By now, everyone has probably seen the pictures and posts of the appalling conditions at the Olympic Village at Sochi, Russia.
A friend of mine today posted an article entitled “#SochiProblems Is More of An Embarrassment For America Than It Is For Russia.” It was written about the viral internet and Twitter complaints surrounding the pathetic conditions of the Sochi Winter Olympics. It got me thinking.
The author of the article theorizes that Americans, not the Russians, should be embarrassed for the dirty, polluted tap water, faulty plumbing, unfinished hotels and roads, shortages of pillows, lack of proper bathroom facilities, and generally bad conditions that exist in Sochi. She thinks Americans are the ones that should be ashamed because she says the conditions in Sochi are indicative of conditions that regularly plague the Russian people:
“As faves and re-tweets on @SochiProblems explode, it’s clear that the meme is based on cultural misunderstandings borne out of sheltered ignorance: The posts reflect actual issues that directly impact the quality of life of Russia’s 143 million people.”
Well, though I love the rich, Russian culture, their food, their wry humor, and music, and while I share the author’s compassion for the Russian people, I beg to differ with her thesis. It is not Americans but the author of the article herself who harbors a sheltered ignorance. In her case, it’s an ignorance of Russian history. We as Americans, while we might be naive, are not ignorant, we are merely appalled at the living conditions being passed off as “normal” in Sochi. And we might wonder, “what happened?”
I apologize in advance to my dear Russian friends for what I am about to say, but I think America needs to understand what’s been going on and what caused it all. I know you love your country, and so do I.
Taking a closer look, what is apparent from the conditions found at Sochi is just how far behind America and The West Russia has put herself by adopting a tyrannical political system that oppressed and killed her own people and others for the past 97 years. Because of Sochi, this ugly truth should now become painfully clear to many Americans who heretofore might have been blissfully unaware of the differences between our lives and the daily lives of so many Russians. I say it should…if our journalists would only recognize it and display it for what it is. Sochi is a microcosm representing all the problems stemming from bad political choices.
And while we may be naive to the hardships or misled by our idiotic media, these are still not reasons to blame the Americans.
Russia was the richest country in the world at one time. It was prospering from the industrial revolution and held vast resources of minerals, timber and oil. It had a burgeoning middle class, and a high society that insisted on teaching its children to speak French at home. There was a thriving music, literature, architecture, and art scene and a growing level of prosperity. There was hope and there was freedom — as much as there could be for a country with such a large agrarian and mostly uneducated population.
When it all fell, it wasn’t the Americans who, in the name of a newly theorized and untested form of socialism called Marxist Communism, slaughtered tens of millions of Russia’s most brilliant minds, calling them “enemies of the people.”
It wasn’t Americans who vilified the rich and then proceeded to murder tens of millions of not-so-rich too in the name of ensuring proletariat equality through the redistribution of wealth by confiscation (not equality of opportunity, mind you, equality of outcome).
It wasn’t Americans who slaughtered hard-working middle class farmers, landowners, writers, doctors, scientists, poets, artists, and intelligentsia, stealing their land and wealth and casting women and children out into the street, sending any great intellectual minds like Solzhenitsyn and Menachem Begin, to the Gulags to die of forced labor and starvation.
It wasn’t Americans who sent what little was left of the Russian middle class to the front lines, so poorly equipped, to fight the Germans in WWII, with only one gun for every three soldiers. That bloodbath caused the death of 30 million men, leading to a vast shortage of men in Russia that continues to this day.
It wasn’t the Americans who sent more than a million of Russia’s finest young men to be killed in the barren, moon-scaped mountains and poppy-laden valleys of Afghanistan.
In sum, it wasn’t the Americans who have been screwing the Russian people for so long and so hard that many of them are simply not even sure how to be kind to anyone anymore.
If the author would like to enlighten us as to why so few things work in Russia to this day, she could begin by explaining that many of Russia’s good, smart people are either dead or have left the country. She should explain what happens in a country that kills off most of its smartest DNA holders and leaves the lower IQ population to propagate the race. She could explain how doctors and scientists were forced to drive taxicabs or trade shoes that didn’t fit them for food on the black market. She should explain how the remaining smart and entrepreneurial DNA holders have not been allowed the opportunity to prosper and flourish, so those who could do so, left the country in a “brain-drain.” She should explain that what remains now is a small circle of ultra-rich oligarchs; an underclass of organized mobs of brutal gangsters; some over-educated and hopeful but under-employed young people, most of them women; some young men, a good number of whom are alcoholics, wise guys and drug addicts; an aging population of peasant farmers, also mostly alcoholics; and lots of poor pensioners eating tinned cat food and scraping to make ends meet on pensions of less than $200 per month. She should also mention that most city-dwelling Russians live in “sleeping districts” — massive, high-rise concrete monoliths of cubicle housing surrounded by rusting improvised re-bar fencing, cracked sidewalks, and overgrown, muddy yards, with no security, plenty of crime and domestic violence, drugs, and entrances that reek of cat urine. She might note that there are still so few able-bodied and sober men in Russia to this day, that the Russians had to import workers from Ukraine to construct the Sochi Olympic Village, and that, in typical Russian style, they refused to pay the workers, so the workers left.
Should the Americans be ashamed of that too? She should note that this is the smoldering wreckage that is left in the wake of the failed social experiment called Socialism, a system that set most Russian adrift on a road to serfdom, and that the Russian people are still suffering the consequences of the bad political decisions made in 1917 by an idealistic group of misguided and inexperienced students and revolutionaries. If the author was really as clever as she purports herself to be, she might have even deduced from the Socialist influences so prevalent in our society today, that America is marching down the same ‘Road to Serfdom’ today as Mother Russia did nearly 100 years ago.
If she was as truly compassionate and prescient as she purports herself to be, she might have warned us that the problems of Sochi are just an extension of the “Fat Tail” effect resulting from the failure of Communism, smoldering and spewing radiation for all the world to see like so many abandoned power plants at Chernobyl. To the extent that America has been lured into adopting more Socialist policies, we will recognize the elements of our downfall in the rear-view mirror as we roar past Russia with the top down and the music blaring, down the Road to Serfdom.
Bruce Tanis is an economist, financial expert, world traveler, and George F. Baker Scholar who works in finance in Manhattan.