in this region of opportunities, instant education inclusive.

It seems that academe suffered the most during the numerous shock therapies and transition periods showered upon the impoverished inhabitants of Eastern and Central Europe.



 The resident of decrepit communist-era buildings, it had to cope with a flood of eager students and a deluge of anachronistic “scholars”.


 But in Russia, the CIS and the Balkans the scenery is nothing short of Dantesque. 



Unschooled in any major European language, lazily content with their tenured positions, stagnant and formal – the academics and academicians of the Balkans are both failures and a resounding indictment of the rigor mortis that was socialism. 



Economics textbooks stop short of mentioning Friedman or Phelps. History textbooks should better be relegated to the science fiction shelves. 


A brave facade of self sufficiency covers up a vast hinterland of inferiority complex fully supported by real inferiority. 


In antiquated libraries, shattered labs, crooked buildings and inadequate facilities, student pursue redundant careers with the wrong teachers.

Corruption seethes under this repellent surface. Teachers sell exams, take bribes, trade incestuous sex with their students.


 They refuse to contribute to their communities.


 In all my years in the Balkans, I have yet to come across a voluntary act – a single voluntary act – by an academic.


 And I have come across numerous refusals to help and to contribute. Materialism incarnate.

This sorry state of affairs has a twofold outcome. On the one hand, herds of victims of rigidly dictated lectures and the suppression of free thought. 



These academic products suffer from the twin afflictions of irrelevance of skills and the inability to acquire relevant ones, the latter being the result of decades of brainwashing and industrial educational methods.


 Unable to match their anyhow outdated knowledge with anything a modern marketplace can offer – they default on to menial jobs, rebel or pull levers to advance in life. 



Which leads us to the death of meritocracy and why this region’s future is behind it.

In the wake of the downfall of all the major ideologies of the 20th century – Fascism, Communism, etc.



 the New Order, heralded by President Bush, emerged as a battle of Open Club versus Closed Club societies, at least from the economic point of view.

All modern states and societies must choose whether to be governed by merit (meritocracy) or by the privileged few (oligarchy). 



It is inevitable that the social and economic structures be controlled by elites.


 It is a complex world and only a few can master the knowledge it takes to govern effectively. 


What sets meritocracy apart is not the number of members of its ruling (or leading) class, usually no larger than an oligarchy.


 No, it is distinguished by its membership criteria and by the mode of their application.

The meritocratic elite is an open club because it satisfies three conditions:

1.. The process and rules of joining up (i.e., the criteria) are transparent and widely known. 

2.. The application and membership procedures are uniform, equal to all and open to continuous public scrutiny and criticism. 

3.. The system alters its membership requirements in direct response to public feedback and to the changing social and economic environment. 

To belong to a meritocracy one needs to satisfy a series of demands, whose attainment is entirely up to he individual. 


And that is all that one needs to do. 


The rules of joining and of membership are cast in iron.


 The wishes and opinions of those who happen to comprise the club at any given moment are of no importance and of no consequence. 


Meritocracy is a “fair play” by rules of equal chance to derive benefits. Put differently, is the rule of law.

To join a meritocratic club, one needs to demonstrate that one is in possession of, or has access to, “inherent” parameters, such as intelligence, a certain level of education, a potential to contribute to society. 


An inherent parameter must correspond to a criterion and the latter must be applied independent of the views and predilections of those who sometimes are forced to apply it. 


The members of a committee or a board can disdain an applicant, or they might wish not to approve a candidate. 


Or they may prefer someone else for the job because they owe her something, or because they play golf with him.



 Yet, they are permitted to consider only the applicant’s or the candidate’s “inherent” parameters: does he have the necessary tenure, qualifications, education, experience?


 Does he contribute to his workplace, community, society at large? In other words: is he “worthy” or “deserving”? Not WHO he is – but WHAT he is.

Granted, these processes of selection, admission, incorporation and assimilation are administered by mere humans and are, therefore, subject to human failings. 


Can qualifications be always judged “objectively, unambiguously and unequivocally”? Can “the right personality traits” or “the ability to engage in teamwork” be evaluated “objectively”? 


These are vague and ambiguous enough to accommodate bias and bad will. Still, at least appearances are kept in most cases – and decisions can be challenged in courts.

What characterizes oligarchy is the extensive, relentless and ruthless use of “transcendent” (in lieu of “inherent”) parameters to decide who will belong where, who will get which job and, ultimately, who will enjoy which benefits.



 The trouble with transcendent parameters is that there is nothing much an applicant or a candidate can do about them. 


Usually, they are accidents, occurrences absolutely beyond the reach or control of those most affected by them. 


Race is such a transcendent parameter and so are gender, familial affiliation or contacts and influence.

In many corners of the globe, to join a closed, oligarchic club, to get the right job, to enjoy excessive benefits – 


one must be white (racism), male (sexual discrimination), born to the right family (nepotism), or to have the right political (or other) contacts (cronyism). 



And often, belonging to one such club is the prerequisite for joining another.


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