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The Smiles that Clean the System

Sometimes I wonder where all the money goes. Regularly, the EU, the US, the World Bank and other worthies announce multi-million Euro/Dollar loans, grants or investments in Albania. Much of this is directed to worthy causes - reforming infrastructure, reforming the police and criminal justice system, relieving poverty and the like. And slowly - very slowly in some cases - it does make a difference.

Still, you can't spend all your time building roads and tackling organised crime. Which was why I was delighted to come across a story from a few month's ago on the website of the British Embassy. It seems the good old Brits are helping Albanians develop their satirical skills. Four local journalists attended a seminar on satire in Zagreb last November. The Embassy press release explains the thinking behind the seminar:
One of British journalism's greatest traditional weapons in the battle against corruption and malpractice through five centuries has been the ability to laugh in the face of authority. From Thomas Nash to Defoe to Swift to Hazlitt to Bernard Levin (and even Richard Littlejohn), satire has been a prime tool in the journalist's armoury. What's officious and bullying can also be ridiculous. There is a whole British tradition built on this belief.

Journalists in other countries, of course, often use satire themselves in their struggles with authority. But the techniques and approaches can vary widely. The aim of the seminar in Zagreb - using British columnists, cartoonists and broadcasters of the highest reputation - was to share experiences, to identify new possibilities, and to help the laughter go and little wider, and deeper.
As I read this I couldn't help thinking of The Piranha Brothers. Luigi Vercotti described the brothers:
I had been running a successful escort agency - high class, no really, high class girls - we didn't have any of 'that' - that was right out. So I decided to open a high class night club for the gentry at Biggleswade with International cuisine and cooking and top line acts, and not a cheap clip joint for picking up tarts - that was right out, I deny that completely - and one evening in walks Dinsdale with a couple of big lads, one of whom was carrying a tactical nuclear missile.

They said I had bought one of their fruit machines and would I pay for it? They wanted three quarters of a million pounds. I thought about it and decided not to go to the Police as I had noticed that the lad with the thermonuclear device was the chief constable for the area. So a week later they called again and told me the cheque had bounced and said... I had to see... Doug.

Well, I was terrified. Everyone was terrified of Doug. I've seen grown men pull their own heads off rather than see Doug. Even Dinsdale was frightened of Doug. He used... sarcasm. He knew all the tricks, dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and... satire. He was vicious.
For those of you who are completely lost at this point, The Piranha Brothers was a Monty Python sketch. You can see the whole of the sketch in two parts on YouTube. Start with part 1 for the whole sketch, move on to part 2 for Luigi's contribution.

Personally I think this is a great idea and as a British citizen and taxpayer I would like the FCO and the British Embassy to know that I fully approve this way of spending my money.


ITS said…

You said: "Sometimes I wonder where all the money goes. Regularly, the EU, the US, the World Bank and other worthies announce multi-million Euro/Dollar loans, grants or investments in Albania."

Well, I have "figured this out" long time ago, and even blogged the simplified version of "the foreign aid myth".

But in a few words all foreign aid from western powers finds it way back to the western powers. Very little of it stays in Albania...

Anonymous said…
'It seems the good old Brits are helping Albanians develop their satirical skills.'

hahaha ha ha ha ha hhhhhhhhhhh

oh u shkriva se qeshuri.....
Anonymous said…
We can't be that naive and believe that these money goes everywhere but the destination. Yes, is true there have been a lot of cases which are questionable, but still there is a follow up procedure after the money gets delievered for a specific contract.

In regard of what the anonymous says about the Brits, it's not true. Probably it relates more to the Old GB policys, which taught on how to become an "OLD MADAM" an milk money out of "WHORES" on that part of the ruled over world. And, somehow, succeded.
Anonymous said…
anonynomous says: In regard of what the anonymous says about the Brits, it's not true.

it was theirman in tirana who said smth about the brits. he is not anonimous.

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And now the end is near
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Never did like that crappy song.

But it's true nevertheless.

Tomorrow in the wee hours of the morning we will be heading for the airport for the last time. I suppose it was too much to expect that I could have kept this going while getting ready to leave. So apologies for the lack of postings over the last weeks. This is post number 380 something so I suppose one post every two days is not a bad average.

There were probably 380 more in my head or scribbled down on scraps of paper, but many of them are perhaps best left there.

I suppose I should be penning - or typing - my final thoughts and reflections on two years in Tirana, but right now I don't have any. Maybe in a month or two though I might come back with something.

Thanks to all of you who have read this blog - especially those of you who have become regulars. Thanks also for linking and thanks to all who left comments.

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Welcome to Our Man in Tirana. I moved to Tirana, capital of Albania, in October 2005 and left in October 2007. This blog is a mix of photographs, reports, links, impressions and, undoubtedly, prejudices relating to the city and the country.

Since I am no longer in Tirana I am no longer updating this blog. However, there are over 300 posts covering this two year period and I hope that they are still of some interest.

So if you are curious about Albania or if you are planning to visit I hope this blog will be of value.

Miss Globe 2007

On Saturday, we were at the Rogner meeting with an expat friend who was leaving Tirana. It was breakfast time, and as our friend was finishing his tea the breakfast room started to fill up with over-dressed (or under-dressed) young women wearing blue sashes. These were the contestants for the Miss Globe 2007 beauty pageant being held in Tirana tonight at the Palace of Congresses. High heel boots and mini-skirts - or in a couple of cases micro-skirts, or possibly just belts - have never struck me as obvious breakfast attire, but the girls seemed happy enough tottering and wobbling around with their tea and toast. I'm not sure why they were wearing their sashes - perhaps in case they forgot which country they came from.
As we were leaving they were boarding a large coach which I had seen a number of times around the city in the last few days for their next trip. I'm not sure how some of them made it up the steps, or how they managed to sit down, but perhaps these are the kinds o…