"East Europe 2005-06" story # 36

Puysdorf, Austria           April 17, 2006

While selling stories door-to-door in Greece, I'd retained a mental record of which types of businesses bought or didn't buy my stories with the highest percentages. But, by the end of my selling days, most business types had purchased from me at roughly similar percentages. Perhaps cafe owners and employees bought the most often. Pet stores were also good places to sell.
     Lotto stores, where people bet on Keno and football games, seemed at first to be dark places to sell in, but they made a strong comeback.
     The one occupation that never bought a single story from me were normal school-teachers. Greece was also full of language schools (although the people don't stray far from home), in which I often made sweeping good sales-pitches, and in only one such place did I sell a story and that was because the buying teacher was Australian.
     To most other professions my sell percentage was fifty or sixty per cent, but to teachers it was four or five. Why didn't the teachers buy?

1. Are they too busy to read?
2. Maybe they're too intelligent to give money to a story-seller?
3. Or are they just boring?

While I myself was teaching in the Czech Republic, I began to hypothesize that school-teachers tend to be boring people. I myself am as dull as lard. ... No, but, I wondered why this was. And I came up with the satisfying answer that most teachers, in essence, are working to take the "kid" out of the child.
     I remember from when I was in high school, there were few teaches I liked. These encouraged me to be creative or taught me precisely what I'd need for the progression of MY LIFE. Other teachers just tried to shove a text-book down my throat. I think teachers should see their students as unique and relate to them. It's temporarily easy to discipline a misbehaving student, but if you make the subject interest him he will bring his energy to it.
     The study of languages offers many chances for the student to relate to the subject. Grammatical rules are necessary but not time-consuming, and after that students can write freely with dictionaries (about, "What Would You Do if You Were a Caveman?" etc.), read things of actual interest (like "Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back" by Shel Silverstein), converse, and play games. Text-books present languages in sloppy and uninteresting ways which aren't fun to grasp, and most should be thrown away or fed to beavers.
     I was last a student while in college. Fellow students were often stressed out over assignments which seemed to me unimportant. I remember thinking then that the point of college must've been to teach young people to conform to a life where they're not free.

"Hey! teachers, leave them kids alone." - Pink Floyd ("The Wall")

Really, I couldn't understand why teachers in Greece didn't want to show their students stories by a world-traveler using foreign languages at wild parties and in exotic bars. And I don't see how that man in Patra taught philosophy to the coming generation without keeping an eye open for modern progressive thought. Education should create excitement for life.

A well-educated man gave me a ride in Italy on my first day after leaving Greece. He was Marco. He reminded me of my best friend in Michigan in that he was a young computer programmer with two small kids. But, he was cleaner-cut and with glasses.
     He told me he hated the Catholic Church. He said to him it's only a "business."
     He said that the Vatican has its own bank, and that it's incredibly rich. Its name is "O.T.R." or something else. He said most people don't know about it, but he reads a lot. He said the current pope, Benedict, used to be in charge of that bank and therefore in charge of a lot of money.
     The Church basically strives after money and power, says Marco. And it's always dabbling in Italian politics.

A few days later, an Italian "polizia" car crawled beside me as I hitchhiked. Three male cops got out. All they wanted was to see my passport.
     For close to a minute, I held out my stance that I wasn't going to show them anything. I didn't see why I should. It was a violation of my freedom that I should have to show them anything. And it would be a further violation if they should see my passport and deem that I didn't belong in "their" country.
     Finally, I gave in. And of course, there was no problem with my passport so they let me stay. The mini-dictators walked away.
     I also think it's stupid that, even though I was a total jerk to them, they loved me just because I'm American.

Some more days later, after I'd already eaten Tolberone and flubble, a twenty-year-old brown-bearded hitchhiker came to talk to me. He was Claude from Austria, with a "Walden" look.
     He was a passionate and harmless anarchist. He was returning home from Germany, because the friends he'd been visiting had gotten kicked out of their "squat". They'd been living there for a while. But, this time, when Claude arrived, police cars were parked outside the squat and monitoring everyone who came and went. The police lied in wait and when the squatters were in town to buy groceries, the police seized them (the anarchists, not the groceries).
     The squat's life would later expire when the police carried Claude and his friends, who resisted expulsion by sitting in their adopted building, outside. Claude said he thought the cops had treated them a little too roughly. He has an impending court case because of his presence in the squat, but he expects to get only probation.
     Apparently, Holland is the only European country where squatting is legal; buildings must be empty for two years first, though. Claude told me to read, "Days of War, Nights of Love," an American writing. He loves open-minded people. He invited me to an anarchists' gathering to be held this summer in Austria.

My final Austrian ride came from Peter, a tired and very honest priest.
     The administrative aspects of his job had him exhausted with Easter coming up. He revealed that, in Austria, if a Catholic doesn't contribute to his church, he can be taken to court.
     Once a baby is baptised, the church begins to write a bill for him. When he's eighteen, he must start to make payments on it. If he ever goes three years without paying, the church will go to court to collect those three years of payments. After that, he can leave the church if he wants.
     I wondered if there was any way for a baptised person to leave the church without being legally indebted, but Peter never said that there was.
     This system provides Austrian churches with a lot of money they wouldn't otherwise get, but tired Peter doesn't think it's a great system. Things work similarly in Germany. Peter sends some of his church's money to the bishop, who then sends money onward to the Vatican, but Peter thankfully doesn't know how much.
     I don't know how things work in Greece, but I'm reminded of how new and large and ostentatious all its Orthodox churches are. There are poor people in Greece. It seems strange that big buildings would be made and then locked six days a week.

- peace,
Modern Oddyseus

Thanks to Gregorie; Colette; Alexandre; Marcus; Alex; Darko; Antje, Rebecca, Christophe, Daniel, Jot, & Mark; Antony; Kristof; and Peter for rides!
Claude recommends www.crimethinc.com

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