Johnson’s Russia List #6233, 10 May 2002
JRL #6227 published Vladimir Shlapentokh’s piece “The Rise of Russian Anti-Americanism after September 2001: Envy as a Leading Factor”, and in #6231 there was a Jacob Kipp’s reply to Shlapentokh entitled “Envy” and anti-Americanism”. It is great that the words “envy” and “Russia” are being used together as envy is the key to understanding Russia. But it is upsetting to see the discussion suffer because of the failure to properly define the term “envy” and, as a consequence, to fully understand its role. In this short piece I will perform a minor miracle: I will start by defining envy, and then will make Russia’s economy and history of the last century understandable to preschoolers.
Jacob Kipp starts his piece by saying: “I was a Red Sox fan for all of my childhood and hated the Yankees. If Vladimir is right I had a bad case of envy.” Since the second sentence does not follow from the first one, Jacob is announcing that he is writing an unscientific piece. There could be a whole range of negative feelings, but they are not envy. Envy should be defined as “choosing to make the other suffer more than oneself as a means of achieving a desired outcome”. Envy is conscious willingness to expose oneself to damage in order to damage the other. For envy to manifest itself, someone has to clearly and consciously choose a lose/lose type of interaction out of the range of available options. If lose/lose is the only available option, this is not necessarily envy: a soldier sacrificing his life is not acting out of envy, but has no other option. It is incorrect to talk about envy unless there is someone who chose to act in a self-damaging way in order to inflict a damage on another, who would then be known as an object of envy.
You could hate or dislike John Lennon, but that would not make you envious of him: to manifest your envy, you have to kill him and then spend the rest of your life behind bars. Or, to put it in a correct order of events, to agree to spend all your life behind bars in exchange for the perceived benefit of killing John Lennon.
The West has been studying Soviet Russia for eighty years now creating the biggest bunch of loonies in the history of science, because these “scholars” uniformly assumed that people whom they were trying to understand were searching for positive, win/win outcomes. Wrong. Twentieth century saw the appearance of societies convinced that a positive outcome could be achieved only as a result of a lose/lose, envious interaction.
We had Stalin concerned about well-being of his soldiers in the field, Pol Pot searching for a brighter future for his fellow Cambodians, or the Chinese Cultural Revolution described as a “great failure”. How could it be a “failure” if you have just killed someone? Take his wristwatch and go rape his daughter! Millions of people instantly understand this logic, but since we are all reading the New York Times, we can’t.
In every failure, there is a great success for all those who remain alive. Whoever killed the author of “Imagine” enabled all of us to listen to Madonna without a profound feeling of shame. Indeed, this killer made it possible for us to write our own songs, hopelessly devoid of talent, and think that we are not so bad, after all. We talk about the purges as a horrifying experience of being led away, but we never talk of them as a joyful experience of moving into a newly vacant apartment and happily surveying how many pairs of used underpants remain in a cupboard. As a consequence, we do not understand why did Stalin kill so many and died so popular.
Francisco Franco led his falangists to victory under a slogan “Viva la Muerte”, which happens to mean “Long live Death”. Hitler’s SS did not wear an emblem depicting a long-legged blonde, a mug of foamy beer, or a wad of cash: their emblem depicted a human scull. the Reds were singing:
Bravely shall we go to fight for the power of the Soviets,
And every single one of us will die for that.
I would like to invite everyone who seeks to understand Russia to contemplate the preceding two lines. You can do so for five minutes, for an hour, or for a few years. But until you understand that it is EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US (NOT OF THEM, OF US) WILL DIE (DIE, NOT HOPE TO PROSPER) FOR THAT (NOT FOR FAIRER DISTRIBUTION OF RESOURCES, FOR BETTER LIFE, OR FOR ONE NIGHT WITH MERILYN MONROE, BUT SIMPLY FOR “THAT” WHICH MEANS “FOR NOTHING”) - you will not understand Russia. After the Red victory, not for a moment was there “a power of the Soviets”, for which they were supposedly fighting. because they were actually fighting for “that”, and there was a lot of “that” there.
The last line of the song states: “we have a choice, but all of us actively choose to die for nothing, we choose to self-destruct, we hate ourselves, we want to transfer to another dimension, to escape the responsibility of existing as human individuals”. And this is precisely what an envious person does. And this is not rooting for the Red Sox against the Yankies, it is killing all the Red Sox and all the Yankies to unite them in “that”.
An envious person may think about a benefit that will come later, but his immediate task is to damage oneself. Yes, the enticement is that by damaging oneself you would damage another person even more, but it rarely comes to that: TO CONSCIOUSLY DAMAGE ONESELF - this is the main decision, and after that life is never the same. You find yourself in a different dimension, with different priorities. Indeed, if you reject yourself in favor of inflicting a negative outcome on someone else, you are no longer “alive”, because “alive” means that there is “an organism that seeks to protect and develop itself”, not “seek to damage and destroy itself”.
And this explains our recent translation problem. We come to Gaidar and say “private property”. For us, the term means “unhindered ability to create and develop”. But for him “private property” means “ability to plunder and destroy in order to preclude the very possibility of growth and development”. We tell him “taxes” meaning “enabling the state to provide public goods and take care of the disadvantaged without hindering and unduly burdening the producers”. Gaidar translates taxes as “taking away 102% of profit and creating a wasteland, while consuming cream cakes by the plateful at a World Bank reception”.
I write that and I know that the western reader is thinking “Maly thinks that Gaidar is bad”. Absolutely not! I happen to be for a 10% flat tax, so I would describe as “bad” someone who is for a 30% flat tax. We are in the same dimension, but differ significantly, and my opponent is wrong. With Gaidar, I do not have the luxury of arguing, and I take Gaidar for being Gaidar. My cat does not like Hemingway, it likes Chicken, and there is no use arguing with it, and I love my cat for what it is.
Today is May 9, 2002. The former Soviet Union is celebrating the Victory Day, a commemoration of the greatest event in the history of this galactic. It was the day of Victory of the Horrible Evil over the Very Personification of Death for the greater good of all of us. It showed that however much can a human being be covered in Horrible Evil, deep inside the human being is Good, and thus deserves to live and prosper on this Earth. It is a day when with tears of gratitude, and standing in attention, we commemorate the Liberating Army of rapists, rat-eating foul smelling Tartars, murderous NKVD thugs, and both of my grandfathers, who liberated Europe under the guidance of Joseph Stalin, a man whose evil nature has to be taken for an absolute.
By failing to understand that envy provides a clue to understanding and reforming Russia, we caused this long-suffering country to go through an economic catastrophe comparable in scale to that of the Nazi invasion. In so doing, we catastrophically endangered the world we live in for many decades to come. Today, many of us are reduced to praying for Putin’s superhuman powers. I would urge us all to repent and to study Russia more carefully, and with a great deal more respect.