Whataboutism is a lot like concept of hearsay in law. It has a basic definition, but there are a lot of exceptions. If you’ve been following the blog for the past few days, you’ve probably gathered that I’ve been exposed to a near-fatal dose of whataboutism lately, and it’s really got my blood up. Therefore I’d like to try to give an example of whataboutism that is somewhat legitimate, so long as it stays within reason.
I’ll come right out and say it- If you live in a country like the US and your politicians appear to be more concerned with the human rights of Russians or Ukrainians than your own people, you have every right to call them out on it. There are dozens of serious problems affecting the US right now, and had Obama and his administration focused on addressing any of them instead of supporting the EU’s machinations in Ukraine, tens of millions of people would be positively thrilled. It is entirely legitimate to question the wisdom of your government spending all kinds of money and time agonizing over a mess they helped start in Ukraine while simultaneously rejecting even the most modest spending in favor the American people. And personally if I didn’t actually live in Russia and still, for some unknown reason I’ve long since forgotten, care about the people here, you’d not likely hear any complaints from me about conditions in Russia.
That being said, I think with the advent of RT some people start with this kind of thinking and take it a step too far. It turns from a simple, legitimate complaint about your government focusing on the ills of some dictatorship on the other side of the world, to outright support for that dictatorship. If they’re mad at the US government over NSA spying or failure to do anything about police brutality, they watch RT and suddenly get it into their heads that Russia doesn’t have these problems. The American or British government supposedly violates the constitution, but they don’t like Russia so that means Russia must respect rule of law! In reality, you can take pretty much any social ill in the US and it’s ten times worse in Russia, and to be fair there are dozens of countries which have it ten times worse than Russia does. Basically if you want to know where Russia comes out on top when compared with the US, it’s in education and healthcare, though the latter is so underfunded as to negate any advantage. As it is, it remains an on-paper benefit. At least nobody goes $50,000 debt to get an undergraduate degree. The two categories where Russia really kicks America’s ass are paid vacation and paid maternity leave for a year and a half with a guarantee of returning to one’s job after three years of being away. Of course these are leftovers of the Soviet system which they haven’t found a way to eliminate yet, but give them time. In any case, the biggest fans of RT usually aren’t those who want programs like that in their country if you know what I mean.
What’s my position on the issue of governments spending all their time attacking other governments instead of handling the problems of their own societies? Well for me it’s a bit tricky because I don’t expect governments to solve the problems of ordinary people for the most part. On this blog, I talk about what the Russian government could have done or still could do to solve many of Russia’s problems. I sincerely believe they have or had the ability to do these things, but I don’t necessarily expect to see them done because I know the nature of states and I know that these solutions are antithetical to the desires of Russia’s ruling class. What I would say to Americans is this- By all means, go out and protest to your heart’s content. Make your demands, and if your leaders want to keep talking about Russia give them hell until they are forced to listen to you. And then when they don’t actually give in, come to me and I’ll tell you why that happened and what we need to do about it.
So yeah, I can understand why some people get incensed when their elected leaders spend so much time worrying about Ukraine, Syria, and Russia instead of their own constituencies. Just don’t go overboard. Your politicians lie to you and your ruling class screws you, but guess what- Russia has lying politicians too. It has a ruling class and the wealth inequality is far more staggering than that of the US, which has alarmingly high inequality for a developed nation. Russia is not your problem, but her government isn’t your buddy, either.