An Ugly American Visits the Dentist
So, it seems some American idiot named Kyle Keeton has married a Russian babe and moved to Russia, setting up an inane blog called “The Windows to Russia” to record his experiences.
He doesn’t speak Russian, so it’s dubious for starters as to how much of the country he’s actually experiencing. Here’s a disturbing example of the embarrassing consequences when one is that oblivous of his surroundings, as our friend Mr. Keeton spends a day at the Russian dentist’s office.
In a recent post touted (heaven only knows why) by Siberian Light, Keeton writes about a trip to have a cavity filled. It’s the kind of thing that gives rise to the term “ugly American.”
Keeton relates that the dentist he visited had a fully modern office, delivered Western-quality services and charged him only $90 to fill his tooth, a price he found quite fair. It’s really remarkable that a person can live in a country and yet be so fully divorced from its reality, but Americans seem to have a special flair for this, and it’s what will naturally happen when you don’t speak the language. One is reminded of the spectacle presented by Jack Reed as played by Warren Beatty in the epic movie “Reds.”
Keeton is apparently unaware that the average wage in Russia is $3 per hour. This means that his dental visit would cost an average Russian thirty hours of work to pay for. In America, the average wage is $20 per hour. In other words, the fee Keeton paid is the same as paying $600 to have a cavity filled in the United States. Bargain? We think not.
But Keeton, of course, doesn’t earn an average Russian wage. He’s obviously a member of the elite oligarchy of persons in Russia who earn a Western style income from a Western-style employer. For them, many prices in Russia would seem quite cheap, since they are subsidized by the government in order to make them barely affordable to working Russians.
Many other things, like TVs and dental visits, might be on offer at prices quite similar to what you’d pay in the West, making their prices seem normal to Westerners and life in Russia still a bargain. But Russians aren’t Westerners, and since their average salary is nearly seven times smaller than that of Westerners, those prices are seven times harder for them to pay.
Keeton is amusingly amazed that he’s able to walk right into the dentist’s office and receive treatment without an appointment. At $600 for a filling, that wouldn’t be a problem much anywhere in the West, either, now would it? In fact, for $600 you could probably get the dentist to make a house call.
But the ordinary Russian is relegated to an entirely different sort of medical professional, and not only in regard to the care of his teeth. In fact, most Russians never visit a dentist because even the lowest type of provider is either far too expensive or far too much like Laurence Olivier in “Marathon Man.” Just plain scary. And that goes for physicians who treat life-threatening conditions, and it goes double for hospitals.
Russians do a lot of things like smoking and not brushing their teeth which contribute mightly to the need for dentists, but they don’t go. Which is why most observant foreigners (but not this benighted idiot) notice rather quickly that Russians walk around with mouths like Freddy Kruger, often packed with gold replacement teeth. They make the British look like the Swedes. Their fault, of course, is not that they avoid dentists (that’s rational under the circumstances) but that they don’t demand better medical care from their government, acting like lemmings and handing power blindly to dictators who inevitably abuse it and them by wasting their money on insane projects like the cold war.
Russians, especially men, don’t actually have to worry too much about losing their teeth when they get old, because most of them don’t actually get old, and kick the bucket before even reaching the age of 60. Nor do they have to worry much about chewing, since they tend to drink more than they eat and can’t really afford chewy things like meat for instance. In fact toothache now and again might even constitute a convenient excuse to drink even more, in lieu of the dentist.
So Russian medical schools continue to be corrupt and inadequate, normal doctors continue to be overworked and underpaid, and Russians don’t rank in the top 150 nations of the world for lifespan, losing up to a million from their population each year. Meanwhile, American idiots like our friend Mr. Keeton go on babbling their nonsense, helping to cover up the problem and driving Russia into an early grave just like the one where the USSR is now resting.