Can you listen to a point of view that contradicts your own assumptions? Can you tolerate and even learn from it? What if the lesson isn’t about the abject truth, or even a version of the “truth” that you find palatable? What happens when you realise that “truth” happened far away and you will only ever have second-hand reports on which to base an opinion? The knowledge to be gained is not necessarily a sequence of events mapped out one word at a time on such a tenuous foundation, but instead could be a valuable insight into a mindset and why he, she or “they” think and act the way that they chose.
This is what they want
We hear much about what country X, Y or Z wants or is doing, as if millions of individuals are speaking with the same voice and moving in unison. Doesn’t it take only one second of thought to realise that such an assumption is absurd? A nation is not populated by clones, the people are not the government, especially on the global stage.
The majority of those alive now exist outside of our relative luxury and are likely preoccupied with survival, home, family, work, food, health, friends, and other more immediate concerns. The government for many is a far-away assembly of people behind the closed doors of a handful of buildings, all removed from everyday reach. Meanwhile, a nation of individuals with various beliefs, opinions, and interest proceed with their existence.
Here on the ground
Such an individual is ‘C’, who’s senior years span the height and decline of Soviet Russia, the immediate chaos that followed and life amid the trials of modern existence.
“Such a change had to happen!” he says of the demise of the Communist era, “but not in such a radical manner”. He continues, “Because of the economical impact of Perestroika, Russia was thrown 20 years backwards!”. Perestroika or “Restructuring” is still considered by many to have played a central role in the demise of the USSR. For ‘C’ it is more than a consideration, he lived through it. Instead of the solid implementation of radical programs designed to reform the Soviet economy, the initiatives that survived opposition by the elite, finally hit ground level as less than potent half-measures incapable of rejuvenating a weakening economy.
The collapse itself was a further tipping-point into disaster, as ‘C’ states: “Companies that depended upon materials and resources from the republic were destroyed when the links to the republic were abolished”. The nation states once subsumed into the greater Union were now independent and free to utilise their own raw materials as they wished. Enterprises dependent upon the raw product of satellite nations suddenly starved into non-existence and industry was hit hard.
“This was Perestroika!” ‘C’ declares its true nature as he saw it around him. “We were very naive in the times of Gorbachev and Yeltsin. (We thought) we will live like the west! -we will be rich and everything will be ok. We trusted the west too much in those times” he reveals of the fashionable import of capitalist ideals at the time. Further, “We lived in the Soviet system and knew nothing about capitalism!”
As a point of logic, we may wonder why a nation unfamiliar with capitalism, even opposed to it on principal, would be able to implement and manage it successfully in any case. On what basis?
Smash and grab
Immediately after the fall of Communism Russia’s industrial infrastructure was left vulnerable for acquisition as domestic forces, free to try their hand at Western-style capitalism gathered and moved in. ‘C’ details the consequences, “The Russian economy was built by the Russian people. Companies that were worth millions (due to this) were now bought for thousands by a few! We were not prepared for this.” A few, however certainly were.
‘C’ tells me about the phenomena of the Russian Oligarch. “They knew what they did!” he says with much accusation. “These people thought that ordinary people knew nothing about capitalism and they used this fact to become the Nouveau Riche. They went to Yeltsin and waited until he allowed them to take these enterprises. This ‘progress’ was done in a stupid way!”. Such Oligarchs are much more than billionaires however; a move toward the political arena is a must as Thomas Graham stated on CNN Politics:
“Now, you can’t be a billionaire and not be an oligarch because you have to have some relationship with those who are in political power to maintain control of your assets,” An unholy marriage of convenience, no doubt.
There was one initiative from Yeltsin that ‘C’ definitely supported however, the succession and subsequent rise of a young, aspiring politician, Vladimir Putin.