Tag Archives: America

The Good Stuff VI: Not getting shot

First of all no, I didn’t watch Putin’s speech. The only thing surprising about it was that he apparently didn’t mention Ukraine at all. Other than that it’s the same old bullshit he’s been saying for years now. “Blah blah sovereignty…blah blah…chaos…blah blah there have been some difficulties but things will get better for reasons I won’t go into…blah blah <random idiotic statement>” There, I just saved you the trouble by summing it up for you.

Now on to the good stuff. What’s that you say? I’m still writing the Good Stuff series after everything that’s happened in the last two years? Well yes I am. So long as there is something positive to find here, I’ll acknowledge it, and after last night I’m about to do a lot of acknowledging.

If I haven’t written about it here before, one quandary my wife and I have about moving back to the States is that it’s the easiest place for us to move to, yet it is a very unappealing option, at least for the time being. The ideal choice since we started contemplating leaving Russia has always been some third country, probably in Europe. Part of that is due to career considerations, culture, interests, hobbies, and oh yeah, not wanting to get shot.

It’s not just about getting shot. People in Syria and Ukraine are getting shot at all the time. There’s just something extra infuriating about living in one of the world’s leading economies, once the country with the highest standards of living in the entire world, and then getting unexpectedly gunned down by some “gentle loner” who was upset about abortion. Or maybe it’s a young man who’s upset that girls won’t have sex with him. Or maybe it’s a little terrorist who blames black people for the failures in his life. Maybe it’s a group of terrorists who shot members of Black Lives Matter, but according to their lawyer are “white supremacists,” not racists. Yeah. Or maybe some idiot mother owned numerous assault weapons (Yes, they are assault weapons) and let her fuck-up of a son get to them so he could go murder children. Or maybe It’s just some whackjob who somehow managed to get ahold of an assault weapon and ammunition with no trouble whatsoever, all so he could go and murder people trying to watch a shitty Batman movie.

And then, of course, we had yesterday’s shooting in California, a shooting that occurred even before some of the victims from the last shooting spree, the one in Colorado, were buried. Think about that for a second. But hey, so far I’ve read that at least one of the shooters may be non-white and Muslim, so at least this crime will get labeled terrorism.

These things are becoming so repetitive that I worry I’m becoming repetitive as well. I’ve seen other writers and commentators compare it to a sort of after-shooting ritual where we go through the motions. Hoping that I’m not repeating myself here, I’d like to share an anecdote that really underscores what I’m talking about when I say I’d rather not move back to the States.

A few days after the Aurora shooting, I went to the cinema. We’re sitting in the middle row and as the lights dim I suddenly come to a realization. I could go to cinemas in this country every goddamned day and never have to even consider the possibility that some jackass will come in and start pumping rifle rounds into somebody. Yeah, there was Nord-Ost, but that was a terrorist attack. Those people had to plan and finance their vile mission. The Sandy Hook shooter just had to take his mom’s guns.

This sense of security has always been with me here, no matter how bad things get. I go to shopping malls, events, public squares, crowded metro stations, and the last thing I’m thinking about is “Maybe someone will start shooting as many people as he can see.” Yes, we still have the threat of terrorism, but I’ve got to hand it to those FSB guys- they’ve been doing a pretty good job, at least in Russian territory. Better than the French or Belgian authorities, that’s for sure. Then again, if they do slip up, the last hostage crisis you want to be in is one where your rescuers are Russian counter-terrorism teams. After Beslan I wouldn’t be surprised if the next “rescue” operation involves leveling the building with a Buratino.

Again, though, that’s terrorism. It’s rare in most of the developed world. Yet in nearly ten years in Russia I’ve never heard a single real gunshot, unlike in my old neighborhood back home. The closest it gets are blanks in historical reenactments. The only time I was anywhere near a crazed Russian maniac wielding an assault rifle was when I was in Avdiivka. And speaking of Avdiivka, prior to that the only shots I’d heard fired in anger were back home, and that just a few days before I left the States, ostensibly for good. Think about that. To hear more people shooting at each other I had to go to the front line of a war zone. There is something very wrong with that.

Yes, there is violence in Russia. Yes the homicide rate is higher than in the States, though there are a number of factors which skew that and others which must be taken into consideration. At the same time, most developed nations with sensible gun control laws have homicide rates that are far lower, ridiculously lower than the American rate. No, the “criminals” don’t get guns anyway. These countries just have flat out lower gun crime, in some cases nearly non-existent gun crime, and yet somehow don’t turn into dictatorial tyrannies either. Imagine that.

I’ve never faced real violence in Russia but I feel a lot better about the fact that here, I feel like I’d at least have a fighting chance. If not that, like in a situation where the person is armed with a knife, there’s always this very effective knife defense known as running away. Try outrunning a bullet.

I’m perfectly fine with people having reasonable access to guns, including semi-automatic models, but there needs to be rigorous regulations and restrictions to make sure they are only in responsible, competent hands. Plenty of people have pointed out that it is more difficult to get a drivers license in the US than a gun. Let’s start there. Demonstrate competence in storing, using, and maintaining firearms, and obtain a license after a thorough background check. It’s not perfect but it’s a start. In the military you have shit tons of firearms and ammunition on post, yet access is restricted and everyone is trained and qualified. And guest what- army posts and Marine bases aren’t having shoot outs every few days or so. In fact, they’re actually somewhat rare. Could that have something to do with the fact that firearms ownership is restricted on military bases?

Sometimes I ask myself why bother even talking about this. Just as readily as I can provoke whatabouts from Kremlin supporters, all I have to do is say “Maybe we should think about doing something about guns…” and the tsunami of stupid crashes over me. “MUH RIGHTS! CAWNSTITUSHUN! IF ONLY THEY’D HAD A GUN AT THAT SCHOOL! <RANDOM BUMPER STICKER QUOTE>!”

Yes, yes. You’re right. If you restrict gun sales or ownership in any way, shape, or form, the US will become a dystopian tyranny, a la the UK, Germany, Australia, Norway, Japan, Canada, etc. Yeah I know, if only those Jews had guns there’d be no Holocaust. That’s why Germany goosestepped all over Europe until 1943- nobody had ever thought of opposing them with guns. Yeah I know, if you had been there with your concealed carry Glock, you would have stopped the Aurora shooter, the Sandy Hook shooter, the Columbine Killers…just pick one. Yeah, good luck with that.

So yeah. I’m pretty much done. Barring someone giving me a shit-ton of money so I can travel outside the US frequently, I’d really rather move to just about any country between Russia and my bullet-riddled former home.

Point for Russia here, folks.

 

UPDATE: Earlier in this article I used a link which claimed there have been more mass shootings than days in 2015. This link, however, disputes that. While I would dispute some of their own claims, they raise enough solid points to show that the definition of “mass shootings” picked up by some media is ridiculously vague. In spite of that, other firearms homicides, accidents, and attempted mass shootings are still a serious problem.

Show your work

A while back I published an article about “expat privilege.” While I didn’t dig into it so much in that article, one of the greatest privileges an expat has, though one that is somewhat invisible, is the ability to basically ignore a lot of annoying shit. What do I mean? Are you reading this in the US? What’s dominating your news cycle? What can’t you stop hearing about, and won’t stop hearing about until next November? Yup, election coverage, and even worse- the Republican primaries.

Yes, obviously I get a lot of news from the US, via Twitter and Facebook. But what I’m getting is nothing like what you’re probably experiencing in the States. I’m dancing around a lawn sprinkler while you get blasted with a fire hose. Now keeping in mind that I am mercifully spared from feeling the full force of the GOP primary shit-circus, you can forgive me for not being 100% on the ball when it comes to the issues being discussed. So is it just me or does it seem like 90% of the Republican contest seems to revolve around who can be the biggest dick to immigrants, illegal or otherwise? I mean it really does seem as though the Republicans, having lost on gay marriage and going to war at the drop of a hat, have decided to shuffle off every single issue under the sun except immigration. Oh…And Muslims of course. I mean look at this shit:

How could anyone watch that exchange and not demand a coast-to-coast minute of silence, not out of mourning but pure shame?

I don’t want to digress to the topic of Muslims in America, but on that topic I’ll say this: If you think there are Muslim terrorist training camps in America, you pay my airfare and expenses, plus a modest fee, and we’ll go to one of these camps. That’s right. You say they exist, and they’ve obviously got you scared shitless, so being the hardcore badass that I am, I’ll personally escort you, unarmed, to these locations so you can rest assured that ISIS is not building a secret army in America. Call me the James Randi of political bullshit in that case.

Let me get back to this immigrant thing, though. When it comes to anti-immigrant rhetoric I’ve heard it all. Hell, I’m by no means innocent of subscribing to that bullshit myself. But there’s something I just don’t understand.

You see, there’s plenty of research disproving common claims such as how illegal immigrants steal jobs or how they’re committing more crimes or that they’re some how sucking the country’s coffers dry. The evidence against these claims is pretty much overwhelming, to the point where the only way one can continue to object to it is by alleging a massive conspiracy to falsify all of it. But let’s just ignore all that for a moment.

Even if you ignore all that evidence and believe some or all of the illegal immigration rhetoric, is there no point at which you start asking yourself what precisely these immigrants are doing to you? Let me rephrase that. Say you’re an employed, middle class white person, possibly a homeowner. Do you ever start to wonder about the ways, if any, your life is affected by these immigrants, legal or otherwise?

Obviously the first arguments such people would bring up would be stealing jobs, but even if that were true, their job clearly wasn’t stolen. I’ve never met someone who admitted they’d lost their job to an illegal immigrant. I’m not saying it’s never happened, but as comedian Doug Stanhope once pointed out in a routine- you’ve got to be pretty unqualified to be replaced by an illegal immigrant in any job that isn’t ditch digging.

With job stealing out of the way, that will leave the alleged tax burden. Okay then, get out your tax info and a calculator and show me how much money you personally are losing out on thanks to illegal immigrants. Oh, you don’t know? Well do some research then. Typically those programs which are available to illegal immigrants are also available to the US population as well, so it’s not like the illegal immigrants are getting some kind of benefit set aside for them.

Even if you start talking about things like crime, aside from the fact that both legal and illegal immigrants offend on a far lower rate than that of the native population, you have to concede that a crime committed by an immigrant is not somehow worse than one committed by a citizen. Assault, rape, and murder are just as bad regardless of who commits them, and we also know that these crimes all tend to take place among people who know each other.

So the point here is that while the topic of immigrants always seems to rapidly rile people up, it’s really kind of abstract. I mean if you’re going to get extremely angry about something, you should be able to actually explain how this thing is affecting you. It doesn’t necessarily need to be blatantly obvious too. Whenever you hear politicians wringing their hands and telling you “there’s just not enough money,” you can always cast an eye towards the Pentagon and find millions, if not billions of dollars that are being pissed away.

I’ve talked in the past before about how some Americans just seem to be perpetually angry, often about stuff that isn’t even happening. They never seem to be relieved when you tell them the thing they’re constantly angry about isn’t really a thing at all. But fine, if you want to be angry, shouldn’t you at least be able to explain why?

Think of all the people killed or maimed in car accidents in America. The second most common cause of accidents is excessive speed, number three is drunk driving. Incidentally number one is “distracted driving,” but that’s rather vague so I’ll stick with two and three. Why don’t you see more people screaming about speeding and demanding more speed cameras? There’s a case where it’s laughably easy to explain why you’re upset about speeding- they cause accidents, including fatal ones. Drunk driving is even worse, though it isn’t as common a cause as speeding. Yet where is the politician talking about this issue?

The thing that really worries me about this decline in critical thinking and political discourse is that I fear the rise of a sort of vatnik mentality in the US. While the vatnik is content to live in shit so long as he is able to believe that Americans and other Westerners fear his country, I think we have all seen plenty of signs that there is a rising category of Americans who are happy to vote for politicians that continually decrease American living standards, all out of fear that somewhere, somehow, there’s a foreigner who overstayed his visa and who is living it up on government money. They’re wholly unconcerned as to whether this person even exists. The very idea is enough for them to slavishly follow anyone who talks about what he’ll supposedly do about this non-existent state of affairs.

America’s institutions and law will, at least for the foreseeable future, prevent the country from turning into something like Putin’s Russia. But only a fool would think these things can last forever without the vigilance and responsibility of the public. With the right conditions, a growing number of Americans can be duped into demanding the destruction of those laws and institutions. If they protect illegal immigrants, “terrorists,” “criminals,” or unwed mothers, their may be calls for their appeal, or at least wink-wink agreements between public officials and law enforcement to simply ignore such rules.

America’s position in the world in terms of development and freedom is by no means enshrined in stone. So chuckle at Trump and his fanboys at your own risk.

A 4th of July Message

Here at Russia Without BS, we wish you a happy American Independence Day, and hope that you have lots of safe fun on this holiday weekend. We know Russian patriots like Vladimir Zhirinovsky and possibly Sergei Markov sure did.

Yeah, he does this. I bet his pockets are stuffed with hot dogs too.

Yeah, he does this. I bet his pockets are stuffed with hot dogs too.

But there’s one very serious thing everyone needs to remember this 4th of July, and that is the plague on our great nation that is the state of Missouri. On the eve of the American Civil War, US Army Captain Nathaniel Lyon had no illusions about Missouri. When faced with Missouri state officials who had sympathy toward the Confederacy, Lyon famously responded to their objections and obstinacy with these immortal words:

“Rather than concede to the state of Missouri….the right to dictate to my government in any matter however unimportant, I would see you, and you, and you, and you, and you, and every man, woman, and child in the state dead and buried. This means war.”

With those hallowed words, Captain Lyon redefined what it means to be American- hating the state of Missouri. Yet in the decades since then, many of our fellow Americans have become complacent, and have thus allowed Missouri to continue its existence, thus tarnishing our country’s reputation at home and abroad.

Will this be another generation that idly stands by and lets the state of Missouri drag our great nation down into the abyss? Or will we stand up as one and make Captain Lyon’s dying wish a reality? It’s not too late. If we act now, we can stop the state of Missouri for good as early as 2020, according to the latest estimates.

Don’t stand by and let evil triumph. Don’t remain silent. Take a stand against the state of Missouri while there’s still time!

The End

Hey remember how the reason why America’s supposedly trying to crush Russia is to get its sweet, sweet resources? Yeah well…No. The prophesy has been fulfilled- The US has overtaken Russia not only in oil production, but gas production as well.

“U.S. oil production rose to a record last year, gaining 1.6 million barrels a day, according to BP Plc’s Statistical Review of World Energy released on Wednesday. Gas output also climbed, putting America ahead of Russia as a producer of the hydrocarbons combined.”

Go ahead and draw your cartoons with the Russian bear hording his oil and telling Obama off. Go ahead and make jokes about Ukraine’s problems with natural gas. Laugh while you can, because all you unprincipled, submissive, hypocritical “patriots” are basically screwed. The Dear Leader had 15 years to use Russia’s natural resource wealth to diversify the economy and improve infrastructure. Instead the chose to hoard Western luxuries, build palaces, and piss away the rest on boondoggle prestige projects or unrealistic military adventures. Now those triple-digit oil prices are gone and they’re not coming back. All the US has to do now is run out the clock.

Oh yeah, you’re going to team up with China right? Wrong.

“The other major shift BP’s report shows is China’s energy demand growing at the slowest pace since the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s as the economy slows and the country tries to reduce its reliance on heavy industry.

“Growth in some of China’s most energy-intensive sectors, such as steel, iron and cement — which had thrived during China’s rapid industrialization — virtually collapsed in 2014,” said Dale, a former Bank of England chief economist who joined BP last year.”

But don’t worry about China. They’ll pull through. They’ve got this new neo-colony they’ve managed to subdue via loans with strings attached. Among other measures. Oh wait. That’s you. Did you seriously think all this “bear and dragon” nonsense was really going to play out? Don’t you realize how much of China’s economic growth is fueled and dependent on the West, specifically the United States? China lives in the real world, not the fantasy land of “geopolitics.”

Is this unfair? Is this proof of an American conspiracy to subdue Russia? Well excuse me but what should the US do? Should they give Putin and his cronies another 15 years to moderate their kleptomania enough so as to facilitate a more dynamic, diversified economy? American presidents have been promising independence from foreign oil for decades, and now that promise has finally been fulfilled.

Don’t get me wrong, this post isn’t gloating. It’s not about “Ha ha! Russia lost!” I’m the last person to be opposed to the idea of competing against the US on a global scale- but Russia simply isn’t the alternative. It’s like this guy who wants to be a boxer but never trains and eats whatever he wants. Then he gets hammered in the ring every time and I’m supposed to root for him and hate his opponents, those disciplined guys who actually trained? Sorry but no.

In 2014 a lot of people in this country suddenly changed their tune out of fear, perceived necessity, or delusions based on propaganda. I suggest that those people had better wake up and take a whiff of reality real soon. You’re going to need to know what to do when Putin finally runs this country into the ground.

WTF America?!

Well lucky me, I’ve got another post I was compelled to write which I can cite the next time a vatnik or an American vatnik wannabe leaves a comment asking: “WHY DON’T YOU WRITE ANYTHING ABOUT THE WEST?!” Prepare yourself to watch the most shameful video in recent American history.

Did you catch that tactical roll? Look at this shit:

DO A BARREL ROLL!

DO A BARREL ROLL!

That there is a grown man, an experienced law enforcement officer, acting like he’s in a John Woo film at a pool party for teenagers. How did this “man” ever manage to make it through police academy? I’ve said it plenty of times- police recruitment and selection needs to be a lot harder in order to weed out fantasizers and adult children like this. This isn’t something you can skimp on.

Of course, as with every incident like this, it just gets worse and worse. At least in this case nobody was killed or seriously injured, but as always, white America comes to the cop’s rescue. “They should have done what they’re told. Cops have a tough job. Where are the parents? I crush caterpillar skulls between two plush bears while a kazoo band plays Billy Joel’s greatest hits. Durp da derp de durpity do.” If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it all.

As if that weren’t enough, on my own I’ve found that we’ve actually reached Russia-level bullshit on this, complete with a fake claim from a “resident in the neighborhood” on par with something you’d expect out of St. Petersburg’s troll factory. Check it out:

“Yes, hello, is this bullshit? I just thought I’d give you a call…”

Note that it had 333 likes at that moment. I wasn’t surprised at all. As soon as this story broke, hundreds of thousands if not millions of people had already made up their mind that the cops were right, and the teenagers were wrong. At least 333 of them saw this bullshit comment, composed of all the right stereotypes, and gave their sign of approval in exchange for having their prejudices confirmed.

Here’s what the host of the party had to say about the events:

And then you have the guy who shot the video.

I realize they’re young, but we have a pretty lengthy video and I’m more inclined to believe them over an anonymous “resident of the neighborhood’s” statement posted by someone on Facebook.

I’ve said before that for my wife and I living indefinitely in Russia just isn’t an option (nor would I want to, at this point), but the US is far from my first choice and this is one of the reasons for that. It’s not just that we let adult boys become cops so they can live out their fantasies of heroics while wielding firearms. It’s the constant, vatnik-like support of the police, which now apparently includes making shit up to justify their actions.

It is a goddamned miracle that nobody got shot by this lunatic with a badge. Get your shit together, America, before the red, white, and blue starts looking more like the white, blue, and red.

RT was right. We are doomed. We are just puppet!

I know on 4 May I said that would be my last post before going to Ukraine, but now, even as I prepare to go to the airport, I cannot help but share the pain I have experienced. Look at this painting. LOOK AT IT!

Do not look away! Acknowledge it. Accept it. Despair!

Do not look away! Acknowledge it. Accept it. Despair!

That’s it, folks. That’s what’s happened to my country while I was away. I almost feel personally responsible. RT was right. Igor Panarin was right Max Kaiser was…Well Kaiser is never right BUT the point is all those other guys who said America has lost its way and is on the point of collapse are right.

For God’s sake would you just look at that? It’s all there. Everything. It doesn’t even make sense. I mean it defies logic as the bizarre geometry of Cthulu’s dead city of R’lyeh seems to defy the laws of physics. Attempting to contemplate either is to flirt with insanity. There are the cars, endlessly going around the track “real fast!” There are fighter jets, signifying the audience’s childlike fascination with the military, raw power, and authority. There are fireworks, signifying their love of bright lights and loud noises. There’s a blimp, signifying the unhealthy American diet so full of either added sugar or high fructose corn syrup in almost every single product. There are planes towing signs, whose brief messages signify the audience’s low level of literacy. Sure, a purist could find faults. We don’t see anyone carrying a Bible, nor do we see any pregnant teenagers or firearms. Obviously we can’t hear the playlist of country music and Nickelback blaring out of the PA system. But in spite of those omissions, all the essentials are here. What is left unseen is clearly implied.

Yet I struggle with the logic or lack thereof. If the fighter planes are flying over now, how will the audience focus on the cars goin’ real fast? The fireworks add even more distractions. Also isn’t the airspace over this stadium a little cluttered? You know what? It doesn’t matter. None of this matters. Nothing matters.

How did we let this happen? I feel like Charlton Heston seeing the remains of the Statue of Liberty at the end of Planet of the Apes(SPOILERS!). You know what it was? I’ll tell you what it was- hubris. That’s how it happens. You’re at the top for decades and you get lazy. You let your guard down. Then something like this appears, and it’s too late to do anything about it. Perhaps we had it coming.

Vat or Not?

Recently I was reading some feedback on my article about vatnost (Russia! is going through a site overhaul so here’s the cached link), and I noticed a curious misunderstanding some Westerners have when it comes to the concept of vatniks and vatnost. To some, it seems that vatniks are just the Russian equivalent to, for example, American conservatives. One reader made a direct link between vatniks and the Tea Party movement, for example. To be sure, I myself have made such comparisons in the past, but I would never imply that they are identical.

Still, there is a valid question which arises any time we speak of vatniks or the mentality of vatnost. Are vatniks and vatnost actually unique to Russia? In fact we could ask a number of more specific questions, for example: Is there such a thing as a Ukrainian vatnik, and if so how do they influence the relationship between Russia and Ukraine? These are all perfectly good questions that deserve concrete answers. Here at the Dmitry Kiselyov Institute of Vatnik and Vatnost Studies (Институт Исследования Ватников и Ватности имени Д.К. Киселева, ИИВВДК) we endeavor to provide those answers using the most rigorous scholarly methods.

Pictured here: An actual vatnik, donated by the Institute from its own collection.

Pictured here: An actual vatnik, donated by the Institute from its own collection.

Is there such a thing as a Ukrainian vatnik? Yes! Meet the Vishivatnik.

The term Vishivatnik refers to the vishivanka (spelling varies), which is the term for embroidered shirts and blouses that are traditional clothing from Ukraine. Now some might dismiss the vishivatnik as a tit-for-tat meme cooked up by pro-Russian trolls; while such a meme exists, the real vishivatnik appears to have been created by the same people who popularized the vatnik meme, meaning Russians (and possibly Ukrainians) who are most of all opposed to Putin and his system. I strongly suspect that there is Ukrainian involvement in the creation of the vishivatnik, and that he may be a creation of Ukrainians who are pro-Maidan but openly concerned about some of its more negative elements.

Ukrainian vishivatnik argues with traditional Russian vatnik. Each speaks his respective language, but their words are essentially the same- they each blame one another for  their respective countries' woes, and they are raging xenophobes and homophobes.

Ukrainian vishivatnik argues with traditional Russian vatnik. Each speaks his respective language, but their words are essentially the same- they each blame one another for their respective countries’ woes, and they are raging xenophobes and homophobes.

What are the features of the vishivatnik? Well for one thing, all of Ukraine’s woes, big and small, are blamed on Russia and in particular, the Soviet Union.  Ukraine achieved independence in 1991, but things didn’t get too much better so that means the country was still ruled by Russia. The Orange Revolution of 2004 was supposed to change that, but somehow president Yushchenko’s constant efforts to whitewash and glorify the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and Stepan Bandera inexplicably failed to resolve Ukraine’s economic and corruption problems- so that means it was ruled by Russia then as well. Of course when Yanukovych was in charge Ukraine was ruled by Russia, even though it was Yanukovych who initially set Ukraine on the path to the very same EU association agreement which ultimately sparked Euromaidan.  Then of course Yanukovych punked out and ran to Russia, but guess what- Ukraine is still ruled by Russia!

The vishivatnik is a practitioner of what I dub “voodoo politics.” That is to say he might not necessarily be a nationalist, but he believes that paying homage to the cult of Stepan Bandera and the OUN is an essential requirement for being pro-Ukraine, if not Ukrainian itself. Thus, acceptance of the myths concocted by “scholars” such as Volodymyr Viatrovych, a major backer of Ukraine’s recent historical revisionist laws, is seen as a solution to the problem of Russian “5th columnists.” If you fail to at least tolerate and voice approval the diaspora-concocted, Disney version of Ukrainian nationalist history, you’ll be suspected of having pro-Moscow sympathies.

How does this mesh with vatnost in Russia? Well for one thing, vatniks believe the world revolves around Russia. America is the great puppet master pulling the strings, so that when other countries refuse to approve of Russia’s actions, they’re part of the conspiracy. For example, this is why most countries don’t recognize the Russian annexation of the Crimea- America is forcing them to withhold recognition. But wait a second- staunch Russian allies, members of the Eurasian Union, in fact, also don’t recognize the annexation. Belarus doesn’t, neither does Kazakhstan. None of the so-called BRICS countries other than Russia recognize it either. Is Belarus controlled by America? Is China?

In similar fashion, the vishivatnik believes in a massive worldwide conspiracy against Ukraine which is orchestrated by Moscow. Polish testimony about the ethnic cleansing suffered at the hands of the nationalist Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) in 1943 is nothing but lying propaganda. Or wait, maybe those Poles deserved it, because they were nationalists! Or perhaps those UPA units that committed atrocities were really NKVD men in disguise, unless the victims were actually working for the Communist regime, of course. Modern-day Poland is spreading a Communist myth about the ethnic cleansing of Volyn, because we all know how much Poland loves Moscow and the Soviet Union! All documents which reveal the fascist ideology of figures like Stepan Bandera and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists are forgeries! Even the internal documents maintained by the American CIA after the war are obviously Communist forgeries. The KGB must have been in control of the CIA at the height of the Cold War! Accept this unless you want to be branded a tool of Moscow!

Here we see the same general theme as with the Russian vatnik. Separate, often radically different states and governments have been engaged in a conspiracy to malign and slander a heroic, tolerant, liberal democratic nationalist movement (the only one of its kind at the time!), and this conspiracy has now stretched on for nearly a century. Why? Because Moscow is somehow manipulating the entire world into crushing Ukraine’s glory, which of course can only be achieved when there’s a monument to Bandera in every Ukrainian city.

There we see the commonalities between the mentality of the Russian and Ukrainian vatnik strains, but we must also look at what sets them apart. The vishivatnik is typically of a younger generation. Russian vatniks tend to be older. There is a far more glaring difference, however, in the way that vatniks and vishivatniks relate to dissent and political change. The Russian vatnik scorns people who protest or organize to air grievances against the government. This is rocking the boat. This threatens their precious stability (which isn’t stable at all, as it turns out). Stop demanding things from the government! What? You’re not? Then stop demanding that the government leave you alone so you can do things yourself! Shut up and stay home, you filthy 5th columnist! Don’t you know they rape dogs in Europe?

The vishivatnik, quite admirably in fact, does not hold this mentality. Vishivatniks were a part of Maidan, for example. They have not been kind of the present government either, sometimes threatening another Maidan when they don’t get their way. In fact, Ukraine’s recent anti-Communist laws may in fact be an attempt to throw a big bone to that demographic. Just as Russia distracts people with tales of how bad life is in Ukraine and non-stop WWII imagery, the vishivatnik can be sated with the sight of a toppling Lenin statue, or a law which bans any criticism of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, which is incidentally a movement that never garnered the support of anything but a tiny minority of Ukrainians, even in its strongest regions. In short, the vishivatnik, despite so many negative qualities and despite being a drag on Ukrainian society as it struggles to enter the 21st century, at least possesses one very admirable trait- a favorable view towards standing up to power and authority.

The Russian vatnik doesn’t get out in the streets, except for maybe 250-300 rubles at a time. Moreover, vatniks are almost explicitly against protesting and disrespect for authority on principle. When they do mobilize, it is always against authorized targets. These targets will either be distant, like the United States, or they are extremely marginalized and unprotected Russians such as gays and lesbians, or members of the opposition. In other words, the vatnik is usually a bully, picking on the defenseless and weak, and in this he is encouraged by his government which gives signals as to what targets are acceptable for venting rage. The vishivatnik can also be a bully sometimes, and their worldview is very similar to that of Putinist Russia, but at least he doesn’t demand people shut up and stay home for the sake of some non-existent “stability.”

Denims? American vatniks? 

In the beginning of this article I alluded to the idea that the Russian vatniks are analogous to American conservatives. In an earlier article (link in the beginning), I coined the term “denims” for these folks, rooted in the idea that denim is more commonly associated with America. Truth be told I’m not married to the name, and I’m open to suggestions. But while there is much similarity between Tea Party types and Russian vatniks, the differences are profound and in fact much deeper than those we see between the Russian and Ukrainian vatnik varieties.

For one thing, Russian vatniks are usually very impoverished. We typically associate American conservatives with “rednecks,” but this is a very poor stereotype. In fact, many hardcore conservatives and Tea Party types are basically middle class to upper-middle class types who are feeling the squeeze and directing their rage towards the wrong targets- minorities, immigrants, etc. They tend to have all the trappings of American consumerism, in some cases they lived far beyond their means. Now they have failed to achieve their dreams and they look for a scapegoat. So while the Russian vatnik says, “Shut up and be happy living in mud,” the Tea Partier is basically saying, “Don’t touch my stuff!” The vatnik is happy to live in filth in a decaying village or town, so long as he believes the world fears Russia and he gets to hear how Russia is humiliating its neighbors. This won’t do for the American conservative. Though they love lecturing and insulting the poor, they won’t settle for less just because America has a powerful military. They want, no need, a jet-ski, and they can’t afford it because of all those damned illegal immigrants!

glenbeck

Another aspect of the American conservative is the disdain for “government handouts” and state control. Of course they tend to be oblivious to the real nature of government intervention, as they always consider government intervention that benefits them personally to be righteous and just, whereas any support or subsidies that don’t benefit them will be labeled as wasteful. The Russian vatnik wants government handouts. They’ll exchange their freedom and rights in the vain hope that some day the Russian state will intervene and roll the price of sausage back to Soviet-era lows.

Freedom itself is just an illusion to the Russian vatnik, whereas your average conservative can’t shut up about “Muh freedums!” Naturally American conservatives, and on occasion even libertarians, can be really hypocritical about what freedoms they support. They want the right to own almost any kind of firearm with virtually no restrictions, yet they want to restrict women from having abortions and getting birth control. They insist that any attempt to keep them from shoving their religion down people’s throats, often on the public dime, constitutes an attack on their freedom of conscience. They’re happy to lobby the government to prevent the building of mosques, though. In spite of all this, however, freedom is a major theme among American conservatives. In fact the problem is that they rarely appreciate how much freedom they have, and this is why they will liken things such as Obamacare as “Stalinist tyranny.”

In general, talk about freedom or rights sails right over the heads of vatniks. The freedom to protest or publish something is seen as useless, whereas having a low-paying but stable job that buys black bread and pelmeni is crucial. In a way, this comes down to the difference between negative freedoms, i.e. that which you are allowed to do, and positive freedoms, that which you can actually do. The problem is, that modern-day Russia lacks a lot of negative freedoms and it provides little in the way of positive freedoms. Many people in this country just barely get by on tiny salaries and pensions. With increasing crackdowns on negative freedoms, they aren’t even allowed to organize and voice their complaints about this situation without fear of harassment or arrest.

One might be tempted to believe that both American conservatives and vatniks are very religious, but this is an illusion. Far more vatniks profess orthodoxy than actually go to church. Even then, they tend to display poor knowledge about their faith and it has little bearing on their actions in the real world. By contrast American conservatives tend to be far more sincere and knowledgeable about their religion, and that religion does guide their every day actions. Yes, they view porn, have pre-marital sex, and occasionally get caught with a gay prostitute, but on the whole if you meet a church-going American conservative, you’re unlikely to run into him at the local strip club any time soon.

The reader may note that here we focused on the differences between American conservatives and vatniks first. What about commonality? I feel that is to be found in the patriotism factor. For the American conservative, the country is like a father figure, and they look up to him as a young boy idolizes his dad. When exposed to facts that reveal dad’s flaws, conservatives get upset. That history book is “political correct!” The “libruls” are re-writing our history! We need patriotic history classes! The American conservative simply cannot fathom that self-criticism and a realistic view of the past is actually positive and in fact crucial for a country to succeed. The conservative doesn’t want that. He wants a simplistic, fairy tale narrative that reassures him of his worldview. Critics are traitors. I don’t think I even need to explain how this is nearly identical to the patriotism of the vatnik or even the vishevatnik.

Conclusion: 50 shades of grey, cotton-stuffed material

As we see from this brief survey, Russian vatnost has analogs, but it still maintains its uniqueness.The common thread is ignorance, binary thinking, the ability to hold mutually exclusive ideas, and personal insecurity, but the outward expression varies depending on the country. In some cases, the vatnik merely exceeds other nations’ own incarnations. For example, the Russian vatnik’s ability to hold mutually exclusive, contradictory ideas simultaneously is simply uncanny. For example, Lenin was a German agent sent to destroy Russia…But Ukraine is run by fascists because they knocked over some of his statues. Or for an even better example: Russia didn’t invade the Crimea, but then it did, to save the people from what happened over a month later in the Donbass, but Russia isn’t doing anything to save those people, who are being slaughtered and starved to death. And in spite of that, Putin is still a great leader, even though he is essentially letting poor Russians be murdered en masse by Ukrainian Nazis. If we had an Olympic event for mental gymnastics, the Russian vatnik would take the gold every time.

I have written on the idea that understanding vatnost is key to understanding Russia. Some have seen this as a silver bullet approach- read about this meme and you’ll suddenly “get it.” That was not my intention. There is obviously a lot more to Russia than vatnost, and more importantly, there are many Russians who revile vatniks and vatnost. After all, these ideas were produced by Russians. However, the understanding of vatnost is essential when trying to interpret and predict the reactions of the Russian public to foreign and domestic policies. Smaller neighbors of Russia such as the Baltic countries and Poland definitely need to study this phenomenon. Poland in particular needs such a lesson, as recently there were stories about Poles forming volunteer militias against a potential Russian invasion. Lithuania has also made more extensive preparations. There’s nothing wrong with strengthening national defense within reason, but these public moves only bring joy to vatniks. “They’re afraid of us! We’re a superpower! We’re an empire! Thank you Putin!”

Governments and individuals need to understand vatnost so they can implement policies with integral anti-vat aspects. Instead of feeding the vatnik ego, they should stress the irrelevance and failure of Putin’s state. Statements should be carefully worded so that they don’t come off as fearful or panicky. And most of the time the best statement is no statement at all, to remind the vatniks how irrelevant their country has become, and how that is Putin’s doing. To that end, it might be a good idea for European governments to fund the creation of a special think tank to focus on these matters- The Vatnost Policy Centre.