Thursday, March 26, 2009

Russian ants and American lady bugs

Michael Kuznetsov left a new comment in response to "Ethnic Nationalism leading to madness":

Lawrence,

You could have understood me, if you would comprehend quite a simple idea that we are different. Which fact I have been trying to explain to you. But you don't trust me.

We Russians are like bees or ants, while you Westerners are like ladybirds or cockchafers.

Now I know why you don't believe me.

Some years ago I myself could not understand the Westerners.
When for the first time -- some ten years ago -- I found in a Western publication an explanation of the Liberal Democratic ideas, I could not take them for serious. I could not realize that some people could have been thinking that bizarre (for us) way.

The ideas was similar to what you would always express in our discussions, namely:

"Liberal Democracy allows individuals to do whatever they like. It is a laissez faire free form society. People in Liberal Democracies enjoy freedom. They don't want a centralized government. They want the government to be as small and 'invisible' as possible."

For us Russians such ideas sound absolutely wild. The bees cannot survive without their hive.

I know that you would hardly believe me, similarly as I could not believe that Americans wanted their government to be as small as possible.

It took me quite a long spell of time to come -- at long last -- to a conclusion that Americans INDEED are different from us.
After having read a great lot of Western mass media articles, blogs, and various publications I did finally understand that your desire to be individuals separated from the others is not a bad joke.

I can speak English, while you cannot speak Russian. And this fact prevents you from finding publications in proof of my assertions. Because I am the only source for you who express the "hive" idea.
No wonder, you cannot trust in this sole source.
At the same time all the other thousands of sources in the Russian language remain inaccessible for you.
This given, I am afraid that you would hardly ever trust me.

Alas, it is not only your personal problem, but that of the West in general . . .

You ask if I am a fanatic.
Well, if you tend to call the ants and bees fanatics, then I am one, too.

Lawrence responds,

Michael,

First of all, I don’t believe we have any cockchafers over here. Those bugs are all over there where you live. Also, we Americans are very had workers which more accords with the ant; which you have appropriated to yourself. We work much harder than Europeans, for example. There have been studies about hours worked and production per person; so you must restrict the “lady bug” analogy to what Americans do in their spare time and in their thoughts.

The more meritocratic a society, and perhaps America is the most meritocratic, the more productive economically. We say the best workers will be paid the most. The worst workers will be laid off. In the Welfare states of Europe they take care of everyone; so the worst worker isn’t inspired to do better. Hence the relatively poor European showing in statistics that gage an individual worker’s productiveness. I thought that European nations weren’t going to be able to survive with their lackadaisical Socialistic treatment of “deadwood” (which is what we call unproductive workers), but they are managing – thanks to technology, no doubt. All nations can do more with less individual productiveness thanks to the machine.

Now, as to not reading Russian, that is true, but I do read translations. I often refer to Paul Goble who makes it his business to translate interesting Russian articles into English. I commented on one in the note prior to this one. Also, there are other sites that translate current writings into English. I’ve quoted recently from the “Russia in Global Affairs” site. Also, I subscribe to several publications that include articles (in English) written by Russians. Probably more documents are being translated into English (by the world at large) than into any other language. And while I read quite a lot, I cannot keep up with the present quantity; so I’ll just have to content myself with what I can know.

And once again, it isn’t a matter of not trusting you. I trust you, but if you say that you can read the minds of 141,000,000 Russians, I shall think you delusional. You may believe that you can, and if you say you can, I’ll believe that you think you can, but unless you are an alien with more capability than any human, you are not going to be able to do that. In many of the discussions I have been in over the years I have learned to be careful about saying America is this way or that, that Americans think this or that, because as soon as I do, someone is going to pop up and say they aren’t that way or they don’t think that way. Now if you at this point say, “ah ha, that is because you are all lady bugs. You pop up and disagree with each other, going different ways. But we Russians don’t pop up and disagree with each other.”

Well if you don’t disagree with each other, and the proof of this is in publications not translated into English, my first thought is that Stalinism was more effective than I would have thought, affecting those unto the third and the fourth generation. Then too, whenever I read a Russian novel (although I haven’t read one recently and probably not a modern Russian novel) they were filled with people disagreeing with each other. Dostoevsky is probably my favorite novelist and in his novels everyone seems to disagree with everyone else. It is human nature. We are individuals and do not easily submerge our egos for a “common good,” unless we are really ants. You didn’t mean that, did you? I just had an image of Jeff Goldblum from the movie The Fly flit before my eyes.

One of my favorite musical pieces is Modeste Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition – just the right music for a lady bug like me.

1 comment:

Michael Kuznetsov said...

Lawrence,

Well, in fact what I meant in my "hive" comment was NOT productivity, but RELATIONS between individuals.
----------------------------

You are a man of age, Lawrence, and you must have been some time in hospital, and perhaps you might have even undergone a major surgical operation.
Have you ever?
If so, could you provide me with a brief account of your time spent in a hospital, please?
The matter is that recently (in January) I spent more than a month's time in hospital after a heavy surgery, and I would like to compare my own experience with that of yours.
Agree?
Please, Lawrence!
It might be interesting to compare.
What I have in mind is not the details of the very surgery as such, but my relations with the people -- Russian people -- when in the hospital.
And it is your relations with the people in hospital, both the doctors, nurses, and other patients.
The latter is the most interesting point for me to compare.
You will see why.