Thursday, February 11, 2016

Profit Produced Putin

At the top, let me say I reserve the right to disagree with my society, or my government, and also to share in my society’s guilt when we do wrong.

As I see it: If I live in the US, now waging two ongoing wars, then at the end of the day I might agree with having a death penalty. If I live in Canada, now in peacetime, then at the end of the day I might agree with not having a death penalty. In both cases, agree or disagree, I would know there were two worthy sides to that weighty issue.

It logically follows, then, being in agreement, that I wouldn’t, as a citizen, feel any need to wear “bad guy” clothes of matte black. But neither would I wear a good guy’s pure white wool: I would wear tired weathered grey. Because in this weary world, having seen many springs come and go, I can’t be as pure as Mary’s little lamb. And that is something I can live with.

Sometimes I think of how we created the rubble that Vladimir Putin arose in. You can’t blame him, as leader, for doing things like riding a horse or swimming across the Tiber. Or no, that was a Roman Emperor who swam—but they both do physical feats in public with their shirts off. And it works. In a non-democracy the followers daren’t be too smart.

And how smart are we? Did we really think that after the Berlin Wall came a-tumbling down Russia would transform into another virtuous Roman republic? One man knew better: Canada’s prime minister, Pierre Trudeau. He knew that people—not just as individuals but at the group level, the nation level—could learn: Trudeau repatriated Canada’s Constitution from London, despite people’s fears that we weren’t ready, as part of helping us to grow more responsible. And from his essays we know, too, that he trusted to Quebec to grow. But he didn’t agree with tossing Russia to the wolves with sink-or-swim capitalism. My God, what have we done?

Today Russia, while not a failed state, is not very cohesive either. The Russian people seem to require wars and annexations, and increasing oppression of gays, in order to function. They seem to have more mafia than any country except Italy—How much of that is our fault?

After Berlin, Trudeau pointed out—in vain—that Britain had kept up (communist-style) rationing for years after the war. To expect Britain, thought Trudeau, or a communist nation to bounce into capitalism overnight was madness. Trudeau was right, and the world bankers were wrong. Perhaps we were willfully blind. Perhaps, like the guys on Wall Street before the 2008 meltdown, we were too impatient for profits, and to hell with the chords of  “the better angels of our nature” of Russian society. I wonder how much Russians are now saying, “Every man for himself!” I do know Russians say, “When you move (between apartments) you move alone” meaning: friends don’t help friends move. Such is Russia.

After the World Bank’s shock therapy, Russia ended up with eight wealthy oligarchs. One of them was a former KGB officer, Vladimer Putin, and he came out not as an equal, but on top. Oppressing the other seven. “Money makes enemies,” they say, and the other seven, if not all of Russia, are Putin’s enemies. But I guess as long as he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’ll keep a lid on them all, and he’ll stay safe…

I try to watch the dominos falling without being bitter. The surplice over my armor is grey, but I know one nice thing about my fellows, even if, like Trudeau, I don’t always agree with the majority: Every one with any spirit wants to ride a white horse.

… …

Speaking of Russians moving between homes, you may recall that a future governor of California came from a country that was not communist, but not a part of NATO either: Austria. In his autobiography, Total Recall, Arnold Swartzenegger writes of being a young honest immigrant:

" It was a challenge moving to a country where everything looked different, and the language was different, and the culture was different, and people thought differently and did business differently. It was staggering how different everything was. But I had the big advantage over most newcomers: when you are part of an international sport, you’re never totally alone.

…The (body building) guys found me a little apartment, and as soon as I moved in, this friendliness turned into “We’ve got to help him.”…Another one unwraps a bundle and says, “My wife told me that these are plates I can take; they’re our old plates, so now you have five plates.” They were very careful to name things and give simple explanations…

I said to myself, “I never saw this in Germany or Austria. No one would even think of it.” I knew for a fact that, back home, if I’d seen somebody moving in next door, it wouldn’t have crossed my mind to assist them. I felt like an idiot. That day was a growing-up experience. "

Sean Crawford

~The sad Russian folk saying was explained to an American volunteer who was trying to compose literature for the Russian Alcoholics Anonymous.

~Russia’s getting worse. Note paragraph four in this link to yesterday’s The New Yorker. Russia just razed its small businesses and became even blander. “Razed” is meant literally.

~ “…increasing oppression of gays…” I’ve just learned from British writer Den Patrick’s blog that Russia is denying drivers licenses to gay and trans people. I guess (sarcasm) what’s next is gays will be declared “capitalist-roaders” or “reactionaries.”

~This essay began with my Free Fall Fridays prompt of “money makes enemies” 

~Total Recall subtitled My unbelievably true life story, Simon and Schuster, 2012, pages 82-83, hardcover.

~ “The Governator” has written five other books.

~As an entertainment reporter for the student newspaper, one morning I saw a pre-release screening, for critics and theatre managers, of The Terminator. Afterwards, a manager asked me what I was going to write. I explained why society fears Jack the Ripper more than Jesse James, and my words ended up on the marquee: “Without conscience or pity.”

After the screening, I have a fond memory of visiting the downtown Calgary police headquarters and telling the desk sergeant his fellow constables would be talking enthusiastically about the movie. But this was only after I walked up to the desk and got him to explain to me, point by point, how it would work to drive a car smashing into headquarters to free a prisoner, while killing all the cops. 

No comments:

Post a Comment