Monday, September 01, 2008

No, It Really Is Your Fault

There is an old saying: every people end up with the leader they deserve. In Russian, it is the basis for a moderately clever wordplay, making the point that every people get buggered by their leader.

As the West's prime ideologue for the New Cold War, Edward Lucas is the natural pointman for Europe's backlash over the Georgia war. On his blog this weekend is a ready reckoner for the powers-that-be to express their disapproval. I draw your attention to point six:
Stop talking about "Russia" (except where journalistic convention demands it). These guys aren't Russia. They are criminal gang of bullies, crooks and murderers who have hijacked Russia.
This is a widely held opinion. It is also absolutely, inexcusably wrong. This assertion is so wrong, in fact, that it is past misguided - it is actively harmful.

I've said this before: the Russian mentality does not include a sense of immediate responsibility. The Western model of society is founded on the concept of citizens delegating their power to representatives; there is an implied obligation by the citizen to watch whom he hands over his power to. This is a very basic idea, and the entire philosophy of democracy and civil liberty is no more than guidelines to applying it in typical situations. And yes, this idea is applicable to Russia, because it is a country with a strong and proud revolutionary history. Russians have proven that when they are propery unhappy with their rulers, the rulers are going down.

Many Russians feel uncomfortable with the actions of their state, and they excuse themselves by imploring others not to equate the Russian people with the Russian government. I am disappointed in Edward Lucas for perpetuating this intellectual farce. They would have us believe that all the evil and injustice of Russia is down to the Chekists, or the Bolsheviks, or the Jews. But the bastards are only in the Kremlin because the common Russian people put them there. Every bullet through the brain of a journalist, every conscript beaten into a bloody pulp by his sergeant, every mortar round fired at a North Caucasus village, is the responsibility of every single Russian who did not march on Red Square and stay there until the thugs were hauled out of the government offices by the scruffs of their necks.

Only when individual Russians learn to take personal responsibility for actions taken on their behalf will Russia be a country that can be approached with Western terms.

10 comments:

Parruda said...

I have to agree with you.
But coming from an banana republic, I know the feeling of the Russians...
Even if or when you make parades in front of the main square, most probably you are being operated by some media group...

Giustino said...

Is it still called Red Square? Really?

Flasher T said...

Of course. It was always called that. It's actually a mistranslation, the word comes from the old Slavic word for "beautiful".

Pēteris Cedriņš said...

Though I do wish Russians would take more responsibility and realize that many Russians enjoy blaming everybody but themselves (you left out the Latvian bayonets that went with the Jewish brains in imposing Bolshevism!), I can't really agree with what you are saying when it's applied to history.

"But the bastards are only in the Kremlin because the common Russian people put them there." That certainly doesn't apply to the Bolsheviks, for example. Except in a few small areas (like Southern Livland, ahem), the common people didn't put the Reds in power. There was a civil war, and the Reds won through terror. Terror can be, and often is, remarkably effective -- and leaves a hangover.

"Russians have proven that when they are proper[l]y unhappy with their rulers, the rulers are going down." But that's obviously not true, unless one claims that people were happy under Stalin until his death or that they weren't unhappy enough in 1905.

Russia has had almost no experience of delegating power to representatives in an effective or meaningful way. The same can be said of its former vassals -- but democracy failed in the three Baltic states between the wars also (and is not functioning especially well in Latvia and Lithuania now, though we're light years ahead of Russia). Finland, which was able to develop a civil society after its civil war, does have a tradition of representation. Today's Estonia is an exception. Looking at Ukraine, despite the effort of the people staying in the square until the thugs were hauled off, is not exactly inspiring... and a similar effort in the square in Minsk didn't come off.

Latvia threw a little "Umbrella Revolution" last year -- with what result? I certainly agree that we should take responsibility, but the majority here is cynical, apathetic and/or politically nihilistic, too. Many if not most Russians see democracy as a farce. That's not a sentiment that comes out of the blue -- it reflects both recent and ingrained experience.

"There never was a revolution..."

Flasher T said...

"the common people didn't put the Reds in power"

This is symptomatic; one would almost think the Reds were dropped in by Martians.

"unless one claims that people were happy under Stalin until his death"

A very large percentage of peasants and unskilled labourers were - just like the majority of the Russian people are happy under Putin now. This is my point: Russians do actually support bastards who act against the people's best interests.

"Many if not most Russians see democracy as a farce. That's not a sentiment that comes out of the blue -- it reflects both recent and ingrained experience."

I don't disagree. As I was saying, Russians should take more responsibility for their country - but don't.

stockholm slender said...

Well, I wonder if it is really that clear cut - with this history of continuous state terror, is it such a wonder that the people tend to be timid and cautious and thus the power is fairly easily scooped up by the most unscrupulous and morally corrupt? Would you have said that the ordinary Russians "put" Lenin and Stalin into power? Or the czars? Yes, more civic responsibility would be in order but these things take time and in the meanwhile we do have a self-appointed ruthless, corrupt and primitive clique in power in the Kremlin. That is a bit of a problem, surely.

Flasher T said...

"Would you have said that the ordinary Russians "put" Lenin and Stalin into power?"

Yes.

We can treat the symptoms, but Russia will continue to have self-appointed, corrupt and primitive cliques in power until the Russian people start taking responsibility. Nobody else can do it for them.

stockholm slender said...

It is bit hard when you have to start from the scratch - you have to build structures and institutions, these things don't happen overnight. I'm not sure that it would be fruitful for example to blame the the body of the individual Afghan citizens for not having a democracy - or by implication to applaud the Swiss that they do. Causes and concequences are often hard to separate, but I would say that the present mindset of the majority of Russians is more a concequence than cause of the continuing undemocratic and unfree nature of the society.

Flasher T said...

It's harder when you don't start at all.

It might be a consequence, but that doesn't preclude it from perpetuating the mindfuck. The vicious circle must be broken, and no benevolent dictator can do it for them.

nipi said...

And btw, communist revolution was provided with german/jewish funding? Not sure that even this change of power was done by ordinary russians?

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