Both the people and those in highest command usually hate being told the truth about themselves. As a result, a nation is plunged into the ocean of “pleasurable lies.”
A public opinion poll aiming to gauge the current state of morals was recently conducted in Russia and the United States. The survey found that both Russians and Americans were mostly unhappy about the moral standards in their countries. Both Russians and Americans admit that they are getting worse when it comes to social conscience and family values.
Issues relating to moral standards were on the agenda of a Russian Orthodox Church congress that took place in Moscow some time ago. Speaking about a relation between wealth and morals, head of the Russian Orthodox Church Alexiy II said that “a nation can benefit from the reaches only if it uses them wisely and through the kindness of the heart.”
A kind heart is hard to find
Today’s situation in Russia does not look so good in terms of the “kindness of the heart.” Surveys conducted by VSTIOM, a state-controlled opinion poll agency, found that the Russians’ moral habits had suffered deplorable changes over the last fifteen years. The people became less honest and unselfish, whereas their cynicism and mistrust grew stronger. Their patriotic feelings decreased too. The polls indicate a significant worsening of moral climate in this country. A number of basic qualities traditionally associated with the Russian character top the list of casualties. For example, the value of honesty declined by 5 times; the value of benevolence and unselfishness declined by 6 and 8 times, respectively. The spirit of camaraderie is now 4 rimes weaker than it used to be. Most experts believe the moral image of the Russians has been tarnished by the effects of poverty on some people, and the impact of ill-gotten gains on the others. Some people seem to be taking leave of their senses after striking it rich. For instance, a group of Russian tourists, apparently under the influence, recently staged a contest for the “best holiday orgasm” at the Egyptian seaside resort of Khurghada.
At times sociologists complain of certain difficulties associated with the study of the “Russian soul.” Specifically, they refer to a longstanding practice of Russia’s well-heeled to display their “profound love and respect” for the Russian people. It is a tradition that dates back to the time of Slavophiles, a group of mid-19th century Russian intellectuals who favored traditional Slavic ways over Western innovations, especially in political and religious life. Not unlike the Slavophiles in the past, the well-to-do of our time often look at their compatriots through the rosy glasses, they like calling Russia a nation of god-fearing people known for their patriotism and love for truth; a nation of those who have been striving to keep their faith and traditions pure. Russian politicians use all kinds of honeyed words when talking about the people during election campaigns. However, politicians are quick to invent a variety of plausible excuses should the rank and file start asking them about income gap and a continued rise in the cost of living.
We have to admit that our nation is no stranger to turning a blind eye to its own character flaws and shameful practices. Researchers report that the people are regularly using a “bit of cunning” during surveys of public opinion. A poll is likely to find that residents of a village questioned saying they never binge drink, use profane language or commit acts ofhooliganism. “It’s a sinful behavior, so we pulled the plug on all those things,” a typical answer would say. However, none of the villagers would “simply forget” an incident in which their neighbor has stabbed to death his wife and son after drinking himself blind.
The following figure is quite noteworthy when it comes to the question of faith: about 80% of Russians surveyed by various polls claimed they believed in a religious faith. However, only 2-4% of those asked said they observed Lent.
The case of a distorting mirror
A tendency to act on the basis of self-deception and self-righteousness is not only part of the character of the Russian people. Daydreaming also seems to be deeply embedded in Russian politics and society. To some extent, we resemble a lady featured in a tale by Alexander Pushkin. The lady’s looks were her biggest preoccupation. Every morning she would put the same question to her mirror: “Dear mirror, tell me right away! Am I the prettiest one of them all?”
We simply cannot help it: we peer harder at the magic mirror in an attempt to see the reflection of an “energy superpower” or “independent democracy.” We take special pleasure in putting on airs as we play the role of a purported defender of all nations harmed by U.S. hegemony. On the other hand, admitting that we “have no guts” to deal with a rowdy neighbor hurts our pride. We do not seem to get it: one has to become strong enough before shouting “I’ll punch your lights out.”
We can be easily misled into believing all kinds of tall stories about rights and freedoms guaranteed by a constitution. We still see it as a set of fundamental principles applying to the legislature, government and legal system according to which the Russian Federation is governed though we are perfectly aware of the fact that the Kremlin holds sway over every branch of power. It is the Russian president who decides whether his subjects will be allowed to watch soccer on public TV or they will have to cough up some money for watching it on cable TV.
We just love to be under the impression that free education and health service really exist in this country. We would rather believe that every person is deemed equal in the eyes of the law, and each one has the right to personal freedom and immunity in line with the provisions stipulated in the Constitution of the Russian Federation. Meanwhile, those “villains” from the opinion poll agency stress the point that 80% of Russia’s population are afraid of the police and skeptical of the possibility of a fair trial under the current legal system.
The authorities of the U.S. state of New Mexico are reported to have ordered 500 talking urinal cakes that will deliver a recorded anti-DWI-message to patrons of roadhouse bars and restaurants. “It’s time to call a cab or ask a sober friend for a ride home,” a female voice says to a tipsy patron who is about to relieve himself before getting behind the wheel.
It would be nice if inventors could also design a talking urinal cake capable of telling truth to liars one of these days. It would be a smart move if Russia could purchase a dozen devices to be secretly installed in the men’s rooms of the State Duma and government buildings, for a start. Can you imagine what kind of stories about themselves our deputies and other “people’s servants” might hear in privacy of their ritzy bathrooms?
Argumenty i Fakty
Translated by Guerman Grachev