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Mentor Exercise

Directions: This passage is followed by a group of questions to be answered based on what is stated or implied in the passage. For some questions, more than one choice could conceivably answer the question. However, choose the best answer; the one that most accurately and completely answers the question. Hints, insights, and answers immediately follow the questions.

From Romania to Germany, from Tallinn to Belgrade, a major historical process—the death of communism—is taking place.  The German Democratic Republic no longer exists as a separate state.  And the former German Democratic Republic will serve as the first measure of the price a post-Communist society has to pay for entering the normal European orbit.  In Yugoslavia we will see whether the federation can survive without communism.
One thing seems common to all these countries: dictatorship has been defeated and freedom has won, yet the victory of freedom has not yet meant the triumph of democracy.  Democracy is something more than freedom.  Democracy is freedom institutionalized, freedom submitted to the limits of the law, freedom functioning as an object of compromise between the major political forces on the scene.
We have freedom, but we still have not achieved the democratic order. That is why this freedom is so fragile. In the years of democratic opposition to communism, we supposed that the easiest thing would be to introduce changes in the economy. In fact, we thought that the march from a planned economy to a market economy would take place within the framework of the bureaucratic system, and that the market within the Communist state would explode the totalitarian structures. Only then would the time come to build the institutions of a civil society; and only at the end, with the completion of the market economy and the civil society, would the time of great political transformations finally arrive.
The opposite happened. First came the big political change, the great shock, which either broke the monopoly and the principle of Communist Party rule or simply pushed the Communists out of power. Then came the creation of civil society, whose institutions were created in great pain, and which had trouble negotiating the empty space of freedom. Only then, as the third moment of change, the final task was undertaken: that of transforming the totalitarian economy into a normal economy where different forms of ownership and different economic actors will live one next to the other.
Today we are in a typical moment of transition. No one can say where we are headed. The people of the democratic opposition have the feeling that we won. We taste the sweetness of our victory the same way the Communists, only yesterday our prison guards, taste the bitterness of their defeat. Yet, even as we are conscious of our victory, we feel that we are, in a strange way, losing. In Bulgaria the Communists have won the parliamentary elections and will govern the country, without losing their social legitimacy. In Romania the National Salvation Front, largely dominated by people from the old Communist bureaucracy, has won. In other countries democratic institutions seem shaky, and the political horizon is cloudy. The masquerade goes on: dozens of groups and parties are created, each announces similar slogans, each accuses its adversaries of all possible sins, and each declares itself representative of the national interest. Personal disputes are more important than disputes over values.  Arguments over values are fiercer than arguments over ideas.
The author originally thought that the order of events in the transformation of communist society would be represented by which one of the following?
  1. A great political shock would break the totalitarian monopoly, leaving in its wake a civil society whose task would be to change the state-controlled market into a free economy.
  2. The transformation of the economy would destroy totalitarianism, after which a new and different social and political structure would be born.
  3. First the people would freely elect political representatives who would transform the economy, which would then undermine the totalitarian structure.
  4. The change to a democratic state would necessarily undermine totalitarianism, after which a new economic order would be created.
This is a description question, so you should locate the point in the passage from which it was drawn. It is the third paragraph. The author recalls his expectation that, by introducing the market system, the communist system would topple from within.
Be careful not to choose (A). It chronicles how the events actually occurred, not how they were anticipated to occur. (A) is baited with the words “great shock,” “monopoly,” and “civil society.”
The answer is (B).

Beginning in the second paragraph, the author describes the complicated relationship between “freedom” and “democracy.” In the author’s view, which one of the following statements best reflects that relationship?
  1. A country can have freedom without having democracy.
  2. If a country has freedom, it necessarily has democracy.
  3. A country can have democracy without having freedom.
  4. A country can never have democracy if it has freedom.
This is an extension question, so the answer must say more than what is said in the passage, without requiring a quantum leap in thought. The needed reference is “Democracy is something more than freedom”. Since freedom can exist without democracy, freedom alone does not insure democracy.
The answer is (A).
From the passage, a reader could conclude that which one of the following best describes the author’s attitude toward the events that have taken place in communist society?
  1. Relieved that at last the democratic order has surfaced.
  2. Clearly wants to return to the old order.
  3. Disappointed with the nature of the democracy that has emerged.
  4. Surprised that communism was toppled through political rather than economic means.
This is a tone question. The key to answering this question is found in the closing comments. There the author states “The masquerade goes on,” referring to nascent democracies.  So he has reservations about the newly emerging democracies.
Watch out for (D). Although it is supported by the passage, it is in a supporting paragraph. The ideas in a concluding paragraph take precedence over those in a supporting paragraph.
The answer is (C).

A cynic who has observed political systems in various countries would likely interpret the author’s description of the situation at the end of the passage as
  1. evidence that society is still in the throws of the old totalitarian structure.
  2. a distorted description of the new political system.
  3. a fair description of many democratic political systems.
  4. evidence of the baseness of people.
This is an application question. These are like extension questions, but they go well beyond what is stated in the passage. In this case we are asked to interpret the author’s comments from a cynic’s perspective. Because application questions go well beyond the passage, they are often difficult, as is this one.
Hint: A cynic looks at reality from a negative perspective, usually with a sense of dark irony and hopelessness.
Don’t make the mistake of choosing (D). Although a cynic is likely to make such a statement, it does not address the subject of the passage—political and economic systems. The passage is not about human nature, at least not directly.
The answer is (C).

Which one of the following does the author imply may have contributed to the difficulties involved in creating a new democratic order in eastern Europe?
    I.    The people who existed under the totalitarian structure have not had the experience of “negotiating the empty space of freedom.”
    II.   Mistaking the order in which political, economic, and social restructuring would occur.
    III.  Excessive self-interest among the new political activists.
  1. I only
  2. II only
  3. I and III only
  4. I, II, and III
This is an extension question.
Statement I is true. the author implies that the institutions of the new-born, free society were created in great pain because the people lacked experience.
Statement II is true. Expectations that the market mechanisms would explode totalitarianism and usher in a new society were dashed, and having to readjust one’s expectations certainly makes a situation more difficult. Finally, statement III is true. It summarizes the thrust of the passage’s closing lines.
The answer is (D).

By stating “even as we are conscious of our victory, we feel that we are, in a strange way, losing” the author means that
  1. some of the old governments are still unwilling to grant freedom at the individual level.
  2. some of the new governments are not strong enough to exist as a single federation.
  3. some of the new democratic governments are electing to retain the old political parties.
  4. no new parties have been created to fill the vacuum created by the victory of freedom.
This is a hybrid extension and description question. Because it refers to a specific point in the passage, you must read a few sentences before and after it.
The answer is (C).

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