One of the more interesting characteristics of Russian life is that, after some major public event, nobody ever knows what actually happened. This process always unfolds in a descending order of three: (1) the official version; (2) alternative conspiracy theories; (3) shrugging of shoulders followed by everlasting silence.
And all this time I thought we were living in the Information Age.
I understand the meaning of the word 'censorship.' I am perfectly aware that its repeated application in Russia represents an insult to the minds of its citizens and an ultimately futile attempt to control their thought processes. However, in this regard, the government has two powerful tools working in its favor: the size of the country and the poor infrastructure in the regions, which means that the only message that many of those distant people hear comes from First Channel or some other government-controlled source. I don't know for sure, but my guess is that such remote folk lack the more sophisticated information applications. And, apparently, most of them, beyond the usual grumbling about the price of eggs, aren't astute or inquiring enough to realize that they are getting a raw deal; otherwise, they wouldn't all be voting for the current President every time.
And this leads to the second 'tool': the people most easily manipulated in Russia are those who retain a subservient, peasant mentality, and those are precisely the ones that cast their votes en masse for powers that be. The recent revelations about Medvedev, trust me, won't cause a ripple. The government will bury the story under the heading of 'fake news'. The hapless natives of the one-factory cities where their fathers and grandfathers grew up, got drunk, aged prematurely, and died, leaving old babushka to sit on the stoop with the others — it would never occur to them to demand better things and explore alternatives. To change the world. They live as they lived a thousand years ago. This mentality, reinforced one way or the other by virtually every form of government Russia has ever had, results in a kind of terminal apathy and lassitude. And so they remain cowed and cowering.
Thus those better informed and desperately idealistic people in Moscow, for example, who go to the demonstrations and cry out something better, are ultimately undermined, not only by their own government but by their own fellow citizens who have been corn-fed and cornholed into accepting the very catechism that marks them as slaves. For me, as a foreigner who lives here under a kind of pink cloud (close to the people but not condemned to endure their problems if I don't want to, such as low pensions, getting sacked after ten years of diligent service, fighting for visas so that I can go and blow my money in European rip-off centers, etc.), these problems never rise above the level of argument and speculation. That is because I was spoiled rotten in America. If I want to go to Italy, I can. Screw the British Embassy. The same for the Italians. I can just fly in there, get off the plane and walk around any time and anywhere I want, and WHY? Because I am A-m-e-r-i-c-a-n. Sometimes, I really feel guilty about it. Very often I despise my built-in advantage because it says nothing about anything I have really accomplished, yet puts me in a more favorable position than that of my Russian friends and colleagues. Why do I deserve it? By a stroke of 'luck', I have access that my friends don't, and I cannot remember ever doing anything to deserve it.
And yet…and yet…part of my mentality is, if I don't like something, I rebel, I fight against anything I regard as oppressive or unfair. I probably annoy people because I am always harping on things, demanding explanations. I come from a land where, if the escalator in the metro stops working, people raise a stink if it is not fixed by the following morning. Here, the apparatus can sit still for a month or two, inconveniencing the hell out of everybody. And nobody lifts a finger.
Yet it would hardly be accurate to suggest that Russians are soft. Anything but. These are hard, durable people, as Napoleon and Hitler found out. The problem is that nowadays In Russia most of the fights happen in nightclubs. Russians possess enormous physical courage. How often in the metro I have seen guys of all ages whose noses at one point or the other, have been bashed in. Whether it is a halfway respectable business-looking guy or just some nobody, they almost always have been hit in the nose.
But this physical courage rarely seems to translate into political courage or the courage of which visions are made. People just shrug their shoulders. It doesn't matter who killed Nemtsov in the area of Moscow under the strictest surveillance; it doesn't matter who killed who that Russian crook in Ukraine a couple days ago, or why that corrupt businessman who had been close to Yeltsin supposedly hanged himself in London, or who shot down which plane over Ukraine or Turkey some months ago. It doesn't matter, it makes no difference because tomorrow people will just forget. The people here are too concerned with personal survival to worry about who killed who. And, unlike the West, where journalists pad and milk and sensationalize a story for weeks until something better comes along — in Russia, the story just dies. The government simply shitcans anything not favorable to core Russian values and the general 'serenity.'. To me, it smells like Orwell's 'Victory Gin", but here the people drink it. They seemingly don't know what else to do.
And, as we will see again in May, people here are told to remember and rejoice in a war that was over before most of them were even born –and this in honor of millions who died not knowing the outcome, and who therefore had no knowledge of any 'victory' to celebrate — the last thing they saw was some Kraut sticking a bayonet in their gut — Of course it is appropriate to honor those who gave their lives…but whatever happened to the freedom that those noble warriors died for? Why don't their descendants demand the freedom in their own lives that their grandfathers paid the price for ?. So….do I have this right? People here should honor those who fought for their deliverance, and meantime meekly accept the fact of a kind of quasi-slavery? Good formula?
Maybe, in some respects, it works for the better. Maybe it really is better for a whole population to be rooted to a common picture of righteous pseudo-reality and not be constantly disrupted and asked to questions of the universe. Indeed, most Russians appear to want it that way.? I mean, why keep feeding the frenzy over this or that terrorist attack, domestic murder or the rape of a child?. The truth is, nobody really cares. In the West, they all pretend to go crazy just to sell newspapers. In Russia, they pretend it never happened,
Meanwhile, everyone can have a good time inventing his own conspiracy theory. And if the Prime Minister of the country owns more yachts and country mansions than he should, well, hell, what can you do? He owns them, and that's all there is to it !. And, anyway, maybe the dissidents are not really dissident, maybe they are really The current President supporters who are accusing Medvedev just to draw attention away from their real clandestine enterprises and subterfuge, and besides, maybe if we got rid of this prime minister something worse would come along, and maybe Obama is to blame, and maybe tomorrow we will see our enemy's dead body floating down the river.
===Eric Richard Le Roy===
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