Perspective

Flies Trapped in Honey

Nineteen ninety-one was the year of revolutions, the greatest, perhaps, since 1848. Many who observed the events from safe seats on this side of the Atlantic must have recalled Churchill's great Fulton speech, in which he described the "Iron Curtain" that had "descended across the continent," cutting off "all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe," from Berlin to Belgrade. That curtain was lifted, not slowly and ponderously, but—from the perspective that even a year affords—almost all at once.

What is really going on, almost no one in the United States can know, so ignorant are we of the languages and histories of all of Europe, particularly the East. Even before the statues had toppled and the names of cities had changed, swarms of patent medicine salesmen were arriving on even, flight from America; social democrats from Harvard, urging the Russians to follow the example of Sweden at the very moment that the Swedes were realizing what a botch they had made of their country. The social democrats, however, had been beaten to the punch by professional free-enterprisers eager to sell ex-communists on the merits of state capitalism. What a competition: career bureaucrats and lapdog academics, slickers who had never earned an honest dollar in their lives, direct-mail con artists who had been living off what they could siphon from the pensions of retired Army officers...

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