They’re getting God haunted again these Russians.
The ones running the place don’t have anything to offer in the way of reasons to live, and moreover, they have been mysteriously silent on the subject of what exactly they are trying to do here. It was easy for a while because all they had to do was not be Yeltsin, and most people can manage that when the need arises. But time passed and the questions changed.
Being Brezhnev has an appeal, obviously: the same appeal the daily mail and UKIP have for those English folk seeking that land of lost content: the place where there is no crime, your wife does what she’s told and all of the faces are white. Hell, give everybody an assault rifle and you got yourself Tea Party heaven. But the problem with those notions is that no such place has, does, nor ever will, exist.
And, of course you have nationalism, that’s always handy, but it has a bad habit of turning into something violent and ugly, and these Russians have seen that stuff up close: they won a war against it a while back, well them or Tom Hanks, it’s easy to get mixed up, apparently.
So chto the fuck dyelat? Eh? Waddaya gonna do?
Well, you can always start by talking some stuff about stability (You can’t eat freedom etc) add in some of the old “Ringed by Enemies” routine: that’s been working since Ivan the Disagreeable was hitting family members with sticks, and you know you can always count on the Americans to come up with sinister accompanying music for that dance. Then flavour the resulting gruel with nostalgia for the greybeards and serve lukewarm with a glass of refreshing vodka: Yummy.
But on tasting you discover that there’s something missing, a lack of definition, no real substance, and, it turns out, little sustenance. You could try culture: those sneery brits may live on a little island that no one cares about, but half the young people on your Moscow’s streets seem to be wearing union jack t-shirts and your daughter keeps going on about clubs and gigs when she gets home from that expensive private school you sent her to in London, (it’s a good thing you don’t have to rely on your civil service salary). And those Americans have all those films you watch, dubbed into Russian at the Kinomegaplex near your Mercedes dealer’s office out in the west of Moscow. Maybe get some of that in: but my god have you seen what has happened to Russian popular culture? Best try some of the old stuff, we used to be good at all that. But it’s kinda hard work, and free time is so hard to find. What’s worse, culture is all mixed up with art and ideas and principles and all that mess: best not get too carried away with that Tolstoy centenary , if you’re not careful, people might start actually reading the mad old bastard*
Nah, culture won’t do it.
What about an open conversation in the society and media about the way forward for Russia, characterized by transparency and tolerance, like they do in those Germanic countries: they seem to work? Should we try that?
Ah, you’re so sweet sometimes, so charmingly naive, I could almost hug you, almost.
We could try sport; didn’t one of our footballers play for Manchester united once? And we have the leotard ice Olympics coming up, all that spandex and twirly ice dancing. Ahh, on second thoughts…
While you’re pondering all this, perplexed and irritated who should walk in but that burly guy with the long beard and the army of babushkas in tow? What’s he selling then?
God! Or God lite anyway, he’s willing to compromise on the rich people and camels business, and he’s all for rendering unto Caesar, which he tells you is the root of the word Tsar and that all seems a bit familiar. Hell, from what you can gather you won’t actually have to change your behavior at all: this is looking good. But what does he need to make it all work: ah, he has a list.
A fatalistic and morally rudderless population looking for a unifying theme?
Yup we got one of those, what else?
Rampant homophobia in need of a better excuse than unnaturalness (those penguins, ewww)?
A large and unnerving immigration of Muslims.
And finallysome flags and shiny stuff.
You got yourself a deal.
And so here we go. The enlightenment never happened, Darwin recanted on his deathbed, and those arguments you were idiot enough to have online in 2001 are happening all over again, but this time with real people rather than Americans.
I mean really? This is what we’re going with?
*” I sit on a man's back, choking him, and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by any means possible, except getting off his back.” Writings on Civil Disobedience and Nonviolence (1886)