Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Good Stuff V: Sports fans

If you’ve been following the blog lately, you might be shocked to see that I managed to come up with another item for “The Good Stuff” series. Well, sorry to disappoint you, Russophobic pigs! Seriously though, this is something that Russia deserves credit for. I am in this case speaking of the attitude towards sports and athletics in Russia.

Now yes, Russia has sport problems comparable to other European countries, such as football hooliganism, and sometimes people confuse their country for a sports team, but that’s a political matter. I want to posit that Russia has a much better attitude towards sports and physical activity than the United States, and to do so I must begin by saying what’s wrong with the attitude in the latter.

Though it is 2014, there is still a belief in America that to be a man is to love sports. Key word here is “love” sports, not “do” sports. It’s perfectly fine to be a gelatinous pile of adipose matter so long as you always catch “the game” and you’re able to rattle off statistics. If you can drop all kinds of historical facts about past presidential elections and Supreme Court decisions, that’s “useless knowledge” in America, while knowing how many yards so-and-so ran to win Super Bowl whatever-the-fuck, you are manly. I can’t claim to have done the research myself, but I’m pretty certain the ratio of die-hard sports guys to guys who actually play sports regularly is pretty imbalanced in favor of the former in the US.

No comment.

No comment.

Now anyone familiar with Russia knows that the “real man” bullshit in this country is just as intense if not more so than in the US.  That being said, it seems to me that a far greater percentage of people in Russia, including women, either regularly engage in some sport-like activity or have done so in their past.

More importantly, while Russia isn’t exactly the critical thinking capital of the world, I have to say that the anti-intellectualism associated with the US and especially its sport fans is non-existent. Russians value education. Perhaps they don’t respect a flabby nerd who has nothing but his intellect, but at least with most generations there doesn’t seem to be that idea that intelligence and strength must be mutually exclusive.

I can appreciate a culture which puts a high emphasis on sports and fitness, but more specifically actually doing sport of fitness activities as opposed to watching other people do them and constantly talking about it. Full point for Russia here.

Angry all the time

One reason I’ve been a bit pissed at Russians lately is their submissive attitude toward the government as of late. Now at this point some American Russophile beardo will triumphantly proclaim that according to polls, Putin is more popular than ever, and Russians are just standing up for their country. Well no, no they are not. See while Russians will publicly speak about supporting their president and the annexation of the Crimea, they quietly duck into Sberbank and exchange their rubles for dollars as much as they can. If they can afford it, they still pay lots of money to help their children study abroad. Rather than help out Crimea’s struggling tourist industry, they still take their vacations in Europe, the United States, or pretty much any place but Crimea. Young men beat their chest about saving “Novorossiya,” yet not only do they not pack up and join the fighting as some clearly have, but many of them go to great lengths to avoid service in the military.  In other words, public statements aren’t backed by actions.

Where it gets infuriating is that just a couple years ago, it was hard to find anyone who bought into the government’s patriotic bullshit. Contrary to the Western media’s coverage, few of these people would describe themselves as “liberals,” nor were they fans of Navalny. In fact even Navalny fans I’ve met don’t seem to trust him very much, and this is totally understandable. Getting back to the point, people were often very apathetic, but they were honest. They said what they believed.

A good example of the way Russians didn’t buy government bullshit was the Sochi Olympics. The insane price tag, which ended up costing around 51 billion dollars, started to become a topic of discussion around 2012, particularly since up to that point there had been stories about money disappearing with little to show for it. Naturally the government flogged Sochi nonetheless, but Russians didn’t buy into it. They talked about the costs, missing money, and most important of all, the myriad of more important things that money could have been spent on. Memes circled the Russian internet, displaying photos of kids in orphanages and homeless pensioners on the street with the caption “SPONSOR OF THE 2014 WINTER OLYMPICS.”  Whether it was conscripts suffering abuse and poor conditions, corruption in the police, or deteriorating roads, Russians were not afraid to voice their opinions and they didn’t buy into the regime’s bullshit propaganda or promises.

Then came the Crimea, and so many who were once either at the protests of 2011-2012 in body if not in spirit suddenly changed sides. Indeed, even several famous “opposition” figures sold out as well. In spite of the fact that Russians actually had more access to the Crimea before the peninsula’s annexation, in spite of the fact that this has essentially put a knife in the heart of the Russian economy, which was already facing serious problems before talk of sanctions was ever raised, and in spite of the fact that Russian citizens are being robbed of their pensions to pay for this shit, many people who once had no time for the government are suddenly standing up on their haunches and praising master. The only thing missing is their profuse apologies for not trusting in master’s wisdom. Again and again I keep instinctively going back to this dog-begging-for-scraps analogy, but it’s not even appropriate. This is as if the human actually took some of the dog’s food and left it a small piece of bone. Few Russians will be able to enjoy a vacation in the Crimea and that number will surely decline as the economy weakens.  And in spite of this, they’re thanking the government for it.

At this point I feel compelled to state the West’s role in this. The typical story is that by ganging up on Russia, it has unwittingly aided Putin by uniting people behind him. Granted both the EU and especially the US committed their share of boneheaded actions, particularly in regard to the Maidan movement, but I don’t think this excuses the slave-like behavior of people. Let’s be frank- Neither America nor NATO are responsible for Russia’s problems with corruption, alcoholism, ethnic hatred, prostitution, and the like.  When there’s yet another drunken domestic violence incident going on outside my block of flats at 2 in the morning, the alcohol wasn’t supplied by CIA agents. When some bureaucrat skims off money for himself from a project, there’s no Academi contractor holding a gun to his head and telling him to do it.

Yes, the destruction of socialism and the neo-liberal economics which followed in its wake were indeed the foundation of these horrible conditions, but many Eastern European and Former Soviet republics faced similar disasters, often with far less wealth than Russia, and yet today they do not suffer from the same problems, or at least they don’t suffer those problems to the same degree. Their presidents and prime ministers change as they are elected by the people.They sometimes have major parliamentary struggles because their political systems, as corrupt as they may be, are actually competitive.

Of course the response to this is that all those countries are somehow “ruled” by the US, and Russia will stand against them to the end. But stand for what? Russia’s ruling elite won’t be the ones to sacrifice. Russians love saying “we” this and “we” that, but everyone here knows that there is no “we.” The elite is angry that their ability to secret away their ill-gotten wealth in the West has now been severely diminished. It appears their response has been to take it out on ordinary people. When the bill is due, they are made to pay it. Of course eventually things will play out much like they did in 1991, but that’s when you’ll see many of these bureaucrats and politicians suddenly hopping on planes and “defecting” to various Western nations, telling every journalist they meet about how they were “dissidents” against Putin’s regime.  No doubt some will become demagogues and revive the chorus that Putin and his inner circle aren’t true patriots, nor are they truly the “strong hand” Russia needs. Should these patriots ever take power, rest assured they will take their place among the mansions of Rublevka and things will continue in much the same way as before, with perhaps a great deal of bloodshed in the process.

The most infuriating thing about listening to these fair-weather fans now is that whatever they say, you know that they don’t actually believe that. You know because if you had arrived here as recently as a year and a half ago, those same people would be telling you a completely different story. There is something quite sad about watching people who, while cynical or apathetic, were at least candid about their own thoughts. They wouldn’t ignore the problems they faced every day just because some jackass on the news points his finger toward the west and shouts “AMERICA!”  Maybe they weren’t keenly aware what was in their best interests, but they sure as hell knew what wasn’t. If someone told them that they should militarily annex the Crimea or Eastern Ukraine in 2012 those people would have laughed. They tell you that Russia would be better off fixing the roads in Siberia or just the goddamned postal system before trying to expand its territory.

Pity, those days are gone, at least for the time being. Everyone is concerned, everyone knows the truth, but they are afraid to say it aloud now that more and more people are readily labeled traitors and fifth columnists. Eventually sheer survival will force them to admit the truth, but that means the fall is going to be much longer and much harder.  Until then I can only hope they can maintain some semblance of order in this country until I can get the hell out of here. In any case, I can no longer respect people who so readily obey an authority which shows nothing but contempt for them.  If they had stood up to their own government, Euromaidan probably wouldn’t have happened the way it did, if at all. Russia would continue to attract investment and grow. People would gain real pride, not this phony, masturbatory jingoism that resembles sports fandom.  Unfortunately it seems that most of those people who got out in the streets and protested, as well as many of those who frequently voiced their dissatisfaction with the conditions in this country, didn’t really want to work for change. They were hoping for master to wake up and give them something for free, and when it appeared that he was going to do this, they started singing his praises.

People can stand up for a lot of idiotic causes. We have morons in America who will protest shit that isn’t even happening. But it is far better for people to be skeptical of authority and willingly to voice contrary opinions than for them to mistakenly believe that their leaders are on the same team.

"So the government said they'd build all these new hospitals but then the project went way over budget and only two- AMERICA!!!"

“So the government said they’d build all these new hospitals but then the project went way over budget and only two- AMERICA!!!”

EPILOGUE:  Cue rant from pro-Kremlin dickbags about how “Russia doesn’t care what anyone thinks”(that’s why it puts so much money into things like the Olympics, World Cup, and RT, right?), Russia is unique and has “it’s own way,” and all the other cliched bullshit phrases which characterize the contemporary “pro-Russian” masturbatory rant.

Greatest Whataboutist comment ever

So this American guy on the internet mentions that he had some problems clubbing in Moscow because of “face control.” It was obvious that he didn’t know what face control was, as in spite of its obviously English-inspired name, the term isn’t used in the West. Incidentally, I first learned what face control meant at Shooters in Kyiv. Strangely, they had no problem with my face the previous night.

Anyway, I explain what it means to the guy and suddenly this buttmad Russian pops up and says words to the effect of: “You mean there is no face control in the US? Guys and girls are allowed to go in any club they want?” It actually took me a few beats to realize that fuckhead was pulling a what about routine over “face control.”

Yes, this is “politically incorrect” Russia, where men are real men and where people don’t care what others think of them.

News Roundup

So our first story of the week is about an American prisoner in North Korea.  He’s been sentenced to six years for what seems like a bullshit charge of espionage, but I couldn’t help but notice that he says he’s in good health and works eight hours a day. Apparently he’s managed to achieve a standard of living many Americans would kill for these days.

Next we have a story about Turkish youth being attracted to ISIS.  Take a look at this quote, which could have come from any right-winger from Russia to Kansas:

“The children of that country see all this and become either murderers or delinquents or homosexuals or thieves,” she wrote.

Well obviously the solution to that is to murder people who don’t follow your wacky beliefs, preferably by beheading them! Thank Tayyip Erdogan and his AK Party for this bullshit.

And lastly, we have something Russia related. The Duma is discussing a bill which will make it possible to seize foreign owned assets in Russia. Congratulations, dipshits! You just discovered yet another way to speed up the already torrential flow of capital out of Russia, which will not be replaced by domestic capital because those who hold the purse strings are either too busy hoarding it, or trying to find new places to hide it. Of course the average dumbass on the street will still loudly proclaim that Russia doesn’t need foreign capital, quietly ducking into Sberbank to exchange another wad of rubles for US dollars just minutes later.  It must be liberating indeed when you don’t require any sort of consistency between your public proclamations and your actions.

Updates

Be advised that there probably won’t be any major updates for the next few days. While I’ve certainly got a ton of ideas, I don’t have much free time at the moment. The good news is one thing that will be occupying my time in the near future is the next episode of the podcast.

Anyway, I wanted to share this article from Cracked.com with the audience. There are many Americans who need to be forced at gunpoint to read this out loud, and then they should have to answer a set of reading comprehension questions on the topic.

The Russia Without BS media empire

Today I unveil the pilot episode of the Russian Tuesday podcast. This episode’s co-host is long-time American colleague “Stephen with a P,” who discusses topics such as bias, stereotypes, living as a foreigner in Russia, slacktivism, and horrible alcoholic beverages.

Russian Tuesday is more or less unscripted. There were some obvious problems with the audio on my end, but since recording and editing the episode I’ve managed to isolate electronic interference as the most likely culprit, and I’ve obtained good results since then just by unplugging my laptop when recording. I expect this should make the next episode’s discussion much clearer than this one.

Without further ado, here is the Youtube link. The “about” section contains a link to a very reliable Youtube to MP3 converter if you wish to download the episode.  Also feel free to suggest  topics or questions for future podcasts in the comments to this blog post.

War nerdery or The article where I criticize my own writing

I was just doing a little re-reading of some recent posts and in the process I realized something rather odd. Recently I posted this entry, on the subject of sex slavery and male prostitution among Russian army conscripts.  I chose the topic for several reasons, the main one being that it flies in the face of all those chicken little pundits who are constantly claiming that we’re on the verge of WWIII with Russia, as Russia is clearly not capable of waging such a war.

Abuse of conscripts, even if we exclude sexual exploitation, is still enough of a problem to severely hamper Russia militarily. Your signal soldiers, ADA(air defense), logistics, etc. cannot do their jobs properly when they have had barely any training and are being intimidated and abused by their higher ups. Of course even if we pretended the Russian military didn’t have problems with abuse of all sorts, there are still problems with its training nonetheless. Therefore it’s easy for a military history buff such as myself to get sidetracked into discussions about training deficiency, the short term of service, problems with conscription, et cetera, et cetera.

In the other article, I must admit I got sidetracked. I wrote about the vast difference between the US Army recruit and the training they receive versus that which a Russian conscript gets. In terms of military strategy and tactics, this is crucial since we live in an era when the average soldier must simply know more and be familiar with a wide variety of weapons and equipment, not to mention tactics. Gone are the days of the “grunt” who merely digs holes and shoots people. The infantryman must have enough knowledge to be able to act on his own initiative. And I’m sad to say, pro-Russia war nerds, but for all its many faults, the US military does a fine job of training its volunteers, and is currently light years ahead of Russia in this respects. But some where in that discussion about M203 grenade launchers and weapons qualifications, I lost sight of a very important factor, perhaps the most important factor.

Even if we ignore the superior weapons and infantry training given to all US Army recruits, by far the most important edge which the US military has as a whole over the Russian military is known in civilian terms as “not being forced into prostitution.” Sure, it is important that even in basic training recruits get to familiarize themselves with radios, anti-tank weapons, hand grenades, land navigation, and first aid, but not being brutally gang raped and pimped out is definitely, hands down, the best feature of the US military in terms of this comparison. That one factor easily makes all the other perks pale by comparison. I’m sure some Russian army survivors would agree, and they probably would have pointed that out were they able to read the blog entry in question.

Indeed, familiarization with weapons like the M203 grenade launcher is very important, from a tactical point of view. But what's far more important is what is NOT happening in this picture, i.e. nobody is being sexually abused and forced into prostitution.

Indeed, familiarization with weapons like the M203 grenade launcher is very important, from a tactical point of view. But what’s far more important is what is NOT happening in this picture, i.e. nobody is being sexually abused and forced into prostitution.

Indeed, war nerdery can make a person not see the forest through the trees. I got so wrapped up in jargon and nostalgia for the youthful adventure of basic training that I totally forgot about the real issue here, that being how much better it is when you’re not forced into sex slavery.  I apologize for this mix-up in priorities, and will  endeavor not to do so again in the future.  Yes, tactical training and equipment familiarization are crucial for soldiers in modern warfare. That being said, this is generally the case so long as you are not facing a realistic chance of being forced into prostitution. If there is such a probable scenario, then that is your main problem, and weapons qualification and familiarization must necessarily take a back seat.

Personally my military experience was far from stellar, and I often describe myself as a military historian who hates the military. That being said, I have to say that in spite of all the idiocy I saw in the US Army, they certainly kicked ass in the “not forcing people into sexual slavery” department. Passed with flying colors if you ask me. Not once did I see anyone even attempt to force someone into prostitution. I’m sure somebody in the past tried to do it, at least once, because there’s this specific law in UCMJ against “pandering,” basically trying to get someone into prostitution. But it seems to me that whatever measures they implemented to crack down on that were extremely effective, because I don’t remember seeing any pandering whatsoever. So now if people ask me for my best memories of being in the army, my new answer will be, “not being repeatedly beaten, robbed, exploited as slave labor, or forced into prostitution.” That was awesome.

Priorities, people.