We don’t need no thought control

I know this is going to sound weird but for a long time I thought that Pink Floyd was an American band but realized later obviously it wasn’t. Of course you’d think most British people would know about Pink Floyd but apparently Rebecca Ratcliffe at The Guardian had not.

Fair enough, I said. So I posted a link to it on my Facebook and Twitter. I figured I’d said my point enough times that I didn’t need to explain but then I got this from a guy I respect:

He deserves a response to that.

There’s essentially three different elements to this article which I loathe:


This article is what we call in the trade a Blowjob story. This is when a reporter is forced to his or her knees while a tumescent PR flunky from a corporation, organization or governmental entity fires a hot load of propaganda into their cherry red mouth. Then the reporter rushes to the office and spits out a few heartwarming paragraphs of unmitigated praise.

The photo in this article is from STC, the “facts” in this article are from an STC press release and there’s a friggin’ link at the end of the article, encouraging people to donate to STC, all combining to make this a classic Blowjob story. I should add here that 95% of the press articles in Romanian are of this style but generally on a good day you can find a few exceptions elsewhere in the Guardian.

Kill the Children to Save the Children

Although they continue to deny it, pretty much everyone knows that Save the Children fucked over god knows how many children in Pakistan by collaborating with the CIA to supposedly go kill Osama bin Laden.

“Save” the Children was running a polio vaccination program in regions of Pakistan where someone thought that Osama might be hiding. They also suspected that his children were also in the area so STC start collecting samples to match them to known DNA that the CIA allegedly had access to.

They figured that if they found Osama’s kids’ DNA in samples taken at public elementary schools that they could catch him. So now nobody trusts a white face that shows up with a polio vaccine, dummies! Good job, STC, good job.

And some people say, “Oh well it’s all a lie. STC never duped kids to help the CIA.” And I still say lie or truth, everybody believes it, which is all that matters.

The Meat of the Story

Ok, ok, so let’s assume Save the Children is lily pure white and the innocent victims of the media and now they’re helping out this poor Gypsy kid who is living in a shack in Targoviste. And this kid is super poor and completely uneducated and is mostly successful at pumping out babies. Oh and prostitution is a problem and so is the fact that many women are illiterate.

The issue then becomes a matter not of me disagreeing that this situation can fairly be called dire, but the fact that this does not equate to me simultaneously agreeing with the title of the article, which is “They need an education.” That’s an exact quote, by the way. But the question though is why do they NEED an education?

Some people act like it’s a universal truth like gravity or something, that everyone needs an education. But why? Why does everyone need an education?

I’m not saying this in a kind of feudal aristocratic way either, like oh we superior members of society, it’s fine for us but not for you. No. I ask in all seriousness, why does everyone (including poor female Gypsies) need an education?

I do however agree that educational opportunities need to be available. But this article isn’t really about availability, because they’re clearly out there in various forms. It’s about the fact that Gypsy women need to be educated. And that’s where I disagree.

Instead of writing 10,000 words laying this argument of mine out step by step, let’s skip ahead to the ultimate logical conclusion. Let’s say I have a magic wand and now everyone is educated. Every man, woman, child, Gypsy, Albanian and Pakistani person on Earth is educated right up to the gills. Can’t fit no more education in ’em they’re so stuffed up with learning!

Then what?

Nobody ever does anything stupid anymore like have babies you can’t afford or get married to the wrong man? Come on, you’ve got to be kidding me. People are making the dangerous assumption that education equals some kind of nullification of problems. So this girl gets her PhD in botany and feeds her eight children rice pudding, then so what? There’s not a shred of proof that forced formal education causes certain things to be true (such as making more money), only a correlation between them.

In other words, if there were a hypothetical island with 10,000 people, all of whom received an identical education, there will always be stupid people with educations and always be people who excel without an education. There will also be some people (like me) who’d refuse it outright and yet do just fine (which is a proven fact since that’s my life). Correlation is NOT causation.

But the real problem here of course is that we’re dealing with professional Misery Pimps. The difference between me and Save the Children and apparently hundreds of other foreign NGOs (they sprout up like mushrooms here in Romania) is that I do not feel sorry for these Gypsies. That’s not because I’m a heartless sociopath but because unlike the Misery Pimps I do not think of their existence on this planet as inferior to mine.

People get confused with these kinds of statements, as though this means I want to live like they do. Not at all. Or that I refuse to believe that some of them don’t like living like they do. Guess what? I know people with a lot more money who don’t like living like they do either. Sometimes even quite rich people are quite unhappy. But I respect you if you choose this life, even if it is not respected by others, which is the difference between me and a Misery Pimp.

And – and – and – and even if I stipulate that education magically solves problems (which I don’t), again I’d never use the word “need”. They have the right to access to it, the same way they have the right to a hospital but that doesn’t mean every single person needs to go every single day for years on end. You’ll never get me to agree that forcing anything on anyone for their own good is an ethical thing to do.

And does anyone ever bother to quit pimping the misfortunes of Gypsies for five minutes and just fucking ask Gypsies what they need? Because I do. And not all of the things they want can be bought or provided by charitable organizations (noticeably almost always run by foreigners), who will happily display photos and movies of the little wretched ragamuffins that they’re helping if it gets you to cough over some more money.

“Look sad for the camera, Florina, so we can raise more money!” shouted the Save the Children PR representative with glee.

I realize that a lot of this misery IS real, is truly authentic and could be alleviated by kindness and generosity from their fellow human beings. But pimping misery is a twisted perversion and one I can’t support at all. I really can’t. I know a director of a charity in Romania (which also does fundraising in Britain) who helps children and they never, ever, ever pimp their children to get more money. That’s why he’s my friend and I respect him and the organization he works for.

Ask Gypsies what they need! Ask children what they need! Ask young mothers what they need! They will tell you, I promise. But don’t go fucking dictating to them what they need. That’s just disrespectful. I get a lot out of my Gypsy friends (including one who was a young mother) and I consider them my equal because we’re all human beings. We maintain our friendship precisely because they give to me equally as I give to them. I’ve never once told them what they need to any more than they’ve ever told me what I need to do.

Ah well, I don’t even know why I try.

Go ahead, let’s all pitch in and give STC or World Vision International or one of these other amazing and awesome and fantastic organizations our money so that they can force people into school for their own good! We’ll all get rewarded for it in Heaven, I’m sure.

Take care of people in your own country first!

8 thoughts on “We don’t need no thought control

  1. you’re talking about people who refuse education and yet, they manage to do just fine. as far as I remember, you are a high school graduate. this girl dropped off at the age of 10, so I wouldn’t say she had a chance to figure out what life is all about. your comparison is ridiculous. yes, education IS the only way we can get these people to start taking their lives in their own hands and stop expecting handouts from the NGO’s or the government or the EU or whatever … the Roma population is increasing, year after year. don’t you think investing in their future (and the future of the countries they live in) is a valid approach? I would say it’s the only approach, considering that all the others seem to be failing. plus, giving them an education is less insulting than handing them condoms, for example.
    and the rant about the CIA … pure paranoia. Sam, you are deviating from what used to make your blog enjoyable – describing the picturesque Romania. you are a lot more simpatic when we see you eat branza si ceapa on TV, just so you know. just go back to that, ok?


  2. Education is not all things to all people. However, education is needed when one wants to make an informed opinion or judgment such as when voting. Just making simple consumer decisions when comparing products requires some knowledge of how a truth table works. The simple task writing a note takes education. I was once an anti-education person. In my younger years I used to challenge the educated concerning the purpose of education. Later in life I realized that here in the USA that my income level was suffering do to a lack of education. When I resolved to advance my education it became clear to me why it was important and it just wasn’t about the money.

    No, education isn’t needed to survive in this world. However, life is more than survival and education helps lift the individual above survival. For years I used to rail against literature until I realized, through education, literature’s importance. Not just in the classical sense of telling epic tails but in our every day communications. Though I’ve spent countless hours reading memo’s which did nothing but follow the noun verb noun structure, corresponding in a fashion to motivate or convince people of a point is something people can learn. Education counts.

    I don’t know any gypsies. However, all of my Romanian friends hate them for no other reason than they are gypsies. It smacks of the same prejudice I see here in the USA concerning people of color. Though education cannot change these attitudes over night, an educated gypsy interacting with the non-gypsy population can change people for the better. Not everyone, but enough to stop and make people think. Education counts.

    Is STC and good NGO? I don’t know. I don’t give them money. I do, however, support other NGOs which from my research seem pretty good. They help in meeting the basic needs of a local population with things like running water and other infrastructure needs. Second or third on the list of their efforts is schooling. Education counts.

    Education helps and helps a great deal. Perhaps the message could have been better crafted and certainly the journalism could be better. I think to confuse poor journalism with the importance of a good education misses the point. Education counts.

    I look forward to your next blog entry Sam. Thank you for your thought provoking article.


    1. “Thought provoking article”? You must be joking.

      Education counts. Let’s hope that this will be thought provoking for Sam.


  3. Not to mention the fact that she’s tapping into the ever-appearing ‘Roma situation’ when in fact the lack of formal education is common for most people living in rural areas, whatever their ethnic background is.

    It’s common in villages (or even small towns) for children to stop going to school, for girls to marry young and have lots of children and for pretty much all the stuff she attributes to the ‘Roma condition’. And guess what: most of the times it’s not the lack of ‘support’ that stops these young people from going to school, but a specific mindset that will not change with building better schools.

    This is exactly what you said it is: a blowjob article that leaves out facts just to make a better story to sell.


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