I'm reluctant to use this phrase but others aren't, so they manage to track down the one time I wrote about it intentionally. But I see a few other "mentalities" crept in here and here (Greek) and here (British and Australian). And I guess you can see my own mentality problem in my grumbles about Life in Britain.
A related version of this is the EU Neighbourhood "reality" problem which I have written about here
The Eastern European mentality problem
What is it?
A phrase describing an attitude which resists change, but is used by westerners very often to describe what they regard as typical characteristics of people who have lived under communism.
What are the symptoms?
An unwillingness to change, a tendency to passive disruption or sabotage, not sharing the same assumptions about what is important in life (the need to get rich quick, to become western as quickly as possible, an unwillingness to throw out the baby with the bathwater?) Wanting Moscow (the government, the Tsar, Mother?) to solve all problems for you; not believing it is possible to have an opinion yourself on what to do next.
The requirement to provide money first then what the money is needed for will be revealed afterwards. Nothing can start until the money has appeared. The exact opposite of providing a fully researched and documented business plan with investment needs and cash flows showing how loans will be paid back.
A split personality: one a normal person, able to manage his own life (usually without drinking to excess) the other a childlike person who avoids all responsibility usually at work. Probably caused by learning to keep one’s head below the parapet, to not be shot at.
Who has it?
In my experience mainly older people. Younger people haven’t been so frustrated by the communist system, if they have known it all. And mainly men, possibly because they have had to deal with the system and have higher level posts than women. Perhaps because they have more to lose by the changes. Perhaps because women are better at dealing with contradictions and getting on with their double shift.
Who doesn’t have it?
10 years have provided the experience of real change in Eastern Europe. Many suspicious older officials have buckled down, learnt to speak English and got caught up in the general excitement of joining the EU, when finally it seemed likely to happen. The myth that it is too late to learn languages and change, has been disproved thousands of times in many countries. Of course these officials don’t become model westerners overnight, but then how many westerners are perfect either.
Do young people have it?
It seemed not, but in an enclave of Russians in Lithuania, it is alive and strong even among young people.
How do you get rid of it?
There doesn’t seem to be any known cure except extinction which doesn’t really count as a cure and takes a long time.
Why don’t all older people have it?
This is hard to answer. It’s not just ex-communists, or high level party members because many of them don’t have it.
Where does it come from?
Perhaps it stems from insecurity and an inability to understand the new rules of the game. Of course some it could be ideological, just to undermine the hated capitalism.
We’ll close Ignalina NPP when you have given us the money. What’s the money for? Compensation for doing something we don’t want to do. How will you pay for decommissioning otherwise? We don’t know and it’s none of your business if you’re not going to help.
But it's not only Eastern Europeans who have a mentality problem. Here is one man's own mentality problem, shared by many of us who travelled in Eastern Europe before the end of communism, from David Lodge, Thinks…..
I think I preferred Eastern Europe when it was communist and there wasn’t so much to eat, not much of anything actually, even if you were a visitor carrying hard currency…. There was a kind of bracing satisfaction to be got from exposing yourself temporarily to a life of privation. I remember walking the streets of Lodz one winter afternoon, it must have been in the seventies, in a kind of ecstasy at the total unrelieved miserableness of everything, the grimy dilapidated apartment blocks, the dirty frozen snow heaped in the gutters, the trams packed with grey-faced passengers grinding and groaning round the corners on their metal tracks, the lines of shapeless expressionless women in boots and topcoats queuing stoically outside food shops with totally empty windows and bare shelves…. It made you profoundly grateful for the British passport and airline ticket safely in your inside pocket… there’s not the same exhilarating contrast any more…
And whose fault is that?
And isn't the French and the Germans not wanting the Anglo-Saxon model of work also a mentality problem? A big irony that they are now afraid of the new Member States because they want to work harder now.
On the other hand it could be the difference between 45 years and 75 years of communism.