Today we report on Русский пофигизм (ROO-skee pa-FIG-eezm), or the Russian national attitude that “I couldn’t care less.” It’s a useful explanation of how Russians can do something so utterly insane as to install ballistic missiles in Ossetia, SS-21 “scarabs,” which can be fitted with AA60 nuclear warheads (we reported this last week, and this week confirmation is breaking across the world’s media in shock; last week, though, some said Russia would never do anything so crazy). And also of why Russian “president” Dimitri Medvedev could conduct himself in such a manner as to cause the U.S. Secretary of State to call him a liar (she declared on Sunday’s Meet the Press in regard to Medvedev’s prior promise of a ceasefire: “Well, I just know that the Russian president said several days ago Russian military operations would stop. They didn’t. This time I hope he means it. You know the word of the Russian president needs to be upheld by his forces.”)
Russia has already destroyed its positive relations with virtually every country on earth, and now it is seeking to make things even worse, potentially leading to a nuclear apocalypse, just to further its crass imperialistic designs. Exactly, in other words, what happened in Soviet times.
How can Russians do such things, and how can other Russians let them get away with it? At least one part of the answer is Русский пофигизм.
If you are a Russian living in Russia aged 37 years, it’s quite likely that your father is dead. If he had you two years after graduating college at 24, that would make him 61 years old at present — and most Russian men don’t live that long.
Suppose you were such a Russian, and especially a Russian man. What sort of outlook would you have on life?
Suppose you saw your own government commit a barbaric series of murders of peaceful critics of the regime, and many women among them — people like Galina Starovoitova and Anna Politkovskaya. Suppose you knew that even powerful billionaires like Mikhail Khodorkovsky could be liquidated at the drop of a hat, that despite the fall of the USSR a proud KGB spy could seize the reins of power and destroy all the opposition political parties, seize control of all the major media establishments and wipe out local government with the stroke of a pen.
You’d conclude, wouldn’t you, that individual human life had virtually no value? You’d expect, wouldn’t you, to be liquidated yourself at any moment?
New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote last week about how he traveled to the quake zone in China and interviewed some of the victims, who showed no grief whatsoever at the loss of their loved ones, and no animus towards the monstrous regime that governs them. Why? Because those wretched souls live in a society where individual human lives mean nothing, and personal freedom isn’t even a dream. The all-powerful state views each citizen as nothing more than an expendable means to a malignant end, roughly described as world domination. The state is prepared to sacrifice any number of citizens, at any time, for the “greater good” of world hegemony.
Americans have also faced that attitude, from King George III of England. But unlike the Chinese and Russians, they did not submit. Instead, though vastly out-gunned, they fought back. Gandhi’s courageous followers did the same, and they were even more hopelessly outgunned than the Americans. And, lo and behold, though the odds were against them, they prevailed. They threw off an oppressive dictatorship (which in fact was far less abusive than the Russian and Chinese regimes) and won their independence. They dared to claim that individual human lives have value, and they were courageous enough to take the responsibility which comes with that right.
At least China can claim to be a somewhat dynamic social and economic system, able to produce all manner of consumer goods coveted by a hungry world. Visit your local department store and try to find some items made by Russians. Good luck with that.
At least the Chinese can tout their marvelous ability to reproduce; Russia, by contrast, suffers a massive net loss in population every year, failing at even the basic level of biology.
And how do Russians respond? With a mighty sigh and a haughty: “WHO CARES?”