Sunday, February 17, 2013

Zavist: Reprise

“But you have to understand,” said the Senator. “Every one of my constituents ask, ‘Why should they get a pension? None of us get a pension anymore.’”

“The real question,” Glen responded, “is why not?  What’s happened in the private sector that they’ve been robbed of a promised retirement? This is much more than just a teacher's issue.”


Zavist (za’ veest): n. [Russian] - exponential jealousy, or envy of the most cruel and black-hearted kind; an evil type of envy desirous of inflicting pain instead of emulating what is lacking in one’s own life.

While some writers consider “zavist” fables of Czech or other communist-bloc origin, most seem to honor Russia as the true mother of such feelings. According to Emily Yoffe (“Artful Prague,” Slate Magazine 2009) even the Czech defenders describe such stories and behaviors as a “hangover from communist domination.” The concept Zavist was first employed in 1928 as a title by Yuri Olesha, a Russian satirist who fell in and out of favor during the Stalin regime; the fable(s) themselves come down to us in various forms, all most horrifying.

One more modern version from Joseph Epstein’s book (Envy 2003):

"An English woman, a Frenchman, and a Russian are each given a single wish by one of those genies whose almost relentless habit is to pop out of bottles. The English woman says that a friend of hers has a charming cottage in the Cotswolds, and that she would like a similar cottage, with the addition of two extra bedrooms and a second bath and a brook running in front of it.
"The Frenchman says that his best friend has a beautiful blonde mistress, and he would like such a mistress for himself, but a redhead instead of a blonde, and with longer legs and a bit more 'culture and chic.'
"Following the behaviors dictated by zavist, the Russian, when asked what he would like, tells of a neighbor who has a cow that gives a vast quantity of the richest milk, which yields the heaviest cream and the purest butter.
“'I vant dat cow dead!' the Russian tells the genie: 'DEAD!'”

MORAL? There are solutions to the pension “crisis” made and consistently manufactured by the governor and the legislature in Illinois: Fix the structural revenue shortfall with a graduated tax system, eliminate tax loopholes for corporations,  look at revenue from services and transactions, and amortize the unfunded liability brought on by the General Assembly's not paying what was owed to the state pensions.  

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