The Art Of Speaking

Yesterday, I hinted at how PM Janša and his SDS place ever greater bets in a gamble remain in power after elections on 21 September. Now they are picking fights with former president Milan Kučan again. Just as a side-note: just as with Laško and Delo, here too Janša is proving that there are some mistakes he simply doesn’t learn from. Fights with Milan Kučan usually ended badly for Janša, but the latter would not let go, and keeps picking fights to the point of becoming silly.

Former president Milan Kučan in a statement for POP TV (source)

This time around, Janša is acusing Kučan of putting his foot where his mouth is. Namely, in a statement for POP TV, Kučan said that “The arrogance, the audacity that sky-rocketed during the term of this regime and the devaluation of values which negate what we craved in 1990 as we opted for our own state, is such that changes must be made.

Now, read the sentence carefully. I had to employ dr.filomena, the master translator who cracked this one. If anyone’s interested, here is the Slovenian original: “Aroganca in samopašnost, ki se je razširila pod to vladavino, in razvrednotenje vrednot, ki so negacija tega, kar smo želeli leta 90, ko smo se odločili za svojo državo, je vendarle taka, da so potrebne spremembe.”

One’s foot in one’s mouth is not a pretty sight. Especially if we’re talking about a former president whom everyone listens to, regardless of their feelings towards him. And yet the SDS saw this as a pathethic gaffe and decided to take pot shots at the ex-Prez. In a statement, the party said that “Kučan must have wanted to say something else, but his hatred towards those who do not see eye to eye with him made him fumble his words and thus he said that today’s regime is the ‘devaluation of values which negate what we craved in 1990’

Normally, this would be brushed aside, probabbly with the addition of “everyone’s fallible” or something like that. However, things are not that simple. Milan Kučan did not fumble his words. Neither did he put his foot in his mouth. What he did, was show a superior command of Slovene language while the SDS (as per usual) heard only what it wanted to hear and took his words completely out of context.

Namely: Kučan said that changes must be made because of the audacity and the arrogace of the regime and the devalutaion of our values which we opted for in 1990s. It’s there. You just have to read it. People at SDS on the other hand don’t seem to care for the niceties of their mother-tongue. They seem to have only basic understanding of Slovene and so it is no wonder that they misread the sentence.

Sometimes just talking is not enough. One has to know how to speak. And so the debate will now shift to the question “what did Kučan really say”. And this is the sort of fight Kučan was always best at.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

20 thoughts on “The Art Of Speaking”

  1. I think Kucan is the best “talker” in slovenian politics ever…I sometimes felt stupid “trying” to understand what he really ment with what he said 🙂

  2. Sorry, but what other way is there to understand Kučan`s statement? I`m confused.

  3. @rollo: Kučan can really be cryptic 🙂 Sometimes he does it to cover his back, sometimes it is to throw his enemies off balance.

    @Burns: On one hand you have Kučan’s statement that this regime is negating democracy, free speech and the rule of law (things Slovenes wanted and Yugoslavia lacked – the so called values of independece). On the other hand Janša’s party interprets the statement as “this government is fighting agaist values which oppose the values of Slovene independence”.

    The structure of Kučan’s sentece – when read correctly – implies that a combination of “arrogance, audacity and devaluation of values” negate “the values of independece”, hence a change in government is necesary.

    Janša’s party however, read the thing that the regime is devaluating (i.e. negating) those values which are by themselves a negation of values of independece.

    It is true, however, that when read superficially, one can read Kučan’s statement in precisely that fashion. Especially if one conveniently ommits refferences to arrogance and audacity, as Janša’s party did.

  4. Tnx, i forgot u need do dumb down, to understand some of the points our current goverment is making.

  5. What I really find amusing about “Il Presidente” Milan Kucan – apart of course the fact that his daddy was a Hungarian soldier during World War II and his uncle one of the top Arrow Cross collaborators, who were responsible for the deportation of the small Jewish community in the Prekmurje region – is the fact that a former and longtime president of the Slovenian Communist Party is talking about the values of democracy, fight for independence and to make things even more hillarious about the definition of the word “regime”.

    That Pengy and filomena are nodding to his explanation of democracy should not come as a suprise to us. Pengy’s mother herself was a lawmaker working for the people’s reg… eh… [cough]… people’s democracy (:-)) and filomena’s own (gran)daddy Aloysius was… Well, do we really need to say more…

    We are today lectured about democracy and basic human rights by people who were for decades systematically negating them. So don’t you worry, pengy. I understand why are you still holding for Kucan’s skirt. It is all about “good old times”, isn’t it, party comrade?

  6. You’d have to wonder about the level of intelligence in the governing body and the SDS, if they can’t comprehend and interpret that sentence correctly. I’m sure the stance ‘We’re being ruled by idiots’ takes on a whole new meaning. Keep up the nice work, fellas! :mrgreen:

  7. Charles! Predictable as always….

    I can’t believe it took you a whole day to come up with that. You’re getting sloppy! You really shouldn’t disappoint your leader, you know…

    Tell me – do you come up with you lies and manipulations on your own or do you read from a party script? And I can’t understand why you’re so upset with other people’s parents. What was it? Didn’t your parents love you enough? Or is it something they put in the water down in Dolenjska?

    By the way: what did you do in the previous system?
    This question of course implies that you are one single person. In case I’m talking to a group of SDS die-hards, I just wanna say hi guys!

  8. Am I the only one who finds Karel rather disturbing?

    Either that or it’s some weird comedy routine I’ve not yet come to understand.

  9. @Karel: Putting aside the fact that I never commented on Kučan’s statement and was merely paid for the translation of the sentence subject of this post, I must comment on the mention of my family. Karel, while I did once withdraw my invitation to you for a drink alongside Ljubljanica river on account of one of your usual venomous posts that managed to cross even the furthest-stretched line, I would now like to reinstate it.

    Seeing as you have a keen interest in people’s family lines, you may end up writing biographies or – more probably – articles for tabloids. In either case, I would like to give you the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge about my family before you begin distorting it. I therefore again invite you for a drink in down-town Ljubljana where I will gladly share with you the life stories of the two extraordinary men I was honoured to have called my grandfathers, none of whom, however, was named Aloysius.

    Given that you know so much about me, including things I am yet unaware of, you also know that I am the manager of a real estate agency in Ljubljana. Please feel free to call me there during working hours and we can set up a date.

    The drink will be my treat. Oh and no worries. I will not be asking you about your family background and will not embarrass you with inquiries about your ancestors’ activities during World War II. Unlike yourself, you see, when I am shaping my opinion about a certain person, I do not care what his or her parents, grandparents, aunts or great-grand-uncles did. I judge him or her by his or her own actions.

    So what will it be. Are you coming for a drink or do you fear stepping out of your shadow of safe and rather cowardly anonymity?

    @Adriaan: Just checking. Did you mean to say disturbing or disturbed? This post does discuss the finer points of language so one has to be slightly anal about wording.

  10. I think that SDS were trying to point out the fact that in 1990 Kucan was opposed to independence of Slovenia, which was only gained in 1991. Therefore they are saying that it is no coincidence that the values are not the same as in 1990, because that year we were still in a communist regime.

  11. @Dr Fil: You know me so well. As I was composing my post I was going to add the clause “or should that be disturbed” but (foolishly) was worried about the nuance of the statement.

    I should have had the courage of my convictions and not underestimated an audience that (with perhaps one exception) is smarter than I am.

    Pleasingly, I stand corrected.

    Now about that comedy routine…

  12. @crni: While I do not pretend to know what SDS tried to point out, I have two issues with your comment.

    Number one: there is a difference between opposing proclamation of independence and being cautious by – before taking such a dramatic measure – exploring all other possibilities for constructive cohabitation of different nations under a single umbrella providing a larger market and possibly greater political strength in relation to other international political structures. An umbrella much like the one Slovenia now finds itself under, namely the European Union. Actually, the current Slovenian umbrella is also upgraded or reinforced with steel as principles of non-alignment (I quote the five principles: Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; Mutual non-aggression; Mutual non-interference in domestic affairs; Equality and mutual benefit; Peaceful co-existence) were replaced by NATO membership.

    Number two: Values are not something that changes overnight or in a matter of one year. Values are the foundations on which we build our actions. So to imply – as you do – that our values in the year 1990, which was pivotal to the future Slovenia’s independence with its countless public debates and the plebiscite that gave legitimacy to the act of proclaiming independence were the values of a communist regime is, well, rather favourable to the “communist regime”. With 88.5 per cent of all eligible voters in Slovenia answering YES to the question of “Should the Republic of Slovenia become a sovereign and independent state” (which way do you – honestly – think Milan Kučan voted?), I believe that the set of values in the Slovenian society in 1990 was one that we all wish everybody in the country had held on to.

  13. Ah. Damn it! My father was a hippie and my grandfather a factory worker. Shit! I’m predestined (genetically?) to die in workplace accident involving weed and heavy machinery..

  14. Charles! Predictable as always….
    Thank you, Pengy. Presumptious as always…. 🙂

    I can’t believe it took you a whole day to come up with that. You’re getting sloppy! You really shouldn’t disappoint your leader, you know…
    What can I say, Pengy? I am fully aware what I am about to say to you will come as a suprise to you (and perhaps some others too), but there are still some of us out there who are actually working day by day in order to earn a few bucks to get through a month. Without any subsidies. 🙂

    Tell me – do you come up with you lies and manipulations on your own or do you read from a party script?
    Lies? Manipulations? What lies? Or manipulations?

    And I can’t understand why you’re so upset with other people’s parents.
    It looks to me you are more upset than me. I am just a humble vessel in a rough sea who is bringing the facts of life on the table. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Perhaps you should find yourselve a new job.

    What was it? Didn’t your parents love you enough? Or is it something they put in the water down in Dolenjska?
    My parents were simple, ordinary and hard-working people. May God bless their souls.

    By the way: what did you do in the previous system?
    All what I can say is that we were not comrades and fellow aparatchiks.

    ….In case I’m talking to a group of SDS die-hards, I just wanna say hi guys!
    You much overestimate yourselve, Pengy. Controrary to the popular belief of many LDS or SD cyber stormtroopers, you are not that much important to them to receive the luxury in a form of their attention. Afterall you are what you are.

    dr. filomena: I see you are still pestering people with your offers for drinks near the Ljubljanica swamp. Sadly I have to refuse this tempting offer again as I am about to depart for Vienna airport. But I say what… If you will be in the next two months in Tabriz let me know and I will buy you a nice carpet for Pengy, a couple of cassettes for Adriaan with songs by El-Samah from black market and a sack of very good quality coffee for you. 🙂

  15. @Karel: Thanks for acknowledging the dr. part of my nick. I almost feel honoured. You seem to enjoy expressing yourself in clichés, so I’ll add one to the above bundle. Beware of Greeks bearing gifts. I would feel reluctant accepting gifts from insolent people I don’t know, especially coffee that I would be taking across the border, if you know what I mean. The delicious chocolate of the area would have hit the spot better, anyway 🙂

    Karel, I understand that just as – despite her admirable age – my grandmother will never forget how her father suffered injustice at work in Ljubljana due to his incorrect political inclinations between the two world wars (railways, slovenska ljudska stranka, general strike, rings a bell?), it is difficult for you to get past what was done to your family. But I believe you proved in your own way that it was possible to receive an education and succeed on one’s own merit even if you were not a comrade or apparatchik in the ‘communist regime’.

    Tell you what… if you compress that coffee well and rid it of the bitterness, I might take a bag nonetheless 😉 Regrettably, I can’t pick it up in the East as I find myself westbound, but I’ll be in the beautiful Capital of Slovenia on election day for sure.

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