Načo pôjdem domov – A Roma (Gypsy) Song in Slovak

August 30, 2016

Allan Stevo

Below is the Roma song “Načo pôjdem domov,” commonly played in Slovakia by bands in Slovakia whether they are Gypsy or Slovak and mentioned in this article about the Cigánsky bašavel (Gypsy Party) held each year at Červený Kameň, a castle near Bratislava.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time travelling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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Choosing to Feel Offended

Photo: mononews.gr

Photo: mononews.gr


I’m Offended

August 29, 2016

Allan Stevo

An Austrian friend of mine who is an avid reader of a wide array of world media commented to me that America is unique in that it is the only place where you can worm your way out of an intellectual discussion by saying “I’m offended” and others will recognize it as a legitimate reason to stop the discussion.
 

Only in America

This observation provides an interesting piece of insight on how freedom of speech is interpreted in America. Being sensitive to the feelings of another is at times of paramount importance. In the context of an intellectual discussion it ought to have little place, for digging at the truth should be the goal of intellectual discussion and such cries obfuscate the truth.
 

Better to Laugh at Such a Person

The notion of saying “I’m offended” and genuinely meaning it should be an all out embarrassment to anyone who says it. Such a person should be laughed at in the context of an intellectual discussion.
 

The Choice to Feel Offended

Being offended is of course, like all other feelings, a choice. There is a moment between input and output, between cause and effect, where the conscious mind may pause and reflect and even take control. You choose to feel offended.

You may believe you have every right to feel offended, but you have little business sharing that with someone else, especially with the expectation that someone in an intellectual discussion should edit themselves to suit you as a debate partner. The reason is because you choose whether or not to be offended and no one has any business kowtowing to your weak choice.
 

Perpetually Offended

Some people are perpetually offended, as if finding new instances of insult brings them great happiness in life. Such people can be the vocal few who tend to have such impact on American debate. With them involved, instead of debate focusing on the most brilliant thinkers facing off, debate must take into consideration a non-entity in the debate who is only meta-criticizing the debate rather than seeking to interact with the content of the debate.

These perpetually offended people, who would find insult even in a rose, are foolish to cater to because regardless of the input, the same output will always be produced. They will perpetually be offended and there is nothing you or anyone else can do about that. Given that realization, is it not better to simply refrain from expending any resources trying to appease the perpetually offended and to instead expend resources in a manner where those resources can be most effective?
 

The Meaning of I’m Offended

I’m offended is a way to say “okay, that’s it, time to end that part of the discussion, you are making too much sense,” or “I have been beaten, my side has been beaten, I am starting to feel like I have been wrong for some time in holding this opinion, now I must distract from that fact with hysterics that have nothing to do with the pursuit of the truth.”
 

Bad Apple

When I hear generally intelligent people resort to saying I’m offended, I know that the person has been corrupted by a society so comfortable with using that weak cop-out and clearly so uncomfortable with statements of truth.
 

Censorship

“I’m offended” tends to be a way to censor someone and to cut off discussion. This is pernicious as it prevents the spread of ideas. In a free society, anything that seeks to limit the spread of ideas should be looked at suspiciously. There is little reason that any confident person should want the propagation of the ideas of another to be limited. There is little reason a truth seeker would want to stifle debate. “I’m offended” has the consequence of preventing others from talking through and consequently thinking through problems of concern to individuals and to society at large.
 

Entitlement

Part of saying I’m offended is a statement of entitlement. In saying it, you somehow believe have a right to walk through the world being not offended. You have no such right. You, in practice, have all the rights you can cause to happen. You cannot cause the world to protect you from being offended. Offense for nearly every person is as close as a truth teller who feels like sharing a few observations with you about anything that you consider a sacred cow.
 

The Source You Blame for Your Weakness

The speaker of a sentence is often important in the creating of offense. A sentence said by one person may cause one to feel offended, an identical statement said by another may not cause offense. This further highlights how irrelevant content is in this decision.

You are not feeling offended, you are blaming your weakness on one person while with another person you would own your weakness. The person speaking has crossed a line they are not entitled to cross for some reason that is most likely arbitrarily created by you at that given moment.
 

Calling on Others to Change

I’m offended means “because I am too weak to control my own emotions, I expect you to edit your words instead of sharing your observations with the world.” How unrealistic it is in virtually all areas of life to complain to others about not changing before turning a mirror on yourself and looking to yourself to change. An entire life can be spent on self-improvement. It can make for a hard and fulfilling life. On the contrary, one may spend a life trying to force others to change. This is a less impressive and less effective feat, much easier to accomplish and far less fulfilling. Be the change you wish to see in the world, said a notable wise man. There is a fundamental problem at the heart of this attitude to change others that pervades society and saying “I’m offended” is an ugly consequence of that attitude.
 

In an Ideal World

I do not particularly care if you feel offended and in an ideal world neither should anyone else. And to make that ideal world even better, you would feel great shame in even using such a statement in intellectual discussion. There are times where sensitivity should trump a dogged pursuit of the truth and in an intellectual discussion that should never be the case.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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A Slovak Charity and a Party They Throw

Cigánsky bašavel

August 28, 2016

Allan Stevo

With the season upon us where Bratislava’s “gypsy party” or “cigansky basavel” is celebrated, I present to you a piece from the archives about the Cigansky Bashavel. The event showcases Roma culture and is organized by a charitable organization called “Divé Maky,” which does a fantastic job of connecting talented Roma children and young adults with donors willing to fund scholarships to assist in furthering the youth’s development in an organized setting.

UPDATE August 13, 2011 – There has been a last minute change of plans: the event will, sadly, not be held at Cerveny Kamen, but instead in Senec, at on the south side of Slnecne Jazera, in the small amphitheater.

There’s a castle not far from Bratislava Červený Kameň – “Red Stone Castle” – that was owned by a wealthy family of the past named the Fuggers. I warn you not to read their name aloud, lest someone think you are being inappropriate. The Fuggers had great wealth, from, among other things, taking the minerals out of the hills of present-day Central Slovakia. The pleasant castle is home to all kinds of events, including the one that’s coming up this weekend – Cigánsky bašavel or “Gypsy party.”

Hundreds of people will get together on the large lawn of the castle for a party that will last all day Saturday. There will be a stage with lots of fun taking place on it. There will be talented people on that stage dancing, singing, doing a host of other things to entertain the audience. On stage will be mostly Gypsies, as part of the purpose is to show off the talent of the Gypsy community in Slovakia. In the audience members will be both Gypsy and gadžo (non-Gypsies). But the most important issue, the most interesting issue is why they are all there.

Click here to keep reading A Slovak Charity and a Party They Throw

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time travelling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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The Gypsies are Coming

The Gypsies are Coming

August 27, 2016

Allan Stevo

This morning the Gypsies are going around Castle Hill in Bratislava looking for scrap metal. They come around once a week in a car with a loud speaker attached to the top, a Zhiguli, as it’s called by Slovaks – an old make of car from the former Soviet Union. Behind the Zhiguli, they tow a trailer that they will fill with the scrap that they find.

And you can hear the recorded announcement begin, always in the same voice…

Honourable citizens… we’ll take your old things, your old stove, your old washing machines, honorable citizens, your old metal, your old appliances, your old irons…

Honourable citizens… we’ll take your old things, your old stove, your old washing machines, honorable citizens, your old metal, your old appliances, your old irons…

Click here to keep reading The Gypsies are Coming

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time travelling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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Slovakia Is Always With Us: Burning Man

Gerlach, High Tatras, Slovakia | Photo: wikimedia.org

Gerlach, High Tatras, Slovakia | Photo: wikimedia.org

Gerlach

August 25, 2016

Allan Stevo

With a population of 206 people Gerlach, Nevada, adjacent to the Black Rock Desert is the last gasoline stop before heading out into “the Playa,” the location of an annual counter culture gathering of some 70,000 people known as Burning Man.

While reviewing that detail earlier this week, it occurred to me that Gerlach (or Gerlachovsky stit) is also the name of the tallest peak in Slovakia, the tallest peak of the High Tatras, the tallest peak of the entire 1,500 km (932 mile) long Carpathian Mountain chain as well as the tallest peak in Northern and Central Europe. 2,654.4 m (8,709 ft), named for the village of Gerlachov at its base. The mountain has a characteristic cauldron like cirque that is often referenced by Slovaks and can be seen from the south.

Over the years it was name for Franz Joseph, the Czechoslovak Legions, and even Stalin, but the simple name – the peak of the village of Gerlachov is what seems to have regularly returned to popular usage, and continued to be used even when big decision makers in remote capitals said that they would be changing the name. As is consistent with Slovak culture, regardless of what the “decision makers” said people should be doing, most people simply kept calling it what they had always called it: Gerlachovsky stit.

Krivan, Lomnicky Stit, and Ladovy Stit spent time being recognized as the highest mountains in the High Tatras, a compressed and steep area of the Carpathians that straddle the Slovak-Polish border. It took quite a while for anyone to realize that Gerlach was the real holder of that title.

A middle aged American woman in my first weeks in Slovakia once advised me to seek “a spiritual experience with Gerlach.” I’ve yet to quite reach that level of intimacy with the mountain, but I did enjoy climbing it some six years ago as a birthday present from a friend.

Near Pyramid Lake, near the lands of the Paiute Tribe. A town that sprang up around mining and railroads and can only reference the now closed gypsum mines nearby as their mine, with treacherous terrain, open range cattle and livestock (meaning no fences and a specific set of rough and tumble rules related to that practice) and the borderland cultural of tribal lands all around, though being in the landlocked center of a country that spans from one ocean to the next, in that unique little corner of the world that 70,000 hippies would pass those few days is where I found Gerlach.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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Must in English, Mušt in Slovak

Photo: pbase.com

Photo: pbase.com


Mušt

August 25, 2016

Allan Stevo

Must, from the Latin “Mustum” came into Old English some time before the 12th century. The same word is used in Slovak, but with a soft “s” – mušt.

Picking a field of grapes, crushing them, and collecting their juice (which often ends up with a bunch of bees in it prior to filtering) will leave you with what is called must. Sometimes the crushed grape skins and seeds are also called must.

Click here to keep reading Must in English, Mušt in Slovak

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time travelling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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The Moral Obligation to Speak Truth to Power

Pastor Russell O. Siler (1942-2014)

Pastor Russell O. Siler (1942-2014)


Russ Siler & Honesty

August 24, 2016

Allan Stevo

Being a writer means many projects are left unfinished. Sometimes even at the last moment pieces are left, forever abandoned, deemed by that harsh inner editor to be too inferior in concept or in some other way unworthy of being shared with an audience. Understanding this, it is with great hesitation that I read or share items that the author did not approve the final draft of.

It’s questionable if work should be published posthumously without the author’s permission since it ends up being a glimpse into the author’s soul and creative process that the author perhaps did not intend to share. The ultimate argument is that even in its raw form there is important value to the world.

The Trial by Franz Kafka, The First Man by Albert Camus, Ian Fleming’s The Man With the Golden Gun, The Pale King by David Foster Wallace, The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens, A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway all went to print in versions the author did not finish or approve of.

Below, is the writing of a pastor I met in Jerusalem in 2004, who for many years wrote a love-filled, insightful, and caring email on the situation of Israel and Palestine. It is not common for insight and love to accompany writing on the relationship between Palestine and Israel.

A while after his passing, I received this email from his wife, Anne Siler. At the bottom of the email I have added emphasis to his quote, his powerful quote on the necessity of telling truth to power. In an era where honesty seems so hard to come by, Russ Siler, offers us the moral imperative to speak truthfully and cautions of what danger can be contained in a lie. Though this writing is unfinished, I found the quote and its story too powerful to avoid sharing.
 

Dear Friends, Family and Readers of Russell’s Jerusalem focused letters over the years,

As most of you know, Russell died quite unexpectedly this past December, shortly after midnight Christmas night, on the morning of the 26th. We’d known since his diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in 2011 that his life would be shorter than we would have liked. He’d had his regular three month check up with the pulmonary doctor just two weeks earlier and didn’t have to return for six months! Good news! Life’s pace had slowed for him, but continued to be full of laughter, stories, and good times and we’d enjoyed a fun filled Christmas family gathering just a few days earlier in our new home.

His passion for Peace with Justice in the Palestinian/Israeli situation never wavered. He’d presented a three session program in October helping people to understand and learn the history and current situation. He often said to me that he wanted to keep on writing the letters. I wondered when I’d read the next one. In retrospect, I realize that it took much more of his energy to live each day than I was aware, Recently, I came across “From America,” a letter he’d started in July 2014. For those interested, an unedited, unfinished draft is below.

Thanks for reading. I know some of you have and others will seek “Peace with Justice” for the Palestinians and Israelis, as well as in all facets of your lives, whether among family and friends, home or world community. It is needed everywhere.

Although grief and loss have colored each of my days this year, I am continually thankful for friends and family, locally, and around the world. Their love, care and support have been needed and appreciated as I’ve encountered the ups and downs of life. It looks like 2016 is filling with trips to visit children, grandchild, friends, attend weddings, etc. Russell’s humor, stories and zest for life will be missed and remembered.

May you and your loved ones enjoy this season and the new year!
 

From America # 1 by Russell Siler

20 July 2014
 

I remember the day as if it were yesterday. I had been summoned to the Dean’s office. There I was informed that I must withdraw the invitation extended to a speaker to address the student body. He was a Baptist minister who opposed the university’s segregationist practices. Fighting to hold back the tears starting to burn my eyes, I took a deep breath, paused for the three seconds that felt like an hour or more, and somehow managed to squeeze out the words, “Sir, I did all that your office asked when I submitted the man’s name. You gave your approval. Now I expect you to keep your word.” His facial expression gave no hint of his emotions, but the silence that followed made my earlier quiet seems as a split second. Finally he spoke, “Very well, Russell, I shall.” And life went on…except I knew that there was at least one man at that school whose sense of personal integrity and responsibility far exceeded the standards of the institution he represented.

For a long time I privately commended myself for the courage I had demonstrated in standing up to practices whose morality I had come to question. Then one day when–for some unknown reason–my pride had taken a day off, the truth came cascading down. I was not the brave one. It was the dean who had shown me what courage and honor looked like. By acting as his honor directed, he risked much of his reputation and standing–perhaps even his position.

Such a brief episode, so long ago. Yet I remember it often when I wonder why people speak and act regarding Israel-Palestine as they do, when they know so much more of the truth than they will admit. The public response to the present bloodletting in Gaza serves again to resurrect that memory.

Few people have as much access to up-to-the-minute details on the situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians as do Members of the U.S. Congress. If senators and representatives do not know the real state of affairs there, it is because they choose to remain ignorant. If religious leaders believe that dialogue is the key to peace and justice in Gaza, Jerusalem, Israel, and the West Bank, they are turning a blind heart to 67 years of history. If those who seek to shape public opinion insist on basing their commentaries on the distortions of history long since consigned to the dustbins of propaganda, they do so knowingly and, likely, with malice.

Two more such opinion pieces prompted me to return again to the keyboard. I have no expectation of making a significant contribution to a resolution to the violence “over there.” I simply could keep silent no longer.

First, I will be unequivocal in my stance that I oppose with all my might the shelling of Israeli civilians by Hamas from Gaza as well as the shelling of Palestinian civilians in Gaza by the Israeli forces. I may understand the motivations well, but I neither approve nor condone the violent actions.

Second, I believe very strongly that when one distorts, ignores, or actually lies about the circumstances of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship, that person is not only helping to prolong the carnage and impede a just peace, but is also guilty of gross immorality.

 

Thank you Russ.

The Rev. Russell O. Siler (July 30, 1942- December 26, 2014) was a former director of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s (ELCA) Advocacy Ministries. Siler served as interim pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem from 2003 to 2007 and again in 2010. The congregation is one of six of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. Siler was director of the Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs in Washington, D.C., from 1997 to 2003 and director of Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania from 1993 to 1997. Siler was the court-appointed attorney for juvenile domestic relations in district court for Virginia Beach, Va., from 1987 to 1992. Siler received his Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Richmond in Richmond, Va., in 1964, and his Master of Divinity from Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in Gettysburg, Pa., in 1968. He received his law degree from Antioch School of Law in Washington, D.C., in 1986. Siler served as pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Virginia Beach, Va., from 1988 to 1992, pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Virginia Beach, from 1971 to 1982, and pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Warrenton, Va., from 1968 to 1971.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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The Harvest Is In

Vinobranie

August 23, 2016

Allan Stevo

With the grape harvest upon us, I present to you a piece on the grape harvest in Slovakia and the various grape harvest celebrations that take place in the wine making areas of the country.

As summer comes to an end, the grapes begin to sweeten on the vine. The sweeter the berry, the stronger the wine. And just like many Americans long for football and all its fanfare, as the air gets chilly many Slovaks around Bratislava get exited for Vinobranie – the celebration of the grape harvest.

Pezinok, Rača, and Modra are the biggest near Bratislava, but many towns and families around Slovakia have forms of grape harvest celebrations, some large enough to include several towns and cities, others that are intimate with just a few family members and neighbors enjoying that year’s harvest.

Vinobranie is a compound word – vino (wine) and brať (take) – used to refer to the celebration of the grape harvest and to the grape harvest itself. The weeks of September are punctuated by this weekend event as busses leaving the center of Bratislava become so packed that drivers must turn passengers away. Rača, Modra, and Pezinok host visitors and vendors for one weekend each.

Click here to keep reading The Harvest Is In

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time travelling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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