In Chris Rock’s Bring the Pain he observes that:
Niggaz always want credit for some shit they supposed to do. … A nigga will say some shit like “I take care of my kids!” You’re supposed to, you dumb mother f*cker! What kind of ignorant shit is that? “I ain’t never been to jail!” What you want, a cookie? You’re not supposed to go to jail, you low-expectation having mother f*cker!”
He might as well have been talking about Russia. Russia wants to simultaneously be a respected member of the G8 treated as equal to the likes of the USA and Germany, whilst at the same time be granted the same passes enjoyed by African basket-cases.
Now I don’t want to pick on the Kremlin Stooge here, but he does an indeniably good job of reaching an audience which consists of the most vociferous and passionate supporters of Russia that I’ve come across on the internet to date. Certainly, in my opinion, the commenters on Mark’s blogs are representative of Russia’s educated and energetic cheerleaders, and thus we can make a reasonable assumption that much of what Mark himself writes must chime pretty neatly with their own views. Now the particular complaint I’m going to talk about can be found in a lot of places, but Mark’s site has thrown up two examples which I remember, so I’ll use them for convenience.
The first concerns the reaction to the western press over Russia’s planned technology park Skolkovo. Firstly, some background:
The Moscow authorities intend to ease registration rules for companies at a high-tech business park in the Moscow suburb of Zelenograd as part of continued efforts to develop the country’s high-tech and innovation sector, a local government source said on Thursday.
It said the Moscow authorities were planning to draw up special rules to cut red tape on registration in the technology park for small innovative companies that do not have plans to build their own production facilities.
Now over to Mark:
What is it about President Medvedev’s attempts to set up a “technology city” at Skolkovo that drives some western journalists over the edge?
In Russia, it’s as if journalists fear Russia actually will turn into something worthwhile internationally, and they must arrest every sign of progress by greeting it with hisses of contempt.
It’s still exasperating, though, to see any efforts to make progress in Russia greeted with sneers, snickers and mockery by the western press.
Such sentiments are common amongst Russians, I’d even go so far as to say they are widespread. Here’s why I think they’re going to stay unhappy for a while yet.
Firstly, let’s take Skolkovo. So Russia plans to set up a special zone where the mind-numbing, wealth-and-soul-destroying, all-encompassing bureaucracy which has cursed Russia since the Revolution will supposedly be relaxed. Sorry, are we supposed to be impressed by such plans? Russia plans to do in one small place what most developed countries do anyway as a matter of course, and they’re supposed to be showered with praise? No, what would be worthy of praise is Russia actually achieving this aim of cutting bureaucracy and the inevitable graft and corruption that follows it and keeping things that way for several decades, not just merely announcing grand plans. Cutting bureaucracy and corruption in Russia has been tried before, and has failed on every occasion. Previous attempts at creating technology hubs in Russia have not been met with much success. The vested interests in maintaining bureacracy and corruption in Russia are formidable, and merely announcing that they will be disposed of – even in an area as pathetically small as Skolkovo – is no more impressive than king Knut’s efforts at turning back the sea. Everybody knows this, which is why such announcements are met with snorts of derision. There is no fear of a modern, efficient Russia, just recognition of the same old Russia.
Let’s take a recent comment on another subject:
The Russian government shows significant interest in diversifying away from an energy-dominated economy and in an increased reliance on trade.
The difference is that Russia receives far more mockery than encouragement. Old enemies Germany and Japan are welcome trading partners and cozy friends whose judgment and ideas are respected and welcomed. Not so Russia, which gets neither support or encouragement for reform.
So Russia wants praise for showing an interest in trade? Fuck me, half the western world understood the importance of trade, and the institutions which underpin it, over two hundred years ago. The other half were slow in catching up but finally the penny dropped. By contrast, Russia spent 80 years making trade illegal – something I’m fairly sure the west consistently told them was a bad idea – and now, having spent 20 years enforcing laws which make trade more difficult and people less wealthy, they show an interest in it? Even assuming they are sincere (a big assumption) the most positive thing I can think of saying is “About bloody time!”
And yes, German and Japanese ideas are welcomed because they are sometimes new, innovative, and of benefit to themselves and others. By contrast, Russia’s ideas are not ideas at all but merely their sudden appreciation of what the rest of the developed world realised a century ago (appreciations which rarely translate into actions). Only, like Chris Rock’s niggaz, they expect praise for doing what everyone else has always done.
Now the likes of Nigeria and Ethiopia do get praise from the west for making insincere statements regarding the rule of law, trade, and development. But is this how Russia really wants to be treated, on a par with African basket-cases? No, of course not. Russia wants everyone to treat it as an equal amongst European and North American nations, but at the same time applaud its meagre developments as if it were in sub-Saharan Africa. Well, it doesn’t work like that, nobody is going to be making excuses or feel guilty for Russia. It has not been subject to colonial occupation, it did not lag the west in discovery or development by a century or more. Russia’s problems are entirely home-grown, optional if you will. As I said before, nobody forced the Russians to pursue the insanity of the Soviet Union for 80 years, in fact most people were desperately trying to persuade them not to for the entire existence of the USSR. So until it catches up with the west it’s going to find praise and encouragement are in pretty short supply.
Russia demands respect without realising that respect must be earned. People don’t respect the Germans because they are stern, humourless, and business-like: they respect them because they go to Germany and find shit works. They go to Russia and find nothing works. The USSR gained respect chiefly through threat of force alone, but such respect is one-dimensional, similar to the respect one would afford a knuckle-head bouncer on the door of a club. If Russia wants to be respected as an adult, the first thing it needs to do is grow up. Nobody is going to respect Russia merely for doing “some shit they supposed to do.”